While lighting a candle, Akrem Saad, 24, adjusts his “R.I.P Nipsey” hat, pulling his pony tail through the back of the fitted cap. Saad and his brother got their hats custom made this morning to honor the West Coast rapper who was gunned down just days ago in front of his Marathon Clothing Store in Los Angeles, California.
A candlelight vigil was held for the slain MC Ermias Asghedom, known as Nipsey Hussle, in D.C.’s Malcolm X Park Thursday night with hundreds of residents in attendance.
“Nipsey was everything to us to be honest,” says Saad who is of Eritrean descent, as was Hussle. “Nipsey was specifically a role model to all of us since day one,” he says. “A lot of people realize who Nipsey was after he died but for us [Eritreans], we’ve been on Nipsey since day one.”
And while the Eritrean community was fully present Thursday night, with natives wearing the country’s flags and colors, fans of Hussle’s music were also in full affect supporting the “Tupac of [their] generation.”
Supporters were seen wearing Hussle signature “Crenshaw” hoodies and hats, Marathon Clothing Merchandise, and custom T-shirts featuring the slain rapper with his lyrics.
“Dave East said it best and I can actually relate to it, I wasn’t here when Big and Pac passed but I am alive for this so I feel it more,” says Alexis Smith, 27, holding a poster embellished with Nipsey photos and quotes. “I hope this event sheds light on gun violence in our community,” Smith adds. “I didn’t know there were so many Nipsey fans in D.C., so I am happy for this turnout.”
The event, which was organized by Senai Andikiel, 29, an L.A. native who currently resides in D.C., was a sudden idea—he did not expect such a high turnout. Andikiel says he thought of doing a vigil, created a flyer, posted it on social media, and just hoped for the best—what every grassroots organizer does.
“You know [t]hat as soon as I heard the news on Sunday it blew me and I was done,” says Andikiel. “But [on] Monday, I told myself I have to do something,” he adds. “Honestly I thought it was going to be something small, I didn’t think it was going to be this large.”
Not only was the number in attendance large, the ceremony presented numerous different tributes—from poetry (in both English and Eritrean) to hand-painted murals, dozens of lighted candles, balloons spelling out “Nipsey,” and a release of white doves. Andikiel also invited guest speakers with L.A. backgrounds and community activists to speak.
“We have to understand one thing,” Tiffany Dena Loftin, an L.A. native who currently serves as the National Youth and College director of the NAACP, told the crowd. “One of our people took our own. So if we are not working with each other, if we are not building with each other, if we are not healing with each other, we can’t finish the marathon that Nip started.”