Tag Archives: Nipsey Hussle

2019 WJSS Year-In-Review

31 Dec

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is M4RJ2017-scaled.jpg
March 4 Racial Justice, organized by local activist, Ria, India Point Park, Providence RI October 2017
It all still matters!
Keep on working white girls!

I wrote here a lot less than I have in previous years. It’s not that I am not thinking about race, cross-racial connections, and breaking down the systems of racism. It is definitely not that. I still think about all of it every day, pretty much 24/7.

I’d say part of the reason why I haven’t posted as much is because I sense I need to shift my focus away from shouting out racism in print because we know it exists, and we see it every day, even though there are certainly a number of, mostly white people, who will gaslight you all day and say, “it’s not so bad, ” or “every one has a chance to succeed if they just work hard, like I did,” or “well, you must have done something to provoke,” and here is where you fill in the blank: “the store clerk to follow you,” “the neighbor to call the police on you for being a Black real estate agent showing another Black person a home in a “white” neighborhood,” or, “the police officer to shoot and kill you for being in your own home playing video games with your nephew.”

I know I need to concentrate more on whiteness, what whiteness and white supremacy has done, and continues to do–how it shows up in our every day lives, and how I, as a white woman, and how all of us who are white, play a part in upholding white supremacist institutions and policies and ways of living, that make sure that racism and racist policies continue to exist, therefore, ensuring that inequities continue between Black people and white people in this country.

(Note: As most of you know, my focus on the blog is about the relationship between Black people and white people in America. I know there are many more areas where inequities take place, many more intersections of race, gender, ethnicity, country of origin, etc., that impact all of this, but my focus is on us, here in the United States)

I have wondered if the writing is still of any value, and how to make it more so, and that, too, has kept me from writing. I also have strived to be doing instead of writing. To speak up when I see and hear either, blatant racist comments, or actions, and speak up when I see and hear things said by white people, that don’t seem to be conscious of their implied racist undertones. I like to call it coded language, that again, may be unconscious to the person speaking it, but to my ears and eyes, implies the exclusion, obliviousness, or an implied inferiority in reference to race and Black culture.

Finally, I have been working behind the scenes on a couple of writing projects, both related to race, which one of these days I will share here. I mention them to hold myself accountable, to keep on working on them. I used to write other things–poems on Facebook made from my friends’ status updates, memoir, and creative non-fiction, but it seems, I can’t not write about race, and so it goes. Here is what I wrote in 2019:

I took a look at the film, based on the James Baldwin novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, which prompted me to think about time, and what I saw as The Problem With White People Time.

In February I got My First Letter To The Editor Published in The Providence Journal. The letter was because of that coded language which I could not believe the critic used to describe the Trinity Repertory Company’s production of the play, black odyssey. The letter prompted a Barrington, Rhode Island man to write an editorial reply to the newspaper and tell me how I was part of what is wrong with America today, and my questioning the validity of a white critic’s perspective on a play representing African diasporic culture, was divisive.

In March, I knew I couldn’t Watch The Michael Jackson Documentary. At Least Not Yet.  A fan from the time I was five years old, I couldn’t bear to watch the one-sided documentary featuring two of the young boys, now men, who had accused Michael of child molestation decades ago. Not here to defend himself, and not wanting to watch the take down of MJ, I still have not watched the documentary. Shorthly after the film aired, I wrote and submitted a short story to a local bi-monthly reading series of writers’ personal essays. The theme that month was Biggest Fan.

I thought my piece on MJ was cool, and looked forward to sharing it at the reading. I also feared that because of the documentary, that anything to do with Michael Jackson would be cancelled, the term we use these days when a celebrity makes a misstep, big or small, and the masses decide they are done with that person, and push them off their pedestal. The pushing usually begins in the form of tweets and social media articles. I got an email that my essay on MJ was not chosen to be read that month. It could have been they had too many other worthy stories. But I couldn’t help but think the organizers of the reading most definitely cancelled Michael.

In April, I was one of the people who finally took the time, a little too late, to find out more about the prolific, and more importantly, philanthropic hip hop artist and entrepreneur, and wrote about my Finding Inspiration In Nipsey Hussle’s Beautiful Being.

In July, I wrote about what I intimated above: wanting to be about the work of breaking down racism, instead of just talking or writing about it. I wrote, If It’s Not What We Say About Race, It Must Be What We Do.

