Jitu 'Big Black' Weusi passes (38510)

The best of the People’s Republic of Brooklyn came out to pay tribute to Jitu “Big Black” Weusi this past weekend.

The formidable, seemingly 9-feet-tall career educator, activist and family man died on May 22.

His family is asking the community to “Come out to honor, celebrate and remember him” during a weekend filled with events in his name.

Folks best trust and believe that, that was what went down at the “Sitting” Saturday at Weusi’s beautiful For My Sweet jazz/cultural spot in Bed-Stuy on Harriet Tubman Boulevard (aka Fulton Street).

Dr. Leonard Jeffries always says, “When an elder dies, it is like a library burning down.” Well, the passing of Weusi is like the the burning of the Ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt.

“We lost a good friend, our comrade in struggle, a master organizer [and] a superb institution builder who had an undying love for Black people. Brother Jitu Weusi was an unassuming, humble, legendary icon. Rest in peace, ‘Big Black,’ for a job well done. We will continue the work,” said elected power couple Councilman Charles Barron and Assemblywoman Inez Barron.

“Over the past 29 years, it has been my pleasure to share my husband with the thousands of people whose lives he has touched,” Angela Hope-Weusi told the AmNews.”Thank you all for the vignettes you have shared with me over the past week; these stories have helped me make it through the nights.

“In line with his energy and dauntless quest to educate, agitate and organize, I will be calling all the people who said ‘Let me know if there is anything I can do.’ I will call on you to join in the struggle for quality education, the struggle to make access to African-American arts and cultural presentations affordable, the struggle to bring political power to communities of color and the struggle to make our communities mentally and spiritually healthy. These are issues that Jitu worked feverishly to accomplish. These issues were his idea of pillow talk.

“Our family is creating the infrastructure for a scholarship fund in his name. So in lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the fund. In the spirit of Jitu and the principle of Ujima, cooperative work and economics, scholarships for one-on-one academic tutoring and one-on-one instruction for aspiring or emerging artists will be available. We will connect local students with community tutors and arts instructors,” Hope-Weusi said.

Weusi was formerly known as Leslie R. Campbell. His family sent out his extensive bio, which is the stuff of urban legend. Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Jitu had many accomplished achievements in education, politics, activism, social justice and music. He began his career in education with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) in September of 1962 as a founding member of the African-American Teachers Association (ATA). He was widely known for his involvement in the Ocean Hill/Brownsville conflict that proved to be instrumental in bringing about changes nationwide in community control of public education. In the late ’60’s, Jitu left the DOE and opened the first Black independent private school for inner -city youth: Uhuru Sasa Shule (“Freedom Now School”). The school was one of the founding member schools of the Council of Independent Black Institutions, an international umbrella organization for independent schools.

Weusi was essential in forming the New York Chapter of the National Black United Front; African-Americans United for Political Power, which was a vital force in the election of Mayor David Dinkins; and he worked vigorously on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s campaign to become the first Black U.S. senator from New York.

In 1970, Weusi was the principal operator of the East Cultural and Educational Center, where he presented jazz programs weekly, which featured the likes of Max Roach, Betty Carter, Randy Weston, Pharoah Sanders, Hugh Masekela and Sun Ra.

Weusi was a devoted jazz aficionado, collecting and writing profusely on the genre. He served as the chairperson of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium for many years.

Having been sick for a while and hospitalized, Weusi made his transition at home with family on May 22. 8Since then, the tributes have come in thick and fast.

A comment by Dr. Segun Shabaka echoed that of so many grieving friends and associates of the man: “Jitu Weusi was much, much more than a leader and institution-builder. For over five decades, he also trained and inspired others to lead, organize, build and maintain organizations and institutions to improve the lives and livelihood of the people and make them self-conscious “agents” of their own liberation.

“Baba Jitu K. Weusi, founder of the National Black United Front, has crossed over to the realm of the Egungun [Ancestors],” said National Black United Front Vice Chair Salim Adofo upon first hearing the news last week. “We are thankful for the contributions he has made to the liberation of Afrikan people. He will forever be missed and loved. May Olodumare, the Orishas and Egungun be pleased with his work.”

A.T. Mitchell, founder of Man Up! Inc., told the AmNews, “Jitu Wesui, New York City’s gentle educational giant, was and will always be a role model to me. He was amongst the few elders that I was extremely impressed with when it relates to true and genuine love and activism for his people. His mentorship will be missed by me daily. May he rest in peace.”

“Jitu K. Weusi was a giant, literally, but his legacy transcends his physical size. He fought for equality in education for African people in this city, and that will not be forgotten. I thank him for charting a path for my generation and subsequent ones in the mine field of Western education,” said Nova Felder, an educator at Medgar Evers College.

April R. Silver, an activist, social entrepreneur and founder of Akila Worksongs said, “When I reflect on just the small part of Jitu Weusi’s grand life that I know about, I become amazed at his resilience. Whereas so many of us who do community development work are struggling to create programs and projects, Jitu worked consistently and built institutions. There’s a world of difference. He left us the legacies of the East and of Uhura Sasha, and he left us the International African Arts Festival, Medgar Evers College, the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium, For My Sweet and so much more. He left us enduring examples of what love looks like, of what it means to persevere for people of African ancestry. We are deeply indebted to him.”

Education activist Sam E. Anderson announced that the Coalition for Public Education has created a praise and remembrance page at http://forpubliced.blogspot.com.

Anderson told the AmNews, “Brother Jitu was one of our ‘1960s Renaissance Men’ who made the seamless link between the Black cultural realm and the education-for-liberation realm. He comes out of a family of radical warriors Black. Hence, he had no choice but to tirelessly do liberatory work for his peeps: Black folk from local Brooklyn neighborhoods all the way out to the African Diaspora. “He will be physically missed … but spiritually embedded within our activist psyche, reminding and informing [us] that we still have a long way to go to actual liberation, because Brother Jitu will be always informing our struggle for education and cultural liberation.”

There will be a Celebration of Life at Boys & Girls High School (1700 Fulton St., Brooklyn) on Saturday, June 1, 6 p.m.-11 p.m.

The viewing will be at Brown Memorial Church (484 Washington Ave., Brooklyn) on Monday June 3, 9 a.m.-10 a.m. Funeral services will be at Brown Memorial Church on Monday, June 3 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

There will be an African jazz street festival, along Claver Place by For My Sweet (1101 Fulton St.) on Monday, June 3, 4 p.m.-8 p.m.

Angela Hope-Weusi asked that tax-deductible donations be sent to: Jitu Weusi Scholarship Fund, C/O Long Life Info and Referral,1958 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY, 11233. Hope-Weusi can be reached at Aweusi@gmail.com.