Tuesday, April 23

From The Final Call Newspaper

Changing the game: Ice Cube’s battle to buy regional sports networks
By Bryan 18X Crawford and Barrington Salmon

More and more, Black athletes and entertainers are looking to expand beyond the field of expertise that gained them fame, notoriety and riches, and leverage these positions to help them make their same mark in the world of business. There are Black people who successfully transitioned from their respective art or sport, turning themselves into well-respected businesspeople and a positive example of what entrepreneurship looks like. The life of the late rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle personifies this point.

However, Ice Cube, Nipsey’s West Coast predecessor and elder—or “O.G.”—in the rap game and one of the founding fathers of the hip-hop genre known as “gangsta rap,” has been blazing big time business trails of his own for the past two decades.

Many are familiar with O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson, either from his days as a rapper in the group “N.W.A.,” or from his acting roles in popular movies such as “Boyz In The Hood,” and the “Friday,” “Barbershop,” and “Are We There Yet?” series of films. However, in 2017, Ice Cube decided to delve into previously uncharted business waters by getting involved in professional sports as one of the founders of the BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league. The BIG3 features 12 teams coached by former NBA All-Stars and Hall of Famers, with rosters made up of players who have all competed professionally, either in the NBA or overseas. The BIG3 league has become one of the premier events for basketball fans during the summer, a time when there isn’t a lot of competitive professional basketball going on.

O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson

Now entering its third season, Ice Cube is looking to take the next step in not only raising the profile of his professional basketball brand, but his personal profile as a Black business mogul. In early April, with his FOX Sports contract having expired at the conclusion of the 2018 BIG3 campaign, the league inked a new deal to have games televised on the CBS network. However, armed with a high-profile group of investors with deep pockets of their own, Ice Cube has a much bigger vision. But reaching that goal won’t come without challenges, or a fight.

“The BIG3 is not part of the old boys club and that doesn’t sit well with a company like Charter, which has been called out many times for unfair treatment of minority organizations and for consistent disregard of its own customers,” Ice Cube said in a statement regarding his investor group’s bid to purchase 21 regional sports networks (RSN). The channels include networks in markets such as Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, and Los Angeles.

Ice Cube and the BIG3, should they win the bid, would then have the foundation in place to build a brand new national network with original programming, sports, and other culturally relevant content.

In an April letter written by the BIG3 to the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, the company accused Charter Communications of interfering with the BIG3’s investment group—which includes Ice Cube, fellow hip-hop legends LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg, basketball Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Clyde Drexler, tennis star Serena Williams, comedian Kevin Hart, and other prominent figures in sports and entertainment—bid to purchase 21 regional sports networks currently owned by Disney, which the company acquired in its recent merger with FOX. Disney has until June to sell the RSNs if they want to avoid antitrust issues in the future.

(l-r) LL Cool J, Serena Williams, Julius “Dr. J” Erving

BIG3 said that Charter threatened to drop the RSNs from the cable networks it owns should they come under new ownership. Preemptively making this threat would effectively lower the current $10 billion price package. However, what makes the move curious is that Liberty Media, Charter’s largest shareholder, is also bidding for the RSNs. Charter has been accused before by a Black man for biased practices. In 2016, Byron Allen filed a $10 billion discrimination suit against the company, accusing them of not giving networks owned by minority groups the same broadcasting opportunities as White-owned media companies.

“In response to our filing, Charter says they are willing to talk to ‘whomever.’ Given their consistent animosity toward diverse ownership groups with inclusive messages like ours, we say we don’t believe them. Anyone who looks at the facts won’t either. They have done everything they can to keep us from owning these RSNs and that’s why we have asked the FCC and the DOJ to investigate,” Ice Cube said in a statement.

In response to the letter, Charter didn’t explicitly push back against the allegations, saying, “Charter currently has an agreement to carry these networks and welcomes the opportunity to discuss a future carriage agreement for these networks with whoever ultimately owns them, including Big3. Regardless of who owns the programming, we approach all negotiations with the same singular objective of reaching carriage agreements that best meet the needs of our customers.”

Ervin “Magic” Johnson

The BIG3 met on April 17 with the antitrust division of the DOJ, two days after the deadline to enter bids for the RSNs. Others in the bidding include conservative media company Sinclair Broadcast Group, Major League Baseball in partnership with Liberty Media.

At Final Call press time, it was unclear if anything regarding the sale had been resolved.

Cori Harvey, an attorney who specializes in business law, economics and entrepreneurship, said the mere fact that Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Serena Williams and other athletes and entertainers have joined forces to purchase the sports channels is deeply significant. He predicts a ripple effect on Blacks and the larger Black community.

“If this succeeds, even the attempt I think, represents movement along a much needed path,” said Ms. Harvey, a former law professor at Florida A&M University. It shows that it takes generations to shift into this space of access and mentorship. African Americans have had to build across generations. This is also our Horatio Alger story. Hip hop and sports is often how we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.”

“This is a coming-of-age story. This is an example of employees buying the company. It shows that many hands make light work.”

Dr. Wilmer Leon, III, agreed.

“This is incredibly, incredibly important if we’re ever going to have a chance of moving our situation forward,” he said. “We’re seeing major assets and more media assets falling into fewer and fewer hands.”

Dr. Leon, who teaches at Howard University, said it is gratifying to see this clique of celebrities coalescing around a common goal. It’s important, he added, that the group appears to have the financial wherewithal to withstand whatever challenges they may face.

“They are not immune (to being derailed) but their financial wherewithal gives them a definite mechanism to withstand challenges,” said Dr. Leon, the political scientist, author, columnist and talk show host. “These resources put them at another level. They’ll have resources to pay an attorney like Willie Gary.”

The most immediate challenge is apparently Channel Communications and Liberty Media. According to the New York Post, BIG3 accuses Charter Communications of conspiring with Liberty Media and the owner of the Atlanta Braves and was trying “to pollute the bidding process.”

Ms. Harvey said, without knowing all the details, if Charter and Liberty Media may have engaged in, these tactics, it may be simply cut throat business as usual.

“I think a part of this is learning how to function in this environment,” she said. “It may not necessarily be a race-based issue. This may be a competitive obstacle. Some people may react viscerally to Black people seeking to jump into the bidding, but the Black celebrities are dealing with people who have had generations of exposure to this playing field. We see people battling for six inches of land, not willing to give up an inch of ground. Business is no different.”
“This is the cost of doing business. Throwing money to thwart the opposition isn’t unusual. It’s a part of the game, a part of the business. They are creating barriers to entry for all competition.”

Dr. Leon said those entering business and other arenas should come prepared to make a difference. “The only way to change the game is that you gotta play the game,” he said. “And the only way to win the game is to play the game. It may be a White man’s game, but I’m not ready to give it to them yet.”

Ms. Harvey said she’s struck by the positive turn this development represents.

“What jumps out is this is a shining light because many of these ills in the Black community are because of the impact of the hip hop culture of consumerism and violence,” said Ms. Harvey, a former Philadelphia public defender. “This a good foil.”

Dr. Leon argued the ownership group should seek to use the venture as more than a more investment. “If your belief system is not focused on the liberation of your people, it’s a waste of time,” he said.

Ms. Harvey disagreed with Dr. Leon’s premise, while noting the importance of what the ownership group is attempting to do. “We don’t have enough archetypes,” she said. “I’m sick of the fact that the only available archetypes are the drug dealer, hip hop artists and athletes. We often don’t have enough role models at high levels. Fourteen-year-old Black boys’ role models need to be a Black man in a suit. The image of Barack Obama and his beautiful, strong, Black family is something all of us can aspire to. All we can imitate is what we see.”

Friday, April 19

From The Final Call Newspaper

Muslim entrepreneurs open beauty supply store in Rockford

By William P. Muhammad

ROCKFORD, Ill.—Nation of Islam entrepreneurs, Henry X, his wife Keishonda X, and family business partner, Celidal Barge, recently hosted the official grand opening of the Kikifer’s Beauty Supply, Salon and Conference Center, as the city’s first Black-owned and operated all-in-one business outlet. The goal of the new business venture is to serve the needs of their West Side community through the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of hair and skin care products unique to the needs of the Black community.

“(For) young Black people in this city and abroad, we’re showing people that regardless to what the enemy does, that there is a way to be successful in business, and that you can make a lot of money,” said Henry X, CEO of the Kikifer’s enterprise and brand. “You can do it legally, you can do it lawfully, you can do it ethically, you can do it morally, and it can be done in an upright manner,” he said.

“You don’t need to sell drugs, and you don’t need to turn to the street, you just need to turn to the God that created you, and call on him (God), and then after calling on him, call on yourself.”

