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Continuing the Marathon Three Years Later: A look at how Nipsey Hussle’s Mission Continues to Resonate

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Keith DeLawder

On March 31st, 2019 shockwaves were sent across South L.A., and later the rest of the world, when the news hit that one of their most inspiring community leaders, entertainers, and visionaries– Nipsey Hussle–was murdered in an act of seemingly senseless gun violence. In the days and weeks that followed, outpourings of grief flooded a community struggling to cope with space he left. At his celebration of life, Staples Center was filled to the brim as the likes of Stevie Wonder and Anthony Hamilton performed to the teary-eyed crowd, followed by a 25 mile funeral procession where over 21,000 fans came out to follow Nipsey’s hearse from downtown to Watts then to Inglewood– a goodbye fit for a king.

Even former President Barack Obama penned a letter to his family commemorating Hussle’s legacy.

“While most look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets, and despair, Nipsey saw potential,” wrote Obama. “He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to keep going… I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it.”

As we approach the third anniversary of Nipsey’s passing, it is an occasion to view the life and legacy of a man who inspired hope through his music and perhaps more importantly in his resolve to transform the community he called home. Not only did he show others that if you stay persistent and true to yourself you can defy odds and accomplish your dreams, but also that part of accomplishing your dreams is being in a position to help others around you do the same.

Hussle’s trademark theme throughout his work was that of the marathon– the idea that life is long with many ups and downs, and that those who succeed are those who persist without failure causing them to stop. A theme that has resonated beyond his death as a dedicated group of friends, family, and a community of supporters have picked up the torch and are continuing to fulfill the vision of empowerment in South L.A. that Hussle embodied.

The primary torchbearer of the rapper/businessman’s legacy is his older brother, business partner and executor of his estate, Samiel “Blacc Sam” Asghedom. Since they were kids Sam and Nipsey worked closely together in the pursuit of producing music and entrepreneurial ventures, most notably in 2017 when they launched the grand opening of their clothing brand, The Marathon Clothing’s (TMC) retail outlet.

Though the original location of TMC, at the strip mall on the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson– where Hussle was gunned down and now officially named “Ermias ‘Nipsey Hussle’ Asghedom Square”—is closed for business, Asghedo announced this year that his family has purchased commercial property in the Melrose Arts District in L.A. which will be the site of The Marathon store No. 2.

“This second location is a dream that Nipsey always had, and it’s important that his kids are able to see his plans fulfilled,” Asghedom told the Guardian.

While the Melrose district location is currently under renovations and an opening date has not been announced, the store will epitomize the brand that started from selling T-shirts street corners to being a world famous clothing brand that put their over-looked Crenshaw neighborhood on the map.

The initial seed idea for TMC began with Sam and his business partner Stephen Donelson setting up a table on the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson and selling shirts and socks. In 2006, after getting fed up with constant harassment by the police for not having a business license, they decided to get official by renting out a storefront in the adjacent shopping mall, calling it ‘Slauson Tees’.  After several different iterations and locations and his brother Nipsey Hussle on board as a partner, their company became The Marathon Clothing.

One of the lasting legacies of TMC is the creation of the now iconic ‘Crenshaw’ logo. Hussle used TMC and the ‘Crenshaw’ logo as a vehicle to become ambassadors who represent the Crenshaw neighborhood in a legal way that would drive revenue and tourism to the area.

“We just wanted to represent the area,” said Hussle in 2014 at the launch of a TMC partnered Fatburger franchise that uses a mashup of the ‘Crenshaw’ and ‘Fatburger’ logos. “It’s rich in history and rich in culture as so a lot of the city and the rest of the country look at us as ambassadors to the area.  No one in the business and music worlds put a flag in the Crenshaw area before us.”

Since his death the ‘Crenshaw’ logo has become so iconic that counterfeit bootleg clothing products have flooded online and street markets causing Sam to file lawsuits against several entities behind  e-commerce websites selling knockoff Marathon clothing including the ‘Crenshaw’ logo and another line called ‘South Central State of Mind’, which the estate holds the registered trademark to. The suit, which is aimed at companies in China and distributors in Illinois, would require the counterfeiters to pay the estate $2 million for each infraction or ownership of the domains and all profits illegally received.

While the original TMC store will remain closed for now and continue to be a site where fans can visit and pay tribute to Nipsey, the Asghedom family has plans to turn the surrounding commercial lot into a community space which will include a museum dedicated to the Nipsey Hussle legacy and offering free music lessons for youth called Nipsey Hussle Tower.

