Brooklyn Plaza named in His Honor
BY JEAN NASH WELLS
On Saturday, July 2, 2021 despite the threat of rain, more than one hundred people gathered to honor educator and activist for social justice, the late Jitu Weusi. The occasion was the hard fought renaming of Putnam Triangle on Fulton Street and Grand Avenue in Brooklyn to Jitu Weusi Plaza.
Born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Jitu Weusi (1939-2013) formerly known as, Leslie R. Campbell, began his career in education with the New York City Department of Education. He was a founding member of the African-American Teachers Association (ATA) and notably knownfor 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 60s, Jitu Weusi left the department of education and opened Uhuru Sasa Shule (Freedom Now School), the first Black, independent, private school in New York City for inner-city youth. The school was one of the founding member schools of the Council of Independent Black Institutions (CIBI), an international umbrella organization for independent schools that advocate Afrikan-centered education. Jitu Weusi returned to the NYC Department of Education in 1985 and served with many school districts for three decades of service. He retired in October 2006.
Jitu Weusi was essential in forming the New York Chapter of the National Black United Front (NBUF); AfricanAmericans United for Political Power, which was a vital force in the election of Mayor David Dinkins; and he worked vigorously on Reverend Al Sharpton’s attempt to become the first black US senator from New York.
A preservationist of African and African-American culture, Jitu Weusi, along with community backers, started the EAST, a cultural organization in Brooklyn for people of African descent. The EAST jazz venue hosted luminous musicians such as Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Saunders, Betty Carter, and Leon Thomas. From the EAST emerged various other organizations that still exist today.
He was co-founder of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium (CBJC), a non-profit organization of venues and individuals committed to the development and preservation of jazz and related art forms throughout the borough of Brooklyn.
Jitu K. Weusi is often referred to as “a mountain of a man” not only because of his stature, but for his fortitude as well. Father, husband, community leader—his name and the memory of his selfless actions for the benefit of his community will live on at Weusi Plaza in the Borough of Brooklyn, in New York City.