Fatimah Ali, the unmistakable voice that welcomed listeners on the WURD900am airwaves with her show “The Real Deal with Fatimah Ali,” has died. The station announced in a statement that the veteran journalist, whose career spanned print and broadcast, died Tuesday morning. She was 55.
Ali, who spoke of her career beginning in 1981, last appeared on the airwaves on Jan. 23 following her show. Details surrounding her death are currently unavailable but she did inform listeners that she was battling a cold.
“She will be deeply, deeply missed here at WURD. She provided a fiery program, our 10 to 12 noon show Monday through Friday called the Real Deal with Fatimah Ali and she was a veteran journalist; an outspoken critic of culture and education,” said Sara Lomax-Reese, president and general manager of WURD 900am Radio.
Lomax-Reese shared what she believed Ali’s legacy would be.
“She was an advocate of prisoners and incarcerated men and women and she just spoke truth to power and that was really her legacy of not being intimidated and not backing down to anyone regardless of their title or position,” she said.
“So, she was just a real, outspoken advocate for people who didn’t have a voice.”
The tributes have continued to pour in following Ali’s unexpected death from colleagues and friends who lauded not only her, but her remarkable career. In addition to her stint at WURD, Ali was a former Philadelphia Daily News columnist and held other positions in the field she loved.
Ali is survived by her husband Natu Ali and five children, Ariell Hughes, Khadija Ahmaddiya, Rashida Ali, Yasmin Ali and Malik Ahmaddiya.
Service information is pending, but WURD 900am said that a tribute in her honor will be held on Friday Jan. 27.
For over 40 years, Black talk radio has played a pivotal role in shaping the dialogue in the African-American community. It has been the eyes, ears and mouthpiece for some of the nation’s most meaningful periods of change — from the civil rights era to the election of the nation’s first African-American president.
Philadelphia — and WURD Radio, LLC specifically — has been at the forefront of creating its own unique imprint on this important medium. In 2002, Walter P. Lomax Jr. M.D. purchased 900AM-WURD, providing the resources that would allow Philadelphia to keep an independent, African American-owned radio station on the airwaves. Since that time, WURD has become, not just the only Black talk radio station in the City of Philadelphia, but the only such entity in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
This year, the station’s line-up was rocked by the death of veteran journalist Fatimah Ali, who hosted the popular mid-morning show, “The Real Deal.” After several weeks of guest hosts, Stephanie Renée (songstress, songwriter and self-described “VibeMistress”) was selected to be a permanent talk show host. Music fans are quite familiar with Renée’s voice, which has been featured on several major label commercial recordings, including “Who Is Jill Scott” and Patti LaBelle’s “When A Woman Loves.” Within the span of two months, “The Mid-Morning Mojo” has launched Renée as a media voice to be reckoned with.
“One of the things that I am very thankful of is being the only female voice that is consistent five days a week in the line-up — I don’t feel any pressure to be anything besides myself,” said Renée during a rare moment of downtime. “There is a certain level of ‘Mama-Bearness’ that I naturally have, and so being able to bring that kind of awareness or sensibility to subjects like education or the problem of violence in our city, to be able to look for stories that appeal to that side of me and to share that with the audience, brings a different kind of voice than we have in any other slot during our line-up during the week. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to bring that consistently to the listeners, and they’ve reacted very positively to it.”
This month, WURD Radio released a free mobile app for both iPhones and Androids so listeners could have easy access to live on-air programming wherever they go. The WURD App screen includes an icon to access the 900AM website, as well as an email icon that links directly to the phone user’s email system to send feedback or troubleshooting issues to the station’s business office. With the recent launch of new programming — including new hosts Renée and Nick Taliaferro — plus the Night Al show, the new app makes it easier to listen to the station on mobile devices across the entire broadcast day.
“The expansion of our ‘On Air, Online and In Community’ presence is further positioning 900AM as the destination station of choice in the tri-state area,” said Sara Lomax Reese, president and general manager, WURD Radio, LLC. “Strengthening our digital assets and presence in the marketplace is an important component of our overall growth strategy.”
Stephanie Renée hosts “The Mid-Morning Mojo” on WURD 900AM, Monday–Friday from 10 a.m. to noon. The WURD app can be downloaded through mobile app store providers.
The country is rapidly transitioning to a globalized economy where lack of access to information, computer and technology skills and access to internet/broadband, are impairing the community’s economic and cultural advancement. These “digital divides,” however, not only affect people, but businesses within the communications industries, particularly those businesses that have historically served minority and low-income communities. Over time, the rising costs of communications infrastructure, changing of business models to online platforms, as well as a tremendous shift of online consumer behaviors are causing these businesses to struggle to stay alive.
On Monday, this matter will be discussed with three longstanding communications and telecommunications companies in Philadelphia: Wilco Electronic Systems Inc., one of the largest African-American owned private cable operators in the Eastern United States, 900AM-WURD, the only African-American owned talk radio station in Pennsylvania, and The Philadelphia Tribune, the oldest continuously published African-American newspaper in the United States. The panel will feature a special keynote address from Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn — one of only five African American FCC commissioners.