The Nipsey Hussle Tower is named after a free program called the Watts Towers which Hussle participated in as a teenager and was his springboard to being able to produce his own music.

During his youth, Nipsey would spend several hours on public transit every day to go to Watts Towers for one free hour of studio time where teachers and volunteers helped kids make beats and record themselves. Following his death, the Asghedom family started the Neighborhood Nip Foundation to continue his mission of impacting the community by offering the same opportunity that he was given to the next generation.

“Everybody out of [the Watts Towers] program, including my brother, ended up pursuing a successful music career,” said Asghedom. “Just a little effort and a little resources directed toward the youth can really make a big impact, so a youth center would be the best thing we could put there, in the vein of what Hussle stood for: something to inspire the youth and teach them skills that they can use to be productive and legitimate when they become adults.”

The Asghedom family is now able to use the former TMC storefront to start a youth program because Nipsey and Sam had bought the strip mall from their landlords. After continuous pressure from police to evict TMC for what they saw as ‘suspicious activity’, their landlords instead decided to sell the property to Hussle, who went on to put in several more black-owned businesses and reserved employment opportunities for those formerly incarcerated.

Since private black-ownership of business and real estate was a pillar of Hussle’s legacy as an entrepreneur, former business partner and L.A. real estate developer David Gross has launched a nation-wide investment fund called “Our Opportunity” which is inspired by Nipsey’s vision of using a provision in the federal tax code called ‘opportunity zones’ to rebuild black neighborhoods and reverse decades of neglect and disinvestment.

Our Opportunity will offer hometown heroes such as wealthy black entertainers, celebrities and athletes a tax incentive to invest some of their money into neighborhoods in their cities. Others involved in the effort thus far include Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Atlanta rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris, and New York radio host Charlamagne tha God.

“This is really a big moment, a big opportunity to seize the brute strength of this legislation to leverage it to do good in our communities,” Gross said.

Hussle and Gross first partnered together on their much publicized entrepreneurial communal workspace and S.T.E.M. academy, Vector 90, which despite having to close its doors due to the pandemic is on its way back to opening, this time with plans to include an digital curriculum.

Hussle’s legacy of black ownership has also inspired many on the grass-roots level, including Buy Back the Block L.A., a community group that holds monthly meetings to teach real estate and financial literacy as a way to combat  gentrification. With their slogan, “Don’t sell grandma’s house!” Buy Back the Block L.A. meets every first Wednesday of the month and discusses home ownership, entrepreneurship, credit, group economics, and other topics that lead to the generational wealth that the rapper was building in South L.A.

“We knew that Nipsey was about knowledge, education, reading, community, ownership, and he was on his way to being a real estate mogul,” said Danny Carter, co-founder of Buy Back the Block L.A.  “We felt that we needed to do something to keep his legacy alive.”

During Hussle’s life it was known how much he was doing to support the community, but now there is real data to put a value on it. The website gogetdata.news compiled everything Hussle was doing in business and for the community from 2013 to his passing in 2019 and found the total projected value of his investment for community, tech, and lifestyle ventures to be $210,413,500 and the total estimated number of people he hired, assisted or impacted to be 41,369.

While the legacy of his life’s work is being carried on by his family and the supporters he inspired, this month will also see a chance for justice to come for his death. The long delayed trial of accused gunman Eric Holder Jr. is set for March 1, 2022 where Holder faces a life sentence for one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder for the bullets that struck two bystanders, two counts of assault with a firearm, and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.

Though it is still unclear what exactly was Holder’s motivation for killing Nipsey, grand jury testimony from eyewitnesses such as Herman Douglass suggest that Nipsey was warning Holder that there was word on the street of law enforcement paperwork suggesting Holder was informing to the police.

“Nipsey was basically looking out for him, telling him that, ‘I haven’t read it, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but you need to address it.’ That’s what Nipsey was doing,” testified Douglass.

Holder’s defense team says Holder was experiencing “a substantial mental health issue” and was “off his medication” the day of the shooting.

Though Nipsey Hussle lived an extraordinary life– one that is rightfully set as an example to be emulated and drawn on for inspiration– it’s important to remember that at the end of the day he was just a regular guy born to challenging circumstances who willed himself beyond them.

“I’m not gonna lie and portray this ultimate poise like I’ve always had it all figured out,” said Nipsey in a radio interview in 2018. “I just didn’t quit. That’s my only distinguishing quality. I went through every emotion trying to pursue what I’m doing. I think what’s going to separate whoever is trying to go for something is that you’re never going to quit. That’s why I call this thing the ‘marathon’. You’ve got to take the stance that I’m going to die behind what I’m getting at right now.”


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