Robert F. Smith was giving the commencement address to the graduating class of Morehouse College when he made a surprise announcement: He would be paying off the student loans of the roughly 400 graduates.
It was just the latest substantial gesture from Mr. Smith, the richest black man in America, who until just a few years ago was practically unknown.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
■ Mr. Smith has amassed a fortune that Forbes estimates to be worth $5 billion by founding Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that focuses on buying and selling software firms.
■ Vista has about $46 billion in assets under management, according to Forbes. The company is privately held and does not publicly report its results, but it is believed to be one of the best-performing firms in the country, with annualized returns of more than 20 percent since its founding.
■ Vista has unconventional hiring practices. Rather than seek out people with Ivy League degrees or recruit top talent from Silicon Valley, Mr. Smith looks for skilled engineers and managers from other professions who may thrive inside his companies. As part of its hiring efforts, Vista uses a personality test first developed by IBM that gauges technical and social skills, as well as a candidate’s interest in the arts and humanities.
■ Mr. Smith grew up in a mostly black, middle-class neighborhood in Denver. Both of his parents had Ph.D.s in education, and he was ambitious from an early age. He applied for an internship at Bell Labs in high school, but was told he was too young. Mr. Smith called every Monday for five months and finally got the position
■ He went to college at Cornell, studying chemical engineering, then took a job at Kraft General Foods. He got a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia, then worked at Goldman Sachs in San Francisco, advising companies including Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft.
■ Mr. Smith has a passion for music. In 2016, he was named chairman of the board of Carnegie Hall, the nation’s most prestigious concert stage. He bought and restored a storied resort, Lincoln Hills, outside Denver, where black jazz musicians like Duke Ellington once played. And he has founded programs to support music education and minority entrepreneurship in Austin, Tex., where he lives, and Chicago, where Vista has an office.
■ Mr. Smith has a flamboyant side as well. He favors three-piece suits, owns one of Elton John’s old pianos and hired John Legend and Seal — and a youth orchestra — to perform at his wedding on the Amalfi Coast. He named two of his sons, Hendrix and Legend, after Jimi Hendrix and Mr. Legend. He is married to Hope Dworaczyk, an actress and former Playboy model.
■ Though he shunned the spotlight for many years, he has recently embraced a more public role, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and making major charitable contributions. Cornell renamed its School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering after Mr. Smith, and he has made major gifts to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture and other cultural institutions. In January, Mr. Smith donated $1.5 million to Morehouse to fund student scholarships and a new park on campus.
Lord Jamar is one of several rappers Eminem dissed on his tenth studio album, Kamikaze, which was released last August.
During a recent interview with RapMatic, the Brand Nubian MC (once again) fires back at Slim Shady and blatantly dismisses the multi-platinum selling rapper.
“My thing about Eminem and all that — and I hate bringing his fucking name up — my thing about this muthfucka is you can’t crown somebody king and circumvent the true kingdom,” he says. “Like white people will crown Eminem king because he sold the most records out of all rappers.ADVERTISING
“But, when we go into every day life of black people, people who are the originators of this shit, we don’t fucking listen to Eminem. We don’t listen to Eminem. We don’t go to the gym and turn on Eminem. We don’t listen to him on the way to the club. We don’t play him in the club … now, corny places I can’t speak for that.”
Jamar didn’t end his rant there. When the ever-so patient host tries to point out how skilled Em is as a lyricist, she gets shut down immediately.
“So the fuck what,” he snaps back. “Can he put words together? Yes. But that’s not all that Hip Hop is. Who gives a fuck if the content is shit? Who gives a fuck how good he can put cat rat bat hat together? If you’re talking about smacking your mother and taking pharmaceutical pills and the shit that doesn’t resonate with me, why do I care how good you can rap?”
He adds, “His content is wack, his delivery and his voice.”
Finally, he ends his tirade by talking about the aforementioned Kamikaze track, “Fall.”
“He did a verse about me,” he says. “You know how bad I wanted that song to be something good? It was wack. It wasn’t shit … nobody, only white people and people on the internet [talked about it].”