Explaining how Rockford’s Black community recovers less than one percent of the annual $400 million it spends for local goods and services, Henry X believes that through equality of opportunity, the expansion of a Black business base, and by recirculating Black people’s dollars back into their own neighborhoods, will not only help to make local residents into stakeholders, but also into beneficiaries of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s ‘Do-for Self” work ethic.

Although the store began operating weeks before the official April 6 grand opening, lifetime Rockford resident, and first time shopper at Kikifer’s Beauty Supply, Geneva Stewart, said she was happy to see the opening of a Black-owned business. She told The Final Call she was impressed with the customer service and familiarity of being among friends and acquaintances while visiting.

“I’m excited for a Black business to be opening, and it’s new and it’s something that we need in our community because there’s a lot of other races that have come and make good money,” Ms. Stewart said. “Why not support our Black people and build and do more stuff for the Black community?” she asked.

In addition to the goods sold by the Kikifer’s Beauty Supply store is the “services side” run by Kristina Dismuke, a nail tech, whose business offers Rockford’s West Side residents’ quality, courtesy and excellent customer service.

She said she hoped to serve as an example for others to gain the skill sets necessary for becoming business owners themselves. Ms. Dismuke also believes that color is not a barrier to success when you work hard and care first and foremost about your community and the people in it.

“There are very few of us, so for me to be out here to maybe encourage somebody else of color to do the same thing, or to maybe get in something that’s involved with something similar to what I’m doing, I think it’s great,” Ms. Dismuke said. “Don’t let your color be a barrier, or a limit, to what you can do. Let your color give you more of an advantage to pursue your dream, to pursue what you want to do, and don’t let anybody stop you and tell you that you can’t do it,” she said.

Aprel Prunty, a local community activist and advocate for improving the quality of life for residents of the city’s West Side, agrees. “I am so happy for Brother Henry and Sister Keishonda, and I think this is a wonderful step towards uplifting the community as well as bringing the African American community together,” she said.

“It’s one thing to say it, and it’s another thing to see it and do it, and I think Brother Henry and the Nation (of Islam) has not only said it, they did it, and they are doing what they can to make sure that others have the opportunity to do it, too.”

Student Minister Yahcolyah Muhammad, the Rockford Representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and local head of the Nation of Islam Rockford Study Group, said when people see words becoming deeds and talk becoming action, they are motivated and inspired to do likewise.

“For so long, many outside of our community have provided our basic needs and we’ve become a consumer people, but now that we are seeing that we cannot only be consumers but owners and producers, it can change the narrative, and it can change the psychology of our neighborhoods, Student Minister Yahcolyah Muhammad said.

“We have to get busy with doing the work of making our communities decent places to live, so the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s blueprint for economics and community development must be applied throughout the entire country and definitely here in Rockford,” he said.

Kikifer’s Beauty Supply is located at 3424 N. Main Street, Suite A, Rockford, Illinois 61103, phone: (815) 708-7082. For more information, visit: www.kikiferstore.com.

Tuesday, April 16

From The Final Call Newspaper

Nipsey’s Star Still Shines

By Richard B. Muhammad, Editor |

(L) The parents of Nipsey Hussle, Angelique Smith and Dawit Asghedom speak onstage during his Celebration of Life at Staples Center on April 11 in Los Angeles, California. (center) Samiel Asghedom speaks onstage during his brother’s Celebration of Life at Staples Center on April 11 in Los Angeles, California. (r) The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, National Representative of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, speaks onstage during Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life at Staples Center on April 11 in Los Angeles, California.

LOS ANGELES—Hip hop’s prophetic voice is gone but the light that Nipsey Hussle offered to his neighborhood has spread and will light up the world, said family members, admirers, close friends, fellow artists and those who stood before thousands of people inside the Staples Center Arena to honor his music, his vision and his commitment to bringing life into the place where he grew up—and a place he never left.

The three-hour service was touching, inspiring and genuine as everyone from his mother to his father, his brother, his sister, the love of his life, his comrades, music greats, ministers and even former President Barack Obama spoke of the impact a man born Ermias Asghedom had and how his legacy must live on.

“The name Ermias in the language of the Eritrean people means ‘God Is Rising.’ The name Nipsey in that same language means ‘homie,’ a brother from the ’hood that never really left the ’hood. But now the world will embrace him as his life and his death changes the ’hood and produces a profound change in the world,” said the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, who offered words April 11 at a memorial service streamed online around the world and carried live on several TV networks, including BET Television and local TV stations in the City of Angels.

“Ermias was more than a hip hop artist. He was a voice a brilliant mind and the spirit of God was in his life,” said Min. Farrakhan, who was joined onstage by his Los Angeles representative Tony Muhammad and Nation of Islam Student Supreme Captain Mustapha Farrakhan. “His body is dead but the mind of Ermias Asghedom and the spirit of Nipsey is alive. Like a star in the universe that comes out of a black hole and a star dies, but the light of that star traveling 196,000 miles a second is still coming from space to reach us even though the star that produced that light is dead,” he added. (See related article

Photos are displayed during Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life.

The Minister’s words were applauded as he urged the hip hop community and Black youth to turn away from violence in honor of Nipsey, who rose out of gang life in South Central Los Angeles and envisioned building a healthy oasis in the place where he grew up—and where many still struggle.

“Neighborhood Nip” might seem too simple for a man of profound work but his work was rooted in his neighborhood and crossing ’hood boundaries through music collaborations and supporting good works and progressive activity. He loved members of the Rolling 60s Crips, his homies, but worked with rival sets and Bloods, another street organization. The Crips and the Bloods once were sworn and deadly enemies, but Nipsey worked across the boundaries of the blue-clad Crips and the red-clad Bloods to keep gangbanging out of music and to present an example of how the groups could co-exist and have mutual respect. After his death March 31, allegedly at the hands of Eric Holder, Jr., who is a reputed member of the Crips street organization other gangs declared a truce and held a peace walk in Nipsey’s name. Mr. Holder is under arrest and charged with murder. 

Nipsey Hussle performs during his 'Victory Lap Tour' at The Warfield on June 27, 2018 in San Francisco, California.

Musical, video and personal tributes punctuated the service, showing Nipsey and his brother, Samiel, as children and their journeys to Eritrea, the homeland of his father, Dawit Asghedom. Two trips to Eritrea, one at age 18, had a profound impact on Nipsey, who was the son of a Black American mother, Angelique Smith, and an African immigrant father. Speakers shared how Nipsey showed brilliance as a child, testing for gifted classes at his own demand, building a computer from scratch and creating software to record his music and always having an entrepreneurial spirit. He would leave school as a teenager to pursue his music and was involved with neighborhood young people in street life.

Yet, he was different, charitable, humble, self-educated and willing to chart his own course. His first major label album, “Victory Lap,” was nominated for a Grammy Award earlier this year, but his legend is tied to how he used a scarcity model to promote himself. While others were giving music away, he sold 1,000 copies of his CD “Crenshaw,” for $100 each, with hip hop guru Jay-Z snagging 100 copies and sending him a check for $10,000. With money from that endeavor and others, Nipsey, joined by his brother and other partners engaged in business ventures.

Police gave them problems when they tried to turnaround an abandoned shopping center and make it a viable business center at Crenshaw Blvd., and Slauson Avenue, said his brother, Samiel Asghedom, at the service. But the owners of the L-shaped plaza, where Nipsey once sold CDs out of the trunk of his car, offered to sell the young hustlers the property, instead of evicting them as police wanted, said Samiel Asghedom. Somehow, said Nipsey’s older brother, they raised the money, purchased the plaza and opened the now iconic The Marathon product store, where ex-felons could find work. The smart store connects high technology to its clothing and other products, with customers able to scan tags for information and messages. Other blocks nearby were purchased and new businesses were started as well as an inner technology co-working space, Vector 90, which also houses a science, math and technology program for children and provides technology access for area residents. His work was also an example of how residents fearful of being pushed out of the Crenshaw neighborhood could resolve the problem by buying up the blocks.

Blue and white were dominant colors at the funeral but all colors were welcome with Nipsey’s casket surrounded by a wall of flowers with a huge screen in the background which showed home videos, family videos from trips to Eritrea, clips from his music videos and interviews.

“I know that we are all divine creatures. We are all divinity within. We don’t need to look to the sky for a God. God is within. I have perfect peace. I am happy. I am complete. I am strong. And if I can feel this way, so can you,” said his mother, who was dressed in white and exuded the dignity of her queen. She recounted the brilliance of her son, whose designation in her cell phone was “Soul,” with his brother designated “Heart.”

