One should never allow the busy-ness of life keep you from being in touch with those you care about the most. It can and does often happen though, and then the essentials catch up with you. Such is the case in finding out on FACEBOOK, that my dear friend for life, and essentially a Brother of my Soul, Ja A. Jahannes, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing since my freshman year at Hampton Institute, had passed on.
|Ja A. Jahannes now a member of the Ancestor/Angels - We love you and we will miss you! Thank you for all you've done and been! GDW|
And it couldn't have been more devastating than if you had hit me with a Mac truck. Apparently, in my efforts to cover other bases, I had neglected to read the Alumni Page on Facebook, where the announcement was posted on July 6th. On the late show, I just found out today that he had made his transition to that of Ancestor/Angel. There is so much pain, both from having lost such a dear friend, and for not having known or been aware of his absence. You see, I was still email Ja my Blog as recently as yesterday.
Ja Jahannes, who was originally known as Jay Johnson, has been a powerful, positive part of my life for many years. Had it not been for him, I would not have had the opportunity to attend Lincoln University, after having been kicked out of Hampton for being too militant in 1965. We were to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my being one of the first 16 co-eds at Lincoln this fall, and had discussed some collaborative options as to how to make it happen.
Ja was always a man of boundless energy, creativity, ideas. He was audacious - or as we say in the Black realm - bodacious - in his moves. He let nothing stop him for executing a concept. That was how I knew him to be always.
I met him through a classmate of mine at Hampton, who was my "Big Sister", Pat Taylor - who later became his first wife. I was the maid of honor at their wedding in Hampton. We were a trio of cut ups even before they were married. Ja was in the US Air National Guard, and would come down to Langley Air Force Base in his Gold Mustang Convertible. Always smiling, joking, popping off German accents. Life was always an adventure with him.
Hampton Institute's president at the time, Jerome "Brud" Holland, under the dictatorship of Margaret Meade, chair of our Board of Trustees, threatened to expel any Hampton student who participated in the March on Selma, Alabama in 1965. I, along with 20 other students, locked him in the Administration building on campus, until he accepted our demands that Black students had the right to stand for themselves and their people. We even got the curfews changed, and opened the waterfront to students (something that had been forbidden at Hampton, even though it was a peninsula).
After the fracas was over, and we were granted amnesty, and allowed to go back to the business of being students, Holland blindsided us by expelling us the day of commencement - something he had been putting together even during the time that he had signed the agreement - talk about a back stabber! When I was sitting in Oklahoma City, trying to figure out how to deal with this mess, it was Ja who recommended me to Dr. Paul Keuhner, the registrar at the time at Lincoln, for admission as one of the first co-eds. Because of Ja, I got a full ride, with a combination of financial aid, work study and scholarship funds.
When I arrived to Lincoln in 1965, Ja and Keuhner ha already alerted the guys - Joe Reed, Bill Wallace, and the rest of the Rabble, that I was coming and that I was from Oklahoma City. Because of him, the first thing they asked me was "where are your cowboy boots?!"
Ja used to brag on Doc Keuhner, who was a German immigrant, and about how the instructors also served as mentors. He attested to the fact that the strong support he received from his professors was part and parcel of the confidence he exuded. I remember him telling me one day, "I am truly wonderful!" speaking of himself. I thought it a rather arrogant statement, and asked him how he had the audacity to say so, to which he responded, because Dr. Keuhner said that if you wake up in the morning, look in the morning, and say "Jay Johnson is truly wonderful!" and smile at yourself as you say it, you'll begin to become what you say you are. And apparently it worked, because Ja Jahannes always was, is will be just that, "Truly wonderful." He got so tickled when I reminded him of that little statement, and the fact that I remembered it after all these years.
And it was Ja's mom, Frances, in Baltimore, MD, who, when my daughter was born, provided baby sitting services while I completed my classes at Lincoln U. His son Tkeban Khosa and my daughter Kira were "crib buddies" in Baltimore - with his mom being the honorary grandmother.
We lost contact with each other for until the 90's - that does sound a little like ancient history, doesn't it - when I met his son Tkeban Khosa, now a young man, who looked like his dad's twin. Though our communication was by phone, not in person, it was still a reunion of sorts.
We finally caught up with each other in 2012, at the 45th anniversary of my graduation from LU. He hadn't changed all that much. Still energetic, still following his inner creativity and imagination. He had been around the world, traveled to Africa, written several books, been part of the faculty at Savannah State U in Georgia, was a speaker, minister, artist, had newly married, and all too many wonderful things to recount here. No doubt, just recounting his accomplishments is a book in and of itself.
I was so happy to see him, but wondered whether or not he remembered me. But we actually picked up our conversation as though it had only been yesterday since the last time we saw each other.
I am so sad to know that this Brother of my Soul will no longer be active on this plane of action. I am so happy that I had a chance to really reacquaint myself with him, and meet his lovely wife.
The last time we saw each other was at the Barnes during Black History Month, when he appeared with Sonia Sanchez. What a great event that was! I treasured that event and the fact that he was getting the recognition he so deserved for his great work. I did an article on the event, in my Blog - www.gloriadulanwilson.blogspot.com/ECLECTICALLY BLACK NEWS/ "Ja A Jahannes, Evie Shockley, Sonia Sanchez featured in Top of the Mountain at The Barnes Foundation"
|The Last Time I saw Ja Jahannes was at the Barnes Collection. L-R: Oliver "B'More" Franklin, Ja A Jahammes, Sonia Sanchez, Gloria Dulan-Wilson (Me), Kenny Poole, Evie Shockley (March 2015)|
My condolences to his family, to Lincoln U which he loved so deeply, and to myself. I would say "rest in peace" to Ja, but I know that is not going to be the case - with all the energy he has, he's probably already stirring things up, up there. And you just know he went up, not down - because Ja wouldn't have it any other way. And Ja was one brother who pretty much got what he wanted.
I am going to miss that brother!
Stay Blessed &