Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Philippe Wamba, African and African American, Dead at 31

Send by email
Thursday, September 12, 2002

Philippe Wamba, African and African American, Dead at 31

Philippe Wamba, who left the editorship of the Web site in March to accept an Alicia Patterson Fellowship to study "Africa's next generation," was killed in a car crash in Kenya on Wednesday, confirmed today. He was 31.

"One of his brothers was in the car with him and suffered serious injuries as well, but to the best of our knowledge they aren't life threatening," said Gary Dauphin, Africana's editor in chief.

Wamba was the living embodiment of the term "African American." He wrote of his life and of the relationship of Africans to African Americans in the 1999 book "Kinship: A Family's Journey in Africa and America." His father was African, Prof. Ernest Wamba dia Wama, who later became a leader of a Congolese rebel group. His mother, Elaine Brown Wamba, was from Detroit. He had lived on both continents.

After graduating from Columbia University, the recipient of a scholarship from the New York Association of Black Journalists, Wamba worked on the Encarta Africana (the African/African American Encyclopedia), the Dictionary of Global Culture, and as an editor for Frommer's Travel. He freelanced for Transition and Common Quest magazines, the Weekly Journal in London and the Daily News in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, before landing at, the web site founded by Harvard's Henry Louis Gates and others. The site was later sold to AOL Time Warner.

Discussing his book with Journal-isms in 1999, he said, "You get a sense of the role of journalism on both continents as a source of information about the black world (and of black media sources in particular as an important alternative to the mainstream media); since the 19th century the primary way that Africans have learned about African Americans (and vice versa) is through the media, so I think it's important to understand and try to improve on that process."

More on Wamba at the end of today's posting.

9/11, Ethiopia, Internment Topics Win Documentary Emmys

With 14 honors, PBS led the annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards in a ceremony dominated by work related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But awards also went to ABC's "20/20" for "Her Lost World," a story about an Ethiopian child, hosted by Deborah Roberts, which won for "outstanding feature story -- long form," to Byron Pitts for "Byron Pitts at Ground Zero" on the "CBS Evening News," best story in a regular newscast, and the PBS' "P.O.V." show "Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story," for "outstanding individual achievement in a craft: editing." Edited by Eric Paul Fournier and Jean Kawahara, the show chronicles the story of a resistor to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Winner for "outstanding regional news story -- spot news" was "Cincinnati in Black and White: Riots Day One" from Cincinnati's WKRC-TV, 11

Pitts was the National Association of Black Journalists' "Journalist of the Year" for his Ground Zero and Afghanistan coverage.

Barbara Walters introduced the Ethiopia piece this way: "A beautiful baby destined to grow old in a primitive world, until a freak accident changed everything. What would become of a little girl who lost her legs and was abandoned by her family? Well, look at her now. Her childhood tragedy turned into triumph."

FCC Begins Study of Media Ownership

The Federal Communications Commission Thursday began a sweeping rulemaking process that could weaken or eliminate major limitations on broadcast ownership, reports Media Week.

Regulations at stake include those that limit national and local television ownership, restrict ownership of broadcast stations by local newspapers and prevent joint ownership of any of the major four television networks. "This is the most comprehensive undertaking of media ownership regulations, I believe, in the commission's history," said FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

Commissioner Michael Copps, the sole Democrat on the panel that also includes three Republicans, urged caution in revamping rules aimed at preserving diversity, competition and localism in broadcasting.

The rules opened for examination:
- prohibit most daily newspapers from owning nearby broadcast
- limit a single television network to owning stations that reach 35 percent of the national audience;
- prevent Fox, ABC, CBS or NBC from buying one another;
- place restrictions on one company owning two television stations in the same market;
- limit local radio ownership in individual markets;
- restrict common ownership of radio and television stations in a market.

Managers Who Bring "A Certain Sensitivity"

Steve Gonzales, assistant managing editor of photography at the Kansas City Star, says his commitment to diversity stems from his family background, and the opportunities given to him as a college student by Rich Clarkson, then director of photography at The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, reports Presstime.

