Sesh columnist Ionatana Iese wrote this poem for National Poetry Month, which responds to the tragic death of South Central LA activist and rapper Nipsey Hussle. After finding success in music, Hussle purchased real estate in Crenshaw, opening a retail boutique, an affordable coworking space, and a STEM center for black youth. It expounds on Iese’s fears that Hussle’s death will be interpreted as a warning to those who grow up in the ‘hood that, instead of returning and investing in improving conditions there, as Hussle did, they should leave and never come back.

Young minds were once molded

By hands being held

As fathers not wanting their children

To follow in their footsteps

Begin to bid their babies long farewells

In hopes that time doesn’t tell

Whether his decision though made with good intentions

Didn’t somehow pave the road to hell

Yet upon his departure

The heavens had seemed to part

And the moon and sun had then soon fell

Upon a city of lost kings and queens

Where these young cats, slang pipe dreams to crack fiends

Who breathe in deep breaths of slow death

Yet they too are from a lineage

Known to raise gardens from concrete

Back when wearing baggy jeans weren’t for fashion

But rather for, facts of life like rocking gear

Given by those who wore them before me

Now that’s back when we were down for each other as a community

Confined to certain sections of the city

I believe Jews could define this description as ghetto

Banks often call them redline districts

Back when the foreigners use to just visit

When at dusk the hood became a tourist attraction

For when white folks conscious became curious

That’s why on televisions

Buffoons continually play the parts they are given

Perpetuating the cycle

While their boss makes a killing off our living

If this system is under capital control

Then that means its motives are economically driven

And its victims are often people of color as if they

Chose that on purpose in order to carry on with tradition

Our children have become their prey

Being force fed violent over-sexualized images every day

Through all forms of media from phones to television

So much to the point that murder

Has now become a desensitized decision

Removing from the equation

The importance of life within the human condition

—In Loving Memory of Theodore “Ted” Wheeler III