(Adapted from article by Dennis Fitzgerald)

When Guy Kurose passed away last month, Seattle lost a talented and passionate teacher, counselor, volunteer and mentor. In Southeast Seattle, the loss of Kurose, son of famed peace activist Aki Kurose, is being felt especially among youths of color and the people who work with them.

Guy Kurose died on Oct. 26, 2002, of complications related to cancer. He was 49. Hundreds attended a memorial ceremony honoring his life earlier this month. Kurose was remembered as a true friend to many young men whose lives had turned toward gangs, drugs and crime, but who sought help to become law-abiding, productive citizens again. He provided that help.

An activist since his early teens, Kurose spent most of his life seeking to correct injustices and empower the powerless, according to his brother Paul, a teacher at Rainier Beach High School. He fought for housing for low- income elderly residents and squared off against pimps who were preying on the elderly in what was then simply called Chinatown.

He joined the Black Panther Party (BPP) in 1968, at age 14, and worked on the breakfast program and marched in rallies. He skipped classes at Franklin High School to attend demonstrations for Indian fishing rights.

Paul said his brother followed his own conscience and didn't adhere to society's image of a typical Japanese American. "That's something he was proud of."

Guy worked for a time as a luxury car salesman and as a sales associate at Nordstrom. He studied political science at the University of Washington and religion and martial arts at Tenri University in Japan. Already a talented martial artist, Kurose returned to Seattle in 1992 a master, a sixth-degree black belt. He spoke Japanese fluently.

He had a strong desire to reach out to young people - especially those of color - and help them avoid getting caught up in gangs and trouble. He worked with gang members to help them sever their ties to the groups.

Kurose began teaching karate at Rainier Beach Community Center, a service he would offer for nearly 10 years. He got a job from an old friend, Alan Sugiyama, executive director of the Center for Career Alternatives. "I thought he would be the perfect person to work with some of these hard-head kids," Sugiyama said. In the early 1990s, Asian- American youth - especially Pacific Islanders - were forming aggressive and violent gangs. Sugiyama said that Kurose worked with young people in his off-hours and on weekends. "Some of the things he did were just masterful."

Rather than preaching at groups of kids, Kurose would buy them lunch and talk to them one-on-one. He found jobs and housing for young men trying to shake their gang affiliations. He found scholarships for those who wanted to continue their education but lacked the resources.

Sugiyama said that even the toughest kids listened to Kurose because he treated them with respect and told them the truth; he didn't talk down to them. And they respected him for another good reason: They knew "he could kick their butts."

In addition to his youth-intervention work at the Center for Career Alternatives, Kurose was working in partnership with former Black Panther leader Aaron Dixon on a transitional housing project. (Dixon established the Seattle Chapter of the BPP, the first chapter outside of California in 1968.)* He remembers Kurose from the Black Panther days. He recalls a passionate and principled youth. But it was much later that the two became the best of friends. Dixon moved back to Seattle about the same time as Kurose. They began working together on gang-intervention efforts in the early '90s. They were awarded a contract from the Seattle Jobs Initiative to conduct workshops with convicted felons, teaching job skills, helping them change their lives.

"We were kind of on the same wavelength, if you know what I mean," Dixon said. "We had really become best friends." They formed a consulting business together. About five years ago, they began making plans to create a nonprofit organization to develop housing for young men and women making the transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency. The program they created, called Central House, was to provide a temporary home to about 16 people, age 18 to 26, some of them emerging from the criminal justice system.

Dixon said of Kurose, "One of the things I really appreciated and liked about him was that he was his own person. He did things the way he thought they should be done." Social service workers often disapproved of Kurose's willingness to let youths who were trying to get out of gangs stay at his house, Dixon said. You weren't supposed to get that close to the people you were trying to help. But Kurose knew that if he hadn't provided a safe place for those kids, they would have ended up seeking the shelter of the gang. They had nowhere else to go.

Paul Kurose said that his brother's work affected a lot of lives. When Paul first became a teacher at Rainier Beach, many Pacific Islander students immediately considered him a friend when they discovered he was Guy's brother. "They all knew him and loved him," Paul said.

Guy also loved jazz. He had been a disc jockey at KRAB for a while in the 1970s. He had many close friends in the music industry, Paul said, including jazz trombone legend Julian Priester. Guy was Priester's son's godfather.

Sugiyama said Kurose worked all hours, seven days a week to help people. "Anytime somebody needed something, he was there."

Editor's note: Guy was instrumental in establishing strong relationships with a lot of Native American groups in the Seattle area. Guy was the Black Panther Party contact with Leonard Peltier and other Native Americans fighting for justice.