"I was the first nonwhite person in the newsroom in 1980," says Gonzales, who was hired as a part-time lab assistant. "I remember cleaning the floors in the photo lab, and one white man says, 'Oh, my God, now they're going to start hiring n******.' It was an eye-opener to me. Rich saw something in me, as I see in people's portfolios now, and I try to give others a chance, too."

The article reports that "diverse managers on the business side and in the newsroom agree that their presence adds to a newspaper's ability to make people - both readers and staff - feel more comfortable and supportive."

Attendance Up at Lesbian and Gay Journalists Convention

Attendance and corporate sponsorship are up at the 2002 National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association Convention, despite the close timing to the first anniversary of Sept. 11.

About 150 more media professionals are in Philadelphia this year than last year, and corporate sponsor dollars hit $225,000, an increase from last year's $170,000, reports the student convention paper, the Digital Reporter. Some 525 participants are present, including 400 NLGJA members, said executive director Pamela Strother.

Diversity Supply Is There. Is Demand?

Itï¿œs a myth that there are not enough applicants of color to alter the face of Americaï¿œs newsrooms, says Lee B. Becker of Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, writing for the Freedom Forum.

The myth says that journalism and mass communication programs across the country are not graduating enough students to meet the demand. The myth is wrong, he says.

"The myth says minority graduates are not interested in media careers. That, too, is wrong.

"The myth says minority graduates looking for media jobs have not had internships or worked for the campus media or done other essential things to make them ready for the job market. Wrong again.

"If daily newspapers - as one example - had hired all the minorities who graduated from journalism and mass communication programs and who sought jobs in the daily newspaper industry in 2001, they would have added 2,529 minority journalists."

The Very White Newsrooms of Las Vegas

Thomas Mitchell, editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, contends that not only is it difficult recruiting minority reporters at the paper, but retaining them is equally challenging, reports Las Vegas City Life.

"We are constantly on the lookout for qualified minority reporters," said Mitchell. "Once we hire them, they get good clips and move on."

Of the 125 newsroom employees at the paper, a few are Hispanic, he said, though he didn't know how many.

According to the 2000 Census, the number of whites living in Clark County, Nev., is 828,669, or 60 percent of the population. Hispanics or Latinos make up 22 percent of the population (302,143), while blacks or African Americans are 8 percent at 121,401.

Gil Noble Rallying to Save His N.Y. Show

At a rally called in support of Gil Noble and his show on New York's WABC-TV, "Like It Is," the popular veteran newsman told a grassroots audience in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant, to "look in the mirror," to find the activist and warrior spirit within themselves to complete the mission that Malcolm X set out.

"We are faced with a huge operation," Noble told the audience, reports The Black World Today. "Let's plan, if we don't plan something, then we are not going to be successful."

The campaign to save "Like It Is" from a Disney/WABC ax is as much about keeping the amiable and robust Noble on air as it is ensuring that the otherwise barely-broadcast Black perspective, news, analysis and revelation keeps keeping on.

Rallies throughout the New York City tri-state area have accumulated what co-founder of Cemotap Dr. James McIntosh referred to as a "war chest." More than $31,000 came from just two rallies a few months ago. On Sept. 6, $7,000 was raised.

Essence Magazine Starting Book Club

Essence, the pre-eminent magazine for black women, is announcing in its October issue that it will start its own book club, and will offer its first four selections, reports the New York Times. The monthly magazine has a circulation of 1.1 million and claims a readership of 7 million.

Syndicate Signs Palestinian-American Columnist

Creators Syndicate has signed Ray Hanania, making him possibly the first Palestinian-American columnist ever to be represented by a major syndicate, reports Editor & Publisher.

Viacom Promotes Princell Hair

Princell Hairï¿œs fortunes are still rising at Viacom Inc.ï¿œs station group -- he has been upped from corporate news director to vice president of news, reports Broadcasting & Cable.

Hair had been recruited by the groupᅵs then-executive VP for news, Joel Cheatwood, as corporate news director in 2001, and he later took over as KCBS-TV Los Angelesᅵ news director.