She poured a libation and asked the ancestors to accompany Nipsey on this new phase of his journey. “We’re burning, but we’re not destroyed,” she said. “I was talking to my cousin on the telephone. And one of the last things that I said to her was, ‘Belinda, the world that we live in is so wicked and evil. I feel so sad and I’m so troubled and it’s so very tragic that our children and our grandchildren are inhabiting this type of world.’ And I told her, ‘I really don’t know what the answer is. I really don’t know, but I think, I think that the only way to overcome the darkness is to be a light.” 

(l) Snoop Dogg speaks heartfelt words on stage about his fellow artist and friend. (r) Stevie Wonder performs on stage during Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life at Staples Center on April 11.

Music was performed by Stevie Wonder, which reflected verses from a song Nipsey wrote that mentioned playing the musical giant’s music at his funeral. Marsha Ambrosius offered an emotional rendition “Fly Like a Bird,” later Anthony Hamilton offered a song as part of uplifting musical tributes. Rapper YG, who is a Blood, talked about how Nipsey was like a big brother with their conversations about raising daughters, business and books. “I’m going to miss you bro,” he said.

Dawit Asghedom and Stevie Wonder spoke out about the level of violence in America and the need to combat violence. Stevie Wonder called for stronger gun laws.

Father Thomas Uwal, an Eritrean priest, offered words of consolation, sometimes speaking in Tigrinya, the native language of Nipsey’s father, and then translating those words into English. “Ermias was young. Ermias was visionary. Ermias was energetic. Ermias was full of hope. Ermias was full of life. Ermias was full of dreams. Ermias’s leaving was sudden and unexpected,” he said. “In times of challenge, in times of trouble like this, we hold on to our faith because God can heal our heart. God can comfort us. God can meet us every step of the way. The scripture said, Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you and uphold you with my righteous hand.” Isaiah chapter 41, verses 10.

“The second thing is to continue lending hands to the less fortunate people, to show compassion to the poor. And I think that was the greatest strength of Ermias. He did that. He invested in his community; he helped the less fortunate one; and he inspired his neighborhood. When it’s all said and done, we are not going to be judged by how much money we have, or what kind of cars we have or how rich we are, or we were. We are going to be judged by the impact we made to our fellow mankind.”

Rapper Snoop Dogg, who asked the audience to bear with him as he spoke of his brother and friend, shared how Nipsey’s initial approach was different, instead of promising to make a million dollars like most rappers seeking a record deal, the Crenshaw-bred artist simply asked Snoop to listen to his music. That was different, but Snoop didn’t listen at first, but later he did—from there came a relationship and collaboration.

Nipsey was so far thinking that he advised Snoop to start his own theme park based on Snoop’s brand and his music. The Long Beach, Calif.-bred rapper admitted he didn’t fully understand. But, he said, Nipsey built his own version of the theme park with his business, The Marathon Store, and his brand. 

YG and DJ Mustard attend Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life at Staples Center. Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed in front of his store, The Marathon Store, on March 31, 2019 in Los Angeles.

The service and the influence of Nipsey Hussle was illustrated by a letter sent to the family and read during the memorial from the first Black president. Former President Obama said he learned of Nipsey through his daughters, respected his work and called for its replication. The crowd applauded with gusto as the letter was read by blogger Karen Civil. “While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and only see gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that even through its flaws taught him to always keep going. He chose to invest in that community rather than to ignore it,” Mr. Obama wrote.

Outside thousands pressed to get inside the downtown arena where vendors outside offered food, t-shirts and keepsakes, but the throngs were anxious to get in, despite heavy security and a lockdown of the arena. Not even the media could enter an outside working space, unless they had tickets. Nipsey’s music floated over the din of voices and congested traffic in the streets near the Staples Center as people posed for selfies, embraced one another and asked a passerby if he had an extra ticket.

Nipsey Hussle departed this life at 33 years old, which his sister, Samantha Smith, noted mirrored Jesus’ lifetime on earth and that was no coincidence, she said. His relationships went beyond Los Angeles and spread to other parts of the country as he toured to pursue his music and business ventures. Nipsey, in his teens, by his own accounts, began taking care of himself, hustling on the streets of Crenshaw to survive. According to media reports, there were over 101 million live streams in the two days after Nipsey’s March 31 passing. Streaming and purchasing the music was encouraged because the income directly benefits his estate. Victory Lap, his latest album, sold 64,000 copies the week of April 1. Other popular songs that were streamed included: Racks in the Middle featuring Roddy Rich and Hit-Boy (11.8 million); Dedication featuring Kendrick Lamar (9.6 million); Double Up featuring Belly and Dom Kennedy (8.5 million), Last Time That I Checc’d featuring YG (7.1 million) and Hussle & Motivate (2.9 million.)

The proud West Coast rapper began his career in the mixtape circuit, selling his albums from the trunk of his car in Crenshaw. They were a success and helped him create a buzz and gain respect from rap purists and his peers. In 2010, he placed on hip-hop magazine XXL’s “Freshman Class of 2010”—a coveted list for up-and-coming hip-hop acts—alongside J. Cole, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa and others.

Nipsey, once signed to Sony’s Epic Records, hit a new peak with “Victory Lap,” his critically acclaimed major-label debut album on Atlantic Records that made several best-of lists last year, from Billboard magazine to Complex.

At this year’s Grammy Awards, “Victory Lap” was one of five nominees for best rap album in a year that saw hip hop dominate the pop charts and streaming services, and debates ensued about which rap albums would get nominated since a number of top stars released projects, including Drake, Eminem, Kanye West, Nas, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Migos and DJ Khaled. Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” won the honor in February, while the other nominees alongside Nipsey were Travis Scott, Pusha T and Mac Miller.

T.I., another Atlanta-based rapper, took to his Instagram Live account to talk about Nipsey and take questions from his fans. Nipsey, who had a reputation in the hip-hop community for being both studious, and an avid reader, was known to give books to people. When asked what book Nipsey gave him to read, T.I. answered, “Message to the Blackman by Elijah Muhammad.”

BeyoncĂ© and Jay-Z, legendary rapper Master P, and rapper Meek Mill were among stars at the Staples Center memorial—where many pointed out the only larger funeral was the 2009 homegoing for Michael Jackson.

Perhaps the most touching moments during the funeral were when actress Lauren London, with Nipsey’s children and her children by her side in their blended family took the stage. Baby Kross, who is the product of the love of Nipsey and Ms. London, grabbed the mic several times though he could not fully speak. Nipsey’s daughter Emani, from a previous relationship, declined to speak but Kameron Carter, the son of Ms. London and rapper Lil Wayne, shared a dream he had about Nipsey after his passing.

“I realized Ermias told me what heaven was like. He told me it was paradise,” Kameron said. He asked the crowd to join him as he counted down from three to one and asked the crowd to repeat the word “respect,” a special saying he shared with Nipsey.

The hearse carrying Hussle’s coffin went through a 25-mile lap through the city, including past the property where Nipsey had planned to turn an aging strip mall into new businesses and affordable homes. Thousands of people crowded the streets, some on bicycles and motorcycles, following and surrounding the vehicle as it slowly wound its way to the funeral home. The silver Cadillac passed the rapper’s childhood home in Watts. It came to a halt at times, unable to move in the vast crowd of people.

The Fruit of Islam of the Nation of Islam, who were present throughout the weekend giving away nearly 150,000 free copies of the Nation’s Final Call newspaper, keeping the peace and consoling mourners at the memorial in front of The Marathon store where Nipsey was shot, shepherded the hearse through the massive crowd. Tony Muhammad, who has been serving the family, was right up front, helping to ease Nipsey’s journey. Perhaps as a sign of the work yet to be done, police reported an April 11 drive-by shooting of three people in the Crenshaw neighborhood after days of relative calm. One person died, according to police.

Still it didn’t dampen spirits, it bore witness to the powerful testimony of Ms. London who remember Nipsey as her protector, soul mate, and love. “The marathon continues!” she said, closing her heartfelt message as the Staples Center crowd roared its approval. Nipsey’s signature saying was life is a marathon.

(Final Call staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Tuesday, April 9

From The Final Call Newspaper

Nipsey's Life A Hussle That Motivates, resonates around the globe
By Bryan 18X Crawford | Contributing Writer | @MrCraw4D

The life, death and legacy of Nipsey Hussle not only deeply touched those who live in his Crenshaw community and the Greater Los Angeles area, but people across the country and around the world were mourning the 33-year-old man whose work in the streets and the suites was inspirational, and rooted in a commitment to build and help his people make progress.

Ermias Joseph Asghedom was seemingly born to be a bridge that connected people to worlds that seemed distant and in some cases, carried warning signs that read, “Do Not Cross.” The distance might have been as far away as the Horn of Africa or as close as blocks that surrounded the house where he grew up.

