The recent death of Nipsey Hussle has my heart heavy, and my soul filled with sorrow for a girl that I don’t personally know but feel like we’d be best of friends if I did.
She lost her “Love”, the father of her son, and friend. Nipsey’s family lost a son, a brother, and more. The community lost a Black man who was always encouraging us to be better and do better. Death is inevitable but it’s still hard to understand and accept when it seems to happen randomly. But life itself is random. Nothing is planned, or even predicted but we feel like most of the time we are in control of our lives, so when we’re reminded we have no control it scares us. I think the reason his death hit hard for me personally is I am from LA. He is a real LA dude. His slang is mine. His hood is the hood I also hung in. His banging is banging I also dated. I lived in the hood. Grew up in the hood. Shit most of my life I was called “Hood!” “Ghetto”. Still to this day that term is puzzling to me. “Ghetto.” It’s one of those words where it means so many different things to different people. If you know me, you know I’m from CALI. Born and raised. Went to Inglewood High School, (Cheer captain, Homecoming Queen Runner Up..cough..cough) where my sister, father and uncles also attended. My mom went to Dorsey. My baby sister went to Luezinger. My grandmother still lives in Inglewood to this day. I still claim INGLEWOOD as the neighborhood that raised me. That helped make this Gypsy you see today. I grew up in the time where every dude was in some type of gang, click, crew, tribe, shit, whatever you wanna call it. It was just how things were. Even my friends and I had our own click; Flawlez Females. The city claimed because we had meetings, colors, and rules we too were a gang. To us, we were just girls who wanted to dress alike, have a set of rules so we would act like ladies at all times, and meeting to plan dinner parties and trips. We all went to parties where the Rolling 60’s would show up and act a damn fool. Where being a girl you could hang in all areas and not be asked what set you claim, but you better know what hood you were in. If your dude was banging you’d better know his enemies. Because he’s enemies were now yours. I dated a guy who got 99 years for selling and distributing drugs to the community. Or so they claim. His baby blue Jaguar was the first luxury car I rode in. I went to my very first funeral in high school from gun violence. I also grew up in a time where you never told a dude… “No”, if he asked for your number. I remember a time when my 2 best friends and I were walking down the street headed to the store, and two dudes who were clearly older than us tried to holla. He was banging for sure, and was rude as hell. Even then, just rude, offensive, and violent. I tried to be polite about saying, “NO”. I even yelled, “Damn nigga! I’m 12!” He didn’t like that. He jumped out the car, and choked me! In broad daylight on a very busy street! I mean my feet were dangling off the ground! My friends were yelling at him, trying to explain that I was actually only 12 years old, and I wasn’t lying. He dropped me, and said “Stupid bitch” as he jumped into the car and drove off. From that day on, I never said no to a dude when it came to asking for my number. It worked until cell phones came into play and then dudes would literally check the number in front of you. In junior high I made friends with the 304’s (HOE TIME) I figured making friends with some of the dudes they would look out from me and my baby sister as we walked through Centinella Park. One of the many gang banging hang outs. When they’d try and holla… ‘Hey cutie, what’s up shorty? Where you headed?’ A few of the guys would say,’ oh that’s Briana. Yeah she fine, but she young. Leave her alone.’ I’d always say thank you to them and walk faster. Sometimes my sister and I would skip the park all together, and just take the long way home.
Before moving to Inglewood we lived in LA. One of the worst streets in the city. I remember finding a gun in a tree while we were outside playing. One time my mom and my sister and I were getting in the car, and a guy was walking up and down the street “patrolling” the hood. I had never seen a gun so big, like something out a cartoon he was cradling while talking to my mom. He told my mom to get in the car and leave. She did, we did. We moved. I lived through the LA riots and watched our neighborhoods burn. Watched Asians lie and put ‘Black Owned’ in the windows so it wouldn’t get looted, but it did anyway. I lived down the street from the store that Latasha Harlins was killed in. I remember wanting to go into the store after it happened and ask why, why kill a child? That store stayed open long after her death. Long after we left LA. But it never occurred to me that everyone didn’t see these things. That everyone didn’t grow up in the hood.
