Monday, March 23, 2009

Detroit Free Press: Celebration honors Detroit peace leader's life


March 22, 2009

Celebration honors Detroit peace leader's life

Before he died, Olusola said he didn't want hope to be lost


Weusi Olusola made a request of those who loved him before he died: Do not mourn my passing, but celebrate my life.

And so, instead of a funeral Saturday, friends and family gathered to share stories about the antigun and community activist who died March 13 of Stage 4 bladder cancer.

"Five days before he died, he told us he did not want people to lose hope," said Saba Gebrai, program director of the Park West Foundation, which earlier this month gave Olusola a lifetime achievement award.

Olusola was 38. He died six days after receiving the award during a gathering attended by hundreds of metro Detroiters and entertainer Bill Cosby.

Born Willie Brown Jr., Olusola survived a drive-by shooting at 16. Then an All-State basketball star and marching band member at Murray Wright High, he was left paralyzed from the waist down.

He changed his name and became one of Detroit's foremost antigang activists.

Ten years after he got shot, Olusola cofounded Pioneers for Peace, a group of shooting survivors who speak to children and young adults about violence.

The hundreds who paid their respects began by walking along Rosa Parks Boulevard near West Grand, accompanied by a marching band. Then they stopped at the community center, where Pioneer members, family, friends and city leaders gathered and spoke of the need to further Olusola's work.

"That's all he wanted," said his 24-year-old sister, Christine Hall.

"He did more than most people on two feet," said Kali Sichen, who heads a youth program near Atlanta. "He stood for self-determination, love, commitment. Those are the things that put the community in a positive light." Full Article

Contact AMBER HUNT at 313-223-4526 or

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