by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
Brother Jitu Weusi
I have to admit that I’ve been procrastinating on this article. I’ve lived now with the announcement that my dear friend Jitu Weusi has joined the ancestors. I first received it from brother K. Mensah Wali, around midnight of the 22 of May.
Jitu was a life long friend. I’ve known him since the days of the East and the school that he tried to develop to help young Black boys and girls receive a better education than the one they’ve been subjected to under the New York City Public School System.
Jitu was always a revolutionary. Tall, lanky, imposing, yet genteel, articulate, positive and powerful. I took an instant liking to him. But at the time, I was more concerned about making sure my daughter, who was 4 at the time, had a culturally and academically rich education.
Though I was living in Harlem at the time, I would schlepp her over to Brooklyn so she would be able to attend the shule and be around positive examples of Black men and women, and have peers who were also there to learn and become positive contributors to the world.
But it was not to be, and the school unfortunately fell into disarray because some of the individuals were not necessarily suited to be educators. It turned out that the only real educator in the house was Jitu himself, and I eventually transferred my daughter to The Modern School, a Black private school in Harlem.
And that, it would seem, was the end of my interaction with the brother I knew as Baba Weusi (Jitu means big and Weusi means Black in Swahili, folks).
Little did I know that it was only the beginning of a long and wonderful friendship that would last for over 40 years. It seemed that there was always a karmic link between myself and Jitu. We couldn’t help running into each other because, as activists, we operated in concentric circles.
But one of the biggest indicators that we would be life long friends was because my husband, Lou Wilson (of Mandrill) kept talking about his best friend, “Yams” who was a Black activist like I was. They had grown up together in Brooklyn, and had been involved in jazz and sports. He had actually boarded at Jitu’s mom’s home while attending college, and they used to pull pranks (stealing pies, etc) when they were kids. Lou was so enthused about “Yams” and brought him to dinner at our apartment one evening, as a surprise. And it turned out that “Yams” was none other than Baba Jitu Weusi! The joke and shock was on us all, because neither of realized we all had each other in common. His birthday, October 25, was the same date as Lou’s, as well/
That was just one of many ways in which we connected. Jitu would later on be instrumental in helping select a name for our son, Rais (emperor or ruler, in Swahili) Enaharo (like the Sun in Yoruba).
Now all this is so very personal – but I considered Jitu my big brother – so his transition is personal to me. There are so many accolades that accrue to this brother. His contributions over his life time are legendary indeed. But for me, when ever I called him, for whatever reason, he always gave me a listening ear, even if there was nothing else he could offer to assist me.
His love of jazz is likewise legendary, and was the genesis of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium, which recently celebrate 30 years of excellence.
He never did anything by half measures. If he was your friend, he was your friend, no matter what. If there was an injustice, or a discrepancy that was detrimental to Black people, he was going to take it on. Not one to tilt at windmills, but one who had a well thought out plan of attack. Even if things didn’t turn out the way he envisioned, he would stick it out.
By the same token, he also didn’t suffer fools lightly, either; if he found himself surrounded by miscreants, he would shake them loose without ever looking back.
Brother Jitu Weusi Educator, Activist, Friend
Ironically, Jitu was the first person I called when my husband suddenly died of cardiac arrest on January 7th. Not realizing that he was himself in the hospital suffering from cancer, I called blubbering through the phone, totally out of control. He talked with me for the better part of an hour, and spoke of all the great things to remember about Lou. He even asked me to keep him up to date on the services and anything else he could do to help. When I later found out that he was in the hospital, I called him back to admonish him for not letting me know. His response was: “I’m not dead yet. And I’m not planning to go any time soon. I’ll be around for a minute. And Lou was like my brother. So no problem. Just take care of you and keep me posted.”
Two weeks ago I received a message from Jitu on Facebook requesting my presence at Jazz 966 in Brooklyn. I responded, I would be happy to attend as long as he could guarantee I would get at least one dance with him, with Angela’s permission. That was our last communication.
As I said, his accomplishments were legendary. And I am proud to have served on several committees with him over the years, including the Medgar Evers Coalition, which was formed to protect Medgar Evers College from being dismantled. I’ve had the honor of writing about him over the years as well. He is indeed one of my personal heroes.
The other thing I admired about him was his love and devotion to his wife, Angela. I remember one evening while I was hanging out in Harlem, the were sitting quietly in the corner of Londels, celebrating their 25 wedding anniversary. He quietly explained that he had to go outside of Brooklyn to do so, because too many people recognized him there. They weren’t just a great power couple, they were a loving couple, as well.
I feel privileged to have known and been a friend to this wonderful, gentle giant, who moved among us and with us, and loved us so much that he devoted his entire life to the Black community.
He is now one our “African Holy Ghosts” (I‘m borrowing that from Len Jeffries), watching over us, guiding us, and leaving us with some humongous footsteps to follow. Brooklyn and the world is blessed to have had him. Let’s not let what he’s given us die out or go unheralded. He left us a legacy of leadership and activism; we have to pick up the baton and go forward.
Stay Blessed &