Pioneer for peace dies one week after life celebration
by ROCHELLE RILEY
March 13, 2009, Detroit Free Press
Weusi Olusola, who survived a drive-by shooting at 16 to become one of Detroit’s most outspoken anti-gang and anti-gun activists, died this afternoon at his Belleville home. He was 38.
He died of bladder cancer six days after receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Park West Foundation at a gathering attended by hundreds of metro Detroiters, including Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, Detroit Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr, Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson and representatives from the Detroit Police Department, Boy Scouts of America, the NAACP, the Million Mom March, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI, the Michigan State Police, the Detroit Rehabilitation Institute, members of Pioneers for Peace, hundreds of friends and family and entertainer Bill Cosby.
Cosby yesterday recalled an anti-crime rally he and Olusola led in Detroit where hundreds of parents, teens and activists marched through a neighborhood taken over by drug dealers. At one point, Olusola, who was beside Cosby, pointed to a window.
“ ‘Look, they’re peeking out at us!’ ” Cosby recalled him saying. “The drug dealers were inside afraid of us instead of the other way around for a change.”
Olusola was born Willie Brown Jr. He was an All-State basketball star and marching band member at Murray Wright High when he was gunned down in a shooting that also left a little girl dead in 1986. He was paralyzed from the waist down.
His career as a peace advocate began within months, and 10 years after the shooting, he co-founded Pioneers for Peace, a group of shooting survivors who spend the year speaking to children and young adults at schools, churches, community centers, rallies and hospitals.
“The number of kids that he has touched personally, that he has made an impact on, I can’t even count,” Saba Gebrai, program director of the Park West Foundation, said last week before the fund-raiser and celebration to honor him. “There has not been a school, a community, a hellhole that we have not been in. After homicides, when nobody else is there, there are just a few people you can call. He’s one of them.”