How Can The Marathon Continue?
In the years leading up to the 2008 Presidential Election, then-Illinois senator Barack Obama embarked on a campaign that would eventually stamp his name in the annals of American history.
That campaign – which resulted in America electing its first black president – was built on one founding notion: hope.
On April 11, at the helm of a Staples Center arena near capacity, Obama once again reminded the black community about the power of hope.
“While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets, and despair, Nipsey saw potential,” Obama wrote in a letter read by author and entrepreneur Karen Civil. “He saw hope.”
Obama did not attend Ermias Asghedom’s memorial service, but his presence was felt. The beacon of hope himself, took the time to honor and promote and uplift and legitimize and appreciate Asghedom, whom those unfamiliar with his struggles and his triumphs would merely label a “gangster rapper.”
It served as a testament to not only Asghedom, but to the power of a black man committed to investing in his own community.
To be clear, Asghedom, 33, was more than a gangster rapper.
He participated in gang activities throughout his youth and adulthood. He rapped of street justice. Misogyny frequently crept its way into his lyrics.
But similar to other great rap artists of the past four decades, his music represents a sliver of his impact.
N.W.A., despite its raucous musical approach, shed light on police brutality in low-income African American communities in Los Angeles, a systemic issue that spanned across black communities throughout the country. Tupac Shakur’s traditional rap lyrics and topics paled in comparison to his numerous records focused on uplifting black women and praising black mothers.
In the case of Asghedom, who was violently gunned down in front of his very own Marathon Clothing store, attention will now shift to the phrase that defined his memorial service: the marathon continues.
But how? Where does the black community in Los Angeles go from here?
Prior to his death, Asghedom was addicted to improving the neighborhood in which he was raised. He bought land and invested in businesses and created jobs. He spread positivity and opened his arms to those in need.
As one might say, he never forgot where he came from.
Still, it cannot be ignored that the same community he poured his heart into played an unfortunate role in his untimely demise.
While prejudice and oppression remain prominent in efforts to subdue the power of black society, there are forces at work within our own community that result in catastrophic circumstances serving to derail our ascension in America.
Despite the pain of losing Asghedom, we cannot ignore the fact that the gunman was of Asghedom’s own kind: a young, black man, raised in the streets of Los Angeles.
How does the marathon continue?
It is imperative that we not trip ourselves on the track.
Internet conspiracy theorists pointed to government plots as the cause for Asghedom’s murder. Video evidence quickly dispelled those rumors.
Police believe that Asghedom and his killer were involved in some form of personal dispute that led to the murder. The street justice that so horribly defines parts of our community reared its ugly head again.
Before Asghedom’s accused killer was apprehended, many hoped that the same street justice would come back around before police were able to locate and arrest him.
The vicious cycle of one black life lost turning into two black lives lost was set to commence.
We must be able to disagree and not lose our lives over that disagreement. We have a need to feel safe in our own neighborhoods and on our own blocks. We need the space to take a troubled, mistake-laden youth and turn in into a positive frontier.
A man should be able to change his life by his 33rd birthday and not feel like the past continues to threaten his future.
How we achieve this peace within our own community is up to us…not solely, but predominantly.
At its core, Asghedom’s obsession with providing infrastructure and fiscal opportunity in the Los Angeles community was a way to help the black community not muddy its own path. Essentially, the jobs that he hoped to provide were meant to keep young minorities away from the appeal of the “street life.”
The “street life” often times offers quick money and access to women, while at the same time endangering its participants. Asghedom knew this all too well. He hoped to create a shift.
We can carry on this hope by investing in alternative success solutions in our own communities.
WEST ANGELES COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
Take a second today to visit the West Angeles CDC website.
Its mission is to increase social and economic justice, demonstrate compassion and alleviate poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God through the vehicle of community development.
Undoubtedly, its goals are similar to those of Asghedom, whose first name “Ermias” translates to “God will rise.”
We hope that Asghedom’s death will not have been in vain. We hope and trust that God will rise and present positive action out of such unfortunate circumstances.
It starts with us.