A California man has three words for a New York judge who he says prematurely declared his demise: I’m not dead.
Kwame Seku of San Diego says he is the former Winston Bright, a Verizon worker and married father of three missing for two decades and deemed deceased by a judge in 2000.
“My name is no longer Winston Bright. It is Kwame Seku,” the 65-year-old former East Village resident wrote in a letter this month to a Manhattan Surrogate’s Court judge. “And I am the same person.”
He claims in court papers a DNA test he took in New York with his mother, Mary Bright, in December proves he is her very much alive son — and that he is entitled to Verizon benefits because he worked for the company for 20 years.
Verizon officials said they will follow the court order ruling Seku dead and continue paying survivor benefits to his wife, Leslie Bright.
Bright, left with the kids, no money and too many questions all those years ago, promises to fight her husband. She went to Surrogate’s Court in 2000 seeking a judge’s ruling that Winston Bright was dead. That was eight years after Seku first showed up on public records in California.
Seku claims he has had amnesia for 20 years and adopted his new name while wandering the streets of California.
The amnesia story doesn’t fly with Bright, who says Seku just left home one day in 1992 and never returned. “He kissed me on the cheek, called me at lunchtime like he always did and again when he was on his way home,” she told the Daily News. “He never made it.”
Seku went to California and reinvented himself with an African name he picked out of a magazine because he liked the way it sounded. He earned a master’s degree, taught public school and worked with troubled boys, like he always wanted. But while Seku was living the dream, his family was falling apart. They lost their Stuyvesant Town apartment and moved into a public housing project.
“We had it rough. We had no money,” Bright said. One son, Aaron, dealt drugs and got arrested. Another, Eric, is still in prison.
Meanwhile, she said, she didn’t hear from her husband’s family for those 20 years, making her wonder if he had run off and was staying in touch with them.
“I will go at him for back child support, cat support, everything!” Bright said. “If he wants a fight, I’ll give him a fight!”
A woman answering the door at the Harlem apartment of Seku’s mother said she would not comment.
Seku said he has had his own problems.
“I don’t care if she believes it or not,” he said of Bright’s skepticism. “Making your life without ID is a tough job, and I did it for years. I can’t waste time entertaining her.” With Ginger Adams Otis