Monday, June 10, 2013

Black community celebrates the legacy of educator and activist Jitu Weusi
By NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor
Thursday, June 6, 2013

How did the Black grassroots Nationalist Movement come out to honor Jitu Weusi? With abundance.

At a series of events for what activist and professor Sam Anderson called "one of our 1960s Renaissance Men," friends and supporters came from all over the tristate and as far as Philly.

"Educator, activist, Brother, Baba, friend, comrade and giant—made his transition into Eternal Life, joining his ancestors," said the family, adding, "Come out to honor, celebrate, and remember him!"

Weusi, formerly known as Leslie R. Campbell, was known to be a lover of three big things: his community (Diaspora), community control of focused education and, of course, jazz. The educator, activist, community leader, jazz lover, husband and father has gone, leaving a huge hole that only his tremendous frame could fill. Luckily, between all his work, the creation of the cultural phenomenon the East, and Uhuru Sasa, Weusi has left many disciples up and through Brooklyn and beyond.

First, there was the "sitting" at Weusi's beautiful For My Sweet jazz and cultural spot in Bed-Stuy, then this past weekend, the celebration continued. On Saturday, June 1, hundreds of friends, supporters and admirers joined the family at the historic Boys and Girls High School to honor the man also known as the "Gentle Giant."

Jitu's Brother, Job Marshariki Speaks of his Brother's Life of Activism.

On Monday, June 3, there was a formal viewing at Brown Memorial Church, which turned into a grand reunion of good, old friends. The funeral at the same church was another grand tribute to the man. Folks spotted each other across pews and made sophisticated dashes to give affectionate embraces. African garb (native dress) was largely the order of the day. It was all very beautiful.

As he did at the Weusi tribute at Boys and Girls High School, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry spoke passionately about the man. Among the other attendees were Councilman Charles and Assemblywoman Inez Barron, Councilwoman Leticia James, state Sen. Bill Perkins, Comptroller John Liu, Randy Weston, Pharoah Sanders—who performed beautifully at both the church and the festival—and actor-activist Ralph Carter, who got the whole church engaged in a song about continuing the fight.

Many messages were sent and read by Adeyemi Bandele of Men on the Move. Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan sent a message through Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, head of Mosque No. 7 in Harlem.

After the intermission, the family returned to continue with a "Celebration … East Style" at the renowned Claver Place. Despite a downpour, people stood in the rain for an African Jazz Street Festival, followed by the return of the "Jazzy Monday" jazz series.

With his towering 6-foot-7 frame, Weusi would glide into a room and command it. His quiet disposition could transform him into a sage of a man who would debate the subtle nuances of anything political, educational or cultural—but don't get him started on jazz. His Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium was the soundtrack to this political warrior's life.

The "giant of a man" was born and raised in Brooklyn. Weusi left a tremendous legacy as an outstanding career educator, starting at the New York City Department of Education (DOE) in September of 1962, then co-founding the African-American Teachers Association.
Jazz Legend, Pharoah Sanders, performs at Jitu's Funeral.
He was a key figure in the historic Oceanhill-Brownsville conflict, which pushed for community control of inner-city schools, which ultimately led to changes nationwide. In the late 1960s, Weusi left the DOE and opened the first Black independent private school for urban youth. The Uhuru Sasa Shule (Freedom Now School) was one of the founding member schools of the Council of Independent Black Institutions, an international umbrella organization for independent schools. His impact on education was only matched by his political activism. He was a key component in creating the New York Chapter of the National Black United Front and African-Americans United for Political Power.

Weusi's political involvement was a vital force in the election of Mayor David Dinkins and the Rev. Al Sharpton's push to become the first Black U.S. senator from New York. Sharpton was on the program for the church service but did not attend.

In 1970, Weusi was the main conduit for the creation of the East Cultural and Educational Center. Several members of the East attended the celebrations and service for Weusi. Loyal, proud and recommitted, it was like a family reunion.

And then there was his jazz devotion. He was in love with the genre—African-Americans' gift to the world. As the chairperson of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium for years, he kept Brooklyn in the jazz loop.

It was at the East where Weusi presented jazz greats like Max Roach, Betty Carter, Randy Weston, Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner, Hugh Masekela and Sun Ra.

