In Loving Memory Of John Wright

In Loving Memory Of John Wright




Wright, John Edward Akiwande ́

August 2, 1965 – January 17, 2023



It is with deep sorrow and profound love that the family of John Edward Akiwande ́ Wright announces his passing on January 17, 2023, at the age of 57 in Poughkeepsie, New York.


John was born on August 2, 1965, in Freetown, Sierra Leone in West Africa to Cyrus Rogers-Wright, barrister at law, and Claudia (May) Harding a retired employee of the NYU School of Medicine. He attended high school at LaSalle Academy in New York City and graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Niagara University. In his early years, John spent many summers upstate New York as a participant in Fresh Air Fund. He was an avid long-distance runner and captained his high school and collegiate cross-country teams. He then went on to receive his Master of Public Administration from the New School.


John is the father of three sons, Caleb Gardner Wright, Elijah Gardner Wright, and Jaylin Speight whom he raised in Brooklyn with his life partner, Regina Woods. It was John’s identity and role as a father that he cherished most. Creating a world of access, equity, beauty, and love for his boys gave him his deepest sense of purpose and was his constant north star.


John was a tireless advocate for his fellow New Yorkers. He served as Assistant Executive Director for the Center for Children and Families/Safespace, Inc. While there, John established one of the first drop-in centers in Times Square for runaway and homeless youth which became a critical resource in the early 1990s for LGBTQ+ and HIV-positive youth who too often had nowhere to feel safe. He was also the Assistant Executive Director of New York City’s oldest African-American-run child welfare agency, the Harlem Dowling-Westside Center.


In 2010, John founded The Wright Group NY, one of the first Black-owned government relations firms in New York City and one of the only firms committed to representing non-profit organizations and the social services sector. The firm’s clients range from some of New York’s largest cultural institutions to smaller non-profits that serve some of the City’s most underinvested communities. John took enormous pride in the numerous legislative advancements he and The Wright Group NY were instrumental in achieving, like New York’s Raise the Age legislation.


What John created in The Wright Group NY was fundamentally unique and grounded in his vision to support New York’s communities and causes that too often are rendered voiceless. John built a firm and brought together a community of those connected by their efforts and commitment to advance justice and equality. John believed that meaningful transformative change could only be achieved when the City’s most marginalized have access to influence and become decision-makers in every aspect of government. He empowered those advocating for equitable solutions to advance systemic change by supporting clients and coalitions and guiding leaders and youth alike. John served as a board member for numerous non-profits, including Harlem United and the Brooklyn Community Foundation. He inspired and mentored so many with his compassion and steadfast dedication to justice and equality


John’s passion and joy for life were infectious to all those around him. He was a creative at heart who loved and supported the arts, music, and theater. He proudly celebrated his cultural and historical roots and was an avid lover and collector of African art. These ventures were equal to his love for animals and the outdoors. John trained dogs and raised rare and exotic birds. At any given time, you could find him enjoying one of his many hobbies: fly fishing, sailing, or kayaking.


John moved through the world with a commanding presence and power. But it was a power not through dominance, but through service and understanding. He was a colorful, spirited, and complex person who was widely respected for not just what he did, but for who he was and how he did it. His inquisitiveness, humility, and thirst for knowledge meant that he was always learning. And John’s openness about his journey and pursuit of personal betterment and healing illustrated the integrity with which he lived his life. John was known for his deep and lasting relationships, brilliant strategic mind, infectious laugh, and his generous and compassionate spirit. He created meaningful connections with each person with whom he interacted and served as a bridge between people, communities, and spaces where he saw synergy, often before others could.


John was preceded in death by his father, Cyrus. He is survived by his mother Claudia, his partner Regina Woods, his three sons Caleb, Elijah and Jaylin, ex-wife and mother to Caleb and Elijah, Tracie M. Gardner, and several aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

  • Tonya Ores
    Posted at 11:46h, 31 January Reply

    John was a true friend and advocate for Neighborhood Housing Services of Brooklyn, CDC, Inc. (NHS Brooklyn). He believed in us before we believed in ourselves. He inspired us to be effective and impactful in everything we do. He will be missed. I pray for his family during their time of loss.

