by Donney Rose

Yesterday (April 11) the city of Los Angeles and the global hip hop community bid farewell to slain rapper, Nipsey Hussel. Hussel, who was gunned down on March 31st in front of the clothing store he owned, was a beacon of hope and inspiration for the Crenshaw district of south central Los Angeles that raised him. Before his untimely demise he created a space for disenfranchised youth to participate in STEM programming, opened multiple businesses that employed ex-felons, developed an artistic co-opt as an outlet for budding artists and consistently advocated for ownership and generational wealth building. At the tender age of 33, Hussel used his ascending fame (he was a Grammy nominated rapper) and the fortune acquired from owning the masters of his music to reinvest into the neighborhood where he formerly gang banged as a member of the Rolling 60s Crips. His story is one mired in tragedy but his legacy functions as a blueprint of what urban communities can become when its citizens decide to allocate the resources at their disposal to create spaces where inhabitants can benefit from a flourishing neighborhood. That kind of visioning requires a renewed intention to make communities more than just mundane survival zones, it calls for a vision of vibrancy and a communal trust that the people can be apart of a renewal coming to fruition.

This weekend the Urban Congress on African American Males will host its annual General Convening. The theme for this year’s convening is #TheVillageRenewed. When we think about the best concept of a village, we picture a collective of voices, hearts, hands, ideas and principles co-existing in the harmony necessary to advance itself. When we think about the idea of a renewal, we envision a process in which something that had been deemed lifeless receives a resurgence of energy. For many Black men and boys in Baton Rouge, the exhaustion from crime, economic disenfranchisement and lack of access to necessary resources has created a dull backdrop outside their windows. In a time where we are seeing an alarming spike in suicides among Black males in East Baton Rouge parish, an abysmal high school graduation rate among Black boys and various other detrimental quality of life indicators, the village is in need of a fresh coat of substantive energy and commitment to improving the outcomes for Black males in this city. We need to see the village working in a tangible, efficient and non self-serving manner in its efforts to reverse the course of Black males sinking into a colorless abyss of despair. A renewal cannot be accomplished by the efforts of one, it must be collectivized to reach its fullest potential.

The logistics of the Urban Congress Convening are impressive. We will be joined by Louisiana Governor, John Bel Edwards, East Baton Rouge Mayor-President, Sharon Weston Broome, facilitators from the Barbershop Talk series and Benjamin Evans, co-founder of BMe Community, a national movement of people of that recognizes Black males as assets and works towards building more caring and prosperous communities. We have reached maximum registration. There will be awards given, media coverage and an audience of engaged delegates waiting to receive and direct marching orders with regards to charting a path for renewal forward. What will be critical for us all to remember is that none of us individually has all the answers to revitalize the village. That the advancement of the village is only mobilized by the action of the collective.

What we have witnessed in the aftermath of the passing of Nipsey Hussel is rival gang members forming a truce and community member vowing to continue his legacy to build up and restore their surroundings. And as beautiful of a sentiment as this all is, none of us should have to become martyrs in order for our dreams of a best village to materialize. We have the power to stand shoulder to shoulder and renew it in the present. For it is the work of the present that will allow future generations to see the villages we always imagined.

 

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