A.J. Cooper III, a former host of BET’s Teen Summit and an aspiring politician, died on Wednesday morning, the Washington Post reports.
The 34-year-old reportedly collapsed at his mother’s home after complaining of dizziness and chest pains, according to his aunt, Peggy Cooper Cafritz. She said he had been feeling unwell for several days.
Cooper, a D.C. resident, had been running for a city council seat left vacant by the upcoming mayor, Muriel E. Bowser. He intended to launch a political career just as his father, Algernon Johnson Cooper, had in 1972, when he became the first Black mayor elected in predominantly white Pritchard, Alabama.
During his high school and college years, Cooper became a familiar face to many African-Americans of his generation as the host of Teen Summit. Cooper had also served as the policy director for the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy after graduating from the University of Maryland in 2009.
Cooper embarked on his political career in 2012 when he ran as an independent for an at-large D.C. Council seat. He finished fourth and then immediately launched another run as a Democrat, a race from which he later withdrew, the Washington Post reports.
In addition to politics, Cooper committed himself to Freedom Farms, a local urban farming initiative that provides produce for and employs low-income D.C. residents.
“He loved the city, and he loved serving the people in the city, from the elderly to the young,” Cooper’s aunt told the Washington Post. “Jay was just on the verge of bursting forth.”
His most recent activism included protesting the fatal police shooting of Ferguson, Missouri, teenager Michael Brown. Cooper reportedly helped to organize a protest earlier in the week outside Justice Department headquarters.
"All I can say is that all of the emotions you are feeling need to be channeled into political power,” Cooper wrote on his Facebook page after a grand jury declined to indict the shooter Darren Wilson, the Washington Post reports. “Let that burning feeling in your gut be the fuel to power a movement. Otherwise when the smoke clears all we will have left are tears and ashes.”
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(Photo: A.J. Cooper III via Twitter)