  • Maria Lizardo
    Posted at 13:11h, 31 January Reply

    John loved his family and gave all of himself to this work. His passion for justice and equality was contagious, He worked every angle to use his voice to speak up on behalf of the voiceless. He loved his clients and never shied away from speaking the truth. NMIC was one of his first clients and whenever City and State didn’t list us as one of his “notable clients” he certainly heard from me. To NMIC, he was more than our longtime lobbyist. He was a friend, an ally, advocate and a fierce warrior. During some of my darkest moments in this role, John provided me with guidance, support, and the words I needed to keep pushing forward. Whenever he called, I knew the call would go one of two ways: “Maria what the F are you doing?” or “I was in a meeting and want to give you the heads up that I threw NMIC’s name in the mix”. Once we took care of our business, we caught up on our boys, and life in general. I will miss those calls and my friend. Feeling truly blessed that I had the honor of working alongside John and to be able to call him a friend. Rest easy John. We got it from here……

  • Amy Sananman
    Posted at 13:12h, 31 January Reply

    It is hard to find words to express what a wonderful human being John was. He was a guardian angel , a champion and an advocate for youth and cultural work and a friend to me over many chapters of work and life. I send his family and beloved boys my prayers. He spoke of you often with pride and adoration. May his memory be a blessing

  • Claire Rosenzweig, President & CEO, BBB Serving Metro NY and its Foundation
    Posted at 17:15h, 31 January Reply

    On behalf of BBB Serving Metropolitan New York and the Education & Research Foundation of the BBB of Metro New York, please accept our expression of deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

  • Winifred Schiff
    Posted at 17:46h, 31 January Reply

    I am fortunate to have known John through the years and will miss his spirit and friendship!

  • Sheila Poole
    Posted at 05:25h, 01 February Reply

    I would take a call from John the minute I heard he wanted to speak with me. The conversation typically began with a few
    expletives strung together in a way only John could deliver followed by a passionate demand for what the state needed to do. John was a true force behind NYS’s Raise the Age and other youth reforms. I will cherish memories of standing with him at the edge of the lake at Harriman State Park where he shared his love for the Fresh Air program and advocated for expansion. We often weren’t able to deliver what John advocated for on behalf of so many but it wasn’t due to a lack of his passionate advocacy. A good man, a life lived so fully and a loss for this world.

  • Glenn E Martin
    Posted at 09:04h, 01 February Reply

    John taught me how to navigate the halls of power with confidence, courage and privilege. He will be missed. RIP.

  • Robert Hayes
    Posted at 10:25h, 01 February Reply

    John’s political brilliance was matched by the warmth of his heart, and of course his laughter. He is missed, sadly.

  • Renee Jenkins
    Posted at 11:40h, 01 February Reply

    John was amazing to work with. He always had a feverish optimism about the world and cared so deeply about social justice issues. I will fondly remember his laugh and how he always would cheer on our efforts at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. May he rest in eternal peace.

  • Vinny Montalbano
    Posted at 13:21h, 01 February Reply

    Rest in peace my colleague and friend. It was always a joy to be with you at City Hall. You were a credit to our public advocacy profession; achieving policy decisions that made many persons’ lives measurably and observably better. You did good, John. Please watch over us so we can do the same.

  • Jacquel Clemons
    Posted at 14:26h, 01 February Reply

    Rest well, my friend.

  • Val Charles-Pierre,
    Posted at 20:31h, 01 February Reply

    John Wright was a man of many talents and passions. He dedicated much of his life to serving underprivileged communities and helping non-profits. He was a true advocate for those in need and made a positive impact on so many lives. He was also a proud father of three sons, who will no doubt miss his love and guidance.

    John’s passion for making a difference extended to his professional life as well, where he started a successful lobbying firm in New York. He was known for his jovial and boisterous personality and always put a smile on those around him.

    As one of my very first clients, I was fortunate enough to work with John and experience first-hand the positive impact he had on those around him. He will be deeply missed, and I am saddened by the news of his passing. John will always be remembered for his kindness, generosity, and unwavering commitment to making a difference in the world.

    Rest in Paradise, my friend.

    Val Charles-Pierre & The Eminent One Solutions Family

  • Kimberly George
    Posted at 10:47h, 02 February Reply

    We will always remember John as a passionate change-maker in the world, who embraced us with his generous and compassionate spirit. We are incredibly saddened that he passed, and offer our deepest sympathy and support to his family, friends and colleagues. John left an indelible mark on our work, and will be missed by the entire nonprofit community. Thank you for setting an example for us all. We will strive to carry out your vision for a more equitable world.

