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Baba Zayid Muhammad on the passing of John Watusi Branch, founder of the Afrikan Poetry Theatre

          We lost an enormous pioneering leader today!
          Baba John Watusi Branch went to the ‘Land of the Ancestors’ after suffering a major heart attack on December 23rd.
          Baba John was at the helm of the legendary Afrikan Poetry Theatre for 37 years since its inception! It is one of the few institutional survivors of the Black Arts and Consciousness Movement that once captured the attention of the entire world.
          Under Baba John’s leadership, everybody who was somebody, both in the arts and in struggle, has been to the Theatre to help keep Black New York grounded in the principles that set off that incredible movement.
          Just as important, through the Theatre, Baba John developed arts training, performing and other programs to train legions of young people, to develop new faces and new voices both in the arts and in struggle.
          Baba John, a serious Pan Afrikanist, also made the Theatre an important link for our people wanting to go to Afrika as students, as investors, as serious Afrikans in diaspora simply wanting to return home!
          Several years ago, when the Theatre endured a terrible fire, Baba John not only marshalled support to keep the doors open. He rallied the collective to take the next step-to buy the building outright!
          Tomorrow, December 29th is Ujaamaa, Cooperative Economics, the most underutilized and underappreciated of the Nguzo Saba. Let the record reflect that Baba John Watusi Branch was an exemplary embodiment of that principle in ways that we can and should emulate.
          “Baba John, sir, I love you and appreciate you and I am still struggling with all my mistakes trying to grow up and be just like you.”
          My flag is at half mast.
          I come to attention.
          Original salute!
*Baba Zayid Muhammad is the National Minister of Culture of the New Black Panther Party…

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The World African Diaspora Union (WADU) sends it deep felt condolences to the immediate and extended family members of Baba John Watusi Branch. Baba J. Watusi Branch made his transition to the world of the Ancestors at 7:00 a.m. on December 28, 2013. Baba Watusi Branch was a Pan Africanist, a cultural leader, community builder, entrepreneur, activist, teacher, organizer and a father to our youth.
For Baba Branch, his journey from a hostile environment in New York to becoming an esteemed elder, and now a revered ancestor in the Pan African movement started with his youthful acceptance of African culture. Early in his life he became involved in the East Movement and Uhuru Sasa Pan African school system promoting African culture as the basis for African liberation and Garvey Black nationalism. As these institutions evolved into the renowned contemporary International African Arts Festival in Brooklyn, Baba Watusi co-founded the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, Inc. (as a Center for African Culture).
Under his directorship, the Afrikan Poetry Theatre Theatre (APT) became the beacon for the promotion multiple African art forms, including African drumming, dancing, languages, history, technology, poetry writing, news publication, etc. It also served the community with positive entertainments with local and internationally recognized artists, jazz bands, film festivals and theatrical performances from Africa, the Caribbean and Afro-Latino. Additionally, it was a center for African immigration issues, helping thehomeless, and African employment. Further, the center became an African home to many seekers of African wisdom and work, especially the youth. Baba Watusi was a pioneer in organizing regular cultural and business tours to Africa. His contribution on these tours have led to thousands of Africans from the Diaspora visiting and repatriating to Africa and contributing billions of dollars to the economy of Africa.  
With his great leadership of the APT, Baba Watusi helped to foster the Pan African, civil rights and the Black Nationalist movements with his regular invitation of critical leaders to the center. Some of these key leaders and scholar activists were  Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Maulana Karenga, Dr. Amos Wilson, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Elombe Brath, Dr. Ben Jochannan, Dr. Charshee McIntyre, Dr. Ishakamusa Barashongo, Reverend Herbert Daugtry, Attorney Alton Maddox, Dr. Molefe Asante,  Viola Plummer, Drs. Leonard and Roslyn Jeffries, and Dr. Ron Daniels.  Also, he has had African and Caribbean ambassadors, elected officials, major faith leaders, and youth leaders to speak and organize around critical local and global issues, programs and projects, affecting African people.
By the 1990’s, he had pioneered another visionary effort which was to build a Pan African entrepreneurship group to foster African Diaspora business initiatives across Africa. This group called Africa Trade and Business Assistance (ATABA) became a 21stcentury model for Pan African self-determined business initiatives and projects in Africa. Because of his profound contributions to the African world movement, at the opening of the 21st century, he was tapped to be an advisor on the African Union (AU) Diaspora initiative which started in 2003. Under his guidance, support and then his leadership, the World African Diaspora Union (WADU) was established by 2007 and he became the Chief of the Secretariat in 2008. During his tenure, Watusi exemplified high level of leadership advocating key Diaspora initiatives for African continental dual citizenship, reparations, repatriation, economic partnership and African culture and philosophy, as the basis for a Pan African government.
Before his transition, he urged for greater financial support for the Afrikan Poetry Theatre. The APT has been severely mal-affected by the recent economic depression across the Black global communities. He also urged greater participation of a new generation of leaders in the global African movement, especially in Africa. Finally, he was very concerned with the direction of the cultural movement, especially the rollback on African education and on significant cultural programs such as Kwanzaa. Baba John Watusi Branch was and is the spiritual embodiment of an African with profound love, an authentic legacy and an uncompromising loyalty to African people. MORE TO FOLLOW, Peace and blessings!


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