Tommy Jacquette-Halifu (1943-2009) was a co-founder of the annual Watts Summer Festival in 1966, a founding member of the organization Us, executive director of the Watts Summer Festival for over 40 years, a highly-respected social activist, community organizer, and veteran of the 1965 Watts Revolt. And although he was best known for his work as executive director for the Watts Summer Festival (at times featuring Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers, Betty Shabazz, Sammy Davis Jr., Richard Pryor, Sammy Davis Jr., Isaac Hayes, Muhammad Ali, Quincy Jones and a host of elected officials as grand marshals of the festival parade), he was also worked with the Watts Christmas Parade, Watts Willowbrook Chamber of Commerce, the Watts Gang Taskforce and organizations and community programs. He was born in Los Angeles, California, the eldest of six children, and grew up in the Imperial Courts in Watts, a residential district in the southern part of Los Angeles, California.
Jacquette-Halifu is survived by his wife, Carmen Eatmon of Los Angeles; four sons, Derek and Raymond of Los Angeles and Damien and Juba of Phoenix; two daughters, Julienne Jacobs of St. Louis and Denise McFall of Los Angeles; his mother, Addie Young of Los Angeles; a brother, Bob Henson of Carmel; two sisters, Brenda Lake and Diane Young of Los Angeles; 23 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
In memory of Tommy Jacquette-Halifu, Congresswoman Maxine Waters gave the following statement at the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. on November 19, 2009.
I rise in memory of Tommy Jacquette, my dear friend of over 40 years, who passed away this week. I know that the community of Watts and the greater Los Angeles area are grieving with me, because we've all lost a truly unique, larger-than-life friend and activist who had his finger on the pulse of the community.
Born in South Central Los Angeles in 1943, Tommy as a young man became part of the Black Power Movement of the 1960's and sharpened his leadership skills during his studies at Cal-Poly Pomona. He was acutely aware of the problems and issues facing the African-American community, and he wanted to make a difference.
Tommy especially loved Watts, and he dedicated his life's work to enriching the community. He was the founder of the Watts Summer Festival at Ted Watkins Memorial Park (formerly Will Rogers Park), which became an annual tradition in the community following the 1965 insurrection, which were riots that shook the Watts community and surrounding areas.
Tommy created the Festival to honor and celebrate our roots, our talents and our culture, and it subsequently helped to spark African-American festivals across the country: today it's known as the 'Grandfather' of all African American cultural events. …