Nipsey Hussle

Former U.S. President Barack Obama praised slain Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle‘s attempts to revitalize the gang-plagued neighborhood where he was raised, and where he was gunned down last month.

Obama made this known in a letter read during a public memorial on Thursday, attended by thousands of fans, many of them dressed in white.

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The former president‘s letter to the family was read by Karen Civil, Hussle’s friend, and business partner, on a stage filled with white, pink and blue flowers.

“While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope,” Obama’s letter said.

“To build a skills-training center and a co-working space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow — is a legacy worthy of celebration,” he added.

The 21,000-capacity Staples Center, a sports and pop concert venue, was packed for the two-hour memorial, to be followed by a 25-mile procession through the streets of south Los Angeles.

Stevie Wonder used the memorial service to push for stricter gun laws, saying, “It’s almost like the world is becoming blind.”

“It is a heartbreak to again lose a member of our family,” Wonder told the crowd, noting how he met Hussle through someone “very close” to his wife.

“It is heartbreaking because it is so unnecessary,” the singer said. “It is so painful to know that we don’t have enough people taking a position that says, ‘Listen we must have stronger gun laws.’”

The 25.5-mile (41 km) funeral procession began about 2:30 p.m. after the three-hour memorial.

Hussle, 33, who had parlayed his fame into a role as a community organizer and activist combating gang violence, was shot on March 31 outside a clothing store he owned in south Los Angeles.

Los Angeles police last week arrested a 29-year-old man who has pleaded not guilty to murder charges. Police said the shooting was motivated by a personal dispute, although it took place against a surge in gang-related violence in south Los Angeles.

Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was Grammy-nominated earlier this year for his debut studio album “Victory Lap.”