The national debate over race and policing has felt particularly close to activists in Minneapolis, who viewed several cases in their region as examples of police officers not being held accountable for killing black civilians.
But when the justice system finally came down on an officer in a fatal shooting this week, it was not exactly the victory those activists had been seeking.
Mohamed Noor, who is black, Somali and Muslim, became the first Minnesota police officer convicted of murder in an on-duty killing, when a jury found him guilty on Tuesday in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, who was white.
While many in the community said Mr. Noor should have been held accountable, they could not help but wonder what the outcome would have been if the races of the officer and the victim had been flipped.
“This is an anomaly based on the race of the officer, and the race and affluence of the victim,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer and activist in Minneapolis. “The system treats African-Americans and white people differently, whether they are the victim in a police-involved shooting case or whether they are the police officer. This is absolutely outrageous.”
Even as activists and community leaders said that Ms. Ruszczyk deserved justice and expressed their condolences for her family, the verdict raised uncomfortable questions about the racial dynamics of the case.
Some saw a system and a society that was quick to embrace and sympathize with Ms. Ruszczyk, a benefit that black victims rarely enjoy. Others felt that Mr. Noor did not get the vocal support of the police establishment that they usually see in police-shooting cases and wondered whether this would deter black people from law enforcement careers.
“The only difference is that the officer involved in the shooting in this case happened to be a black Muslim immigrant, and the deceased person is a Caucasian lady,” said Waheid Siraach, a former police officer and a founder of the Somali-American Police Association. “People can put the two and two together”
Legal action against police officers involved in fatal shootings is exceedingly rare. Since 2005, 101 nonfederal officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter in shootings while they were on duty, according to Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University. About 36 percent of those officers have been convicted, but only four of them on murder charges; the others were for lesser offenses.
In 2016, a police officer in a suburb of St. Paul, Minn., shot and killed Philando Castile, who was black, during a traffic stop. The officer, who was Latino, was charged with manslaughter and acquitted by a juryafter saying he had feared for his life.
In the Noor case, Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County prosecutor, was criticized by some who said he was holding Mr. Noor to a different standard than he has white officers — an accusation that the prosecutor fiercely denied after the verdict was announced.
“I’ve heard a small group in the community make disparaging remarks about me and this office to the effect that I won’t charge white cops who shoot black people, but I’ll charge black cops who shoot white people,” he said during a news conference. “That simply is not true. Race has never been a factor in any of my decisions and never will be.”
In 2016, Mr. Freeman chose not to charge officers in the shooting death of Jamar Clark, who was black, saying Mr. Clark had grabbed one officer’s holstered gun. Last year, he did not charge the officers who pursued and shot at Thurman Blevins, killing him; Mr. Freeman said Mr. Blevins, who was also black, had a gun and did not follow the officers’ commands. In the killing of Travis Jordan this January, the prosecutor said the police officers had faced a deadly threat because Mr. Jordan, who was Hawaiian, had a knife and was coming toward them.
Mr. Freeman argued that the details in those cases were different from those in the shooting of Ms. Ruszczyk. Each case is handled on its own merits, he said, and the facts showed that Mr. Noor, who was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department after the shooting, had acted unreasonably.
Ms. Ruszczyk, who sometimes used the last name of her fiancé, Don Damond, had called the police late one night in July 2017 to report hearing what sounded like a woman in distress in the alley behind her house. Mr. Noor and his partner were in their squad car in the alley investigating when Ms. Ruszczyk approached.
Mr. Noor, 33, testified during the trial that he had heard a bang and had fired one shot from the passenger’s seat when Ms. Ruszczyk appeared at the driver’s side window.
Mr. Noor’s explanation did not convince the racially diverse jury, which convicted him of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Prosecutors seemed to imply at one point during the trial that Ms. Ruszczyk’s appearance should not have been threatening.
“Her whole blonde hair, pink T-shirt and all, that was all threat to you?” Amy Sweasy, an assistant county attorney, asked Mr. Noor during cross-examination, according to The Star Tribune.
Minnesota has a large Somali population, and many have expressed their displeasure with what they saw as unfair treatment of Mr. Noor. A demonstration in Minneapolis on Wednesday brought together various social justice organizations, including one called Justice for Justine, which advocated for Ms. Ruszczyk. Speaking at the demonstration, Drew Rosielle, a member of the group, sympathized with the complicated racial dynamics of the case.
