Rest in Peace and Power, Randy Leigh
It is with great and deep sadness to announce the passing of Eddie “Randy” Leigh, FUREE’s Co-Chair and leader on the Accountable Development and Public Housing campaigns on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011. Randy passed way at his home in Wyckoff Gardens in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY due to health complications. He was 55.
Randy was elected onto FUREE’s Board in 2005 and served three terms on FUREE’s Board. As our self-described "token male," he happily took his place at the table beside many strong outspoken women. This year marked his fourth year as FUREE’s co-chair.
He first got involved in FUREE in 2002 to support his wife, Jewel, a childcare provider who was active on the Child Care Campaign. After attending several meetings, he became actively involved in the campaign, and along with Jewel has been an important leader in FUREE ever since. Randy and Jewel were part of a small group of members that built the foundation of the Child Care Campaign, and their work led to victories for child care providers including $4.5 million in raises, and saving hundreds of day care centers being closed due to unfair State policies.
Randy brought a new dynamic to the FUREE leadership circle – a male member who understood and embodied, whole-heartedly, the importance of the involvement of men in women-led community organizing centered on winning racial, gender and economic justice.
During his tenure as a board member, Randy governed FUREE with care, devotion and a strong commitment to winning changes affecting low-income, working class, unemployed and underemployed community members impacted by public policies that cause and continue economic oppression. As a vocal leader in the fight for accountable development, Randy felt strongly that the way development played out in Fort Greene, Downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope and other areas in Brooklyn, is simply inhumane, and he fought for peoples’ right to have control over decision-making in their own communities. He passionately fought for this right here in Brooklyn, speaking at rallies, press conferences and public hearings and being quoted in many newspapers, radio, and TV shows. He also supported the fights of other communities, and travelled with FUREE and the Right to the City Alliance around the country, to support the fight for accountable development and self-determination in places including New Orleans, Miami, and Atlanta.
A scene best shows his passion as a defender of his community from FUREE’s film “Some Place Like Home.” In the scene, Randy confronts Commissioners of the City’s Economic Development Corporation during a hearing on development in the Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene. If, as public officials, their job was to be accountable to people who live in the City, he said, “You should be all be fired.” This expressed Randy’s strong belief in holding elected officials and public agencies accountable to the needs of families displaced by aggressive development. Randy knew that those officials earned the privilege to represent people in the City through the votes of all families and not just families with money. This was indicative of Randy’s full understanding that what make up a community is not the buildings that are built but the people that live in them. And, that community fabric should be woven with people from all walks of life, creed, color, gender and collective histories, making that community complete.
As a Vietnam Veteran, retired postal worker, and a founder the International Brotherhood of African-American Postal Workers, Randy knew that organizing communities required hard work, dedication to and a passion for winning social change.
But he also knew that the fight wasn’t all there is to life, and that family, friends and fun are also important. In addition to leading so much of FUREE's work, Randy had a huge role in making the FUREE community a family. He looked out for people, and mentored many of FUREE's youth. At FUREE events, he'd often spend hours chatting with FUREE's young people, making sure they felt welcomed in the office and supported in their work at FUREE and in achieving their dreams in life. When interviewing candidates for jobs and FUREE, the question Randy always asked was, “What are your hobbies?” He wanted to know that people at FUREE had full and happy lives outside of FUREE to keep. He cooked delicious chicken wings for many of FUREE's holiday parties and celebrations. AND, he brought his own beautiful family and made them part of FUREE. Randy was the proud father of three (Raahim, Daishon, Ajoya), and grandfather of three, Ciara (Cici), Kevin, and Daishon, Jr. (Deucie), - and there was nothing more magnetic and warm than Randy’s smile when talking about his grandkids. Randy, Jewel, their children and the grandkids participated in countless FUREE activities and retreats.
In retrospect, what Randy leaves us with is a simple reminder of the importance of taking care of ourselves so that we can bring the best and balanced of ourselves in whatever roles we played in life.
Randy’s strategic thinking, strong convictions and his chuckles will be missed at FUREE. For all of us who had the honor or meeting and working with Randy in our lifetime, we can only hope to bring the subtle strength that Randy brought to the table.
Randy left us briefly following the passing of Co-Chair Sandra Robinson on May 17th, 2011. The passing of both of our Co-Chairs within a month of each other reminds us all that we have no choice but to go forward and win changes to community development, sustainable employment, access to services and healthy, affordable food so that our families can thrive. Their passing, to us, serves as a call to action to make sure that any and all families have access to the supports necessary to exit and remain out of poverty.
The viewing for Randy will be held on Thursday, June 30, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and funeral services will be held on Friday, July 1, at 10 a.m. Both services will be held at the Revelation Church of God at 433 Myrtle Avenue at Waverly Avenue in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
Rest in peace and power, Randy. We love you and thank you for walking with us in our life’s journey.
The FUREEous Family