An influential activist and community organizer in Atlanta has died an untimely death, prompting an outpouring of emotion from the many people whose lives he directly affected.
Haroun Wakil died Wednesday. He may have suffered a seizure before he was found dead, his friends told local news outlet 11 Alive. It was unclear how old Wakil was.
Wakil founded and operated Street Groomers, an organization dedicated to cleaning up and protecting his community in Atlanta. The group’s mission was twofold, according to its website: “To clean up and take back the streets from those who terrorize our people and communities, including some drug dealers and some police officers who act as thugs targeting our people and communities of color;” and “To provide programs and projects for youth as viable alternatives to life on the streets.”
He explained to 11 Alive in 2017 why he started Street Groomers, which patrols the West End neighborhood of Atlanta and promoting a safe environment for children.
“We come from the streets,” Wakil said at the time. “And we want to save other young people in the streets.”
He added later: We gotta learn how to police our own police. We gotta learn how to police our own kids.”
People who knew Wakil took to social media to express their grief after learning of his death.
“He was a well-known presence in the city putting in work on the frontlines and with the Streetgroomers organization doing conflict resolution and community policing,” journalist Torraine Walker tweeted on Thursday.
The Atlanta Antifascists Twitter account tweeted that Wakil was “a constant presence at protests for justice around Atlanta.” The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Wakil “demonstrating neo-Confederates & racists at Stone Mountain in August.”
Atlanta City Council Preident Felicia Moore tweeted her condolences, as well.
“Miss seeing you working for the lest of these at City Hall, in the community, across the state, and the nation,” Moore tweeted. “Rest in Power my friend. I love you.”
Georgia NAACP President James Woodall called Wakil “a legend” who “was truly one that we ALL looked up to – both figuratively and literally. His heart and love for our people was endless beyond understanding.”
City Councilman Antonio Brown said he was “heartbroken” over the death of Wakil, who he credited with his political success.
“We lost a brother, a friend, a hero to Atlanta, who fought relentlessly & fearlessly for fair treatment of ALL Atlantans,” Brown tweeted.
Wakil had posted a Facebook tribute to Ahmaud Arbery on Tuesday, the anniversary of the unarmed Black jogger’s death in Brunswick, Georgia.
Wakil explained his strategy for achieving peace through Street Groomers during his interview with 11 Alive.
“Sometimes [it’s about] telling these young people you love them. Let them know somebody cares about them, instead of putting them down,” Wakil said at the time. “The way we’re going to save our community is by saving our kids.”
Watch the profile below.