“What Justine has received, we want for everyone,” he said, according to a written statement provided by the organization. “If Justine is the only one to be treated this way, this is not real justice, but another racist wound inflicted on our community.”
Mr. Siraach, the Somali-American former police officer, said there seemed to be a rush to judgment against Mr. Noor. He was upset with statements made by the former Minneapolis police chief that he felt suggested that Mr. Noor had acted improperly. He also did not think that the Police Federation of Minneapolis, the union representing officers, was as vocal as they usually were when officers were accused of wrongdoing.
Lt. Bob Kroll, the president of the federation, disputed that in an email. “This is a very ignorant statement made by those that are naïve about our role and the process, and by those that quickly play the race card without merit,” he wrote.
Lieutenant Kroll said he had been helping Mr. Noor and his lawyers throughout the process. He did not speak out because Mr. Noor’s legal team had kept mostly quiet, he said, and because his public statements could have been used to make him testify.
Mustafa Diriye, a community organizer working in Minneapolis, said he had advocated vigorously for justice for Ms. Ruszczyk, just as he had for black victims of police shootings. He was pleased with the verdict, he said.
Yet he could not help but be bothered that the system had worked so well for a white woman when it had failed so many black people, he said.
“‘I fear for my life’ — that’s what all white cops get away with,” said Mr. Diriye, who is originally from Somalia. “That only works for white officers. They can fear for their life. But if you are black, no, no you cannot be fearful.”
Mr. Diriye said he felt that if white people would demand justice for black police-shooting victims the way they did for Ms. Ruszczyk, things could be different.
“The hypocrisy is there,” he said. “That is my frustration.”
Nipsey Hussle was fatally shot in front of his Marathon clothing store in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The LAPD has identified the suspect in the shooting as Eric Holder and issued a warrant for his arrest.
Hussle’s fan base, and the broader music community, have been mourning the loss of the 33-year-old rapper who was not only known for his music, but his entrepreneurship (in 2013 he released his Crenshaw mixtape and sold copies of it for $100 each; Jay Z bought 100 of them) and his commitment to Black economic empowerment. The latter interest has some people thinking that his death was part of a larger conspiracy.
Hussle was very interested in the life work of Dr. Sebi, the late Afro-Honduran herbalist and healer who claimed to be able to be able to naturally cure a whole host of diseases including AIDS. He was known to have counseled many celebrities on health matters, including Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Michael Jackson. In 1987, New York City charged Dr. Sebi with practicing medicine without a license. Though the jury found him to be not guilty, Dr. Sebi was later sued by the New York attorney general and prohibited from making any therapeutic claims with his products. Dr. Sebi died in 2016 due to complications from pneumonia, while in police custody on charges of money laundering, and so conspiracy theorists continue to find the circumstances around his death suspicious.
This all ties to Hussle because, during several interviews, he stated his intent to make a documentary about Dr. Sebi’s trial and healing practices.
This isn’t a coincidence! Nipsey Hussle was working on a documentary that will narrate Dr. Sebi’s Trial in 1985. Dr. Sebi claimed that he could cure AIDS & was allegedly executed by way of U.S. Medical Corporations because his AIDS remedy would take away from their own profits. pic.twitter.com/rqrvaeSbAi — Jared Sawyer Jr. (@JaredSawyerJr) April 1, 2019
This has resulted in some insisting that Hussle’s death wasn’t gang-related or personal, but instead another attempt to silence Dr. Sebi’s practices. Hussle himself jokingly acknowledged the possibility of assassination in one interview, in which he laughed as he said, “[If they kill me] ya’ll better ride.”
Don’t let the media fool you that’s some government shit over the Dr. Sebi documentary man!! If it was over gang shit they would’ve gotten him a long time ago, nipsey wasn’t hard to find. #NipseyHussleForever — Wu(Jedi) (@TheUsualNinja) April 1, 2019
Since the shooting, Nick Cannon has reportedly agreed to make sure the documentary gets completed.