Shortly before he was gunned down in front of the clothing store he owned in South Los Angeles in March, rapper, activist and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle had plans to meet with lawmakers to discuss an idea he had to help funnel investment dollars to his native South L.A. as well as other distressed black communities around the nation.
On Wednesday, T.I. and Charlamagne Tha God took up where their friend Hussle (born Ermias Joseph Asghedom) left off, meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Capitol Hill to discuss ways to spur investment in struggling urban and rural areas, Roll Call reports.
The idea is to take advantage of “opportunity zones,” a provision of the 2017 tax law that offers companies a seven-year opportunity to defer or reduce capital gains taxes in exchange for their investment in impoverished communities.
“Nipsey was the founder of the idea to bring everyone together who may individually be able to do great things and make significant impact on their own in their communities,” T.I. said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “But for us to come together, we can impact so many more communities and spread our efforts so much wider.”
In addition to T.I. and Charlamagne, involved in the fund so far are Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and L.A. real estate developer David Gross, the Times reports.
“We’re like the ‘Avengers’ of investment,” T.I. added, Roll Call reports. Losing Nipsey Hussle was “like losing Ironman.”
The group met at the U.S. Capitol for almost two hours of with Reps. Karen Bass of Los Angeles, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Joyce Beatty of Ohio, Steven Horsford of Nevada, Frederica Wilson of Florida, Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, Antonio Delgado of New York and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the Times reports.
“We can help get things done on the federal level in terms of when we do opportunity zones, that they are implemented in a way that help black communities,” said Gabrielle Brown, communications director for the CBC.
While saying he supports the kind of grassroots investments Gross is championing, Clyburn also has expressed concern that the zones could be exploited to build luxury projects out-of-reach of struggling communities, the Times reports.
“I support the investments in the black community that Mr. Gross discussed,” Clyburn said in a statement to the Times. “But the investments that are being made today in opportunity zones are totally different, and the question is whether or not the decision-makers will allow that to happen.”
The zones were created as part of legislation written by CBC members Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker of New Jersey. It was signed into law by Donald Trump as part of the tax bill.
In a move to make investors more accountable about how monies are used, Scott and Booker have introduced legislation to add reporting requirements, the Times reports.
T.I., in a separate meeting he had with Booker, said the opportunity is there to do things “right.”
“Nipsey is not going to allow certain things to happen in his name,” T.I. told Booker, according to the Times. “... we can do it right, right from the start.”