Born in 1985 to a Black mother from South Central Los Angeles, and a Black father from Eritrea, a country situated on the Red Sea in East Africa, Nipsey carried the DNA of a revolutionary, in his genes. His father, Dawit Asghedom, fled his home country in the midst of war where the combatants’ faces all looked the same, and landed in the U.S. where he would become politically active. In 1975, Dawit was photographed in New York City holding a sign that read, “Down With Apartheid and Imperialism.”

A decade later, his second and youngest son would be born in a place fighting a similar war in which the combatants’ faces, once again, all looked the same, and the son would embody a fearless spirit opposed to oppressive forces in South Central Los Angeles.

The name Ermias is Hebrew and when translated means “Sent by God.” A cursory look at Nipsey Hussle’s life, his works and response from the Black community and Black world in the aftermath of his death seems to bear witness to the meaning of his name.

Nipsey was born and raised in Crenshaw which is controlled by the Rollin 60s Neighborhood Crips; a community that is basically bordered on all sides by rival factions of the Bloods street gang. He joined the group. However, despite being affiliated with the Rollin 60s, unlike most members of Los Angeles street gangs, Nipsey was able to move, relate and associate seamlessly with those who were, by street code, the opposition, with essentially no beef—something unheard of in a city where having the wrong color rag (bandana) could lead to dire, and sometimes fatal consequences. He collaborated with artists in “rival” gangs and in media interviews talked about how he and others in Los Angeles built intentional relationships across gang color lines to keep conflicts out of the music and provide an example of how to enjoy mutual respect and mutual success. Those relationships went beyond Los Angeles and spread to other parts of the country as he toured to pursue his music and business ventures.

“If he met you, you were his people. That’s how he made you feel, and we don’t have a lot of people in this rap game who are like that. That’s why nobody is saying anything bad about Nipsey,” Terrance Randolph, a Chicago-based social media brand manager and influencer, known in the hip hop music industry as Hustle Simmons, told The Final Call. “I don’t know what purpose God had for his life, but he must’ve lived it out.”

By the time Nipsey Hussle was 14, by his own accounts, he had left home and begun taking care of himself, hustling on the streets of Crenshaw to survive. By the time his rap career had begun to take off and people started to recognize his name, acknowledge his talent and respect his art, Nipsey made sure to let everyone know, as the lyrics of one his songs go, he was a man with a different thought process, personal blueprint and unlike the usual “rap n****s” in the game.

“[We had a] real war in the streets. It was heavy. We were knee-deep into something real and it was about surviving and defending our opportunities,” Nipsey said in a 2018 interview with Mass Appeal. “I’m conscious that there’s an intentional pushback against people that look like me. I’m supposed to be in jail or dead. There’s a whole prison complex [that exists.] Then, you think about as an artist, there’s a business model that exists in the music industry that prevents you from having ownership; that prevents you from being a partner in the lions’ share of the profits. … When I said I was the Tupac of my generation, Pac was intelligent, but in our culture—street culture, especially in his generation—intelligence is viewed as weakness. So, how do you get the people affected by what we’re really trying to solve, involved?”

For Nipsey, the answer was being an example of what Black ownership meant and looked like, which in itself, was a game changer, especially for those from his community. With family and partners, he purchased the strip mall where he once sold CDs out of a car trunk, opened businesses, advocated for children and created a shared work space for techies in the hood.

According to media reports, there were over 101 million live streams in the two days after Nipsey’s March 31 passing. Streaming and purchasing the music benefitted, was encouraged because of the income directly benefits his estate. Victory Lap, his latest album, sold 64,000 copies the week of April 1. Other popular songs that were streamed included: Racks in the Middle featuring Roddy Rich and Hit-Boy (11.8 million); Dedication featuring Kendrick Lamar (9.6 million); Double Up featuring Belly and Dom Kennedy (8.5 million), Last Time That I Checc’d featuring YG (7.1 million) and Hussle & Motivate (2.9 million.)

The proud West Coast rapper began his career in the mixtape circuit, selling his albums from the trunk of his car in Crenshaw. They were a success and helped him create a buzz and gain respect from rap purists and his peers. In 2010, he placed on hip-hop magazine XXL’s “Freshman Class of 2010”—a coveted list for up-and-coming hip-hop acts—alongside J. Cole, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa and others.

Jay-Z even bought 100 copies of Hussle’s “Crenshaw” for $100 each in 2013, and sent him a $10,000 check.

Nipsey, once signed to Sony’s Epic Records, hit a new peak with “Victory Lap,” his critically acclaimed major-label debut album on Atlantic Records that made several best-of lists last year, from Billboard magazine to Complex.

At this year’s Grammy Awards, “Victory Lap” was one of five nominees for best rap album in a year that saw hip hop dominate the pop charts and streaming services, and debates ensued about which rap albums would get nominated since a number of top stars released projects, including Drake, Eminem, Kanye West, Nas, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Migos and DJ Khaled. Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” won the honor in February, while the other nominees alongside Nipsey were Travis Scott, Pusha T and Mac Miller.

Touching South Central, America and the world

With his passing, his revolutionary and inspirational spirit traveled beyond the borders of the Crenshaw district, Greater Los Angeles, and touched Black communities throughout the U.S., and as far away as Africa and Canada.

“We have to move and act as a fraternal organization, as businessmen, and people that care about our communities and make an actual investment like Nipsey did,” said rapper Killer Mike at a Nipsey Hussle memorial vigil held in Atlanta just days after his death.

Killer Mike added, “We have a choice. We don’t have to be nobody’s savages. We don’t have to be their examples of the wrong way [to go]. We gotta be no thugs that’s been thrown away. That rag that’s over your forehead or [hanging] out of your left pocket, is better served wiping the sweat off your head for the work you’re doing on behalf of your community in a way that does not murder other Africans.”

“A sucker took out a king. … A real king to this era,” said Harlem-based rapper Dave East for an impromptu memorial gathering he organized to commemorate the life of Nipsey Hussle. “I was a kid when Big and Pac died, so I couldn’t feel that. I feel this. … Don’t let his name die.”

Other vigils were held in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Birmingham, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, San Diego and as far away as Vancouver, Canada,

In Houston, more than 1,000 people gathered in the Midtown section of the city, at the behest of Houston-based rapper Trae The Truth, all clad in Blue, to release balloons in honor of the slain star.

“Some people loved him for the person he was, some people loved him for his music. But regardless, people loved him as a partner, as a brother, as a father. Anything he was, he gave it his all and it was genuine. And these days, you don’t find too many genuine people,” Trae The Truth told NBC News affiliate KPRC in Houston.

T.I., another Atlanta-based rapper, took to his Instagram Live account to talk about Nipsey and take questions from his fans. Nipsey, who had a reputation in the hip-hop community for being both studious, and an avid reader, was known to gift books to people. When asked what book Nipsey gave him to read, T.I. answered, “Message to the Blackman by Elijah Muhammad.” Nipsey’s respect for the Nation of Islam isn’t something that was widely known publicly, but he never shied away from it. He, along with his friends, once famously threw rocks at the Los Angeles Police Department in defense of Student Minister Tony Muhammad of Mosque No. 27, who showed up after a young man was killed in Nipsey’s Crenshaw neighborhood.

“I remember some years back, one of our close friends from our area got killed and [Min. Tony Muhammad] came on 10th Avenue,” Nipsey Hussle explained in video posted on Min. Tony Muhammad’s personal Instagram page. “The police had put a cover on the young man’s face, and the cover was going up and down. There was people who knew the young dude telling the [paramedics] that he was still breathing, that he was still alive. But they just sat there and let him expire on the scene. But Tony Muhammad showed up and represented our community and he stood up. But he ended up having an altercation with the LAPD, but people in our area and myself specifically, always respected him for that.”

Said Min. Tony Muhammad in the caption for his video post, “I will never forget our Brother, a Giant ‘Nipsey Hussle’, he stood up for me years ago when we had an altercation with the LAPD in his Hood! Now I will continue my work of bringing an end to the killings of each other, in his name.”

While the impact of his death hit hardest here at home, it also resonated and affected those of Eritrean descent who live here in America and Africans on the continent.

Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones went online and uploaded a freestyle video devoted to Nipsey Hussle.

In Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, candles were lit during a memorial service for the beloved artist. “With poems and speeches, Ethiopians have held an emotional farewell for murdered rapper Nipsey Hussle, whose roots in neighbouring Eritrea won him admirers in both countries,” AFP reported April 7.

“ ‘When we heard there’s an Eritrean rapper out there, we were fans before we heard his music,’ ” said Ambaye Michael Tesfay, who eulogized Nipsey at the event held in a darkened parking lot. “ ‘He was an icon for us,’ ” AFP said. Despite conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia before a peace pact last year, Ethiopians shared their pride about Nipsey’s music and impact. “‘We’re all one people,’ ” Nemany Hailemelekot, who organized the gathering that drew hundreds of people, told AFP.

