Hundreds gathered at Toronto’s Christie Pits Park on April 4 to celebrate the life of Nipsey Hussle, a rapper from California who was shot and killed four days earlier.
Ermias Asghedom, 33, better known by his professional name Nipsey Hussle, was shot and killed in front of his Marathon Clothing store. A 29-year-old man was arrested and charged with murder on April 2.
Hussle was not only a rapper but an activist in his community. He was also nominated for best rap album of the year at this year’s Grammy Awards.
“He inspired me a lot through his music and his messages and his passing really affected me,” said Raymond Brown of Toronto, who joined with fans at the Christie Pits Park vigil. “It was important for me to be here because I want to join everyone in celebrating his life.”
The night was gloomy and cold but that didn’t stop the 400-plus people that came out to the park. Balloons spelling out the rapper’s name and bouquets of regular balloons filled the small gazebo on the east side of the park where the vigil was held.
Many cities across North America held vigils following the rapper’s death. In Toronto, a new group calling itself NEW NAKFA, which specializes in helping Eritrean youths, posted to Instagram plans to hold the Toronto candlelight vigil for Hussle.
Though the rapper was born in Los Angles, his father, Dawit Asghedom, is of Eritrean decent.
“We wanted to do something to commemorate Nipsey and his life and our friends started messaging us and saying we should do something or we should organize something for it and we wanted to commemorate him and what he’s done for the community and him as a person,” said Hannah Desta, one of the six organizers of the group.
Desta said the group wanted everyone to meet at a nearby bar to start the celebration before moving to Christie Pits Park. However, after an overwhelming amount of feedback through social media, she realized the bar wouldn’t be able to fit everyone who planned to attend.
At around 7:30 p.m., members of the group spoke and thanked everyone for coming to the vigil in the park. The group then opened the floor for attendees to speak, giving them the opportunity to express how Hussle had affected their lives.
“We had a max [number] on the speakers just so we didn’t drag it on for too long but more people just kept coming and we couldn’t say no, we really wanted to hear how much it impacted their life,” said Salem Schewai, another organizer of the group.
The organizers also raffled off a painting by an artist who reached out to them the night before the event. Desta said the painter, who goes by the name @calgaronto on Instagram, sent the painting the morning of the event and they were able to print it and raffle it off.
The organizers said they raised $500 from the vigil and that they plan on sending it to California to a STEM education program Nipsey Hussle supported called Too Big to Fail.
“It was definitely a lot of different feelings, from being so overwhelmed that so many people came but also being so sad because of the reason why we all came together. But it was definitely beautiful to see how many people Nipsey Hussle brought together,” Shewai said.
The event ended around 9 p.m. but his music could still be heard in the park for another hour as people slowly left for the night.
The rapper’s official memorial was held at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles on April 11. His actress girlfriend, Lauren London, his parents, his siblings, and close friends like Snoop Dogg spoke about his life and the legacy he left behind.