About AJ Cooper III
AJ Cooper III’s delightful sense of humor, bold laugh and tenacious spirit were reflected in his commitment to public service. His zest for life attracted allies in the most unlikely places. As the Policy Director for DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, he was well known throughout the Wilson Building, especially among those who championed the cause of making life better for young people in this city. Cooper’s advocacy efforts resulted in the DC City Council’s “Half by 2015” resolution, marking the first time that the city government set a goal for teen pregnancy prevention. He also led a coalition to persuade the Council to allocate $2M for grants in teen pregnancy prevention.
In 2012, Cooper ran as a first time candidate for City Councilmember At-Large. His citywide, community-based campaign resulted in over 25,000 votes in a 7-candidate race and the registration of thousands of young voters. All the while, Cooper continued to volunteer in the community, regularly organizing and implementing voter registration drives, coat drives, community clean-ups and charity walks.
Recognizing the glaring need to repair the cycle of intergenerational poverty in his hometown, Cooper founded Freedom Farms, an urban agriculture company with the mission of providing access to healthy food, economic opportunity and sustainable workforce development through commercial aquaponics farming. Freedom Farms built a number of school- and community-based gardens in Ward 8 and won the Harvard Business School Alumni Business Plan Competition prize for "Greatest Potential Impact".
In November 2014, Jay announced his intention to run for the Ward 4 City Council seat soon to be vacated by then-Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser. He “wanted to be a voice for those who have no voice, speak for those who were not being heard and represent people about whom no one seems to care.”
Just before Thanksgiving, he became engaged to his best friend and “co-pilot”, Ms. Ryan Palmer. Ever the romantic, he proposed to her in the same spot where they had kissed for the very first time at Banneker Academic High School, nearly two decades prior. Amidst the elation that the couple felt, Cooper's commitment to his community was unwavering: after an early dinner, the couple attended two community meetings together that very evening. Cooper spent his last days organizing and participating in protests and community conversations around the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.
Algernon Johnson Cooper, III passed away suddenly on December 3, 2014 in the house where he was born. Well-loved, kind, sensitive to the needs of others, wise, considerate and compassionate, Jay touched many lives and was a great source of energy and inspiration to all. He was loved by many and is dearly missed.
“We need to turn all of this energy, all of this passion, all of this pain, into power, into something positive, into real change that will improve outcomes in people’s lives…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.”
- AJ Cooper III
December 1, 2014