Being an activist is hard. Whether you’re fighting for justice reform, immigration or human and civil rights, you lose friends, sleep, you even lose your sanity sometimes. Constantly having to watch your back, never knowing who you can truly trust and even end up making sacrifices for the good of the movement.
I pride myself on activism, demonstration and being a voice for the voiceless. On paper, it sounds perfect. A community leader who goes above and beyond for the benefit of his people. The awards are nice, the accolades are inspiring and the feeling I get when my people embrace me with hugs and stories in public is priceless.
What you don’t see
But what about behind the scenes? The threats? The tapped phone calls? The lack of funding and resources from those in the same vicinity as you? Eventually it gets to you, and you have to decide if being an activist is truly worth it.
On March 31, Grammy-nominated rapper, community activist, father and entrepreneur Ermias Joseph Asghedom, aka Nipsey Hussle, was gunned down in front of his own Los Angeles store.
Some hip-hop artists brag about the glamorous life of drugs, cars and clothes. While Nipsey Hussle may have dipped in his toe in those topics, he also spoke about something uncommon in hip-hop: long-term investment, African spirituality, and career development. The initiatives he’s launched for the youth including S.T.E.M. programs and with the amount of property he was buying up, he was on his way to changing the world, one community at a time. The impact he left is unparalleled, and has even caused the largest peace rally in the history of California.
Now is the time for revolution, unity and community development. I’m often asked, why risk your life and put yourself out like that? It’s because I truly understand what my purpose and life are all about. I truly believe we all have a pre-determined destiny and it’s up to us to embrace it and not alter it.
Here in Daytona, I always get a mixed response to any type of work I do. The older generation feels I’m just too radical and Black to get my point, so they usually snub me and my organization from important community discussions and have even gone out their way to ask elected officials to stop supporting us.
On the opposite end, the young generation embraces me with open arms as if I were their big brother. From street cleanups to children’s outreach programs, the millennials, the Bethune Cookman students and those who truly love our community will do whatever it takes to make sure our goals are accomplished.
Don’t get asked
So many people are confused on why I choose not to align myself with the elite and high-powered groups in town. Honestly, they never offered a seat at the table. So I’ll continue to fight for those who believe in me and for those who’d rather see me at the bottom of a lake.
Being an activist is tough. It takes patience and a certain type of spirit to truly live out the dream. My heroes like Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman and even recent leaders like Khalid Muhammad have always agreed that a life worth living is truly a life worth fighting for.
If we had no community activists, who would be there to speak up for the community when tragedy strikes? When the police murder citizens, who is the one who always demands action? The activist. When a local business owner disrespects a queen in our community, who leads the boycott and eventual shutdown? The activists.
We don’t choose this life; it’s chosen for us. You just have to stand up and embrace your truth for what it is. Don’t call yourself an activist if you can’t see yourself dying for a cause. It’s time we appreciate our community heroes and give them their flowers while they’re still alive.
Stop shunning people who fight for you and your children when you’re too afraid to do so. Embrace the leaders, protect the activists and love us like your own family.
And just like with Nipsey Hussle’s death, activists birth other activists. “We don’t die, we multiply.”
Rell Black is an award-winning activist, blogger and the founder of Community Healing Project Inc.