LOS ANGELES -- Inside the U.S. Capitol, in a historic room where Abraham Lincoln forged friendships with colleagues from both parties, members of the Congressional Black Caucus huddled Wednesday with an unlikely coalition that included an L.A. city councilman, an Atlanta rapper, a New York radio host and a South Los Angeles developer.
The discussion veered from public policy to the personal as they talked about the economic state of black America and ways that they could work together to uplift their people and their neighborhoods.
And during the almost two-hour meeting, one name came up repeatedly: Nipsey Hussle.
The Los Angeles rapper and activist had a plan to rebuild black neighborhoods in South L.A. and cities across the country, using a new provision in the federal tax code called opportunity zones. He wanted to reverse decades of neglect and disinvestment and had scheduled meetings to discuss his vision with lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
But those meetings never happened. When Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, was fatally shot outside of his South L.A. clothing store on March 31 over what authorities say was a personal grudge, those plans were thrust into limbo.
Now, Hussle's business partners are forging ahead and are continuing the work -- the "marathon" -- he started.
This week, they launched an investment fund called "Our Opportunity" at a summit organized by Forbes Magazine. It will operate by tapping hometown heroes -- mostly wealthy black entertainers, celebrities and athletes -- to invest some of their money into neighborhoods in their cities using the opportunity zone tax incentive, leading the charge for economic development.
Those involved in the fund so far include Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Atlanta rapper Clifford "T.I." Harris, New York radio host Charlamagne tha God (born Lenard McKelvey in South Carolina), and L.A. real estate developer David Gross.
"These folks have things that all of Wall Streets' money put together can't buy," Harris-Dawson said, "and that is what's called street credibility. That is what's called skin in the game and that is what's called confidence (in) their community. That when they make an investment or get involved in a business venture it will ... serve the community that they are in and leave the communities in a better place."
T.I., who said he has long made investments in the struggling community where he grew up, said he jumped at the chance to join the "'Avengers of investors" that Hussle assembled in the months leading up to his death.