Wednesday, April 14, 2021
In Memory of Tommy Jacquette Halifu
By Yussuf J. Simmonds (Managing Editor)
Published December 3, 2009



In Memory of Tommy Jacquette Halifu

Tim Watkins
– Coverup Productions

Congresswoman Maxine Waters
 – Jason Lewis for Sentinel

Dr. Mervyn Dymally
– Coverup Productions

Congresswoman Laura Richardson
– Jason Lewis for Sentinel

Danny J. Bakewell, Sr.
 – Jason Lewis for Sentinel

Brenda Holloway
– Coverup Productions

Halifu with his mother Addie Hensen-Young at the Watts Promenade
-  Sabir Majeed

Halifu’s family
– Jason Lewis for Sentinel


Dr. Maulana Karenga performed the Maziko, the Transition Service, in honor of Halifu, whose life literally exemplified the struggle–the steadfast resister to injustice and audacious breaker of unrighteous rules.


By Yussuf J. Simmonds

Sentinel Managing Editor

The quality of Tommy Jacquette Halifu’s life can be gleaned from the legacy he has left behind and by the honor and respect paid by those who came to bid him farewell last Saturday. The Watts Summer Festival is indeed his lasting legacy and as Dr. Maulana Karenga performed the Maziko, he implored those who were present–and the community as a whole–that the best way to honor Halifu would be to continue his legacy. By continuing the Watts Summer Festival would become a lasting annual tribute to its founder. Halifu would not have wanted the Transition Service any other way in all its magnificence and splendor.

In an effort to give Halifu the proper farewell, Dr. Karenga, his mentor, chose the time, the place and the theme as stated on the front of the booklet: “In Love & Memory of Tommy Jacquette Halifu, MAZIKO Transition Service–Given Life Forever and Ever.” He welcomed the guests and outlined Halifu’s life, accomplishments and his lasting legacy as a prelude to the Mawazo Reflections that were given by representatives of the community followed by Halifu’s children.

Dr. Karenga then introduced Tim Watkins, president and CEO of WLCAC, the host of the ceremony. Watkins recalled, “I have known Tommy and have worked with him, and it would be an honor to continue the Watts Summer Festival around him as his legacy.”

Then came Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a staunch supporter of Halifu and the Watts Summer Festival, who described him, “He came of age after the Watts Revolt of ’65; he was fearless and had courage. Many have said Tommy had cussed out every elected official except Maxine Waters,” a fact that contributed to the Congresswoman’s solid reputation among her constituents and beyond.

Dr. Karenga introduced former Assemblyman/Senator/Lt. Governor/Congressman/ Mervyn Dymally, as Lieutenant Governor who alluded to picture of Halifu on the stage as, “a picture of warmth. The ’65 revolt put Watts on the map and Tommy kept it there. I considered him a Brother.”

Congresswoman Laura Richardson who has served in Long Beach, Sacramento and is now in Washington, said, “Tommy, to the end, was about teaching us, planting a seed we so desperately need. He was about doing something and he did it for quite sometime.”

After Dr. Karenga introduced Karl Key Hekima, there was something melodramatic in his appearance that signaled a closeness with Halifu. Hekima recalled, “Tommy and I were best of friends since we were 10 years old; we entered the Struggle together (after the Watts Revolt in 1965). He was loyal, dependable and honest, and we just lived our relationship.”

Ken Seaton Msemaji, another one of Tommy’s comrades, followed, saying, “I met Tommy when I was 12 and I concur (with Hekima), he was loyal, dependable and honest. The Watts Summer Festival is truly his legacy.”

Next was one of the Queens of the Watts Summer Festival, Veronica Hayes, who said, “When I was selected the Queen and people made it seem like it wasn’t a big deal, Tommy told me, ‘You won didn’t you? Hold your head high.’ He also taught me the true meaning of comrade.”

Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., executive publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, thanked Dr. Karenga for performing the service and acknowledging Halifu’s life and accomplishments. He said, “It (the service) captured the essence of who Tommy Jacquette really was. He always had that special spirit to engage and to put a face on Watts.”

Dr. Karenga then expressed thanks to all who came and spoke, stating that he knew everyone would have liked to say something about Tommy. Then he acknowledged all the elected officials, VIPs and celebrities who did not speak, but were there or sent their condolences, including Assembly-members Steve Bradford and Warren Furutani, Council-members Jan Perry and Janice Hahn, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, former Councilman Richard Alatorre and Willis Edwards.

Each of Halifu’s children then read a portion of the obituary reminiscing times with their famous father and Dr. Karenga gave a very meaningful eulogy characterizing the warrior everyone there had come to salute. Ngoma, soulful music, ended the service.

Afterwards there was a celebration at the Ted Watkins Park hosted by Congresswoman Waters and Watkins. There the community really began to celebrate the “festival” in remembrance of Halifu’s Watts Summer Festival with music, singing, dancing and food.

Categories: Local

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