Black community celebrates the legacy of educator and activist Jitu Weusi

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

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 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."