By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

Leslie Wyche Mayor of Harlem Rest in Power

The news of Leslie Wyche's passing hit us all very hard.  New Yorkers from Harlem to Washington Heights, from the  Bronx to Brooklyn to Queens, from DC to Florida we all let out a great big sob - and the sadness spread as it was confirmed that we had lost a very dear friend. 

The loss of Leslie Wyche, a familiar figure on the scene of many events throughout New York, has left an incredible gap in all our lives.   He was one of my favorite party buddies, in addition to an ally and a force and source for good in the community.  He didn't have to talk about Black power or Black solidarity, he exemplified it through the way he lived his life.

Leslie left us on January 19, 2018 - the news totally took us by surprise.  We were praying for his complete and total recovery back to his energetic, humorous, generous self, but God, the Living Spirit Almighty had other ideas and called him home to join the realm of the Ancestor Angels.

And as Mayor of Harlem, where else would Leslie's memorial service be held but at Canaan Baptist Church in the heart of Harlem on 116th Street.  The turn out was tremendous, with standing room only.  Not unusual for Leslie, who was accustomed to being in the center of attention.  The send off was definitely fit for the Harlem Royalty he truly was, coordinated by his two most beloved organizations - Omega Psi Phi Fraternity's Xi Phi Chapter, and  One Hundred Black Men of New York.

Those who came to pay him homage ranged from political figures, media, Members of the PanHellenic Council representing the Divine Nine fraternity and sorority brothers and sisters (including yours truly from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority), friends, family, associates, people who had known, interacted with and worked with Leslie for eons, came to express their love and share their Leslie Wyche stories with each other.  They all gathered to extol the virtues of this flamboyant, bon vivant brother, who lighted up the room with that broad smile of his.

How many of us remember him introducing himself in thin manner, "Hello, I'm Berry Gordy?" as he bowed with a flourish or kissed the back of our hand.  Or starting off a conversation or an idea with the two word statement:  "Listen here.....!"

Leslie was a force of nature - but not in a bad or braggadocios way - he endeared himself to most people he met with his affable manner. He entered a room always looking as though he had just stepped out of GQ.  His sartorial presentation has never been equaled - it was rare to not see Leslie dressed to impress.

The four-hour homage could have continued for an additional four hours and still not have covered half the accolades many had to say about Leslie.  Nor, did it seem as though attendants would have tired of hearing the tales of Leslie.

Rev. Jacques deGraff, who presided over the Memorial service, and life-long friend of Leslie, as well as a member of One Hundred Black Man, had all he could do to keep the speakers within an allotted time limit. 

Rev. Jacques De Graff

While it would take an encyclopedia to completely provide all the commentaries shared at the Memorial Service, I'll share some of them with you here.  Those of you who knew Leslie, and had the privilege and pleasure, and, yes, honor of working, partying, and serving the community with this brother will find laugh silently as some memory is jogged.  Notice I said "partying" - because there was not a party in New York that Leslie did not find his way in - and generally without paying for it - Leslie was the consummate gate crasher - but no one minded, really.  His presence made the party all the more fun and worth attending.

Some of the accolades and remembrances that were shared at the memorial included the following:

GAIL MITCHELL, Past President of the National PanHellenic Council, NYC

"I would get a call from frater Wyche that would start likehttps://www.facebook.com/gloria.dulanwilson/videos/889411024570690/?notif_id=1519901024341589&notif_t=feedback_reaction_generic this, "Looka here...!"The Audience broke out in laughter recognizing that all too familiar phrase. 'What are you doing tomorrow? I have tickets for this, and that and that so and so.  I thought if you, or other counsel members would like to go...'  I used to get those calls all the time when I was president. He did such an excellent job representing OMEGA PSI PHI INCORPORATED at PanHellenic Council - and fought long and hard for the Council, that Frater Wyche is the only member of the NPHC's Founder's Day program to receive the Frater of the Year Award twice - both in 1993 and in 1999 for his contributions and dedication to the Council.  We Thank his family, his friends, and OMEGA PSI PHI for lending Frater Wyche and his talents.  And that huge personalty unto us. He will always be fondly remembered and highly regarded in the PanHellenic council of New York City. As a token of our gratitude and remembrance the NPHC will dedicate this year's 2018 C. Melvin Patrick's Careers Conference to Frater Leslie Wyche in his honor.  