Eritreans paid their respects to Nipsey Hussle with many offering their feelings via social media. Journalist Billion Temesghen tweeted April 1: “Ermias Asghedom AKA Nipsey Husle was an Eritrean rap star, a preformance phenomenon, who had just returned home. In my pleasant talk with him I was delighted to learn of the Eritrean & African pride he carried deep inside him. He is a legend. compassionate compatriot. We miss him.”

“#NipseyHussle stood for #Eritrea when he was alive & he is still standing from heaven. His life is reinvegorating Eritrean youth to follow his footseps to stand for country &people despite all enmity thrown at them. Nipsy is rendering all anti-Eritrea campaigns mute. Rest in P,” tweeted Amanuel Biedemariam, who often writes for an Eritrean website.

Nipsey’s two visits to his father’s native homeland, once as an 18-year-old young man still trying to figure out who he was and his place in the world, and the second time as a recording star had a profound effect on him.

On his last visit to Eritrea in 2018, Nipsey was treated as a dignitary who seemed to understand who he was and what he represented, while being fully aware that he was both a voice and example for two distinct peoples with a long history of fighting against injustice and oppression, not just one.

When asked by Eritrean journalist Billion Temesghen to describe in his own words what hip-hop is, Nipsey Hussle’s answer was both deep, and profound.

“[Hip-hop is] a form of expression for young people who have so much to be told. It is a vocabulary, it is an art and it is a culture that originally was only of young people in America but now has gone global. The neighborhoods from where Hip Hop came out had unique environments and situations that made people search for a real and efficient form of expression. From police brutality to gang cultures, the riots, racial discrimination and more unique events that urged the growth of Hip Hop in terms of music and Hip Hop in terms of culture and identity.”

He added, “The story of Hip Hop is similar to that of Jazz. Music in America was an expression of our struggles; being black in America. And I, as an Eritrean American, I feel connected to this aspect of the African American history. My father is from Eritrea and we have always been in touch with our Eritrean ancestry and culture thanks to him. However, we still grew up in South Central LA all of our lives. So our exposure was to the culture of Los Angeles, which was gang culture. I was born in 1985 and grew up in the 90s. … All of the social issues that took place back then happened in our backyard.”

When asked what it meant to have roots and ties to a place that has experienced its own share of violent struggle in the fight for independence, Nipsey’s answer poignantly encapsulated the parallels of life growing up in South Central Los Angeles, where the expectation for Black men is a life that leads to death, not one that can garner the love, respect and admiration of millions all around the globe.

“I am proud of being Eritrean. The history of our country, our struggle and the underdog story, the resilience of the people and our integrity is something that I feel pride in being attached to,” he said.

“He embodied Pan Africanism. He was a bridge between the two worlds of East Africa and the hood, which is really important,” former professor and Los Angeles native Kwame Zulu-Shabazz told The Final Call. “So, he was hood but also very Pan African, and he was proud of it. That’s something that we need more of, too. Part of the reason that we’re lost in the U.S. is because we’ve been disconnected from our roots, and brothers like that can help us reconnect and affirm that Africa is a positive place, and that there are positive things going on in Africa that can make us proud of our heritage as African people.”

His family and close friends, while understandably still mourning and trying to make sense of his tragic death, seem to all take some solace in reminiscing on the good things he did for himself and his family, but also the positive impact he made in the lives of others.

“He recognized at an early age his own capability. His own potential. He has always known,” Nipsey’s mother, Angelique Smith, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I would like for him to be remembered as a humble, spirited, respectful man who had, since his childhood, an extraordinary and unlimited intellectual capacity.”

Said his brother, Samiel “Blacc Sam” Asghedom in the same LA Times piece, “There’s a lot of politics within the area that we grew up in, but he stayed the course and showed what he was about. He made something work in an area that was run-down, that people were scared to come to, and he turned it into a landmark.”

Lauren London, mother of Nipsey’s two-year-old son Kross, told the newspaper that her fiancĂ©e, “was a protector and wanted us to be our best at all times. He was a truth seeker and truth speaker. I’m going to keep my head high and always represent for my king to the fullest.”

Dawit Asghedom remembered his son this way.

“It was like he was sent by God to give some love to bring us together because that’s what his lyrics were saying, always,” the elder Asghedom said, adding, “He’s not shy to tell the truth even though it might not look good. He wasn’t scared of anything. [God] sent him to send a message. It looks like, ‘Your time is up because you have completed what I sent you to do.’ We all have a plan, but God has his own plan. So he had completed what he needed to be doing and he did it early so [God] probably wanted to take him early too.”

From buying up the block, to creating businesses that employed Black people, aimed to educate them, and give them a space to be creative and help develop and realize their dreams, Nipsey Hussle was a man of the people because he was a man who saw what their needs were and took it upon himself to do what he could to help provide opportunities and a platform for others, because at one point in his life, he was looking for someone to give him the same opportunities and guidance. His death has seemed to galvanize the Black community, and this was evidenced by the recent gang truce that happened in the wake of his death. Over the April 7 weekend, hundreds of Crips, Bloods, and members of L.A.’s various Hispanic gangs, all marched through South Central together, gathering in front of Nipsey’s Marathon clothing store and standing in solidarity with one another as brothers and sisters in the same struggle, committed to carrying on the legacy of independence and ownership, which was Nipsey’s messaging in the final stages of his young life.

“My recent music is about the reality of the business; the challenges of working for your own business and how to be a Black young successful entrepreneur,” he told Ms. Temesghen. “I want my music to be an inspiration of individual growth in the economic sector. That is the path I took as I grew up and I want to put it in music. My life is different from when I first came out as a teenager with expressions from the teenage perspective of young men in the streets. Now, as I grew older and became successful in music and business my perspective changed accordingly. And so my art evolved with it.”

Ms. Temesghen explained to Nipsey in their interview that Eritreans had translated his name in their native Semitic language of Tigrigna, to “Nebsi,” which means “self,” and in Eritrean slang terminology, loosely means “homie,” giving his name dual-meaning in the country among Eritrean people: “Self Hustle,” or the “Hustle of Homie.” Ironically, this dual meaning of Nipsey’s stage name in Eritrea, fits perfectly with who he was back in America: a self-hustling homie whose fearlessness motivated and inspired others to follow his lead and do the same.

At Final Call press time, a memorial service was planned for April 11 at the Staples Center in Los Angles, which holds 21,000 people. It was expected to be full.

(Final Call staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Tuesday, April 2

From The Final Call Newspaper

Rebuilding and Buying the Block
By Bryan 18X Crawford 

The entertainment world, and the Black community at large, collectively felt the loss and pain of the tragic and untimely passing of 33-year-old West Coast hip hop artist Ermias Asghedom, known professionally as Nipsey Hussle.

“Neighborhood Nip,” as he was commonly referred to, was gunned down, shot multiple times on March 31 in the parking lot outside of his clothing store, The Marathon, located in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles.

Nipsey Hussle owned the plaza where the business was located, which is situated near the intersection of Slauson Ave. and Crenshaw Blvd., one of the busiest in Los Angeles.

In the 1980’s Crenshaw was one of the most violent sections of L.A. due to the influx of drugs and gangs, most notably the Rollin 60s Neighborhood Crips.

The shooting occurred at approximately 3:20 p.m. PDT, a little more than 30 minutes after Nipsey sent an eerily cryptic tweet that read, “Having strong enemies is a blessing.”

Born in 1985 in Los Angeles to an Eritrean father and a Black mother, Nipsey Hussle rose to prominence in the world of hip-hop in 2005 with his debut mixtape, “Slauson Boy Volume 1.” From there, Nipsey went on to release a bevy of underground mixtapes that quickly established him as next up in a long line of MCs from the Los Angeles area. Nipsey reached the pinnacle of his music career with the release of his “Victory Lap” album which was nominated for a Grammy in 2019.

However, in the process of rising up the ranks of hip hop, Nipsey seemed to find a bigger purpose that moved beyond just making music, and that purpose was giving back to the community that raised him and the people who helped shape him.

Businesses, buying property, independent building brands

Nipsey was widely seen as an authentic and relatable person and was true to his stage name.

He was a hustler in every sense of the word. And given the conditions of the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw section of Los Angeles, he had to be in order to survive.

Crenshaw has a population of almost 31,00 people, 72 percent of them are Black, and seven out of every 10 people living in the area, are renters. In Crenshaw, the unemployment rate is double the national unemployment at 6.7 percent.

