The city of Washington D.C. is mourning the loss of one its most passionate activists and educators.
Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a co-founder of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and avid philanthropist, died Sunday from complications with pneumonia, the Washington Post reports. She was 70.
The school became a magnet school model that produced a number of performers from the country’s capital including comedian Dave Chappelle, opera star Denyce Graves, and singer Stacey Lattisaw, according to USA Today.
A constant in D.C.’s social and political scene, Cooper Cafritz was equal parts socialite, philanthropist, activist and public official.
“She had many detractors, but what cannot be taken away from her is the singular achievement of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts,” political commentator Mark Plotkin said of Cooper Cafritz. “She was not a consensus builder or namby-pamby if she wanted to accomplish something.”
Born in Mobile, Ala. before moving to Washington D.C. for college, Cafritz was a perennial champion for the arts and education. In different periods of her life, she chaired the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, served as vice chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities under President Bill Clinton, and was elected the president of the D.C. Board of Education.
She also earned Peabody and Emmy Awards for her work in public media, and at one point in time, she was recognized for having one of the largest private collections of African-American and African art in the country. Most of the work was destroyed in 2009 in a house fire, the Post reports.
Cafritz is survived by her three children, two brothers, a sister and three grandchildren.
Our prayers are with her family.