My last post of 2019, was born out of my frustration with myself for not speaking up when I knew I should–once again, in a situation where I felt coded language was being used to denigrate Black culture. In looking inward, I wrote When White Fragility Comes Knocking, which explored my own, and my college age daughter’s struggle to not fear having dialog about race.

I continued to keep up with educating myself by reading books like Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From The Beginning, and How To Be An Anti-Racist, and joined in on the community book clubs for both books, led by The Center For Reconciliation. I kept up with blogs like Black Girl In Maine, published by BGIM Media, and helmed by Shay Stewart-Bouley.

I stayed inspired by daily learning about racism, and lived racial experiences, from friends, colleagues, and scholars, near and far, in real life, and on social media. And I stayed ready every day to do my best to speak up on not just the easy-to-call, blatant racism and racist statements I witnessed and heard, but also did my best to model my perception of what it means to ask questions during those moments that could so easily go unnoticed–those times where something needs to be said that de-centers whiteness, that speaks to who is being excluded, so that the spaces I move in recognize their white-centeredness, and do not stay white-centered, with hopes that other white folks, too, begin to chip away at the structures of white supremacy, and inequity. Things don’t always go as planned. I am human, and flawed, and stumble over my words much more when speaking, rather than writing. It is a process, but I know I must always try.

As the year comes to a close, like many of you, I feel, to put it lightly, disheartened, at the state of things these days, but I know I must stay optimistic, must keep on going, must keep on doing things to make things better, because for one, it’s white people’s job to do this work of breaking down racism and racist structures, and two, while I know we can’t daydream racism away, and we must seriously do the work, I am a relentless Pollyanna, and believe that things will get better. We will do the work to make things better, because can you truly rest your head on your pillow comfortably at night, as you settle for the alternative?

I want to thank all of you, readers, new and old, for being along on the journey during this year, and years past, and for all of the unwavering support you give to me.

I would love to hear what you have been up to this year. What you’ve read, who you entered into dialogue with, who inspired you to keep working to make things better for everyone. I wish you a beautiful beginning in this new decade, 2020. I wish you a decade filled with love, hope, joy, connection, and most important, freedom, and justice.

Thank you. xo

Happy New Year.


Finding Inspiration in Nipsey Hussle’s Beautiful Being

12 Apr

Ermias Joseph Asghedom, known as artist, Nipsey Hussle
(Photo credit: staplecenter.com)

As a writer, and creator, I find inspiration in so much that is around me. In people watching, in nature, in the words of others. Lately, this last one is something I’ve truly needed to lean on. And I know not just artists do this. We all look for inspiration, especially when we are trying to achieve something. When we want to lose weight, we look to others who have lost weight as examples, and perhaps, we post inspirational quotes on our refrigerator. I’m not a corporate business person, but I see a lot of references to motivation and goal setting to achieve success, and climb the corporate ladder. I’m no athlete, but we all know the words, Just Do It, and we look to famous athletes to hear their words of inspiration for when we are trying to keep up with our own physical fitness goals, and our young people listen, as they strive to make it in their chosen sport.

I am grateful to be inspired by such a broad range of gifted and wise people that I cross paths with–people who are authentic, and allow themselves to be vulnerable, people who live to share their light with others, and some who don’t even know they are doing so. For the past year or two, I have felt stagnant and stuck and lacking energy in my day-to-day life, including my day work at a hospital, which I do love, but at times feel drained by, and stale in my approach to provide fresh, useful groups, as an Activities Therapist. I have also felt stagnant and stuck, and undisciplined, in my writing life. I have needed inspiration to lift me up out of the muck of lethargy, self-doubt, lack of motivation, and lack of discipline, and intention.

But I have been working on shifting my perspective, to focus on the daily joy I receive when focusing on the human connection at work. There was a patient at the hospital, who lives with schizophrenia, and who had me come see the inspirational quotes taped all over the closet door in their room. This patient is an inspiration on the unit, both to other patients, and staff. The patient considers themselves a philosopher, and always has positive words of wisdom and encouragement to share in the groups I facilitate. The patient has also shared with me how, when struggling with negative or paranoid thoughts, the patient will visualize themself as a battleship, which is “strong, courageous, inpenetrable, and invincible.” I love that the patient has created this self symbol of strength. It awes and inspires me.

