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John Watusi Branch died at 70 years old after suffering from a heart attack.

John Watusi Branch, co-founder and executive director of The Afrikan Poetry Theatre in Jamaica, passed away on Saturday. He was 70 years old.

Friends are “saddened by the loss of this cultural leader and institution builder,” who maintained the theater for almost 40 years.

Branch went into a coma after suffering from a heart attack on Dec. 23 and passed just days later on Dec. 28.

Throughout his work with the theater, Branch got inspiration from the community and the work they had done, as well as the youth’s desire to learn. For nearly a decade, Branch organized yearly group trips to various parts of Africa. In 2012, he took a three-week trip to Ghana where his group stayed with local residents and took part in work projects.

Additionally, Branch is a published author, and wrote a book entitled “Journey to the Motherland” along with five volumes of poetry.

He was born in Charleston, S.C. and his family moved to Brooklyn when he was six years old. They then moved to Jamaica in 1961 when Branch was 18.

He lived in Jamaica with his wife, Safiya. Together they have five children.


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