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Black community celebrates the legacy of educator and activist Jitu Weusi

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 6/14/2013, 1:40 p.m.

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."

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.