Posts Tagged ‘solidarity’

Changes in the wind

14 April 2019

A flying animal has been one of the classic metaphors used by artists to convey the idea of a spirit leaving a body at death, and so I chose the image of a butterfly – just captured yesterday – to introduce this article.

butterfly-20190413-folsom

Two weeks ago, at the end of March, a young man who was born and raised in the South Central neighborhoods of Los Angeles was prevented from doing something he wanted to do.

He had planned to meet with police and other local officials the next day to discuss the problem of gang violence in his neighborhood, and what could be done about it. Nipsey had just started to become known in the broader community as a rap artist with a little different angle to his lyrics. But in his own community he was already widely known as someone who wanted to strengthen himself and everyone he met with knowledge, with love, with a sense of responsibility, and with a dream that things could get better.

In the middle part of the last century, various businesses had established themselves in the Los Angeles area and were providing good jobs. This attracted a large number of people into the neighborhoods now known as South Central. Later, those businesses fled, leaving so many families living there to their own devices. And those big corporate plants started to be replaced by unhealthy enterprises like illegal drug distributors. People there could work for the new “employers” if they were willing to take the chance of being caught by the police or being killed by someone working for a rival group.

“Gangs” were an old tradition in neighborhoods like this. Because the darker-skinned people of these communities had more to worry about than just finding jobs so their children could eat. These communities were being targeted by some social force that has always maintained a secretive identity, yet has always seemed to be present. While some activists try to simplify this problem down to “whitey,” most knew that was far from the full truth. But to most, the exact cause didn’t matter. To be dark-skinned in a white man’s world meant you needed an extra layer of spiritual and physical protection. And the gangs were one way to obtain that protection.

That the gangs came to war with each other was just an indication of how devious the evil ones of this world could be. Those wars, combined with constant harassment from the police, created more bloodshed and suffering in this community than any community anywhere could easily tolerate. And so, there were constant attempts by men and women of higher purpose to stop the violence in the neighborhoods, and seek some sort of change that would protect them better than any police, any gangs, or any large outside companies, had ever done. Yet, there was constant discouragement.

A few people in this community, however, had discovered something new. Though it came from a white man, its power was enough to turn heads. And a few learned some of this technology, and benefited from it. And so Minister Tony Muhammad, an executive with the Nation of Islam who had been given the responsibility of bringing a better life to the people of South Central, was one day introduced to Mr. Hubbard’s technologies. He began to use The Way To Happiness in the community, and it seemed to be of genuine help. And step by step, with the help of many others, Minister Tony put in place a program to end gang violence in South Central, and rebuild the community into something new and very alive.

Minister Tony was always willing to respond when violence struck. And so one day, while attempting to bring calm after a shooting had occurred, he got badly hit by a police officer, and then arrested. A young man named Ermias witnessed this, and was among those demanding Minister Tony’s immediate release. And so this young man, a genius and a dreamer, caught the spark of hope for his community that so many others had, in their turn, fought for.

He started out selling T-shirts with his brother. But he was also a self-taught mix artist and rapper. And in his songs and in his work, he tried to convey his vision on a level that his friends in the neighborhoods could understand. By 2018, and with only one major album to his credit, this young man – now in his 30’s – was nevertheless ready to take it to the next level and work with Minister Tony to elevate his community and his people. On the last day of March of this year, someone who he knew shot him dead in front of his clothing store, located near the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson.

How do I know about all this? Minister Tony came to my church last night and told us about it. And we promised our support for his work in L.A.

In the days, weeks, months and years ahead, you may hear various versions of the life and death of Nipsey Hussle, and how he helped change South Central and then the whole planet. Or, maybe you won’t. But I’m telling you right here and now, that story is real and is really important. Stay tuned.