I also look to other artists to inspire me to create, to lift me up, help me find the joy and meaning, and sense of purpose in my own life. That’s where Nipsey Hussle, the 33 year-old rap artist and entrepreneur who was murdered on March 31st, came in. Now, I will admit right at the start, I did not really know anything about Nipsey, whose real name was Ermias Joseph Asghedom. Sure, I had heard his name, and knew he was a rapper, and thought, oh that’s funny, he’s naming himself after the comedian that I knew growing up in the 70’s, Nipsey Russell. But, I didn’t know his work as a rap artist, his vision and accomplishments as an entrepreneur, or his beautiful spirit that shone through the words he spoke. His words about how he was choosing to live his life as an authentic human being, who learned to choose love and vulnerability, over anger, and who shared his knowledge of how through economics, he was able to as he said, “wiggle himself out of survival mode.” Nipsey believes this is necessary for anyone living under the pressure of poverty, and an environment where violence is a threat, to even be able to envision, dream, and desire something different for him or herself.

Nipsey had tremendous drive, ambition, and put in real “pound-the-pavement” hard work. He realized the need for an innovative vision of how to work outside the record industry, where he saw how agents and record executives earned the majority of the profits generated by artists. Nipsey taught himself how to be self-made, and wanted to share that with the people in the Crenshaw district in Los Angeles where he grew up. Yet his reach, of course, extended far beyond Crenshaw. When you possess greatness, and a spirit full with love, your reach is universal. Nipsey inspired people around the world with his artistry, but more so with his actions.

He reinvested in his neighborhood, in the young people coming up in South Central, Los Angeles, by buying the strip mall where he first sold his mixtapes as an aspiring teen rapper. He opened up his company, Marathon clothing store, there too. Nipsey was an investor in other neighborhood businesses he knew were important to have in places like Crenshaw. He knew there were people who were just as brilliant and talented as people who lived in more affluent areas, but in Crenshaw Nipsey saw how the forces of oppression and institutional white supremacy, promulgated lack, and a disconnect from resources and opportunities. To address that, Nipsey invested in a co-working space to assist entrepreneurs in developing their businesses, and a STEM lab for youth. Nipsey envisioned the lab could be a feed for Silicon Valley tech giants in the industry, who never before would consider looking to Crenshaw for such talent.

And, it’s not that I just, as a white person, want to love this struggle story of a Black and Eritrean man, who lifted himself up by his bootstraps, or think that as a white girl growing up in Waterbury, Connecticut, I know anything about what it is like to grow up in a neighborhood like Crenshaw. I even had another patient in the hospital tell me one day, a patient living with schizophrenia, who the other patients avoided because while still psychotic, was unkempt, and so their room and the area outside of their room didn’t smell so pleasant. I practiced extra kindness toward the patient because of all this, and one day the patient said to me, “I appreciate you..no one else understands me here.. but, you get me…I’m from the street…I mean, I know you’re not about that life, Miss…you’re a good person, but, thank you..”

The patient was right. I’m not about that life, but I am inspired, and feel connected to something greater than myself when I encounter human beings who are about love, creativity, and who value humanity, and yes, to other humans who are suffering, too. The patient who told me they knew I was not about that life, and like other people who live with torment in their brain which causes them at times to be in great distress, inspires me with their will and courage and strength, much like the other patient’s symbolic battleship-self, to battle against, and simply live with, the symptoms of their illness.

Hopefully, we can all find inspiration from people who we may not share the same life experiences with, who don’t look like us, and who possess their own talents and strengths. Yes, we have our uniqueness, and yet, we are all human beings, with many of the same shared desires and wishes for our lives. For example, my 80 year-old, Brooklyn born, Jewish dad had even heard of Nipsey’s murder, and brought him up to me during a recent phone call. He heard of how Nipsey had given back so much to his community and shared how he thought that was admirable.

I can truly actually imagine the two of them having a conversation about work ethic, since my dad is always talking about that, and expresses dismay at this generation who he believes is too invested in their cell phones, and not enough in working, or showing gratitude to their families. While talking about my daughter in her first year in college, my dad shared with me in that phone call how ” I knew Pop didn’t have any money, so I waited tables so I could pay for my tuition and books at UCONN…” made me think about what Nipsey said in a video I watched of him, where he shared how “my mother worked hard but we didn’t have a lot, so I needed clothes, but my older brother needed clothes first, and I didn’t want to shame her by asking for things, so I got my first job at 11 or 12 so I could buy some of my own clothes for school…”

And, as if that were not enough, in listening to countless interview videos with Nipsey on Youtube this past week, I have found Nipsey’s words as an artist, words I so needed to hear to help continue to move me out of my stagnant, procrastinating, self-doubting, undisciplined phase, as I try to quietly write something in a genre that is new to me, playwriting.

