Nearly four months after the death of journalist and broadcaster Fatimah Ali, close friend Aqueelah Jamal is teaming with musicians, poets and other artists to celebrate her life and love for the arts.
Jamal, who is the current host of “Jazz and Conversation” on WURD 900AM, first met Ali while working at Temple University’s radio station WRTI 90.1 FM and the two became close friends since.
“From the first time I met her, saw her, heard her first speak, there was a connection,” said Jamal of that time. “We rekindled our relationship about a year ago in March when I happened to go outside and there she was.”
Jamal would discover that Ali, who had since made a name for herself on air, happened to live right up the street from her at the time.
“Not only were we neighbors but we reignited our friendship,” she said. “We always had a strong bond but this time it became even stronger.”
The two broadcasters worked at WURD and would have coffee several days a week. One Saturday in January, tragedy struck when Jamal lost her brother. Ali made a dish of baked zucchini for the repast. This was the last time Jamal would see Ali.
“I was shocked to learn that she had passed away herself overnight in her sleep,” said Jamal, who was leaving work at the time when she heard the news of Ali’s passing.
“For me, burying my brother on Saturday and then learning of her death Tuesday, it was a bit much.”
Following her burial, there was later a memorial service for Ali where guests included Mayor Michael Nutter and poet Sonia Sanchez.
Ali was herself no stranger to the arts, according to Jamal. Apparently, Miles Davis was her favorite musician.
Ali’s sister, Brenda, is married to bassist Marcus Miller and her daughter Khadija Ahmadiya is a professional dancer. Ali had personal connection to the world of the arts.
“Fatimah was a big supporter of music, of arts and culture and she was really on a crusade to make sure that it got back out on the forefront,” Jamal said.
It’s for this reason that Jamal wanted to set aside time during Women’s History Month, to celebrate Ali’s legacy, her love for arts and culture and who love and appreciation for her life.
On Saturday, there will be an event titled “For the Love of Fatimah Celebration” at 40th and Market streets in West Philadelphia’s Natalie’s Lounge from 3 to 7 p.m.
“We just want to show our appreciation to Fatimah who left us much, much too soon,” Jamal said.
According to Jamal, the afternoon event will feature music, live entertainment and spoken word performances.
“Everybody has been touched by her [Fatimah Ali],” she said. “Musicians, spoken word artists, they’re all coming out for the love of Fatimah Ali.”
There is no cover charge for this event but there will be a donation box available for those who wish to make contributions for the children of Ali.
The room was filled to overflowing with members of the community, friends and loved ones of the late Fatimah Ali, attending a fund raiser/tribute held in honor of the veteran broadcaster and journalist.
The fund raiser/tribute was held at Natalie’s Lounge, 40th and Market streets in West Philadelphia, and the place was packed with those whose lives were touched by Ali, some of whom have never met her personally but were moved by her work.
Those attending the event were treated to live music, poetry and had an opportunity to hear testimony of how Ali touched their lives.
“Today we are doing our own tribute to Fatimah Ali,” said Jonathan Bey, co-host of “Jazz and Conversation” on WURD 900AM. “I’ve known her for a long time but didn’t really get to know her until the last year of her life working at WURD.”
Bey, who hosts the weekly broadcast with Aqueela Jamal, said he was a regular listener of Ali’s show.
“I guess you could say that she was just one of those people who are ahead of her time; she just touched every facet of the community,” he said.
Also present were two of Ali’s children, Malik and daughter Khadeejah Ahmaddiya, both of whom shared their experiences growing up as her children.
Khadeejah, a professional dancer, was moved to tears when she recalled how her mother would encourage her to submit her poetry to publishers but Khadeejah had other plans.
During the tribute she read her poem “Shadows” in honor of her mother. This was the first time she ever publicly recited one of her own poems.
“Just to know that people still want to honor my mom just speaks volumes about what she really meant to the community,” Khadeejah said. “Of course she meant the world to us to everyone else it’s an honor and keeps my heart smiling.”
Malik said his mother put great emphasis on friends, family and community and that the outpouring of support evidenced by the numbers of those attending the event, was an example of just those things.
“Most of these people in here never met her but they respect her message and what she was about. It shows that her life and what she stood for met something,” he said.
Radio producer and community activist Joey Temple is believed to be the last person to spend time with Ali before her death and it was he who informed his colleagues about her passing.
“Whenever I go on the air, I will make sure that ‘Silver Rain’ [theme song for Ali’s radio show] and her voice will be heard,” Temple said.
He noted the event was organized by Jamal and Bey in order to help provide financial support to Ali’s children.
“More than anything, Fatimah spoke about her children; more than [she spoke about] community, more than problems of education, more important to her was to see her children grow. I think that’s the importance of this event,” Temple said.
Temple commissioned a portrait of Ali painted by a member of his family — prominently displayed at the tribute.