One of the issues being addressed on Monday will be the FCC National Broadband Plan to narrow the digital divide for underserved individuals and communities. For example, according to Reuters, the recent Comcast-NBC Universal merger created “a $30 billion media behemoth that controls not just how television shows and movies are made but how they are delivered to people’s homes.”
“Having heard a perspective from a policy standpoint that is really at the forefront of talking about the digital divide and being that voice to make sure that the Comcast NBC Universal merger had stipulations incorporated specifically to address broadband access and making sure that low income and different franchise communities would be included in that merger, and part of that merger was the reason it got okayed was because they agreed to make low-cost and affordable broadband access available to low income communities, world communities, etc.,” explained Sara Lomax-Reese, president of WURD. “So, that recognition that the digital divide is a real chasm in terms of access on many, many fronts and it is racial; it is socioeconomic; it’s age — there are so many elements that kind of create that disconnect but it really does come down to racial and social economic issues.”
The panel will explore the challenges that these companies have to stay relevant in the digital age, what they are doing to change with the times and remain trusted community providers. Lomax added: “I wish that our community was a little more concerned about the way we are being spoonfed information and culture — if you even want to call it culture — through the mainstream media, and the only way that we are going to be able to counter that is if we support Black-owned media like The Philadelphia Tribune, WURD and Wilco Electronics, and that is the reason for Monday’s event: is to really bring our three Philadelphia long-standing Black-owned media entities together to talk about our past, our present and our future — and then also integrating some digital media experts into that conversation to talk about what it takes to create a real successful digital enterprise because that is the next frontier.”
“Blackout: Reinventing Black Media In The Digital Age” is a free public event on Monday, April 22, 2013 - 5:30pm to 7:30pm at the Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street. Listen live on 900amwurd.com or watch it live on phillycam.org and Comcast 66/966 or Verizon 29/30.
The city remembered the late veteran journalist Fatimah Ali at her “Celebration of Life” memorial service on Monday, Jan. 30.
It was standing room only at the Summit Presbyterian Church, Greene Street and Westview Avenue in the West Mount Airy section of the city.
Family, childhood and college friends, journalism colleagues, sister friends and listeners to “The Real Deal with Fatimah Ali” which aired daily on 900AM WURD were on hand. They filled the church where Ali was baptized, made confirmation and grew up attending Sunday School before converting to Islam.
Among those who gave remarks were Mayor Michael Nutter, Art Sanctuary director Lorene Cary of Mount Airy, poet Sonia Sanchez of West Germantown, WURD general manager Sara Lomax-Reese of Mount Airy, Barbara Grant, the former Philadelphia New Observer editor Helen Blue of West Oak Lane, and actor Tom Page from Freedom Theatre.
Childhood friends and family members also gave their tributes during the community memorial.
For West Mount Airy native Pamela Chestnut it was an emotional experience. Though she readily admitted she never met Ali, she knows many who knew her personally and she herself has been an avid listener of her morning radio show for the past year. Chestnut used to read Ali’s columns in the Philadelphia Daily News and the former Philadelphia New Observer.
“She was such an inspirational sister,” Chestnut said. “She advocated for education, those who were incarcerated and the homeless. She was just so honest and direct. I knew that I had to come here to pay tribute to someone who affected our community so much,
“I am also concerned about her children,” she added. “I know that she had a strong family, but like most of us there are struggles. Though I can’t donate much at this time, when I get some money soon I plan to give more. I understand, like she did, that it takes a village to rear our children, and we have to ensure that hers will be okay.”
Zahfar Rashied of Germantown was busily taking photographs and video footage of what he referred to as “an historical moment.”
He was hired by Ali at WDAS-FM in 1990 when she was the news director, he said. Rashied remembered that she always patiently worked with him as he was learning the ropes of the broadcast industry.
“She was always a tremendously giving and supportive person,” he said. “When I heard the news I was saddened. I know that she’s not here — but the way she lived her life — she is continuing her journey now. God sends us persons like her to teach us how to walk on this earth.”
Among the memories that radio salesperson and photographer Saundra Ali — not related to Fatimah — had about the late journalist was their last conversation and email.
The two Alis were brainstorming about a cookbook in which Fatimah Ali, a gourmet cook, would pen the recipes and Saundra Ali would provide the photos. They also toyed with the idea of starting a national African-American newspaper.
“We said the book was going to make us rich,” said Saundra Ali, who coordinated Fatimah Ali’s Muslim funeral, held in West Philadelphia on Friday. “We were going to meet about the newspaper idea, but she sent me an email the night before she died saying that she didn’t feel well and just wanted to sleep. I am glad the last time I saw her that we hugged and she said to me, ‘You are my sister.’ That’s how I’ll always remember her.”
Among the tributes that were read by broadcaster and SCOOP USA columnist Thera Martin Millings was a testimonial from Fran Aulston, founder and director of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Paul Robeson House. Aulston and Cary noted Fatimah Ali had a commitment to the arts.
“She was just an aware sister,” said Raja Thomas of Germantown. “I learned about life from her. I started reading the One Step Away newspaper for and by the homeless because of her show. She understood what it is to be human. That’s why she’s up there with the saints now.”