In High school I ended up attending Inglewood, even though I did really hope to go to Crenshaw High. In high school I was the ‘pretty girl from the hood’. Folks would always refer to me as “Ghetto”. I still don’t know why. We all lived in the same neighborhoods. We all were raised by single parents. We had all seen and experienced the same things. I sometimes think it’s because I’ve always been sure of who I am. I wasn’t confused. If I didn’t like something, I’d say something. I simply never let anyone test me. You couldn’t touch me. You could call me every name in the book, and believe me I was called them all. But that never stopped me. I befriended girls that eventually turned on me. Shit, a few of them even showed up at my mom’s house trying to jump me. One of the girls, had basically lived with us. I loved her. My mom cooked for her. She wore my damn underwear. In return she ran up on my mom, looking for me talking about she and her crew where there to fight me. But, I’m supposed to be ghetto if I had been home and fought them. I didn’t look for them or fight them later. I’m from the Ghetto, not of the Ghetto. I went on a date with a guy who ended up being a boyfriend later on and brought my best friend along. A girl from the ghetto knows not to do anything alone. We went to see Set it Off. As we were getting ready to enjoy the movie; some Bloods decided we weren’t going to see it. They just opened fire in the movie theater. I wasn’t even scared about being shot at the time, I was more scared that my mom watched the news all the time, and I was supposed to be a Nae’s house and instead I’m on a date getting shot at. Possibly killed. But I’m from the Ghetto, shit happens right?
Also in High school I had another boyfriend who apparently had another girlfriend at the school he attended. This girl made my life even more complicated, because she stalked me. So much so that I had to fight the girl 3 times. But I’m the ghetto one. You know because I’m from the Ghetto. She was a mixed kid, who went to a better high school in a better neighborhood so one of us naturally must be the villain. It just happen to be the Ghetto girl. Some people that I grew up with would not invite me places or stop me at the door, giving me the ‘please don’t be ghetto’ speech. When really I was just protecting myself. When I was the victim. The last time she stalked me, and tried to fight me, she came to the hood. To a friend’s house and I was done with it. I wasn’t even with the dude that started all this. I was done with everyone attached to this matter. And in my heart I wanted to crack her skull. I wanted her to feel all the nonsense I had to bear because I was from the Ghetto, so I was the bad one. I was gonna show her how bad it is. Luckily, that didn’t happen. I punched in her in face, and told her leave me the fuck alone. And she did.
When I was 16 I got put out of the house and lived with a friend. My mom and I didn’t see eye to eye on lots of matters at the time, and like I mentioned before I was pretty sure of myself; I mean can you blame me? My friend’s mom treated me like her own. She even paid for my room and board deposit to attend college. Oh, college was going to be my out! My junior year of high school my counselor told me I might not graduate and that was just not going to happen. So to make up the credits I needed, I went to high school from 8am-12. Then went to a junior college: El Camino from 1-9pm for a year. But my plan was to get the hell out of LA. I was done being what everyone assumed of me. I wanted to get out and just be Briana. Because yeah I’m from the Ghetto but not of it.
These really are just a few situations I dealt with before I was 18, and even though they do sound crazy; they really helped me in my life today. And it wasn’t until I started traveling and becoming a mother, a healer, and a teacher that I realized everyone didn’t grow up like me. That everyone wasn’t raised in the Ghetto. And I kind of feel bad for them. They can’t understand why simple things are so beautiful. They’ll never appreciate a good backyard boogie. They’ll never know what it’s like to say I made it out. Because I’m from the Ghetto I know nothing can break me! I know I can be called every name in the book and it won’t change how I see myself. I know that saying ‘Fuck’ all the time doesn’t make me a bad mom. I know how to hop a fence and jump through a window quick if I need to. I know how important it is to know the “Hood” and be able to be there and not be there. The idea that just because you live somewhere or even like some things about your hood makes you never able to move past it is the sad part. Some people will never allow you to grow. They just don’t understand that growth is inevitable, just like death. That just because I love my hood, that just because I am from the Ghetto doesn’t mean I am of the Ghetto. Nipsey is a prime example of this. He grew up in the same time as I did. We all grew up without dads, we needed a family, our friends were are families and sometimes they did stupid shit. Sometimes they were brought together in death, in tragedy but some of them… grew! Some of them, “US”, “ME”, we realized that the Ghetto is just a small part of this world and we can do, want, and be more. That where you start is not where you need to finish. He wanted more for his hood, and in turn he stayed in his hood, tried to grow his hood, and unfortunately died in his hood. I cannot imagine telling my children daddies never coming home, because of where we grew up. But I never let my kids forget that mommy is from the Ghetto. And even though they only see that on TV, or read about it in books, I also tell them to imagine other little girls like me. That judging folks is silly, because all of us have a story and some of ours just happen to start in the Ghetto.
Grow. Love. Live. Remember, you are what you believe you are!