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Leaders respond to death of Shreveport activist

3rd December 2012   ·   0 Comments

By J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Writer

Early Tuesday morning longtime activist Baruti Ajanaku passed after a lengthy bout with pancreatic cancer. The Shreveport native known to most as “Brother Baruti” began his activism with the NAACP at the age of 12. He spent his life fighting for just treatment of the poor, especially those in public housing.

Even after being diagnosed with cancer and given a short time to live Baruti continued to be involved in social justice causes, even speaking at a rally for Trayvon Martin earlier this year.

Reaction to the announcement of his death was swift from many local leaders. Some of their comments are below.

Marvin Muhammad, local leader of the Nation of Islam and lifelong friend: Shreveport has lost a true warrior for the downtrodden the oppressed, the voiceless. He was truly a champion for the liberation struggle of our people. In an era of compromise, in an era of double talk, in an era where special interest and self-serving interests was the order of the day it was a refreshing and a blessing from God to have a man who totally dedicated his life to the liberation of oppressed people not just in Shreveport but the world over. His bravery during these last months, my admiration grew tremendously as I watch the brother treat death, with courage, with humor, with great dignity as he prepared himself for this hour. My love and my friendship has increased from our childhood years together into manhood. He was a mentor, a friend and a leader. He will truly be missed.”

Sonya Landry, Editor Shreveport Sun: “Brother Baruti was a community activist in the truest sense of the word; involved in civil rights since he was in high school. He was sincere in his concerns for the poor and downtrodden, and vocal in addressing what needed to be done to correct the inequalities in our society. Baruti was always pushing our leaders to do more. His voice will be sorely missed by the community.

Mayor Cedric Glover: “Our City has lost one of its most passionate voices for accountability and change. Baruti Ajanaku was committed to making life better for those citizens who often felt disenfranchised and he did not hesitate to speak truth to power. He was a man of courage and conviction and he will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

Willie Bradford, activist, health administrator, longtime friend: The news that Baruti passed was painful for me to accept. I’ve known Baruti for 40 years. Over those years he has been one of the most authentic voices in the Black community. Baruti believed in progress for Black people. He loved Black people, fought for Black people and advanced Black causes. It hurt his heart to see the disunity of Black people especially leaders and elected officials. He was always saying, ‘We must unite!’ He always said that if we were divided we would fall. Baruti did not possess wealth but he left us work to be continued and I hope that those who are left behind will take up that battle of promoting a Black agenda. I’m devastated that we have lost a great warrior for this town.”

Senator Greg Tarver: “Baruti Ajanaku was a good and caring human being. He was an asset to the human race, and he did what he could to make the world better than when he arrived. Baruti will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved him.

Margaret Brown, educator: “We are all blessed to have had him in our midst. He was indeed a true leader. His focus was on his fellow man. We can’t do anything but admire the work that he did for all of us and he was not afraid to say what he needed to say and do what he needed to do. You don’t find that in our leaders like we found it in him. We are going to miss his guidance and leadership. We thank God for him because he did a lot for this community.”

Sam Jenkins, City Councilman: Brother Baruti was a servant to all mankind and will be missed. He was an effective advocate for justice and fairness for all and especially the poor and needy. His work remains a living testimony for future generations.

Michael Williams, Caddo Parish Commissioner: “Heroes are remembered but a legend never dies. He definitely was an advocate for the poor the downtrodden and the lost. It’s a great loss for America. A great public servant to his community, to his country. He was concerned about the plight of our generation. We must not let his death go in vain. We must understand that everything we gained is still under attack from voting rights to civil rights to human rights. We must continue his legacy by keeping up the fight, keep marching, moving and protesting. His spirit will always be alive in us.”

He’s really going to be sorely missed because he was a social conscience. I got to know Baruti because he was a strong advocate for the Jackson Heights community. If it was something he was concerned about he was going to be vocal. This was good because you gotta have someone who won’t bend to social and political pressure and will actually articulate the concerns of the community. He was an activist in the truest sense. I know he’s going to be sorely missed.

The funeral will be held on Wednesday, December 5, at Evergreen Baptist Church in Shreveport.

This article originally published in the December 3, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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