Governor Tom Corbett has appointed community leaders to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs.
The commission advises and makes recommendations to the governor on policies, procedures, legislation and regulations that affect the African-American community. It works to articulate and address the unique needs and issues of concerns of the African-American community.
“The history of African Americans in Pennsylvania reflects a diverse and unique blend of cultural, social and economic influences which have had, and continue to have, a beneficial impact on life in the commonwealth,” Corbett said.
The 18-member commission will be chaired by Karen Stokes, deputy director, Governor’s Southeast Regional Office.
“I think there is some work ahead, but I’m excited to be able to put together a really pretty neat group of people, who I think are going to have some interesting and different ideas about how the commonwealth can be more responsive to African Americans,” says Stokes.
The following have been named as commission members: Otto Banks, Dauphin County; Wayne Barnett, Philadelphia County; Rev. James Breese, Luzerne County; Fred Clark, Dauphin County; Elizabeth Dennis, Allegheny County; Evan Frazier, Allegheny County; Maurice Goodman, Philadelphia County; Rev. Terrence Griffith, Philadelphia County; Cathy Hardaway, Lackawanna County; Rodney Little, Philadelphia County; Sara Lomax Reese, Montgomery County; Marcia Perry, Dauphin County; Rev. Michael Robinson, Delaware County; Dr. Kiron Skinner, Allegheny County; Ronald Steele, Erie County; Bishop A.E. Sullivan Jr., Dauphin County and Floyd Titus, Allegheny County.
Members are appointed for a 2-year term and serve at the pleasure of the governor.
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ) have announced a tombstone dedication at the gravesite of Reginald A. Bryant on Saturday, April 27, at Eden Cemetery, 1434 Springfield Rd. in Collingdale. The dedication ceremony begins at 2 p.m. and the public is welcome.
Bryant was a founder of NABJ and PABJ. He was a veteran broadcaster and media consultant as well as a writer, filmmaker and artist.
“Reggie Bryant was visionary,” said NABJ President Greg Lee. “He was one of 44 people who had the courage and foresight to form the National Association of Black Journalists. He left us too soon, but the legacy he had left is everlasting. It is the least that NABJ can do is to contribute to his legacy with this special tombstone.”
Reggie’s intellect was often confrontational, and at the same time, to many, who were not threatened by it, was a challenge and an inspiration, according to NABJ and PABJ founder Acel Moore.
“His greatest significance is that he was an innovative educator,” he said. “I miss him.”
Bryant’s broadcast practice expanded into a groundbreaking television interview program, “Black Perspectives on the News,” a news program on WHYY in Philadelphia that featured prominent newsmakers from 1973 to 1978. The program was seen on 170 stations across the country.
In spring 2011, PABJ members organized a community service project at Eden Cemetery. The chapter arranged for area photographers to donate their time to photograph the historic Eden tombstones and resting place of famous African Americans, such as Octavius Catto and Marian Anderson.
One volunteer stumbled across the unmarked grave of Bryant. That volunteer was Bobbi Booker, Reggie’s former colleague.
The NABJ Convention came to Philadelphia later that year and former PABJ president Sarah Glover asked NABJ to join PABJ in raising money to place a tombstone at Reggie’s resting place. NABJ and PABJ members along with Reggie’s station, WURD 900AM, helped with the fundraising effort. With the family’s blessing, NABJ and PABJ coordinated the purchase, design and installation of the tombstone.
Reggie was an avid reader and believed strongly in the power of education.
The top of the stone is in the shape of a book and has an inscription with one of Reggie’s famous sayings: “It’s not what you know that gets you in trouble, it’s what you know that’s just not so.”
“Reggie Bryant’s legacy as a founder of PABJ and NABJ will be carried on for generations,” said PABJ President Johann Calhoun. “I remember Reggie from his broadcast days at WURD 900AM, where he spoke truth to power. He embodied the meaning of civic journalism – not being afraid to speak out against the powers that ran Philadelphia and this nation for the little man struggling in the streets.”
During his long career, Bryant interviewed five U.S. presidents, 52 Pulitzer Prize winning authors and had been commended by hundreds of organizations for his community service.
Bryant’s mentee, colleague and friend I. Robin “Bobbi” Booker said, “Reggie Bryant was a multimedia master, who, via the medium of radio, conducted daily lessons on ‘The Art of Pro-and-Conversation.’ I miss him everyday…143~”
Other journalists shared similar sentiments.
“It is fitting NABJ and PABJ announce Reggie’s tombstone dedication today on the third anniversary of his death,” Glover said. “He’s sorely missed on Philadelphia’s airwaves. Reggie stood for justice and spoke his mind. His spirit lives on and it’s humbling to celebrate his legacy together.”
Bryant was a legend in journalism and talk radio, according to WURD President and General Manager Sara Lomax-Reese.
“He was the consummate wordsmith who spent years dazzling us with his wise, well researched interviews,” she said. “As we celebrate our 10th anniversary this year, we at WURD are guided by his spirit of substantive, passionate, informed dialogue. We are grateful for the path he has paved for us.”