Op-EdOpinion

GUILD: D.C. Full of Young Nipseys Eager to Innovate and Dismantle Injustice

When Nipsey Hussle (born Ermias Asghedom) passed, the world lost something special.

We lost our brother.

Our community lost a revolutionary thinker.

The world lost an innovator.

The murder of Nipsey shook the hip-hop world and community. His sudden and tragic passing by a senseless act of violence had a devastating impact on young Black men and women across the country, who respected his work in the community and as a prolific rapper. Committed to unapologetically celebrating Blackness and serving his community, Nipsey gave voice to issues often ignored in the mainstream. He also gave his time, money and eventually his life to make sure the people around him were better off.

A thoughtful entrepreneur and innovator, Nipsey inspired a generation of Black innovators in his community to use technology to solve problems in the community. As the founder and CEO of Vector90, a technology hub and hip-hop driven STEM initiative based in Crenshaw, Nipsey created space and opportunity for Black women and men to disrupt an exclusively white tech industry. Nipsey’s hustle and commitment to Black and brown-led innovation are admirable and we must push his work forward. We can do this by supporting and cultivating the necessary skills among our youth to make an impact in the tech industry.

Working with young innovators across Washington, D.C., we, the founders of The Hustlers Guild, can tell you that the DMV area is full of incredible young talent committed to building community and dismantling systemic injustice through innovation.

Though immersive training labs, The Hustlers Guild provides Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) service-learning development to middle and high-school students in D.C. Public Schools (DCPS). A culturally-responsive model that fuses STEAM learning with hip-hop culture, the program is designed to develop vital academic, technical and social-emotional skills that will allow students to succeed in the tech space. The weekly sessions are led by Black volunteers and industry-leading professionals, whose insight, access and resources are paramount to creating Black and brown pipelines to tech careers.

Through the program, students use their developing skills in technology, public speaking, pitching and digital media to address a challenge that they have identified in their community.

For example, Rosevelt STAY student Anthoni Love, who participated in the Hustlers Guild Innovation Lab, created a platform that provides mental health and drug addiction resources for young people in need. Believing that all young people deserve the resources necessary to thrive and overcome adversity, Anthoni collaborated with fellow students to create tangible solutions. Ultimately, Anthoni and his peers presented their ideas to representatives of the school and the office of Congresswoman Eleanor Norton-Homes (D-D.C.). They also met with executives from RocNation and Sony Music Group in New York City to further cultivate an understanding of how technology and innovation can disrupt the status quo.

Working with D.C. students across neighborhoods, schools and interests, one thing has always remained clear to us: young people are immensely talented and want to tackle societal challenges in innovative ways. Young people care about what is going on in the community and are invested in making sure that their communities are thriving.

As gentrification and systemic injustice to threaten our community, it is imperative that we support the skill development of young people and ensure that they have opportunities to innovate and continuing building.

D.C. is full of young people like Anthoni — and Nipsey (RIP) — and they are pushing for innovative ways to build community. By supporting their growth, we honor the legacy of Nipsey Hussle and encourage profound, inclusive impact in our community.

Kevin Beckford, Yasmin Salina and Jason Spear are co-founders of The Hustlers Guild (hustlersguild.org), a nonprofit organization that fuses STEM education and hip-hop culture to create career and academic pipelines for Black students in D.C. and beyond.

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