I Love You: Nipsey Hussle’s Passing & Communicating Emotions with Black Men

“I love you.” A simple phrase yet it carries so much meaning.

I regularly use the expression with friends, family and partners. There is one group that I rarely used it with until recently – my fellow black men.

My relationship with black men has grown exponentially throughout the years as I continuously learn our shared and different cultures, our complexities, as well as the historical and social moments that have shaped our experiences.

La Familia circa early 2000’s

La Familia circa early 2000’s

My father, the original black man in my life, passed during my most formative years. Initially, I thought that his passing would be something that I would just get over one day. I hoped to one day wake up and instantly be out of my feelings. This never occurred, as the memory of my father shows up in my life regularly which is something I am a grateful for.

When my dad passed I was very fortunate to have had a community of men, mostly black, who tried to be the support I needed. My stepdad, uncles, cousins, family friends and professionals all swooped in trying to make sure I stayed on the straight and narrow.

God only knows where I would be without them. Despite all they did for me, I do not recall a time that I told them I loved them. Why? At that time, expressing emotions and feelings to other men was simply not a thing.

Growing up, I always tried to avoid being “soft” and expressing emotions around other black men. When in their presence, I found myself hardening up to present myself as more masculine.

I hid my true interests, performance and art, to pursue more socially acceptable activities such as cross-country and track.

Now this is not to say my youth was miserable, because it was not by any stretch of the imagination, but I often think about the life I could have had if allowed to be my true and authentic self

Now fast-forward to Mar. 31, 2019. Legendary rapper, activist and businessman Nipsey Hussle’s life was tragically ended by a senseless shooting. I was stunned and found myself numb.

Nipsey.jpg

Ermias “Nipsey Hussle”Asghedom

1985-2019

Captured by: Lawrence Brown

I hold a deep respect for the transformative work Hussle was doing in his community. I admired the change agent he was, the work he committed himself to and the way he loved on his wife, children and family. As a publicist in the sports and entertainment industry, I saw how Hussle was an adviser, mentor, inspiration and big brother to so many and the impact he was having on men, young and old, that looked like me.

Hussle’s fate also represents a commonly held fear shared by black men, dying young and unexpectedly.

Once the news was out, as we typically do, my community of black men and I started reaching out to one another to check-in. We tell each other to be safe and promise to see each other soon.

All the messages ended with:

“I love you.”

“I love you too man.”

Such a simple exchange but it represents such progress.

As we have matured and experienced some of what life has to offer, our hearts and minds are softening. We are embracing ourselves and each other. We are learning to heal, communicate, forgive, build community and express love to ourselves and those around us.

When I shared my first draft of this blog post with my tribe they challenged me to go deeper with the subject. While my group has become comfortable expressing emotions with one another, that is not the story for so many other black men.

So my question is how do we create spaces, relationships, friendships and brotherhoods so healthy emotional interactions are the standard and norm?

How do we foster an environment that produces emotionally competent black boys and men?

How do we hold ourselves accountable and not put the onus of our healing on the women and men in our lives?

How do we apply these new lessons while also being graceful and understanding with ourselves and one another?

It is my hope that we, as black men, continue answering these questions and working to find solutions.

I am forever grateful for the shared and often unspoken bond I have with black men. Our mannerisms, the way we can communicate with each other with a simple facial expression, how we hype each other up when we see each other and our legendary handshake.

Most importantly, I am glad we are finally starting to tell each other “I love you” while we are still alive to appreciate it.