  • Everett Arthur
    Posted at 09:02h, 03 February Reply

    Although I only worked with John briefly, I’ll never forget his dedication to making New York better for people that looked like me. His laughter was infectious, and I hope wherever he finds himself in the next life he is surrounded by others that love him as much in this one.

  • Cecelia Hawkins
    Posted at 11:37h, 03 February Reply

    May his soul rest in peace and lets not forget the good work in which he started. May God comfort his in their time of bereavement.

  • Jeffrey Rosenstock
    Posted at 18:30h, 04 February Reply

    John you were a force – a noble, hardworking and warm and tough guy who put his soul into your work and gave us guidance, faith and also bucks from the city for cultural organizations. You took the time to understand the different needs and priorities of the smaller CIG’s like Queens Theatre in the Park when you took us all under your wing. I learned how to lobby by watching how deeply persuading you were. May you Rest In Peace and may your memory be a
    Blessing to all.

  • Katha Cato
    Posted at 20:30h, 05 February Reply

    What is said about this man reveals how much he gave to everyone. How so many have been affected by his attention to what matters speaks to how he reached beyond himself. I truly feel that what he gave all of you will never leave you. He is part of you. What an incredible legacy.

  • Jennifer March
    Posted at 20:47h, 08 February Reply

    John played a critical role in sustaining and propelling the people with whom he worked and the work of advocacy ever forward. Along the way he reminded us that our shared commitment to combat unacceptable disparities and discrimination and the job of championing needed budget or legislative priorities was deeply personal. He saw each and every one of us as human, with unlimited potential as individuals and unstoppable when acting in concert and collectively. He had a big wide open heart and an incredible ability to bring humor to really trying situations. I am profoundly grateful to have worked along side John on many city and statewide campaigns, and value deeply his friendship. I and the entire team at CCC hold John, his family, friends and colleagues in our thoughts and prayers.

  • Kathleen Siedor
    Posted at 17:28h, 09 February Reply

    I am touched by his good work and so proud of all the good people who follow him. May we all aspire to be that kind and giving of ourselves. I wish his family peace.

  • Ayanna Cole
    Posted at 11:47h, 10 February Reply

    John recognized the power in people and alliances before they saw it in themselves. I was struck by his honesty, humor and passion the moment we met. What a wonderful person. It was an honor to know him.

  • Rev. Adriene Thorne
    Posted at 08:37h, 11 February Reply

    Though we moved in many of the same circles, I did not have the great joy of knowing John Wright. I did, however, have the honor and privilege of delivering his eulogy, meeting his mom, partner, and sons. What a life. What a legacy. He shines in those he touched and lives on in those he leaves behind. What most stands out for me was his gift for connection. I pray that it will inspire us all to carry a bit of his passion and power in our own lives.

    In the days since John died, I’ve heard stories about some of those he touched, and I’ve learned that John had many connections with many people from many walks of life. He built a firm and brought together a community of those connected by their efforts and commitment to advance beauty, creativity, justice and equity. And in the long run, it’s connection that makes life full. It’s connection that puts us in touch with what’s most important about living. It’s connection that reminds us that we were created to live together, to savor life together, to share ourselves and who we are together. Connection is a part of God’s plan and John was a part of God’s plan. May John live on in us.

  • Tom Maroon
    Posted at 00:38h, 16 February Reply

    You knocked on my dorm door and woke me up before 8am on a Sunday morning. I was shocked that you were already dressed. Most college kids are lucky to be up before noon. I was even more shocked that you had been visiting at the nursing home that our volunteer group had been to a few times. You cried and cried after visiting an elderly person, Viola, who was so lonely. You felt her pain, no, you embraced her pain. You were willing to take it from her and make it your own. Viola touched you and seeing your compassion touched me. I finally may have met someone who was more committed to being of service than I was. We spent the next few years learning what it meant to be of service and building a world of justice. Look at all the things you’ve done!! The world is better because of you. I’m so proud of you John. Welcome home you good and faithful servant. Rest in Peace my friend.

  • Joshua Rivera
    Posted at 08:35h, 17 February Reply

    We were all blessed to have had the good fortune to have known John. His passion for advocating for those in the shadows was evident and he worked tirelessly on their behalf. John was a brilliant strategist, keenly observing the world we operated within. I’ll miss our chats on the steps or the last minute phone call to remind me of a priority he was supporting or just to touch base.
    You’ll be missed my friend. Sleep in peace,

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