Initially, Angela Hope-Weusi (center) stated, "With a broken heart, I am announcing that my husband made his transition last Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Our family has been soothed by the hundreds of notes, cards and kind words from the people who loved Jitu the same way we do. We came together last Saturday at For My Sweet as family and community to hug and hold each other. We shared Jitu stories, listened to his favorite music and rejoiced in his becoming a treasured ancestor."

The tributes have come in thick and fast. Amongst the most poignant was that from Robert Cornegy, City Council candidate for the 36th District. He said, "The best way I can describe [the homegoing for Baba Jitu) is, a young woman visiting the neighborhood asked me if this was a wedding celebration. It was at that moment that I realized how I wanted to affect those I came into contact with. Baba Jitu's effect on the lives of those in attendance was such that there was absolutely no room for sorrow for his death, but more of a celebration of his life."

Warrior Black Nationalist couple Herman and Iyaluua Ferguson told the AmNews, "Our comrade, our brother, our friend, a true warrior who led so many fights for our liberation from this pestilence called America, has left us to join the realm of the ancestors. We speak of Brother Les Campbell, whom we knew as Jitu Weusi for so many years.

"Education was his main field of struggle. His battles were marked by victories like the Oceanhill-Brownsville fight for school and community control, the founding of the school system that started as the East and became the launching pad for so many of our students, teachers and parents too numerous to recall."

Rev. Herbert Daughtry calls forth Brother Jitu's Revolutionary Spirit.
"Back in the late 1980s, when Ed Koch was asking 'How am I doing?'—ask any Black person and the answer would have to be how oppressive he was. Jitu, along with a few other brothers from Brooklyn, were searching for a political mechanism to uproot the New York City corrupt, oppressive political establishment," said activist Beverly Alston. "None of our noted leaders would take a stance against Koch so Jitu encouraged 'Al,' as he was known then, to enter electoral politics.

"As a matter of fact, I can't remember anyone calling Rev. Sharpton 'Rev' prior to Jitu. Jitu introduced Rev to Dr. Ramona Whaley and myself of Harlem, and the rest is history. May God bless the Gentle Giant!"

Minister of Culture for the New Black Panther Party Zayid Muhammad noted, "Malcolm taught us that community control was the first step towards nationhood. Jitu Weusi sought to take that first critical terrain that is the control of our own schools. He was demonized by our enemies; he was lionized by our people for his pioneering stance and efforts."

Education activist Sam E. Anderson, of the Coalition for Public Education, announced the group's Praise and Remembrance Page, for folk "to not only gather more insight into Jitu's long and dedicated life to freedom and democratic, neighborhood-controlled education, but you can also contribute your condolences and remembrances by using the comments section at the very bottom of the post. Go to http://forpubliced.blogspot.com."

Anderson told the AmNews, "Brother Jitu's Fighting Spirit for Black Liberation lives on through his blood family as well as those hundreds of us in his extended cultural and education family."

The Rev. W. Taharka Robinson, founder of the Brooklyn Anti-Violence Coalition, offered, "Jitu Weusi was empowerment at its best—education, activism, business, politics and music. He was a dynamic visionary who continued to push for perfection in our community. Jitu Weusi gave me my first job at the Uhuru Food Co-Op. Being in his employ, I learned the core values of being an entrepreneur and what one must do to succeed in life. Our griot's passing has left a great void in our community. May his legacy live on."
NY Citycouncilman Charles Barron Pays tribute to Political Organizer, Cultural Worker, Master Educator Jitu Weusi.
"Jazzy Mondays stopped when Jitu got sick. This Monday and every Monday hereafter will be Jazzy Monday at For My Sweet," said Hope-Weusi. "Mark your calendars and let's keep Jazzy Monday alive."

Meanwhile, Weusi's nephew Jelani Marshariki, son of Job and candidate for the City Council in the 35th District, told the audience at the close of the African Street Festival of the establishment of the Jitu Weusi Scholarship Fund. Donations should be addressed to Jitu Weusi Scholarship Fund, C/O Long Life Info and Referral, 1958 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY 11233. For more information, email aweusi@gmail.com.

The Fergusons concluded, "Brother Jitu gave us so much and asked for so little in return. We are honored and humbled to pay our respects to this giant of a man, who was both a physical embodiment of that term [man] as well as a spiritual expression of that accolade. All our love and regards to you, Jitu, for your contributions to our cause, and our prayers and condolences go out to your loving family, who mourn with us your untimely passing.

"P.S. Jitu, say hello to Sonny [Abubadika] for us and tell him we will free the land."

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