Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Farewell Ji-Tu Cumbuka

Good Bye Ji-Tu
We lost a big one from Helena.  Ji-Tu Cumbuka , an actor known for many performances including original Roots, Bound for Glory, Harlem Nights, A-Team, and more has died. He was 77. He had been in Atlanta over the 4th of July after battling a long illness which eventually took his legs.

Even though Hollywood had him listed from Montgomery. His Wikipedia and his own book "A Giant to Remember: The Black Actor in Hollywood" shared that he is from Helena, Alabama. He was born March 4, 1940, in Helena, Alabama. His name was given to him by his grandmother. Ji-Tu means “giant” in Swahili, while Cumbuka is defined as “to remember.”

"Born in 1940 in Helena, Alabama, to a Baptist minister who believed acting was "the devil's work", he left home and moved to New York. After several difficult years, he enlisted in the Army, where he played football and ran track. He made All-Army in both sports. He was offered many college scholarships, but chose to attend Texas Southern.

After Texas Southern, he moved to California to pursue his acting career, and later continued his education at Columbia College in New York City, earning a bachelor of arts in theatre and a master's degree in cinematography. After three years of attending acting classes and acting in community plays and workshops he landed a role in the 1968 movie Uptight directed by Jules Dassin".

"Ji-Tu Cumbuka is one of the many U.S. African actors who overcame walls of adversity in the 60s. Born in Montgomery County, Alabama on March fourth, 1942 in an era of oppression, Ji-Tu did not let social norms hold him back from what he loved. Opportunities were slim; a U.S. African actor of the 40s and 50s held roles as house maids or were confined to the parody roles of minstrel shows. Being born in a society of black and white, Ji-Tu defined what the basis of the Civil Rights Movement was".

After three years of attending acting classes and acting in community plays and workshops he landed his first top role in the movie "Uptight" directed by the late director Jules Dassin. Cumbuka is famed for roles in movies such as the epic film "Roots", "Harlem Nights", "Brewster's Millions", "Mandingo" and "Bound for Glory", as well as minor appearances in thirty other films. In television, Cumbuka is acclaimed for roles in major shows as "Knots Landing", "The A-Team", "The Dukes of Hazard", "Walker Texas Ranger" and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation". In total Ji-Tu has appeared in over a hundred films and television series.

Ji-Tu Cumbuka's journey is a reflection of fiery passion and strength that will burn everlasting. He is the author of several screenplays and is presently pursuing opportunities as a writer, producer and director.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: W. Boykin

My deepest sympathies go out to your family from the City of Helena. May God give you the comfort and peace that you seek and may the soul of your loved one rest in peace.

You can also sign a guest book for him here: http://www.legacy.com/guestbooks/ji-tu-cumbuka-condolences/186044384

You can read more Helena Happenings here:

Check out his body of work on IMDB, he was on everything from the A-Team, Dukes of Hazard, Matlock, St. Elsewhere, Falcon Quest and more:

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