Los Angeles, CA–When Nipsey Hussle (Ermias Asghedom), was tragically gunned down at his place of business in 2019, Amerylus Ann Cooper, 61, asked herself what she could do to keep the marathon going. As someone who grew up in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles, Cooper started to brainstorm ways she could help the progression of her community. She wanted to keep the spirit of community investment and support alive–which were ideals that Nipsey Hussle stood on.
“When he passed away and they asked what are you going to do to keep the marathon going–this is my contribution to Nipsey. To make sure we are running our marathon in the Crenshaw District,” said Cooper.
Cooper says she was familiar with Nipsey because he was a friend of her brother. If you had to choose one word to describe Cooper’s Project 43, it would have to be vision. It takes extreme vision to walk into an abandoned vet office that was dirty, dark and destitute–to see endless opportunities and want to create a youth center in this same space.
“A year ago we couldn’t be in this building this long. The smell was so horrendous. Our homeless community had taken it over. The ammonia smell was so harsh. When I say we are bringing this place back to life–because this place was dead. I’m telling you, it was dead.”
Project 43 will house a food pantry program, a studio space to record, an essential/hygiene and supply room, a cooking space for their culinary arts program, a community garden–as well as a huge outdoor space Cooper dug out by hand. She also laid the bricks as well as created the foundation and post for the roof. Project 43 has a large parking lot that is being developed for youth to play sports, equipped with stands for guests.
Cooper beamed when she walked into the pantry, the shelves stocked floor to ceiling with food and canned goods. Cooper called the pantry her pride and joy and said two transitional family homes have already signed up for the program.
“What we are doing with our culinary kitchen is we already have two scholarships that are going to be awarded from Jordan’s Hot Dogs on 59th and Crenshaw. So, anyone who wants to go to culinary school, they can use the scholarship for books. We also have two chefs who are going to come and lay out the kitchen for us,” Cooper detailed.
Cooper says it is important the community is involved in the progression of Project 43. Those who donate to the center receive a certificate as well as a baton. Cooper says she wants to make sure they keep the marathon going through community participation.
“We give you a baton and a certificate and your name is going to be placed on our marathon wall to show you are a sponsor of the center.”
The main goal of Project 43 is to be a resource for local youth who need a safe space to hang out after school. Making sure the kids feel safe and secure while spending time at Project 43 is a main concern for Cooper, who made sure the fences were at a certain height where youth are not accessible.
Project 43 is also being set up as a social service resource center to offer resources to families as well as the homeless community. One of the most inspiring parts of Project 43 story is not only Cooper’s vision and the sweat she has put in developing the space at 61-years-old.
It is also how Cooper came to sign the lease and actually get the keys to the building.
Cooper first had the idea for an after school program and although she had a plan drafted and contacted various schools, she says she never received a callback. She refused to allow this to stop her from doing something positive for her community. She would drive by the old vet building on 71st and Crenshaw and one day she called the number on the building. The person on the other end of the phone told her that the property had already been sold.
“I said well it’s been sitting up for two years, what are they doing with it?”
She was told they were attempting to rent the building but were having some trouble. One day, Cooper received a phone call from the realtor of the property.
“He said hey you might not remember me, but I had that property on 71st and Crenshaw. I want to tell you something, these people are talking about tearing this building down and putting an apartment building. I want you to come look at the building because I don’t want them to tear it down. I don’t want them to keep taking things out of these communities. He asked if I would agree to come see the building.”
The realtor met Cooper on Crenshaw near Florence and asked if he could get her the building, would she save it for her community.
Cooper replied, “Yes I will.”
“I met with my son-in-law and best friend. I told them that the building was dilapidated and needed a lot of work and we might not have the big money, but we had sweat equity. I said are we up to the challenge? Even if we have to put this building together with our own hands. They said ‘we are behind you 100%.’ Whatever it takes to get this place open and that’s how it’s been.”
Support Project 43: https://project43teampostcenter.org