As we celebrated Nipsey Hussle's life during Thursday's memorial service, we got the chance to witness several spiritual experiences. Christianity, the Islamic faith and African spirituality all came together.
From the opening prayer to the unexpected strength that Nipsey's mother displayed, faith infused the ceremony. The overall message seemed clear: Do better. The idea has a trickle effect. It starts from within, and it spreads to the community. Then, it has the ultimate power to reach outside the community and uplift all people, because doesn't everyone want to win?
In a world that has countless factors holding us down and pulling us apart, Nipsey Hussle's memorial brought us together — not just physically, but spiritually. His celebration at the Los Angeles Staples Center showed what Black unity can look like, and how our different beliefs can coexist within the common goal of collective empowerment.
As various speakers presented memories and messages, some called on higher powers for strength and guidance — a very Black thing to do, considering the historic relationship between spirituality, religion and the African diaspora.
Even in the lyrics to "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the Black national anthem, James Weldon Johnson closes with a call to action. "May we forever stand true to our God, true to our native land," he wrote. The short verse exemplifies race and religion.
The moment when Lauren London shared how Nipsey would "light a sage and burn it around the house" to uplift the family's energy, we received personal insight into how he might have engaged his own faith. Along with other tributes, this revelation added to the heightened spiritual sense in the stadium. They were calling all the spirits. While this could have made some folks uncomfortable, it was hard to ignore the soothing effect each call had on the believer.
Calling On The Father, The Son And The Holy Spirit
"We thank you heavenly father for his [Nipsey Hussle's] life, for his legacy and for all of the years, that will start even today, that will be years of progress because of his work," Pastor Shep Crawford said in his opening prayer. Father Thomas Uwal, an Eritrean priest, followed later in the program. He read a scripture in Tigrinya, a native language he shares with Nipsey's paternal side.
"In the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit: One God. Amen," he recited before delivering his tribute.
Both religious speakers focused on comforting the family with their words. They acknowledged the positive impact that Nipsey's life had on the community and encouraged others to mimic his kind contributions. In similar fashion, the two religious leaders emphasized glorifying God and thanked Him for Nipsey's life.
Calling On Allah
"In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful, I bear witness to the oneness of God, and his intention to create the one community where all in his government of peace will live together in peace," Minister Louis Farrakhan said, as he introduced himself.
Farrakhan ended his introduction with the Arabic peace greeting, "As-salaam-alaikum."
The message Farrakhan gave also reiterated the profound work Nipsey Hussle initiated. Farrakhan shared that Nipsey's birth name, Ermias, means "God is rising," in the Tigrinya language. Perhaps, trying to connect with a younger audience, the Islamic minister mentioned Bob Marley's reggae, Russell Westbrooks 20-20-20 game, hip hop, the hood, jealousy, violence, peace, colors, birds, and several relatable topics. Out of all these narratives, his message about the stars stood out and in true Farrakhan fashion, his poetic delivery resonated with the audience.
"Like a star in the universe, that comes out of a black hole, and the star dies, but the light of that star, travelling 196,000 miles a second, is still coming from space to reach us, even though the star that produced that light is dead," Farrakhan said.
Calling On The Creator, Mother Earth, The Energies And The Ancestors
Nipsey's mother, Angelique Smith, perhaps gave the most compelling tribute.
"We don't need to look to the sky for God. God is within," she said in her opening remarks. After affirming her strength, she continued.
"We call on the creator of everything and on Mother Earth who sustains us. We call on the energies, who guide and protect us as we make our way in life. We call on our ancestors to join us at this service. [...] We call on the ancestors and say, ‘Ashe,’" Smith said, before pouring libations to the ancestors.
Smith's overall message encouraged the audience to live better lives and the stories about her spiritual connection to her son emphasized life in its fuller spiritual context.
Each of these varying rituals and beliefs all took place under one roof at the same time — let that sink in. With continuous religious and ethnic wars erupting around the globe, Nipsey's memorial gave us a glimpse at what unity, respect, acceptance and love looks like, starting within the community.
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