CHARLENEM and Abdul A. M. Muhammd
LOS ANGELES–Tens of thousands of people, many of them without tickets showed up outside the Staples Center to mourn but also to celebrate the life of Ermias Joseph Asghedom, the rapper and self-made businessman known as Nipsey Hussle.
One young man who identified himself only as Dominique from Riverside didn’t have a ticket, but just came to show his respect. He said his experience was very peaceful and summed up the meaning of Nipsey’s life in these words.
“Personally, you know, like, I’m happy about the turn out. I’m happy about everybody pulling up and showing love. At the same time, I’m kind of sad to see some things. I’m sad to see people treating this like some sort of party.”
“Another thing that makes me sad is seeing people trying to make money off of Nipsey’s death, trying to sell their little merchandise,” chimed in another man named “Brother Halimori” from L.A.
As people waited, many reflected on how Nipsey Hussle touched their lives. “He set the bar as far as being able to be cordial with someone from the other side,” said Thomas Carter, meaning someone from another gang or set. “He represented progression.”
Isaiah King from West Virginia said it was good to see everybody coming out. “My neighborhood is not the best. Getting to see how he inspired other people in his name, this is what we’re trying to do in our communities back home,” he said.
The Staples Center normally seats 19,060 people but on April 11 it was over capacity with seating on the floor as well for Nipsey Hussle’s celebration of life. Teezy, an up and coming rapper, told The Final Call about the turn out, “It was historic. A lot of people couldn’t have did this.”
Security and police barricaded entrances into the venue and only those who presented tickets for the memorial service could get close to the front of the Staples Center, where the NBA’s LA Lakers and LA Clippers play.
There were people lining up at different points all around the arena. Some were fans who got free tickets Nipsey Hussle’s family made available. They were issued via the app AXS, used by Live Nation and Staples Center and sold out according to some reports, within the first two minutes of the app going live at 10 a.m. PST, for California residents the day before the service.
The mild hustle and bustle outside the venue included various news crews interviewing family and friends of the beloved artist, as well as fans. The scene around the center and surrounding streets was not as congested as many thought they would be, and parking also was also easier than most expected.
Some people who identified themselves as relatives of Nipsey Hussle, friends, and guests invited by his father, Dawit, and brother, Samiel, waited patiently in one line to check in and get their tickets. Those with tickets were checked in nearby and the flow of traffic and the entire process appeared smooth and efficient, until more than a few people who arrived but whose names were not on that specific guest list. In front of the Staples Center Box Office, where people were cleared and got scanned for security, things seemed fine.
A handful of invited guests expressed disappointment their names were not on the list and they were kept waiting. Tensions escalated when members of Nipsey’s neighborhood, the Rollin’ 60s Crips, arrived and grew frustrated over the same problem– their names were “not on the list.” People were told they’d have to call the person who invited them to get entrance.
Some members who had arrived earlier than others, felt they were given the runaround as they were sent to various entrances and to different staff, they were told could help them.
By the time they left the box office, on their way to seek assistance from another person tensions had already flared and they were visibly upset and said so openly. Nipsey was their homie and they loved him, and it wasn’t fair that people who didn’t even know him were getting inside the arena to celebrate him but his loved ones from his neighborhood, cried one woman.
Known as “Mama Jackie,” she kept trying to explain that it was she who created the guest list for their ‘hood. Meanwhile more of the Rollin’ 60s traveling by bus had arrived along with many other guests who were waiting.
At some point, it appeared that some of the ‘60s nearest the door pushed their way in. There was some shouting and shoving as security rushed to regain control of the doors, which they did. The area became flooded with people after Staples Center security shut down the doors.
The Final Call observed, as the box office/will call area grew from no more than about a dozen people lined up to go in, to an oversized crowd.
About half a dozen police on bicycles watched from a few feet away. Security brought in more barricades and tried to clear the area of anyone who didn’t have tickets.
“It’s getting a little rough out here. … Things are changing according to how they were this morning,” said Cephus X Johnson, co-founder of Love Not Blood Campaign and Families United 4 Justice, both non-profits that advocate against police violence and for victims’ families.
He and his wife Beatrice X said they were guests of Nipsey’s father, but received the runaround as well.
He continued, “I witnessed them constantly telling us to go here, go over here, go there, agitating people. The temperature started rising and rising, and the next thing you know, various words was coming out. I’m getting up in here. I’m from the Crenshaw area. This street. That street; or nobody getting in!”
“I saw some people politely asking for their names on the list that they know that they had, and they got the runaround. They sent them a whole bunch of places and our people don’t have patience for that. … All I saw was people going in. They’re like, ‘We going in!”’ he chuckled.
“I saw it all unfold, so I wouldn’t look at that and be like, why are they acting like that. I would look at that and know that I saw, what all they went through before it got to that,” Beatrice X stated.
Rizza Islam, a member of the Nation of Islam, moved out of the line and began helping to restore calm. Not long after, security began inching people in the doors one at a time and Mr. Islam assisted security to usher guests in at one of the entrance doors.
A man’s voice from the box office loud speakers called for anyone wanting a ticket to get into line up single file at box office stations 1-14.
“If they did that, then that means there’s no way they could have sold out the venue like they claimed they did so fast, because they couldn’t have accommodated everybody,” said Beatrice X.
Cara Vanderhook, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Staples Center and Microsoft Theater, had not returned The Final Call’s request for interview at press time.