Maybe you’ve heard his name — on WHYY, or WDAS AM and FM, or WPEN AM, or WCAU AM.
Maybe you’ve seen his name — in these pages, or in the pages of the Philadelphia Daily News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, or his own newspaper, The Neighborhood Leader.
Or maybe you just saw him walking through City Hall or down the streets of Philadelphia, frequently in Afrocentric garb.
Heshimu Jaramogi was “very stylish,” said Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.
Jaramogi is being remembered this week for his long career, leadership, and colorful personality. He died in his home on Tuesday after a brief bout with colon cancer. He was 67.
“His passing is a great loss,” Johnson said. “He knew the critical importance of making sure that the African-American community received unbiased information through The Neighborhood Leader. And he stressed the importance of supporting African-American newspapers with our advertising dollars. He was a very sound businessman.”
Jaramogi’s work as a journalist in the city spanned four decades.
A former president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, he was a publisher, journalist, adjunct professor and photographer. Those familiar with Jaramogi’s career said he was a multimedia journalist long before the term was coined.
“Heshimu used his success in traditional media as a platform for creating and owning his own content. It was a radical move that inspired generations of journalists of color that followed, including me,” said PABJ President Manuel McDonnell Smith, managing editor at CBS 3 Philadelphia, in a written statement.
Jaramogi’s career began in 1981 simultaneously at radio stations WHYY FM and WDAS AM and FM, where he worked as a producer at the former and a producer and reporter at the latter. He later moved to WPEN AM where he covered city government, and at WCAU AM where he was a general assignment reporter. He expanded into hosting public affairs shows while working with local radio stations owned by Clear Channel.
He wrote articles that appeared in The Philadelphia Tribune, The Philadelphia Daily News, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia New Observer.
He also founded and owned his own media company, Jaramogi Communications, which produced audio, video, social media and print products. This included The Neighborhood Leader newspaper.
“The paper really set him apart because it lasted continuously,” said Vincent Thompson, a spokesman for Johnson and former host and producer at WURD-AM/FM. “He published it right up until the time that he passed away.”
Thompson considered Jaramogi his mentor, and said one of the most valuable lessons Jaramogi taught him was to be versatile in the journalism business.
“I’m going to miss him,” Thompson said. “He influenced so many people in so many walks of life. But his message to journalists was to be versatile. I’ll never forget that.”
Later in his life, Jaramogi worked as a media buyer and advertising producer on political campaigns for U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Arlen Specter, Gov. Tom Corbett, Congressman Bob Brady and District Attorney Lynne Abraham.
He helped Johnson with his campaign for state representative in 2007.
“I had no idea how to record a commercial,” Johnson recalled. “He came down to my grandmother’s house in South Philly and we hopped in his car and we recorded the commercial while we were driving around. It was amazing to me that he didn’t need to have me in a studio. That commercial turned out great.”
Jaramogi was a media consultant for AFSCME District Council 47.
He also worked as an adjunct professor at Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab, and he has lectured at other colleges and universities, including Malcolm X College, Foothill College, Wayne State University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Jaramogi is survived by his daughter, Asha, and his son, Anwar Malik Neale-Jaramogi; a granddaughter; a sister; and his partner, Tremain Smith.
A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 at the Arch Street Friends Meeting House, 320 Arch Street.