The NPHC has also issued a resolution in homage to the life of Leslie Wyche which we will now share with you, dated this Ninth Day of February, 2018 by myself, Gail Mitchell, past president of the National Panhellenic Council, New York City; on behalf of Vivian Walters-Smalls, President of NPHC- NY, Thank You. 

Lifelong friend and empresario Bob Tate

A Citation from the City of New York, his frat brother stated, "I've known Leslie since the 70s, 45 years ago - we used to roll together, along with Brother Jones and some of the other brothers in those days.  I've been charged to read a resolution in his honor of the Life of Leslie Wyche from The PanHellenic Council of New York City Incorporated.  
"Whereas Frater Leslie Wyche was a mentor, shining example, and inspiration to those coming after him;
And whereas he was a graduate of Edward Waters College, in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was initiated into the Ki chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. in the Fall, 1966;
And lived his life as an Omega Model;
He then earned his MSW at Florida State University;
He was an active and involved member of Xi Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi until his demise;
And, whereas Frater Wyche was a long term member of the PanHellenic Council of New York City, where he served as a member of the C. Melvin Patrick Careers Conference 
He was award the Chapter's Founder's Day of the Year Award in 1993 and 1999, for his contributions to the organization - he was the only person to receive this honor;
And Whereas, Brother Wyche was a very popular member of One Hundred Black Men of New York, where he served as the Third Vice President;
And Whereas Frater Wyche was an arch supporter of his Alma Mater, Florida State University and the United Negro College Fund, and all of the Hstorically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs);
And Whereas Brother Wyche will be remembered for his dedication to politics and the Community of Harlem; he was the district manager of Community Boards Nine and Eleven
Whereas Leslie Wyche served with distinction as Mayor Harlem from 1995 to his demise in 2018, be it resolved that Frater Leslie Wyche will be fondly remembered for his many contributions to his Fraternity, his profession and his community; and for his indelible contributions to the National PanHellenic Council of New York City;
And be it further resolved that this year's 2018 C Melvin Patrick Business Conference will be dedicated to Frater Leslie Wyche in his honor;
And, be it further resolved that Friday, February 9, 2018, the National PanHellenic Council of New York City, and its members shall observe a day of mourning for Frater Leslie Wyche in the Bond of Greekdom."

Michael Garner, President of 100 Black Men of New York, stated, "He served as our Third Vice President; he served as our sargeant at arms, he led prayer.  The thing about this great state that we live in; this great and diverse city - it's like a puzzle with a thousand pieces, but Leslie had the ability to bring all those pieces together in a very, very short period of time.   If you had a problem with a job, housing, or whatever, you felt sure that he was going to do everything that he could to the nth degree to come back to you and solve your problem.  That was him.  And my personal story about him is in the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus (which is next week) and he shows up with a long - I think it was a white mink coat (audience laughed) - that was Leslie!  So, I don't care where I was, in Albany, in Washington, in Buffalo, in Syracuse - people would ask me "How's the Mayor doing?" and I would say, "Harlem's still standing, so the Mayor is doing well."  

Garner continued, "And when he worked for City Council, he worked for the Board of Education, he did great things for our congressman...Leslie brought all the pieces together; we had an assurance that whatever problem you had, Leslie was going to solve the problem.  There was no way in the world that we were going to let you go out without having a robust, rousing going home service like the one we're giving you here.   WE want to thank his family for lending him and sharing him with us, for Harlem, for Manhattan, for the State of New York - for his county, that the name, Leslie Wyche will be know throughout for eternity."

