Heshimu Jaramogi, 67, a veteran journalist who worked in radio, published the Neighborhood Leader newspaper, and once served as president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, died of cancer Tuesday, Jan. 14, at his home in Philadelphia.
Mr. Jaramogi was born in Philadelphia, the first of two children of the late James Henry Wilson Sr. and Rosa Braxton Wilson.
He was a graduate of West Catholic High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northeastern Illinois University.
During the political activism of the 1970s, Mr. Jaramogi, who was born James Henry Wilson Jr., changed his name to a Swahili one because he no longer wanted the name of enslaved ancestors, said his daughter, Asha Jaramogi.
In the early 1980s, he was a radio producer at WHYY and hosted the program Let’s Talk About It. In a career that spanned nearly 40 years, he also worked at several other radio stations, including WUSL (Power 99 FM), WDAS-FM (105.3), WCAU-AM (1210), and WRTI-FM (90.1).
He later started Jaramogi Communications and published his own newspaper, where he not only wrote stories but took photographs as well.
In 2011, the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Michael Days, vice president for diversity and inclusion at The Inquirer, met Mr. Jaramogi years ago when they both worked out of the City Hall pressroom.
“Heshimu was a remarkable human being, a terrific journalist, and entrepreneur who was multitasking on all kinds of platforms long before most of us had a clue,” Days said.
“And he did not do drive-by conversations. They were usually nuanced and thoughtful and designed to make you think deeply about your own positions, and maybe challenge yourself. Through it all, there would usually be a lot of laughter involved. He’s been my brother for almost 35 years. It’s going to take me more than a minute to make peace with his passing.”
Karen Warrington, a former WDAS radio host and former spokesperson for both former Mayor Wilson Goode and former U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, knew Mr. Jaramogi early in his career.
“Heshimu was a solid media professional who successfully navigated his way through the rapidly changing media landscape while always serving as an important voice of the African American community. He was a cultural brother whose African-centric point of view informed him as a communicator.”
Mr. Jaramogi also served for a time as an adjunct professor in journalism at Temple University and worked with Temple professor Linn Washington’s multimedia reporting lab.
“He was good at both audio and video,” Washington said. “And he had a sensibility and sensitivity for urban reporting. He was engaging with the students and he made the transition to teaching very quickly. It’s often hard for working reporters to translate skills that they know almost automatically and delineate them in a classroom setting. He was able to do that.”
Asha Jaramogi said her father explained black history and the black experience to her at an early age. While she was still very young, he took her to see the film Amistad, a true story about African captives who overthrew the ship taking them into slavery and tried to steer it back to the African continent.
“We talked about whether I may have been too young when he started telling me about our history. But he gave me a good foundation of what it is to be black in America.”
Asha Jaramogi said her father was very spiritual and exposed her to a variety of religious beliefs.
“He took me to different types of services, Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal, Yoruba, and to Quaker meetings even before he became a Quaker. He had a strong fascination with religion,” she said. “He never tried to push anything on me, but he wanted me to have a healthy curiosity about religion.”
Raised in the Catholic Church, Mr. Jaramogi had at one point thought about becoming a Catholic priest, Asha said. He later became a Yoruba priest and also a Quaker.
WRTI-FM radio jazz host Bobbi Booker, who also hosts a Sunday morning show called Spirit Soul Music on Ovations, said Mr. Jaramogi was engaged in a number of African religions and sometimes contributed to the program.
That spiritual quest may have contributed to how he carried himself, Booker said.
“He was always upstanding, always a gentleman, and carried himself in a respectful way,” Booker said.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Jaramogi is survived by a son, Anwar Malik Neale-Jaramogi; a granddaughter; a sister; his partner, Tremain Smith; and other relatives and friends.