AJ Cooper III, former host of BET‘s Teen Summit and burgeoning politician who most recently made a bid for D.C. Council, passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 34 in his hometown of Washington, D.C. According to his aunt Peggy Cooper Cafrtiz, he had been feeling dizzy and experiencing chest pain for days, only to shockingly have a fatal collapse at his mother’s home.
Cooper was a co-host of Teen Summit while still in high school and all throughout college. Afterwards, he remained involved with politics and broadcast journalism. Political endeavors ran heavily in his family, as his father Algernon Johnson Cooper was the first Black mayor of Pritchard, Alabama (which was largely a Caucasian town). Cooper’s other credentials include work as the policy director for D.C.’s Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and the altruistic Freedom Farms that assisted low-income D.C. residents with produce and jobs. In 2012, he officially began pursuing the D.C. council in 2012. Most recently, he also organized a protest for Michael Brown outside of Missouri’s Justice Department.
In his 34 years, Cooper accomplished so much. He clearly wanted to make a difference and his passion will be missed but hopefully encouraging to another aspiring Black politician to keep pushing. Cafritz shared with the Washington Post. “He loved the city, and he loved serving the people in the city, from the elderly to the young. Jay was just on the verge of bursting forth.”
In response to the justified anger about Darren Wilson‘s non-indictment, Cooper wrote this message on his Facebook page:
“All I can say is that all of the emotions you are feeling need to be channeled into political power. Let that burning feeling in your gut be the fuel to power a movement. Otherwise when the smoke clears all we will have left are tears and ashes.”
Some of you beauties maybe didn’t get a chance to watch Teen Summit back in the day, but it was an a beloved talk show for Black youth that talked honestly about bullying, sexuality, dating, uplifting your community through teamwork and volunteer work, and the biggest names in ’90s music like Lil’ Kim, Usher, and Total performed. RIP AJ Cooper.