John Pressley Victoria Horsford, Donald Washington  were among those who came to celebrate Leslie Wyche

Rev. Jacques de Graff, who is also a member of One Hundred Black Men of New York, and a lifelong friend of Leslie's, stated, "Everyone recognizes that Leslie was extraordinary - he worked for mayors that were radically different from one another. And when then City Councilwoman, Inez Dickens, hired Leslie, people would go to the office and the rest of the staff would be very formal, but Leslie Wyche knew everybody who came through that door.  So we would like to hear the tribute from the honorable Inez Dickens.    It was Percy Sutton who set the bar real high, and it hasn't been equaled since.  But, in the 21st Century in New York, and the 18 so far Borough Presidents who was a trailblazer and who was known for her ethics of hard work and compassion and innovation - so she is here with us tonight. When we called out far and wide, few responded, but we welcome the honorable Borough President of Manhattan, Gail Brewer."

Inez Dickens, long time friend, and City Council Representative for the Village of Harlem, stated, "I am so blessed to be a part of this memorial service for Mayor Leslie Wyche.  And  as all who came before me spoke about, Leslie would help anyone.  If you came to him with a problem, he would solve it.  He knew at least two people in every city agency.  And he kept up with them forever.  It could be an agency nobody else ever heard of, and Leslie knew at least two people in it.  But thing about it is that Leslie was so unappreciated.  People didn't appreciate him. Leslie could be jovial as well as helpful.  He was often unhappy, but he didn't let people know.  You know, if you approached Leslie and said anything to him (about it) he would say what??  and Inez you his classic doubletake like you must be kidding shrug - instantly recognizable by most of us who knew and loved him.  He would almost never allow you in close enough to discuss his own issues, his public and community service was his way of deflecting from himself. 
Inez Dickens

Inez continued, "You know he was an active member of the Ques, and, as a result, I became an Omega Sweetheart.  Thank you Omega Men.  So I'm always appreciative of him.  When he worked with me - not for me, but with me - in the New York City Council, he was the best advance person. He would go to whatever, and  - he always ate first - whatever!! Then he would block off he spot for the car by pulling some trash cans there to reserve the space; and then he stood there and guarded that trash can.  But he was the best.  He taught all my staff how to advance and elected; how to go get the program; how to find out who is there and should be recognized; and had it all written down, because he always had a little pad and pencil in his pocket.  Leslie, we're going to miss you.  We're going to miss you in the City of New York and in the State of New York.  You were active. You walked everywhere.  You usually had a shopping bag.  And whatever you wanted, he could pull out of that shopping bag."

She thanked Leslie's family "for lending him to us; because we're a hungry community in the city, and very demanding.  And we wanted all of Leslie, not just a little piece.  And I say thank you for waiting because he could have gone on, gotten a job, and stayed home with his family, and just worked and not be known.  But he chose not to do that.  He was indeed, the consummate public servant.  Leslie Wyche was really  the best elected person a community could have; and for Harlem to be blessed to have Leslie Wyche as our mayor; the man who represented us, whether it was in church, or a community meeting, he was loyal, he was defensive of goals he cared about. He stood up tall, unafraid of what people would say.  Leslie, we'll miss you, your people will miss you.  Leslie, I will miss you.  GOD bless you."  

Gail Brewer, Borough President of Manhattan, was so excited and enthusiastic in sharing her accolades for Leslie:    "I didn't know him as well as Inez does, or did, but he was so good to me.  He would welcome me; we might be working some where else;  but he was always understanding, as Inez said. He was with us running around from event to event, he was always let us know he was in the room.  People know it was just his nature for him to be  so welcoming, and courteous to each and every person.  He had an understanding about what the community  was - which not everybody does.  Others just laugh . He really had a deep, deep sense of how Harlem works.    He also knows how to take care of other people, because he would tell us, "So and So is in the hospital; so and so needs an apartment; so and so needs you to call this person, and I would do it.  But he had that depth of knowledge, which, to be honest with you, most of us in elected office didn't always have.   
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