After leaving home at age 14 to begin living on his own, Nipsey learned to turn negatives into positives—and cold hard cash. Some stories are legendary.

In 2013, he made $100,000 selling 1,000 copies of his “Crenshaw” mixtape for $100, something that was unheard of, especially in an era where artists gave mixtapes away for free on the internet. Crenshaw sold out in less than 24 hours, with Jay Z, another rapper who made a name for himself in hip hop as a legendary hustler, buying 100 copies of the tape as a way to show his support.

Nipsey then took that money, created his own record label, and released another mixtape, “Mailbox Money,” under his All Money In imprint, pressing up just 100 copies with a price tag of $1,000 each. He sold 60 of them.

Just this year, Nipsey and his business partner, another Black man, purchased the shopping plaza where his clothing store was located. When he was younger, the owner of the plaza wouldn’t let area kids hang out around the stores. This angered Nipsey so much that he had a desire to one day own it.

And he did.

In addition to an upgraded version of his Marathon clothing store, Nipsey’s final vision was to add a barbershop, a restaurant, and fully redevelop the property into a six-story, mixed-use residential and commercial building, all in an area of town already going throughout extensive amount of development and change.

“This is us trying to disrupt retail, create a theme park for the brand. This is us trying to create a retail network to become vertically integrated. This is us trying to super-serve the core with an upgraded experience. This is us trying to fuse hip hop, fashion and tech,” he said of his vision for the shopping plaza. “So I think that we’re just putting our chips on experience. We think this is where retail is going. So we want to be one of the leaders.”

Last year, Nipsey and his partner in the real estate project, created Vector90, a 47,000 square foot co-working space, cultural hub and business incubator, featuring high-speed internet, conference rooms, tech training, and a professional development program and launch curriculum for startups. It also offers technology to neighborhood residents.

“Growing up as a kid, I was looking for somebody—not to give me anything—but somebody that cared. Someone that was creating the potential for change and that had an agenda outside of their own self interests,” Nipsey said at the Vector90 launch. “In our culture, there’s a narrative that says, ‘Follow the athletes, follow the entertainers,’ and that’s cool. But there should be something that says, ‘Follow Elon Musk, follow [Mark] Zuckerberg,’” he told Forbes magazine.

Nipsey also launched “Too Big To Fail,” a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program for youth in Crenshaw that he wanted to turn into an academy situated in the same space as Vector90. Ultimately, Nipsey had planned to take the program to other cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

“I remember feeling, like … Maybe I’m tripping. Maybe I’m not even supposed to be ambitious; maybe I’m not even supposed to be thinking this big and thinking outside the box. That’s a dangerous thing,” Nipsey said in a Forbes interview, explaining the thought process that led into the creation of Too Big To Fail. “I would like to prevent as many kids from feeling like that as possible. Because what follows is self-destructive.”

Nipsey was an early pioneer and investor in cryptocurrency since 2013. Believing that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency were on their way to mainstream adoption, he invested in Follow Coin, a crypto company based in Amsterdam.

“Because this currency is not linked to central banks. It’s unregulated. That means a lot for the power structure that exists now,” he explained. “People that’s in power—the central banks, these fiat currencies that are traded globally—they got influence over the messaging and the narrative in the media. When you see people on Fox and traditional investors saying, ‘Don’t invest. Don’t put your money in these coins,’ that’s not actual financial advice. That’s political rhetoric.”

Nipsey gained quite a bit of notoriety for not only his business sense, but the many ways in which he was committed to leveraging all that he knew and learned, by giving back.

He used money earned from his rap career, combined with his business acumen, and charted a course toward creating a blueprint to generational wealth that other Black people could follow.

“Nipsey Hussle was very rare. There aren’t too many successful, young Black men who have dedicated and committed themselves to uplifting their community. His is an irreplaceable loss because we don’t often get that kind of a brother in the hood very often,” Dr. Kwame Zulu Shabazz, a former Knox College professor who was born and raised in Inglewood, just a few miles from the Crenshaw District, told The Final Call.

“He had the potential for being a revolutionary model for what Black people could do. A lot of people, when they get successful, they try to get out of the ’hood. But Nipsey stayed in the muck and mire of the wilderness, trying to do something different. He had the potential for greatness and was on the path towards that, he just got caught up.”

“Nipsey was one of us. He was for us. It’s rare that you get those rappers who are for us; the people,” Terrence “Hustle Simmons” Randolph, a music industry veteran in the areas of social media marketing and brand management, who knew Nipsey Hussle, told The Final Call.

“This is definitely one of those Tupac and Biggie moments, not just in music, but in Black history. The one thing Nipsey had that a lot of rappers didn’t, was the ears of the young people. The people who were willing to sit down, listen and learn something. He was telling them about entrepreneurship. He was teaching them about Dr. Sebi, which a lot of them didn’t know about. He taught them how to stand for something. He taught them that it was cool to make your money and then come and buy back the block. He spoke about economics. He made it cool to love your girl and be out in the public with her, holding hands. He was about family in an era of men jumping from woman to woman.

“And, he was Eritrean. For him to be of true African descent, and from South Central LA, and to see him do all the things he did, his loss, we feel that. It hurts.”

“This is terrible loss for the hood because he’d really tried to pick us up with him on his rise to the top,” Mr. Shabazz said. “But we need to follow his example and try to carry on as best we can. Nipsey laid out a road map, and he has a legacy, and hopefully we can use this galvanize ourselves and do something about the violence and try to continue on and honor his legacy… Nipsey should also be a reminder that there is so much talent in the ’hood, it’s just misdirected by design.

“But there’s lots of brilliance in the ghettos of the U.S. masked as lost potential. We just have to figure out how to harness and maximize that potential and not allow ourselves to become distracted by all this craziness out here.

“South Central is one of the oldest, and largest Black neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and Nipsey was well respected there,” filmmaker and LA resident Tariq Nasheed, told The Final Call. “He created business opportunities for the people, he gave a lot in terms of his time, his expertise in the world of business and music, he gave a lot of money to people; this guy was beloved throughout the whole community, and it transcended the different gang lines. Everybody loved this brother.”
Despite being a known Crip, Nipsey seemed to be immune from gang-related beefs involving himself directly, and he garnered respect from many associated with various factions of Bloods active in Los Angeles.

“I’m not the most well-versed in the Crips and the Bloods culture, but he was the type of person that gave so much respect to people, it made you have to give that respect back to him,” Mr. Randolph said. “That fact that Nipsey being a Crip and YG being a Blood, could work together and use their influence to get brothers to unite and see the bigger picture of what can be done by coming together, and the power associated with that, based on respect, was powerful.”

The pain of losing another Black man to gun violence, let alone one who in addition to being a talented musical artist, was also a forward-thinking visionary and entrepreneur, was palpable in the Black community; and not just in Los Angeles, but across the country.

Legendary Houston-area rapper Willie D, who rose to fame in the early 90s as a member of the group, The Geto Boys, was visibly shaken speaking about the slain hip hop artist.

“We talk about giving back. Here’s a man that made it out, went back, and helped as many people as he could,” Willie D said. “We are at war. We can’t afford to lose soldiers, especially the good ones. We gotta protect our soldiers at all costs ... Nip was solid, man. He was in the industry, but he wasn’t industry. He was self-made, loyal, consistent, just an all-around good dude. I don’t know what happened or what it was about, but I know ain’t no way Nip did nothing to deserve that.”

“There’s a cloud over the community right now. Everybody is extremely sad. The energy is off,” Mr. Nasheed said. “He was such a great dude; the kind who would give you the shirt off his back. He was very rare and you don’t come across very many people like that. And he was young. He was only 33, but he’d already accomplished so much.”

The Game, a Los Angeles native and well known rapper who was close to Nipsey Hussle despite their opposing Crip and Blood affiliations, recorded an emotionally charged Instagram Live post driving down Slauson Blvd. at 4 a.m., emotionally shaken over the death of his friend.

“I can’t sleep behind what happened to Nip, man,” The Game said. “I’m disgusted!”

Tuesday, March 26

From The Final Call Newspaper

Hypocrisy, hate, hype and the Southern Poverty Law Center

By Starla Muhammad Managing Editor

Fallout continues for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in wake of the abrupt firing of co-founder Morris Dees and the sudden resignation of its president Richard Cohen. The group is in damage control mode in the aftermath of allegations it fostered a racist and sexist work environment.

SPLC headquartered in Montgomery, Ala. with offices in Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana, has touted itself as an ally of Blacks, poor and disenfranchised people in the fight for equal justice and rights. Yet these latest controversies beg the question: Is a group that insists it exposes and monitors hate the real hater?

Critics of the group including left-wing progressives and right-wing conservatives have taken issue with the methodology and tactics of SPLC.

