Born and raised in Los Angeles, Hussle was first known as Ermias Joseph Asghedom, and he was an activist, business owner, and Grammy-winning rapper. While young, he had to join gangs to survive before he was able to find success with his music. He was dedicated to providing opportunities and solutions to young Black men that go beyond joining gangs as he did.
Just one day before he was going to meet with LAPD officials about gang violence in South Los Angeles in 2019, he fell to the very thing that he had spent so long making music to defuse – gang violence.
Langston Hughes – Poet
Hughes (born in 1902), was a social activist, novelist, playwright, poet, and columnist. His first book of poetry came out in the twenties, and he wrote a weekly column for “The Chicago Defender.” He died in 1967, just as the civil rights movement was beginning to see success.
For all his additions to art and Black history, his ashes are interred beneath a floor medallion in the middle of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. He also has an auditorium entrance named after him.
Zora Neale Hurston – Author
Zora Neale Hurston is now one of the most legendary Black writers in American history, but it almost wasn't so. As a child, she had to stop attending school after her father stopped paying the school fees, and then she had to lie about her age at public school in order to get a free education.
She was an author, a filmmaker, and a student of Hoodoo (the American version of Voodoo), and her most famous book, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” became a famous film in 2005. She was also, of all things, an anthropologist during her spare time.
Harriet Jacobs – Writer
Jacobs's mother died when she was only six years old, and then she moved in with her late mother's owner, who taught the girl to sew and read. With the help of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, she was able to escape in 1842 at the age of twenty-nine, and got work as a nanny in New York, staying away from her former owners for ten years until she officially bought her freedom.
She then went on to write an autobiography that was published in multiple countries. Until her death in 1897, she was an abolitionist and was dedicated to helping slaves and freedmen.
Nina Simone – Musician
Eunice Waymon, which you probably know as Nina Simone, had a hand in every part of the recording industry, as well as working as a civil rights activist. Her music escaped the bounds of genre. She learned to play piano as a toddler in the church where her father was a teacher.
She made it to the white side of town to study with a German piano teacher, and then made it into nothing less than The Juilliard School. She eventually helped create more than forty albums and received an honorary degree from the Curtis Institute mere days before she passed away in 2003.