Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jitu Weusi Passes

Jitu Weusi, whose given name was Les Campbell, was an activist and founder of the Coalition for Public Education. His early history as a community teacher and firebrand in Ocean Hill-Brownsville during the 1968 teacher strike made him a legendary figure, both praised and vilified, in UFT history. I had some brief contact with Jitu in the past few years and after initially approaching him with some trepidation -- I was open about supporting the UFT in the '68 strike -- I found him to be a gentle and inspiring man open to discussing the past and future. I liked him immediately and I wish I had spent more time with him but he seemed to be a very busy guy.

The '68 strike has been on my mind a lot lately -- with the argument about opposing mayoral control leading to the "then what?" question, the various versions of "community" control have bubbled back to the surface. When people scratch their heads about the UFT's adamant support for some version of  mayoral control, the simple answer is: 1968.

Jitu played no small role in those events.

I was hoping to do some historical perspective this summer with a group of teachers who opened up their schools during the strike, some of whom have a very interesting perspective. I don't know if I would have had the nerve to ask Jitu Weusi to take part and I doubt if he would have. There has been so much more to his life since then and he shouldn't be solely defined by those years. The announcement on the list serves came from his good friend Justin Wedes.

You can find out more about his life at

And here (UPDATED):


It is with a heavy heart that I share that the great and beloved Jitu Weusi has passed away.

I was very close with Jitu and with his family, and my thoughts and prayers are with all of them now. Even in the last years of his life, Jitu stood up and spoke truth to power and he will be remembered always as a fierce education advocate and as a loving father and community leader.

Justin Wedes
Educator & Activist 
Co-principal, Paul Robeson Freedom School

Twitter: @FreedomSchoolBK

1 comment:

  1. I have never met a man so devoted and totally committed to the progress of people of color. I remember attending a lecture he gave at the old Boys(and Girls) High School in 1965; he warned us then to help out parent/grandparents pay back taxes on their properties in Bed-Stuy before the monied folk swept in and grabbed those beautiful brownstones for a song. If you look at what is happening across Brooklyn today (gentrification) you will be able to appreciate just what a wonderfully informed visionary he was. May God welcome him in the bosom of his love and give him peace.


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