Black Power founder Reitu Harris dies

4:58 pm on 12 July 2017

The founding president of the Black Power gang, Reitu Harris, has died.

Reitu Harris

Reitu Harris Photo: Supplied

In the 1970s, Mr Harris established the gang to help other Māori boys who had been in state care and were disconnected from their marae and iwi.

In the 1980s, he formed a political relationship with Rob Muldoon and Matiu Rata and was able to establish employment for people living in the city.

The Wellington chapter of Black Power took his body to the steps of Parliament yesterday and performed a haka to acknowledge Mr Harris' relationships with politicians.

Reitu Harris's body is carried to the steps of Parliament for a haka.

Reitu Harris's body is carried to the steps of Parliament for a haka. Photo: Supplied

Black Power life member and friend Denis O'Reilly said, even though they were young and rebellious and committed offences, they were not criminals.

"He tried to give young people a notion of recovering their sense of Māoridom.

"To an extent, his life's work has been done. In the '70s a lot of those young people didn't know their marae or their hapū or their iwi and if you ask this generation now, they do."

Eugene Ryder of Black Power Wellington said Mr Harris was a hard worker and loved his children and mokopuna.

"He created a safe environment for us to live in and demonstrate that regardless of stature you could actually make a difference and he helped demonstrate leadership among people who struggled to find or receive leadership."

Jarrod Gilbert, author of the book Patched: The History of New Zealand Gangs said Mr Harris had a great social conscience and fundamentally moulded the Black Power's pro-society stance.

He said Mr Harris would not let Black Power members use they swastika symbol like the Mongrel Mob, because of what it symbolised.

"There are some incredibly positive elements to Rei Harris but he was still a gangster. He had to fight for his territory and he had to fight for his leadership position and he made no bones about it that dealing marijuana was a key component of the gang scene.

"He wasn't a saint but within his realm he was a very significant figure and on balance, relative within the gang scene, he was an immensely positive force."

Mr Harris was born in 1951. He passed away on Sunday and his funeral is expected to be held tomorrow at Rakeiao Marae in Rotoiti.

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