“Mr. Dees and the S.P.L.C. have been credited with undermining the influence of the Ku Klux Klan and extremist groups. But in recent years, the center has come under scrutiny for its classifications of ‘hate groups,’ and whether the organization has abused that label in pursuit of a political agenda or increased donations,” reported The New York Times in a recent article.

SPLC has also been blasted by critics who argue it erroneously yet deliberately classifies and equates Black liberation organizations like the Nation of Islam, which has no history of committing violent or terrorist acts on Whites, Jews or anyone based on creed, class, color, religion, political ideology or sexual orientation—with White supremacist groups who have an established record of violence and murder of Black people.

“It seems the Southern Poverty Law Center’s true purpose is to discredit and disrupt progressive forward-thinking revolutionary Black organizations under the disguise of being a so-called watchdog group. But for decades now all they’ve done is slander the good work and the good deeds of the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party,” said Krystal Muhammad, national chairwoman of the New Black Panther Party.

What is now surrounding SPLC, according to various observers, are the proverbial “chickens coming home to roost.”

Pimping the struggle and tarnishing reputations?

“Being in the South, dealing with poverty, working in legal circles and doing advocacy work I think of the Southern Poverty Law Center as someone that would have been involved with the many racially-charged legal fights that we’ve been fighting but they’re nowhere to be seen. If anything, they’ve demonized us and called us ‘Black identity extremists,’ ” said activist Lady Freedom, who has lived in Alabama since 1999. She lives in Birmingham. Her parents are also from the state which is one of the poorest in the country.

Lady Freedom told The Final Call that she was not surprised at the allegations and that her view and experience as a grassroots activist is that SPLC has not been fully invested in many of Alabama’s poor communities as a true ally and partner and has lent tepid support at best to their efforts. It is also her observation that the group has not responded forcefully enough when Black activists or groups particularly in Alabama received death threats.

“Don’t be pimping our struggle, don’t misuse our martyrs for your benefit to make yourself look shiny and not reach back,” said Lady Freedom who is also an international correspondent and radio personality for Selma, Ala.-based WBFZ 105.3 FM owned by longtime activists Attorney Faya Rose Toure and her husband, former State Senator Hank Sanders.

She said there have been other instances where Black people have been threatened by White supremacists or killed by police but SPLC, which boasts assets over $500 million which includes an endowment fund—fails to respond in a more forceful way.

“What I have experienced in working with several programs through the Voting Rights Museum and even just at an activist level and people saying let’s reach out to them (SPLC); I haven’t had them respond, not once,” said Lady Freedom.

There’s not a community connection between Black Alabamans and the SPLC that one might expect to see, she continued. “I would expect to see more connection in poor places, but I can’t think of the last time I saw that SPLC was having a town hall meeting about hate crimes and they happen very frequently. For them to be so close to poor communities their presence is definitely missing.”

Lady Freedom said she has personally contacted SPLC to demand they remove groups like the NOI and New Black Panther Party from their list of hate groups. These groups work to uplift their people and work in their communities to try and make them better, argue their supporters.

“SPLC is one of the single most institutions that have done extreme damage to the reputation and the good names that the New Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, Minister Farrakhan and all true good freedom fighters work by trying to put us in the same category as a so-called hate group when that has never been the case,” explained Krystal Muhammad. “SPLC has been used as a tool to a large extent even to attempt to criminalize us because of their reports.”

It has been used to slander and disrupt the good work we have been doing, she added.

Dr. Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and based in Atlanta told The Final Call that while he had no information on what was happening with SPLC or its leadership, he was unwavering in his support of Min. Farrakhan and the NOI. “I know the Nation of Islam is a great organization,” he said.

“Min. Farrakhan is one of the greatest supporters of SCLC. If it wasn’t for Min. Farrakhan, SCLC wouldn’t be doing some of the things that we are doing today under my leadership. I can speak for Charles Steele, I can tell you what the Nation of Islam has meant to me!”

The Final Call called and emailed the headquarters of Southern Poverty Law Center requesting an interview and received no response.

A moment of reckoning

As a member of the Nation of Islam Research Team and as a “son of the South,” Demetric Muhammad said he is all too familiar with the tactics of SPLC and said he was not surprised at what is happening.

“Their history has been on our desk for a long time and even though we understood that they have a public persona of being a watchdog group and someone interested in trying to protect the poor and disenfranchised that primarily their goal has been to raise money to continue to perpetuate the status quo in America where you have White supremacy, Black inferiority; where you have gender inequality,” said the Memphis-based NOI student minister.

“We’ve known for a long time that even though they call themselves the Southern Poverty Law Center, poverty is greatest in the Southern states statistically so how could you be based in Montgomery, Alabama … and have one of the largest treasuries of any activist type organization yet poverty still persists in the Deep South where you’re located? We’ve always known they’re a group of hypocrites,” he added.

On March 22 news broke that SPLC president Richard Cohen had resigned but the group did not disclose the reason. He had worked there since 1986. It was also reported by the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper that legal director and senior leadership staff member Rhonda Brownstein resigned March 21. Just days before on March 18, SPLC tapped Chicago-based attorney Christina “Tina” Tchen, a gender and equity expert and chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama—to step in and assess the organization’s workplace practices, policies and climate. Mr. Dees was fired March 14 with no explanation given by Mr. Cohen except a statement that said the group is “committed to ensuring that our workplace embodies the values we espouse—truth, justice, equity, and inclusion.”

“When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action,” the statement continued. Mr. Dees contends he does not know why he was fired and according to The Associated Press said his dismissal involved a “personnel issue.”

After his resignation, Mr. Cohen also issued a statement that read in part, “Given my long tenure as the SPLC president, however, I do not think I should be involved in that process beyond cooperating with Tina, her team, and the board in any way that may be helpful.” “Whatever problems exist at the SPLC happened on my watch, so I take responsibility for them,” the statement continued.

According to the Los Angeles Times just prior to the latest shakeup, two dozen employees sent a letter to management and the SPLC board of directors stating they were concerned that internal allegations of mistreatment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination and racism threaten to jeopardize the organization. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that former SPLC employees have told them the work environment is “toxic” and has been for some time. It is not clear whether there is any connection between the latest allegations and the dismissal of Mr. Dees but it is clear that the organization seems to be failing at practicing what it preaches, argue observers.

According to media reports, Ms. Tchen will submit her findings and recommendations to the SPLC board of directors. How long the evaluation will take and if the report will be made public is unclear.

This is not the first time SPLC has raised eyebrows. In a series of articles published in 1994, The Montgomery Advertiser newspaper outlined concerns then about alleged racial discrimination against Black employees who at the time “accused Morris Dees, the center’s driving force, of being a racist and black employees have ‘felt threatened and band together,’” a charge Mr. Dees denied.

In an article written by former SPLC employee Bob Moser, an openly gay White man, published March 21 in the New Yorker, titled, “The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center,” racial disparities were one of many contradictions he observed during his tenure at the organization.

“Incoming female staffers were additionally warned by their new colleagues about Dees’s reputation for hitting on young women. And the unchecked power of the lavishly compensated white men at the top of the organization—Dees and the center’s president, Richard Cohen—made staffers pessimistic that any of these issues would ever be addressed,” wrote Mr. Moser.

According to media reports, Mr. Dees has not been involved in day to day operations of the center for some time but it was widely circulated that he ran a tight shop and personally handpicked many of the board members and senior staff. A current review of the SPLC website shows 14 board members, two of who are Black. There is one Black person out of eight listed on the leadership staff and three Blacks out of nine listed as senior staff, according to the website.

Mr. Dees and Attorney Joseph Levin founded SPLC in 1971 and appointed a civil rights stalwart the late Julian Bond, as its first president. The group became well known for successful campaigns in combating the Ku Klux Klan, a group notorious for terrorizing and killing Black people. Over the years SPLC won several multi-million dollar lawsuits against violent and lawless White supremacist groups.

While some analysts note that the money it rakes in and has accrued is enough to keep SPLC afloat, these latest controversies are raising legitimate questions about the history and future of the nearly 50-year-old organization.

But Demetric Muhammad said there are also lessons in this for Black people. “The Southern Poverty Law Center has spent a lot of time calling groups who advocate for the rights of Black people hate groups. They have literally stated that because we teach that Black people are the original people of the planet and that White people evolved from us that that constitutes hate teaching,” he said.

“Our people need to understand fundamentally that we should never expect a favorable point of view from our open adversaries and those that have for many years oppressed us. The oppressor is never going to approve of any group or any leader that is legitimately fighting on behalf of those that he has oppressed and enjoys oppressing,” explained Demetric Muhammad, author of several books.

