Lauren London & The Burden Of Black Love

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
The horrific news about rapper Nipsey Hussle’s death stopped the world for a bit on Sunday as scores of tributes flooded the internet from fans and celebrities. As I read everyone from Rihanna, to Cardi B to Drake honor the Grammy-nominated rapper’s life, my heart grew heavier with each passing moment of understandable silence from one person: his longtime girlfriend soulmate Lauren London.
On Tuesday night, the actress broke her silence with a heartbreaking tribute on Instagram.
I am completely lost
I’ve lost my best friend
My sanctuary
My protector
My soul…
I’m lost without you
We are lost without you babe
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I have no words
I can’t pretend to be a die-hard fan of Hussle (née Ermias Davidson Asghedom) and his music. I can’t even pretend that I was incredibly familiar with the Los Angeles native until relatively recently. But I also can’t pretend that I’m not paralyzed by the fear that what happened to London — and so many other Black women — could happen to me.
As a Black woman preparing to marry a Black man, I am all too familiar with the burden of Black love. While I feel incredibly fortunate to have met my soulmate, I am simultaneously filled with constant angst about how capable the world is of robbing either one of us of each other. A simple “on my way home” text can cause anxiety when the world outside of your home isn’t safe for people who look like you.
I am haunted by another one of London’s Instagram posts. A stunning image (taken by Awol Erizku) featured in GQ of the actress dressed in white, seated on a white stallion on Slauson Avenue in Los Angeles. Hussle, also dressed in white, holds the horse’s reins. The two stand in perfect symmetry in the middle of the palm tree-lined street. It beautifully repositions the Disney princess and Prince Charming trope, placing the most unlikely subjects in the most unlikely location: a Black couple in Crenshaw.
“Our grandchildren will frame this”
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Our Grandchildren will frame this @gq @nipseyhussle

A post shared by Lauren London (@laurenlondon) on

In a simple sentence, London sums up the one thing so many believe lives on after they’re gone: legacy. The idea that their love would influence generations, their very own flesh and blood. That their offspring can look at that photo and see possibilities rather than barriers: that fairy tales don’t only come true for white people, that your neighborhood can be beautiful despite economic challenges, that Black people can love against all odds — that a Black woman can be loved and rescued by a Black man (and vice versa).
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I fear that now, those grandchildren will see something completely different when they look at that picture. They’ll mourn a grandfather that they never knew. They’ll only hear stories about the man who gave new meaning to rebuilding your community and inspired young people in his hood. And they’ll see a grandmother who fought to maintain that legacy she dreamed of despite losing her “best friend...sanctuary...protector...soul…”
“We are lost without you.”
As London, who shares two-year-old son, Kross Asghedom, with the rapper (Hussle also had a daughter from a previous relationship) said in her tribute, she’s not the only one lost in the wake of Hussle’s death. Their children and their children’s children are too.
London joins a sorority of Black femmes who have been left without a protector, a soul mate, a friend. Her story is all too familiar — for famous women like Faith Evans (singer and wife of the late rapper Notorious B.I.G) and everyday women like Diamond Reynolds (girlfriend of Philando Castile, who was fatally shot by police in 2016). In a world where just being Black can make you a target, these women are left without someone who can not only hold the reins but also hand them over.
Much has been said about how hard Hussle’s death has hit Los Angeles and the hip-hop industry. His dedicated reinvestment in his community brought a sense of hope and optimism that seemed to die along with him. But by taking Hussle’s life, the gunman also took a love story our community was starving to see. A young, Black couple building together as equal partners. A Black man unapologetically loving on a Black woman without any fear of a threat to his manhood. A Black woman who could not only be rescued and hand over the reins, but who could also take the reins and rescue her partner right back.
London isn’t the first Black woman to have this experience, and she won’t be the last. My heart breaks for her and the constant dread we all live with as Black people; the hesitation we all have to love and be loved out of fear that person will be taken away from us. Without really knowing Hussle or his music, his death leaves me shaken and speechless. And like his love Lauren London, “I am completely lost.”
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