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Jean Damu says goodbye to his family and friends

August 5, 2013

by Willie Thompson

Jean Damu
Jean Damu as many of his friends remember him
Revolutionary journalist, scholar and activist Jean Damu, in his last public event Sunday, July 14, urged about 60 of his family and friends “to keep striving. I don’t have to pontificate; you know what to do,” he said in his usual firm style. The event, previously set for August, was held at the Veterans Administration hospital at Martinez, California. The change was made on Thursday, July 11, following a chemotherapy treatment after which Jean was no longer being fed. Damu was being treated for esophagus cancer.

Some of those attending the “family and friends” event were his sister, Dr. Ayodele “Wordslinger” Nzinga, other family members, representatives from Local 2, Walter Riley of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, Phil Hutchinson of the Organization for Just Immigration, Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee, Rev. Phil Lawson, Jim Lacy, professor of political science at Contra Costa Community College, David Bacon of KPFA and his wife and many, many more. Damu will be cremated and a memorial service will be held in his honor about two months after his death.

Jean Damu says goodbye Vukani Mawethu Choir 071413 by Felicia Gustin
The world renowned Vukani Mawethu Choir sang to Damu, who was intimately familiar with the movements and leaders who defeated apartheid and white rule in South Africa. – Photo: Felicia Gustin

Damu makes his transition

An email on July 20 from Baba Jahahara Amen-RA Alkebulan-Ma’at reported: “Sadly, during the youth-led Rally and March for Justice for Trayvon Martin at the Federal Building here in Oakland, we learned of the transition to the next life of Baba Jean Damu this morning.

“Some of us had the opportunity to say goodbye to our dear brother last Sunday, as he had requested our presence. In our brief chat, he encouraged me and all of you to ‘keep up profound work for justice and reparations and connect it to the international class struggle for power. Asé.

“Long live the spirit and good work of Brother Jean Damu!”

Jean Damu says goodbye friends 071413 by Felicia Gustin
Some of the friends who came to say goodbye surround Damu for a group photo: Melba Maldonado, Giulio Salvador, Noor Sorro, David Bacon, Jean Damu, Holly Fincke, Ligaya Lucero, Jack Lucero Fleck and Attieno Davis.


Willie Thompson, Jean Damu, friend 071413 by Dale Anders
Willie Thompson and another friend show their love to Damu.
Editor’s note: For a glimpse into Damu’s many roles in recent world history, here is the tagline the Bay View placed at the end of the articles he wrote: Jean Damu is the former western regional representative for N’COBRA, National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, and a former member of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, taught Black Studies at the University of New Mexico, has traveled and written extensively in Cuba and Africa and currently serves as a member of the Steering Committee of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. He can be reached at

Willie Thompson, president of the Organization of African North Americans, is professor emeritus of sociology, City College of San Francisco. Email him at

Jean Damu, Mildred Aristide at Oakland reception 082512 by Akinyele Umoja, dir. Af-Am Studies Dept, Univ. of Georgia
Jean Damu met Mildred Aristide, former first lady of Haiti, at an Oakland reception for her on Aug. 25, 2012. The photo was taken by Akinyele Umoja, director of the African-American Studies Department of the University of Georgia.
Jean Damu, Arnaldo Tamayo, web
Jean Damu poses with his friend, Arnaldo Tamayo (right), the first Cuban and first Latin American to travel to space – launching on Sept. 18, 1980, with a Soviet cosmonaut – who is now a deputy in the Cuban National Assembly representing his home region of Guantánamo.

One thought on “Jean Damu says goodbye to his family and friends

  1. Safi Wright

    Please let Damu know that I love him. We have been friends for 40 years but I have not seen him in quite sometime. I was thinking of him tonight and Googled him name, only now have I learned of his fate. Please let him know that I have advised Luisah Teish and we will see him on the other side when our day of transition too arises. All my love, Safi


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