Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) says Nipsey Hussle’s death is a reminder that America needs to treat the shooting deaths of all Black men with urgency and invest in underserved neighborhoods.

In an interview with theGrio at the National Action Network Convention in New York, Sen. Booker was asked how people could continue Hussle’s legacy in the wake of his untimely passing resulting from a shooting Mar. 31 in South Los Angeles.

READ MORE: The Amazing Life of Nipsey Hussle: 5 Facts you need to know

Booker reacted passionately with a call to remember both Hussle and the lesser known victims of gun violence with the same care.

“My heart hurts. This brother was magnificent human being but so was Shahad [Smith],” Booker told theGrio, referring to a 28-year-old man who was killed with an assault rifle in Newark last year.

“So was Hassan [Washington]. I can name the boys from the buildings I lived in for almost 10 years that lost their lives and that’s what motivates me everyday.”

theGrio’s Natasha S. Alford sat with Sen. Cory Booker at NAN for an interview about his policy agenda for Black Americans. (theGrio)

“Black men are we are 6 percent of the nation’s population but we are the majority of the homicide victims,” Booker continued.

According to FBI data, 86 percent of Black homicide victims in the U.S. in 2014 were male, and the homicide victim rates for Black men were eight times higher than white men.

Ironically, before his murder, Nipsey Hussle was set to meet with the LAPD to discuss anti-gang violence initiatives.

Buying Back the Block

As an entrepreneur, Nipsey Hussle, was also buying back the block before his tragic murder.

Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, had opened a store right in Crenshaw, which is considered an Opportunity Zone, “an economically-distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment,” according to IRS.gov.

READ MORE: Family, Community Wealth, Hip-Hop: The legacy of Nipsey Hussle

“[Nipsey Hussle’s] economic development efforts, I’m there with him,” Booker told theGrio. “The fact that he was conscious of Opportunity Zones, the legislation I put about to try to drive more investment in those communities.”

The government approved 169 low-income areas in New Jersey for the Opportunity Zone program. There are now nearly 9,000 Opportunity Zones across the United States.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22: Nipsey Hussle greets kids at the Nipsey Hussle x PUMA Hoops Basketball Court Refurbishment Reveal Event on October 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for PUMA) thegrio.com
LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 22: Nipsey Hussle greets kids at the Nipsey Hussle x PUMA Hoops Basketball Court Refurbishment Reveal Event on October 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for PUMA)

The Opportunity Zone legislation was championed by a bipartisan group, led by Sen. Booker, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and others.

Hussle also built a co-working space and a science and technology center for youth in his community.

“It made the most sense doing it locally, and being able to employ people that we grew up with,” Hussle mentioned in a 2017 Complex interview. “[And] also be able to improve the area and offer jobs and offer a business in the area that has been traditionally liquor store, church, fried chicken—that’s really it.”

Beyond Trending Tragedies

In response to Hussle’s death, Sen. Booker also passionately addressed the issue of America’s short attention span when it comes to tragic news.

“There are people in America who know obviously when somebody who has celebrity gets killed or when horrific things like school shootings in mosques or synagogues or Las Vegas concert… that all of a sudden these issues are dominating the news,” Booker said. “And then they go away. But yet every single day in communities like mine there’s shootings.”

“Shahad Smith. He’s not going to get national news but he was murdered with an assault weapon at the top of my block,” says Booker.

I still see what people live in communities like mine know– street level shrines with candles and teddy bears on some street corner or where yet another African American boy was killed,” he continued.

“And so you want to see somebody going to fight the NRA if they’re going to defend a broken system– this is too personal for me and the folks that are dying out there look like me. I am moved.”

Other politicians and community leaders have also offered reflections and condolences in the wake of Nipsey Hussle’s passing, including Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) who represents California.

READ MORE: Cory Booker and Kamala Harris hit the stage side-by-side at the NAACP Image Awards

Eric Holder, the suspected killer of Nipsey Hussle, has been charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder.  As a former felon, it was illegal for him to possess a firearm. If convicted, he faces life in prison.


Watch the full interview with Sen. Cory Booker and other presidential hopefuls on theGrio’s YouTube channel #WokeVote2020 coverage.