I have never been impacted by the death of a celebrity. Not Big. Not Bankroll Fresh. Not even Peanut the Don. It didn’t move me. Not because it wasn’t tragic, and not because they don’t deserve mourning. It was because I knew their story and I knew how that lifestyle ended. I saw that. I knew that. I knew about dying. It’s strange. People die, whether through tragedy or cancer. It’s just death. This one was so different.
I was holding my youngest son August when I was shown the tweet. I think I said something like, “He can beat this.” I dismissed it. You know, people get shot, and they live. My buddy later said, “We act like guns don’t kill people.” It was appropriate. I never thought he’d die. Not because people don’t die, but because he was Nipsey Hussle. Can’t no coward kill Nipsey. Who would kill Nipsey? He was one of us. He was a good guy. He was what I pray I’d be with that platform. Present. He was Fred Hampton. He was Detroit Red transitioning into Brother Malcolm. He was beyond being murdered by the people.
When I saw that tweet, I thought nothing of it. I took my boys to their mother. I was breathing through their goodbye. It still hurts to leave them. I want every minute of me available to them. I picked up my phone to see the foolishness and then I saw a tweet from NBC. Nipsey was dead. I sat. Instantly the tears started. I just cried. I cried for him. I cried for me. I cried for Black men. I cried for my boys.
Nipsey’s death hurt. I felt it like I haven’t experienced a loss in a long time. I don’t know him, but I knew him. He reminded me of so many men who have been a gift to the world. He felt familiar. Real recognize real. He wasn’t perfect, but he was trying. In him, I saw my friends, my brothers. We are all imperfect, but we are trying. We’re trying to improve our communities and families, putting forth the effort to be the men we needed and the men we never saw. Trying to be the men we want our sons to be better than. We are just trying to not be typical.
In those moments, I was scared. What if I never get to be an old man? Will my sons grow up to be like Nip or the coward that murdered him? Am I doing enough to make them great? How did a dude from the same environment grow into one beyond simple description? How do I build the men that inspire us all? How do I starve the thing that could create that murderous coward?
I only thought about me and how his death affected me. Monday, I saw this post:
I begin to think about how this death affected his partner, Lauren. How the calls are rooted in a very similar fear of dealing with the consequences of our death. I never consider it. Most days, if I’m honest with you, I feel like I want to die. I’m afraid of not being good enough, tough enough, strong enough, man enough to be here. What if my fear stops me from doing my job? What if I get seduced by the money? It’s easier to die than it is to fail. I don’t want to be looked at as a failure. Dying seems easy.
Now I have to consider how my death impacts those left behind. Selfishly, I only thought about how death affected me, not how it impacts so many other folks. How do our women feel burying us? How do they live without us? How do they heal the hurt of losing us without us? It just makes me sadder. Death is so common, it doesn’t even seem… I don’t know, real? People die every day. I never really think about it. My absence is a thing. My life leaves a wake.
Being a man is hard. I want my sons to be inspired and understand their power and responsibility. Nipsey seized his. He was the Malcolm X of the future. He was a powerful example of what lies inside of all of us. That coward that murdered him is a cautionary tale. The whole situation is sad. We gained an ancestor. I pray my sons follow his example.