Hawaii's First Female Sports Director

Weekend sports anchor Liz Chun has been named KGMB-TV sports director, making her the first female sports director in Hawaii television. She began her career with KGMB as a camera operator and became weekend anchor in 2000, reports the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

More Moves

-- Kevin Garcia becomes the Monday-through-Friday sports anchor for the WB affiliate KSWB-TV in San Diego.

-- Wil Haygood of the Boston Globe has joined the Washington Post Style section. He is the author of "King of the Cats," on Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and "The Haygoods of Columbus," about his family.

-- Harold Jackson has been promoted from New Jersey commentary editor to commentary pages coordinator at the Philadelphia Inquirer, with responsibility for the production of the Inquirer's three daily suburban commentary pages, five Sunday community voices sections, and the daily op/ed page and editorial-page letters sections of the paper.

-- Greg Lee has been promoted to deputy high school sports editor at the Washington Post. He is secretary of the National Association of Black Journalists.

-- Shawanna Kendrick goes to WCCB-TV in Charlotte, N.C., as an 11 o'clock producer. Kendrick produced at WTVC-TV in Chattanooga, Tenn., the last two years.

-- Christopher Lee of the Dallas Morning News has joined the Washington Post, covering the federal bureaucracy. He has been in the News' Washington bureau covering Congress and writing a weekly political column.

-- Mike Tanaka, former supervising producer for "Oprah," becomes the senior producer for MSNBC.

Statement on Philippe Wamba from Kenn Turner, CEO of

It is with profound sadness that I inform you of the death of Philippe Wamba, our former Editor-in-Chief here at Africana, and more importantly our very dear friend. Philippe died in a car accident September 11, on the road between Nairobi and Mombassa, Kenya. He was in Kenya researching youth movements for a series of articles he was writing about the state of African youth, so perhaps our only comfort in this senseless tragedy is that he died while doing something he strongly believed in, and passionately loved.

A native of both the US and Africa, Philippe had returned to the continent to pursue journalistic projects sponsored by the Alicia Patterson Foundation. Back in March, we bid him farewell and smooth sailing, and from all reports it seemed he had had a wonderful six months there. Although we missed him in our offices, we were comforted to know he had returned to land and work he adored. Despite a decade spent living in the United States, Philippe's African identity was never far from him. "I'll dream in Swahili one night and English the next," he said in a 2000 interview in the Boston Globe.

Born June 3, 1971 in California, Philippe was the son of Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, an economist and leader of a freedom movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, his home country, and his wife, the former Elaine Brown, of Detroit, Michigan.

He grew up in the Boston area and then in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, a bicultural upbringing he described his acclaimed 1999 memoir Kinship: A Family's Journey in Africa and America. The book was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir in 2000. A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia School of Journalism, Philippe was Editor in Chief of from 1999 to 2002.

In the years he worked at Africana, Philippe was both a valued colleague and a treasured friend. His intelligence and integrity were outstanding, matched only by his kindness, generosity and gentle humor. Our loss is indeed great, but even more we mourn for his family - his parents, Elaine and Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, who are based in Tanzania, his brothers, Kolo and James, and his vast extended family in the US and Africa. I ask that you say a prayer for his family and for those of us who knew and loved him. We mourn, too, for the world, which has lost a future leader, a young person of such extraordinary gifts and promise. A bright light has gone out, and we are all saddened.

Statement on Philippe Wamba from Judy D. Simmons

"It is shocking that Philippe Wamba left the physical so early, but it isn't surprising that he chose to do so. His sort of grace, insight and compassion either arrive ready in the birth gifts or arise after an arduous passage through youth and middle age scours the personality and tempers the soul into greater discernment as we near sixty. Wamba acted with that greater discernment, yet his birthday in June 2002 was only his thirty-first in this passage. To those of us who perceive in such terms, Wamba's early shedding of the physical vehicle and it's earthly pastimes indicates that he is an evolved spirit whose mission included but is not exhausted by his presence and works here. The hundreds, perhaps thousands of us already quickened by that spirit will continue, even as he continues to inspire and guide many others who may not know him by this name. "

- Judy D. Simmons is former contributing editor at large and author of "Catherine's Light" columns on, July 7, 2000, to May 15, 2002.

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.

To be notified of new columns, contact and tell us who you are.

About Richard Prince

View previous columns.



Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.