Whenever a person that we’ve cared about dies, we pity his death — as if we’re not going to have the same fate. We turn to social media as a forum to grieve, saying “Gone too soon!” “What a tragedy!” and we offer our thoughts, prayers and condolences to his family members and friends.
Grammy-nominated rapper, entrepreneur and community organizer Ermias Joseph Asghedom, better known as Nipsey Hussle, was shot and killed on Sunday in Los Angeles outside of his clothing store and on property that he owned. He was 33. A suspect was arrested and charged with murder in connection with his death.
Although Nipsey Hussle was Los Angeles-based, people throughout the world have been mourning his death on social media, at in-person memorials and in cities throughout the country. An artist, Corey Pane, even painted a mural of him in Hartford’s Heaven Skate Park.
For many, Nipsey Hussle was not only a good rapper, but he also taught others about how to build wealth and improve their lives and communities through his lyrics. I wasn’t a big listener to his music, but I came to appreciate him through his love of his girlfriend, actress Lauren London, whose movies I’m a fan of. I watched their love story blossom on her Instagram page. I loved seeing the pictures from their February feature in GQ Magazine. I also loved seeing how well Nipsey Hussle knew his girlfriend in their GQ video, “Nipsey Hussle Gets Asked 30 Questions by Lauren London.”
In his early life, he participated in gang and criminal activity, but over time, people in his neighborhood, and eventually across the country, watched Nipsey Hussle become an honorable man. He accomplished more than most Americans in his short life, and he had plans of doing more.
In February, he purchased the plaza where he was later shot and killed. He hoped to turn it into a mixed-use condo development, according to Forbes Magazine. He also planned to create franchises of his clothing store, The Marathon Clothing, as well as barbershops and restaurants. It was also reported that he scheduled a meeting with the Los Angeles Police Department to discuss ways of ending gang violence. He died the day before the meeting was supposed to happen.
“The trouble is you think you have time,” as the famous quote says.
The man who killed Nipsey Hussle didn’t just kill one man, he devastated millions across the country. As we sort through our confusion, we should also ask ourselves what we can do to have a life as impactful as his in the time we have left — which could be just one more day, a week, a month or a year.
When each of us die, someone we leave behind will say our death was tragic, whether it’s the result of a shooting on the block or in a school, a serious health issue or a freak accident. Even if we die peacefully in our sleep at 120 years old, at least one of our survivors will say it shouldn’t have happened that way.
I’m sure that survivors of the victims who received phone calls about the 10 homicides in New Haven, the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the hundreds of people that die from heart disease in this state every year were devastated.
It’s easy for people to blame Nipsey Hussle’s death on the need for more gun regulations, “black on black crime,” gang affiliations and government-related conspiracy theories, but the truth is that he would have died eventually. So instead of letting his death define his legacy, we have to focus on all the positivity he brought to people in Crenshaw, Los Angeles, California and the United States.
We should each ask ourselves what we can do today to build up our communities in our remaining time alive, whether that community is New Haven, Newtown, Bridgeport or Greenwich. How can we better serve the people that we see and interact with every day in a way that is as powerful as Nipsey Hussle’s, so that people aren’t just sad that we died but also happy that we’ve lived?
Whatever individual steps we come up with, we must take them today, because we are not sure if we’ll be able to take them tomorrow.
Stacy Graham-Hunt is membership director at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was originally published by Hearst Connecticut Media Group.