The oppression of Black people and poor people has been an enormously successful economic enterprise for the White ruling class in America and in the world and Whites purposely assassinate the character of leaders and organizations they view as a threat to that very beneficial relationship, he pointed out.

“To any in the Black community that have falsely believed the reports of the Southern Poverty Law Center that Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam constitute a hate group well now look and see those that claim that we were haters are in fact themselves practitioners of hate, sexism, racism and inequality,” said Demetric Muhammad.

“I think it is something of a moment of reckoning and I think it is the hand of Allah (God) that he would follow up in the immediate aftermath of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s brilliant Saviours’ Day message that you would see this kind of a development.”

Tuesday, March 19

From The Final Call Newspaper

White anger, White insecurity and global White terror

By Brian E. Muhammad and Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad

Brenton Tarrant

Murderous rage in New Zealand, which left 50 people killed in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, is part of global, growing and deadly White deadly resentment, said analysts, activists and scholars interviewed by The Final Call

“It is very disconcerting, and we should see it as the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Wesley Muhammad, a Nation of Islam student minister who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies.

The world largely awakened March 15 to news of one of the bloodiest terror attacks in recent times. A White gunman converged on the mosques targeting everyone in sight during traditional Friday congregational prayer services. An estimated 500 Muslims were attending the Al-Noor Mosque with others at the smaller Linwood Mosque, a short distance away.

Police confirmed three people were arrested and multiple car bombs were found after the mosque shootings. Brenton Tarrant, the alleged shooter who livestreamed the deadly carnage, was charged with murder the day after the killings. “There were a number of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) attached to vehicles that we also stopped. They’ve been made safe by Defense Force but that does go to the seriousness of the situation,” Christchurch police commissioner Mike Bush said. Four people were initially captured by local police and authorities locked down mosques where the attacks took place and much of the city.

NYPD increasing security at Mosques and places of worship in light of the New Zealand attacks, March 15. Photos: MGN Online

“There’s been some absolute acts of bravery ... but let’s not presume that the danger is gone. We are not aware of other people, but we cannot assume there are not others at large,” cautioned the commissioner.

“The pool of sentiment from which he (Mr. Tarrant) came … globally it’s the angry White man, because globally their population is in reverse,” said Dr. Muhammad.
Dr. Wesley Muhammad said White demographic numbers and low birth rates are major factors in the global wave of White nationalism. In the United Kingdom, France and other European nations, Whites are wrestling with increasing numbers of migrants from Africa and darker nations. But, they are arriving amid a time of White population decline and growing economic distress. 

“They (Whites) see themselves losing that great White, Anglo-Saxon power and privilege that they have enjoyed for so long coming to an end,” said human rights activist Lee Jasper, who is based in London, in a previous Final Call interview. Europeans see themselves becoming a minority, but resettled refugees fill needed workforce positions Whites cannot fill because of their declining numbers.

Blacks and ethnic minorities are currently 14 percent of the population across England and Wales, according to a study by Policy Exchange, a UK-based think tank. While Whites are the majority, the Black and ethnic minority population has doubled in the past decade, accounting for 80 percent of population growth. The White population remained stagnant.

Census Bureau numbers say if White birth and death rates don’t change by the mid-2040s, Whites will be a minority population in the United States.

Dr. Wesley Muhammad expects White anger to intensify after the New Zealand tragedy.

The Daily Mail, a UK-based newspaper, reported suspected Christchurch terrorist Tarrant, 28, vowed to kill Muslims a day before the attack. The native of Australia was praised after the heinous act by followers on social media. The Daily Mail said an anonymous user, believed to be Mr. Tarrant, posted on the rightwing blog site 8Chan March 14: “I will carry out an attack against the invaders and will even live stream the attack via Facebook.”

“When they can livestream murder of worshippers at prayer you know depravity has sunk to lowest pits,” commented Moazzam Begg, outreach director for IIICAGE, a London-based advocacy organization for communities impacted by the War on Terror. “This hatred has been stoked by politicians and media. They must be accounted alongside killers,” Mr. Begg said in a Facebook video message responding to the attacks.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a U.S.-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, condemned the attacks. CAIR expressed concern that the alleged shooter called himself a supporter of President Donald Trump, who he sees “as a symbol of renewed White identity and common purpose.”

CAIR has reported an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims, immigrants and members of other minority groups since the election of Mr. Trump as president. CAIR has repeatedly expressed concern about Islamophobic, White supremacist and racist Trump administration policies and appointments.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lamented to the media that she never expected such a thing to happen in New Zealand. However, some observers of New Zealand history disagreed. They expressed surprise a tragedy didn’t occur sooner. “Racism is absolutely the norm in New Zealand,” said Dr. Randy Lancaster Short, a lay leader of the African Orthodox Church. “It’s a serious problem and it’s focused on their version of ‘niggers.’ ”

New Zealand like Australia, where the accused shooter is from, has a brutal colonial past that lingers on in deep social disparities along racial lines today, he said. As in other neocolonial states, it is New Zealand’s indigenous Black Maori population that suffers the biggest burden of inequality.

Race-driven killings have become more prevalent in the United States, Canada and Europe where racist xenophobia has taken root among Caucasians against immigrants, particularly migrants from Africa and the Middle East.

In the U.S., mosques have been desecrated and Dylan Roof, a White nationalist and domestic terrorist, slaughtered nine members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., during a 2015 bible study. Mr. Roof claimed unequivocal allegiance to White nationalism and was hoping the act would inspire a race war.

In Canada, Alexandre Bissonnette, 28, opened fire on worshippers during evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City in January 2017. Six people died and 19 others were wounded in the attack. Reports said those who knew him said he held far-right, White nationalist, anti-refugee and anti-Muslim views.

Though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Philippe Couillard called the shooting a terrorist attack, Mr. Bissonnette was not charged under the terrorism provision of Canadian law. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole for 40 years.

In July 2011, White Supremacist and anti-Muslim extremist Anders Breivik carried out a murderous rampage in Norway. Mr. Breivik parked a van outside the Parliament building in Oslo and lit a bomb that killed eight people. He then shot 69 people to death, mostly teenagers at a youth camp on the island of Utoya. He carried out the shooting over the course of an hour and a half before police arrived. He also distributed racist material online and a manifesto of his views to 1,000 email addresses. He was convicted of terrorism and murder and sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Mr. Tarrant paid homage to these and other race warriors as his heroes and fellow travelers. He also posted a manifesto online where he argued Whites were under attack and he was striking a blow for the salvation of Caucasian people.

“The deeper end and more disturbing part of this is that it’s an indicator that the final conflict is really about to occur,” said Dr. Ava Muhammad, national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. The Christchurch attack is a reminder of an ever-present White supremacist mentality, she warned.

Alexandre Bissonnette

“Minister Farrakhan’s call for Black people in America to seek refuge in a separate state or territory of our own has gone beyond a watch to a warning and by that I mean we have to create our own safe haven,” Dr. Ava Muhammad continued. “Whatever happens in New Zealand, which is predominantly Caucasian owned and operated, is a reflection of the tentacles of the United States and, of course, its doctrines of White supremacy. Unfortunately, we can expect more and more of these to happen.”

Eyewitness Mohammad Jama from Masjid Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch described in horrific detail the afternoon of the attack. “We were into 10 minutes of our prayers and then we heard gunshots outside, but kept on praying,” he told reporters for Radio New Zealand. “Next minute, it was inside. He was a light-colored skin guy and he started firing and we all went for cover. A couple of guys from inside probably ran outside and they all came out in blood. When we got up we saw people lying around us (who) were shot. They had blood coming out, some from the neck.”

A young Muslim man challenged the armed Mr. Tarrant, who dropped his weapon, fled, and was apprehended by police.

Anders Behring Breivik

Yasmin Ali said the attack left her terrified in what used to be one of the most peaceful places for Muslims. “What terrifies me is that there’s people out there who are enjoying this … that support this, it pushes their cause even more and I am really scared for our future,” she said. “I’m terrified. I don’t know if I’m going to feel safe walking by myself wearing my headscarf and I’ve never felt that way before.”

Imam Amin Nathari, of the Islam in America Movement, called the attack unsurprising given Islamophobia across the globe. “This was more of a manifestation or a consequence of the hate that Trump has produced and that now there’s Islamophobia and the things we see happening in America spreading across the world. Looking at his [President Trump’s] response, his response was deplorable but it’s just representative of his view of immigrants and Muslims of any ethnicity,” said the imam.

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern discuss- ing the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. Photos: MGN Online

Muslims in immigrant and Black communities should be extra precautions, he added. “We should never think that the enemy sleeps; the enemy never sleeps, he just changes shifts.”