AFTER NIPSEY HUSSLE’S KILLING, GANG MEMBERS CALL FOR AN END TO VIOLENCE

By Vaidya Gullapalli, The Appeal

Fans gather at the scene of Nipsey Hussle's shooting in Los Angeles. David McNew/Getty Images

Fans gather at the scene of Nipsey Hussle's shooting in Los Angeles. David McNew/Getty Images

After the rapper Nipsey Hussle was killed on March 31, there was an outpouring of grief in Los Angeles and across the country. Hussle has been applauded as the rare star who remained rooted in his community and committed to it through his art, entrepreneurship, and activism. (Hussle was posthumously honored with the 2019 Humanitarian Award at the BET awards yesterday.) As Lanaisha Edwards, a South LA organizer, told The Guardian in April, “He didn’t take his money and run. He stayed in the community.”

Hussle’s business ventures were estimated to have employed tens of thousands of people, many of them formerly incarcerated. When he was killed, he had been engaged in planning to build low-income housing and was scheduled to meet with the Los Angeles Police Department about anti-violence measures.

Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, had been a member of the Rollin’ 60s, a Crips group, but in death he was mourned across gangs. And in the shared grief, many have seen an opportunity for peace.

Since April, gang members in LA, the Bronx, and Newark, New Jersey, have called for an end to violence. A month after Hussle’s death, Sam Levin of The Guardian reported on efforts, then four weeks old, to end aggression between rival gangs. Levin spoke with LaTanya Ward, an activist and organizer affiliated with a Bloods gang. It was Ward and Shamond Bennett, a friend of Hussle, who made calls after his death and brought people together in the days after he was killed. As Ward told Levin, “We all share the same struggles … the systemic racism, all of that s**t that we victims to,” she said. “Nipsey is from Los Angeles … he one of our own, even if he is, amongst us, one of our enemies.”

The first meeting had 15 people. The second had over 100, representing more than 30 gangs. Later that week hundreds of members of rival gangs attended a vigil for Hussle. Edward Scott, one former gang member, told Levin, “This is history, because they got to stand on the same square, not incarcerated, but on the streets, coming together.”

Skipp Townsend, a 55-year-old former Bloods member who now works in gang intervention, told Levin: “There are so many people who want peace, but they did not want to be the first to say it. So many people were living in fear.”

In yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, Nicole Santa Cruz and Cindy Chang provided a close look at the peacemaking efforts between gangs that have continued since then. It is too early to say what the outcome of these talks will be. Summer, when violence often escalates, has just set in. But as they write, “Not since the landmark truces of 1992, which followed the devastation of the L.A. riots, has such a concerted wave of peacemaking swept through the area’s hundreds of black gangs.”

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Olivia McDowellComment