 "When I first became Borough President, Leslie was so good to me, he stepped up to me and offered to help whenever I needed it. He will be sorely, sorely missed. He was always aware of what's going on with policies, registrations, and legislation.  When he took care of everything.  He knew his family,  and his sister - all the great work that she does; he was aware of what's going on with the legislation, topics and policies.  Everything would come out of -not just his shopping bag; I mean, I had shopping bags, but he had papers,  I had papers - I'm honored to be here. Like you and everybody else, I loved him, admired him and respected his ability.  People would say I'm everywhere,  he was 10 times more everyplace.  And he did it on the subway, walking, buses.  It's not easy - but he would participate at every possible opportunity.  He was the Mayor of Harlem.  He liked that title.  He earned that title, and he was somebody who - you know, you can't forget him.  And that's very positive and very important.  Thank you for including me, and  I will never forget Leslie Wyche. "  

Ronald Cain started off by reciting a poem:
"GOD saw he was getting tired
And a cure was not to be
So He put his big arms around him
And whispered, "Brother, come with Me"
With tearful eyes we saw him suffer
We saw him fade away

Although we loved him dearly
But we knew we couldn't make him stay
Hi golden heart stopped beating
Heart broken and put to rest
God broke our hearts and took only the best"

He, then, thoughtfully unpacked a remembrance of his last time being with Leslie, stating, "And that sums up when I thought about this, what brother  man was about. I remember in 1987, when I was seeking Omega, the first thing I remember was this brother has some creative swag.  He had an infectious smile, presence -  and that laugh - you could hear that laugh all across the room no matter how loud the room was. You could be at a function, and Leslie would be the only man in a room full of women; holding court - and you'd hear that laugh.

Debbie McIntyre

"Xi Phi Chapter is called The Harlem Ques.  Leslie Wyche is the reason we have Harlem Ques.  He pushed it at every Que Psi Phi Chapter meeting, 'You are Harlem! I don't care where you live, if you are in Xi Phi, you are Harlem.'  His activism enabled us to be a shining force within the Harlem community."

He related a quick story where they were putting on a community program, and he was picking Leslie up from the convalescent home.  'We had to sign him out, and it said "you have two hours"  - and I said,  "This is NOT going to work!"  So I told Leslie we need to get  get going so we can get some leeway.  And Leslie said, "Sure!"  We went there, Leslie had the best time with the brothers and sisters - and I'm looking at my watch, and he's having the time of his life, and thought,  "we're waaaay past two hours!!"  So five hours later we leave; it's dark and it's raining, and he's just talking about the great time we had, seeing brothers he hadn't seen in a while. And I'm thinking I hope they don't lock us out of this place.   So we get up there, and the nurse just let me have it!!  You were supposed to be two hours; and I'm playing dumb, "Oh,  forgot."  He's happy and he's still smiling, and talking about a great time he had.  And as she's yelling at me, he just says, "I was with my brothers, the National Ques!!!" and he threw up the sign, and we rolled on to his room."  The audience fell out laughing - because that was pure Leslie. 

Jacques De Graff - we're concluding this segment of Black history.  We've heard from historic figures, but now we're going to hear from a legendary figure, the Lion of Lenox Avenue, who made us proud in Washington and around the world, and has spent his life tracking justice and and fairness, even when the odds were against him.  Caanan Community and family, please welcome to the pulpit the Honorable Charles B. Rangel.  

