Chauncey Bailey Project founding member dead at 45
By Kristin J. Bender
OAKLAND — Kevin Weston, a sharp and tenacious journalist who mentored Bay Area youth and was a founding member of the Chauncey Bailey Project, died at his home on Sunday following a nearly two-year battle with a rare form of leukemia.
He was 45.
“Rest in power, Kevin,” San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim said Wednesday before adjourning a meeting in his honor.
Weston once worked as a paperboy for the Oakland Tribune, according to a biography for the Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford. He worked for the Post Newspaper Group and the San Francisco Bayview and spent more than a decade with New American Media as a youth communications director, mentoring hundreds of young writers, filmmakers, artists and photographers.
Russell Morse, who was one of the many young people Weston guided at NAM’s Youth Outlook magazine, eulogized him in an article for New American Media.
“I started writing for Youth Outlook, and early in my time there, Kevin came in as the head of the magazine,” Morse wrote. “He trusted our impulses and gave us the tools and encouragement to tell the stories we deemed most pressing.”
Weston was also a founding member of the Chauncey Bailey Project, an investigative team formed after the August 2007 murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey Jr. Bailey was reporting on a story regarding the suspicious activities of the Your Black Muslim Bakery when we was slain on broad daylight in downtown Oakland.
Weston was named a John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University, served as editor-in-chief of YO! Youth Outlook Magazine, executive producer of YO!TV and was a social justice activist, poet, youth advocate and hip-hop entrepreneur.
His writing appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune and the Sacramento Bee.
He was married to Lateefah Simon, director of the Rosenberg Foundation’s California’s Future Program. Simon was recognized by the MacArthur Foundation in 2003 for her civil rights work.
A large network of family and friends organized a campaign to find a bone marrow match for Weston, but the odds were tough; just 7 percent of the 10 million people on the national bone marrow registry are listed as black.
Throughout his illness, Weston and his family campaigned through Be the Match, part of the National Marrow Donor Program, to increase the number of black donors on the registry.
“He was always a generous soul,” said friend and colleague Dori Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in Oakland. “You saw that a lot even in his struggle.
“Kevin inspired community around him. He created community, and he nurtured community, and community rallied around him,” Maynard said. “He was a huge impact on Bay Area journalism. He was a mentor to so many people.”
Weston wrote about tough subjects — violence at football games, Occupy Oakland, immigration, court rulings and the future of urban radio — but nothing was as tough as Aug. 27, 2012, the day he woke up with a nagging sore throat. He was three days away from his 44th birthday; at Simon’s insistence, he went to the hospital.
He was admitted into the intensive care unit, and diagnosed with a potentially deadly flesh eating bacteria — and T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia, a rare, aggressive form of this disease, which hits only about 10 people in the United States each year.
Doctors told Simon she should gather his loved ones to see him for a last time. Hundreds came. They brought food and said prayers. They stood vigil outside the ICU and they hoped for a miracle.
Weston underwent five surgeries and less than a week later he opened his eyes and told Simon he wanted to marry her. They married at his bedside, Weston too weak to speak and barely able to nod his head. He squeezed Lateefah’s hand to give his marriage vow.
About three weeks later, they got their miracle and Weston left the hospital with his family at his side. But the cancer returned and he underwent chemotherapy, an aggressive combination of drugs and other treatments over the next 22 months.
Weston is survived by his wife, Lateefah Simon, a 3-year-old daughter, Lelah, and stepdaughter Aminah, 18.
Services are pending.
Staff writer Samantha Clark and Bay City News Service contributed to this report. Follow Kristin J. Bender at Twitter.com/kjbender.