RIP- Roots/HarlemNights Actor Dies..Niece Tells Painful Convo Days Before His Death

Posted On : July 10, 2017
Actor Ji-Tu Cumbuka

Sad news to report ILOSM family. Actor, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, passed away on July 4th, 2017, at the age of 77. Many of us may not have known him by name, but we definitely remember his face from his roles in a few iconic classic films.

Actor Ji-Tu Cumbuka as ‘The Wrestler’ in “Roots”

He played the fearless warrior-turned-slave, ‘The Wrestler,’ in Alex Hailey’s 1977 classic film, Roots. He also played the Toothless Gambler’ in Eddie Murphy’s the 1989 classic, Harlem Knights. Some of his other roles were as ‘Melvin’ alongside his good friend, Richard Pryor, in Brewster’s Millions, and in the film, Moving. Ji-Tu also several other roles in films and TV shows such as Sanford and Son, The A Team, Mandingo, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and many more.

His Niece Recalls How Ji-Tu Cumbuka Told Her He Was About To Die

Amber Holifiled, niece of actor, Ji-Tu Cumbuka

Sadly, Ji-Tu Cumbuka died at 2:40 a.m. ET in Atlanta, Ga.. His niece discussed what he’d told her just a week before his passing:

“I (talked) to my Uncle Ji-Tu last week after he spoke to his doctor and he told me wasn’t going to be here much longer then a week,” his niece, Amber Holifield, wrote on Facebook. “Once it registered what he was telling me, I ask him if he leaves then what do I do?? He said (as he would) ‘Deal with it… I’m dealing with it’ … so l laugh and said you iiiss right!” -via NYDailyNews

Read his niece’s full statement below…

Ji-Tu Cumbuka’s niece, Amber Holified, issued this statement about his death on Facebook


Ji-Tu’s Many Other Life Accomplishments

Aside from acting in his 40+ year career, Ji-tu, accomplished several more feats in his lifetime.
– He was an Army paratrooper in the Vietnam War
– Up until his last days, he was helping people with addictions through his nonprofit outreach program, Help Somebody Foundation Ministries. The purpose of the organization is to helped recovering drug addicts rebuild their lives and make smooth transitions back into their community as productive, sober citizens.
– He was an author. In 2011, Ji-Tu published his book, “A Giant to Remember: The Black Actor in Hollywood.”

For 40+ years, Ji-Tu has graced the entertainment world and those in need with his talent and generosity. He will be sorely missed, but through his many contributions to the arts and the everyday citizen, his legacy will continue to shine. Rest easy Ji-Tu Cumbuka.

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