You knew and loved Leslie Wyche,  all of us who knew him did.  As I look around this audience and ask the question "Is Leslie in the house???"  The audience responded:  'YES!'  And know that each one of you has a story that just bursts wide open with a laugh or with a smile you can share about Leslie.  With a laugh, with a smile.  Leslie was a like a Bee, going from person to person like a bee goes from flower to flower to flower, taking sweet nectar and spreading it among the people.  One of the reasons why so many of the elected  officials and party officials like Lonnie Davis, that are here loved  him so much was because he had a bundle of information about what was going on.  It was hard sometimes for an elected official not to know the things that he or she should have known; and, again, if somebody was in trouble, it's our job to get out there and find there all the things that they were trying to do - Leslie was always there.  A very special thanks though, not just to the individuals, but to the institutions, the people like you who came out on this cold Friday night, the 100 Black men is where they got started - Leslie epitomized the energy of always going forward,  of never turning back, never give up, never give in.   And Omega - to think of all the things that are on the agenda.  And the family to thank them for letting us honor him in our own borough to our buddy.  And we could never, never, never say goodbye because of the stories and they still exist.  Let me tell you about the time Leslie did this; let me tell you about the time Leslie said that!  

Audience applauded and laughed - because truly we all have our treasured Leslie stories - some of us have several of them, including yours truly.  

Congressman Rangel continued, "I know that not too long ago, I was in the supermarket with my wife and the cashier kept staring at me, and he came from behind the enclosure and as I was walking away, he came and got in front of me and my wife and said, "'Mister, didn't you used to be somebody?'" (Audience fell out laughing again - Congressman Rangel always was a great raconteur).  "And I said, yes, sir.  I used to be." And like Leslie - it wasn't the importance that he was looking for, it was to let you know how you could help somebody.  To spread the word about what was good, what was happening.  He didn't know how to offend anybody with brashness.  And so many of us thought we were his very, very very best friends.  And the remarkable thing about knowing a guy like Leslie is that so many people who didn't know his name, but they knew who he was. So many people scared the heck out of me when they said that the Mayor had passed away;  but the truth of the matter is that, when you have the hearts of so many people the memories he has, those memories live on through different stories.  People may not know exactly what he was doing, but they knew who he was.  And they respected that. It's very sad that a person is described by what year he was born and what year he died, with the dash in between; and that's how he's know. But, I've heard somewhere that what we should remember is that dash. Because you begin to think what did you do with those years in between? And it counts for something when we get up there; because I know Leslie when he gets up there, he's going rearrange everything.  But the most important thing is that if you treat people good, and you try to do the right thing; or, as they say, when you've done the best you can, the more that you do is something that you may feel that you're not getting back; but it counts for something.  And I know that Leslie came into every place with a smile."
The Congressman closed by thanking Leslie's family for allowing us to speak and memorialize him.    

Charles Thomas provided the music

Throughout the entire memorial service, Leslie's Omega brother (and my Oklahoma Homie) Charles Thomas provided music to set the tone for the evening.  Throughout the church you spotted such luminaries as Ann Tripp from Inner City Broadcasting, Bob Tate of Black Elegance, Zack Husser of Issues and Sports, Myrna Long, actress, Debbie McIntyre producer, Eric Frazier, Omega and Jazz musician, fraternity brother Kevin Woodhouse, Dick Parsons; keyboardist, Louis Small and vocalist Devora, - and the list goes on.  

One of my fondest memories of Leslie was at a joint birthday bash held for him and Hank Perkins, owner of Perks Fine Cuisine in Harlem - Leslie is celebrating with the Late Cuba Gooding, Sr of the Main Ingredients, vibraphonist Roy Ayers, and the great empresario and club owner, Hank PERK Perkins. I will always remember him doing what he loved to best partying in Harlem with his friends


Below is a link to his Memorial Ceremony: 


I cannot write enough words to not miss my Brother/Frater/Friend Leslie Wyche.  The sadness I share with us all is overridden at times by all the joy and fun and treasured memories of this great spirit.  Were we able to have wishes come true, I'm sure we would all wish that he was still happy, healthy, energetic, vibrant and on this side of the planet.  But he's now new MAYOR of the realm of the Ancestor Angels, where he can continue his mission of making people happy, being part of everything that happens and crashing every party without paying out of pocket just for the heck of it.  So I am going to try to end this by saying So Long Leslie Until  We Meet Again - we are truly going to miss you.

Stay Blessed