The words of advice that stuck out for me included, to first define who you are as a person and artist, and to not veer from that, to put aside your self-doubt, and, finally, to make a plan and set goals, because if you have a dream, but no map on how to get there, you can’t know where to go, and any thing that comes up, you will let it derail you. These words came right on time for me. And I know these words are said by others, in similar ways, and, yet, goal setting has been especially hard for me for some reason. I remember when I was doing street outreach for homeless adults with mental illness in New York City, I also had to do some case management. I just couldn’t connect with that practical work. I felt like, I can barely manage my own life, how can I tell someone else how to live theirs, how to achieve their goals? I am still a work-in-progress as a dreamer artist striving to connect a plan to the dreams and aspirations I hold.

Some might say we don’t need to put too much weight on what a celebrity says, that instead we need to look within, instead of outside of ourselves, but I say, it is a positive to be inspired by another person’s journey, and there is no right or wrong way, or place, to seek, and soak in inspiration.

While writing this, I just watched some of the live stream of Nipsey’s funeral at the Staple Center in Los Angeles. His mother, Angelique Smith, spoke with a firm calmness, and her words and spirit were described by many on twitter as “divine,” and “descending from our ancestors..” She spoke of how she could be calm because she was already prepared for the acceptance of death, and she spoke of her sadness over the wicked and evil in the world today that our young people have to live in. She spoke of how proud she was of her son. She spoke of how the only way to heal the darkness, is to be the light, to work to change the world. She spoke of how when her mother, Nipsey’s grandmother, called her to tell her something had happened in the shopping center, that she already knew, and that, in fact, as she was answering the call, she was ascending from the ground as she picked up her hairdryer. She said she was in a position of ascension already. And that all of us have to find a way to ascend, too. She said that the legacy of love her mother started, and passed onto her, that she passed onto her son, and he, being in the public eye, passed on to all of us, that we have to water those seeds of love, and let them grow. She said that Nipsey had an aura and energy that gave her power, and that she will miss that, and she said that, like the fairytales she read as a child of a king, a castle, and royalty, and people coming from far away to celebrate and honor the kingdom, and that today’s service was a celebration to honor Ermais’ life.

Nipsey’s older brother, Samiel, gave a tearful eulogy, laced with stories of the kind of gentle sibling rivalry and revelry that feel familiar to all of us. At the same time, the way Samiel spoke of their bond, and his recognition of how special his little brother was, and how much he wanted to support his brother’s vision and work, were beautiful. He recalled at how at age 11, Nipsey brought home a bunch of computer parts and, though Samiel had doubts about Nipsey’s claims about building his own computer, Nipsey taught himself how to do just that, and within a couple of weeks had built a working computer himself, the same computer he would first use to record his own music.

Nipsey’s girlfriend, actress Lauren London, read a touching, loving text she had recently sent to Nipsey about how much he, and their relationship meant to her. She, like Samiel, spoke about her complete awe and yet growing familiarity with how Nipsey researched everything, was completely self-taught in all that he did. She spoke about how he burned sage in their family home in the morning so that their energy would be a good energy, and that they would bring good energy out into the world each day.

Interestingly, I have recently been working on shifting my energy out of stagnation by doing the tiniest things, like driving a different route to work than the one I always take, and making my home environment more of a beautiful, comfortable space to feel at peace, and to be a space I feel clear, and comforted to write in. At work, instead of worrying about not feeling inspired, I focus on the giving and receiving of light that occurs in the human connection between me and the patients we work with, and with my co-workers, and feelings of stagnation fall away. I will continue to listen to and remind myself of Nipsey’s words and energy when I begin to doubt myself as a writer.

I am deeply saddened that Nipsey Hussle lost his life, and in a violent way, at a young age, when he was trying to do so much good in the world. It is a loss for his family, his girlfriend, his child, his fans, Crenshaw, and the world. His legacy will live on, though, and for that, we can all be grateful, and hopefully inspired, to live the values that Nipsey taught us in regards to dedication in the pursuit of one’s passion, giving back in a real way to one’s community, the sharing of how to do these things, how to spread love over hate, how to treat the ones we love, how to change our energy, and spread good energy, so that we can do good and have good come back to us, even when we may feel our battleship is off-kilter.

Here is one of the many videos of a young Nipsey Hussle I watched this week which I found inspiration in:



www.youtube.com, Nipsey Hussle: 7 Secrets To Success, posted by VYBO, October 26, 2017