Countless stories exist of young people who did not get the opportunity to realize their potential because they died too soon. Fewer are remembered decades later.
Seke Willis, a Westinghouse House High School football star in the early 1990s, was one of those people. He was a kid from the Westside whose life was taken too soon.
His cousin, filmmaker Dorian Welch, created a film to honor him. It’s called “Live Fast Die Young: Chi-Bangin,” released early this year on Tubi to mark the 30th anniversary of Willis’s death.
“I wanted to tell his story in a positive light,” said Welch, who directed and produced the film.
A Light Extinguished Too Soon
According to reports and people like Welch, that’s precisely what Willis was — a positive light.
Welch described his cousin as a late bloomer with unreal athletic gifts.
For instance, Willis made the Westinghouse varsity football team as a freshman, despite only playing sandlot football in the past.
As a sophomore, he was already the best player on his team. Even then, he was getting attention from colleges and developing a reputation for toughness.
For instance, as his team was getting blown out 45-0 in a playoff game against Lane Tech, Willis’s teammates were ready to give up. However, he kept on fighting. He took to the field as a halfback, and the other team battered him.
“He was tired, his hands were swollen, but he wouldn’t stop playing,” said one of his assistant coaches.
Willis was energetic and possessed an infectious sense of humor off the field.
“He had a great personality,” remembered Welch.” Everybody loved Seke. He was a good role model in the city.”
However, on a Saturday in April 1993, Willis asked his mother for permission to attend a party a few blocks away. He was getting together with friends to celebrate the start of Spring Break.
Around 11 p.m., as the party was in full swing, two men from the apartment complex tried to crash the event. That’s when an argument started, and a fight spilled out into the walkway. Friends told the Tribune then that Willis, who often broke up fights at school, tried to mediate this dispute.
One of those men pulled out an AK-47 assault rifle and fired two shots into the crowd. According to a witness, Willis had tried to pull a woman and her child out of the line of fire when the second bullet hit him.
“He died before he hit the ground,” recalled Welch, “It was real emotional. A lot of people were sad.”
Taking Pain and Making Something Positive
Welch said that he got nightmares from having to view Willis’s body.
But, as he got older, he wanted to make films. Welch, who now lives in Florida, mainly wanted to make a movie about his cousin’s life, his way of turning something painful into something positive.
That’s how “Live Fast Die Young: Chi-Bangin” was born in 2017 when it was initially released. The 48-minute movie is distinctly Chicago. It honors Willis and recognizes DJ George, who is responsible for the film’s soundtrack.
“Live Fast Die Young” features Willis’s son as a lead actor. Willis’s gravestone also appears in one of the film’s opening scenes.
When asked what he wants people to get from his film, Welch said he wants them to “be positive in life and be a role model.”
“Do something positive in the community for the people to look up to,” he added.
Just like his cousin.