In my experience, anything I hear before 9 a.m. is usually something that makes me want to put my hands over my ears and say â€œlalalalalaâ€ like an eight-year-old. I got the call telling me that my father had died at 5:30 a.m. My Mom died just before 9. The Sep. 11 terrorist attack happened as I was going to work at about 8:30 a.m. Early morning news, at least in my world, generally sucks.
So when my Significant Other yelled â€œHey Niecy!â€ to me at 4 a.m. on Monday, I knew what he was gonna say next was probably something I really didnâ€™t want to hear.
â€œE. Stevenâ€™s dead!â€
And the trend continuesâ€¦.
On Sunday, E. Steven Collins, national advertising manager for Radio One, host of the program, â€œPhilly Speaksâ€ on Old School 100.3, former mainstay of WDAS-FM radio and a guy so popular here in Philly that people knew him by an initial, died at Chestnut Hill Hospital. He was 58.
E (which I found out this week stands for Ernest), started out in the same place I did, Temple Universityâ€™s WRTI. He worked for WHAT before going to WDAS and making his mark on the cityâ€™s radio landscape there.
Itâ€™s safe to say Black Philadelphia in general, and its journalistic community in particular, spent most of Monday in a daze. I know I did.
Thatâ€™s because I know just how gigantic the loss of E. Steven Collins is for Philadelphia. From Concerned Black Men to Phillyâ€™s Men Are Cooking, to the Urban League of Philadelphia, the NAACP, the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society, E was involved in everything.
There was nothing he wouldnâ€™t do for the organizations that he championed. If you needed to advertise something, he had space on his show. If you needed an MC, heâ€™d put on his tux, grab the microphone, and make your event memorable. If you were a young person who wanted to learn radio, heâ€™d take you on as an intern.
And if you were putting on a mayoral debate and you couldnâ€™t get one of the candidates to commit to it, E opened up his Rolodex, made a call, and got you what you needed â€¦ even if it did mean dealing with a recalcitrant university in the process. (That was former Mayor John Street and Drexel University.)
Eâ€™s wife Lisa, and his sons Rashid and Langston, were kind enough to share him with us and I speak for everyone when I say the entire Black community of Philadelphia is forever in their debt for that. He gave a lot to us and I know some of that had to come at their expense.
A group of us got together Monday night at NBC-10 to share our memories of E, his importance to our lives, and to cry â€¦ because we couldnâ€™t help it. Philadelphia NAACP President Jerry Mondesire said it best when he said Eâ€™s death was the equivalent of having a hole ripped in the fabric of the city.
We all needed to be in a room filled with people that we didnâ€™t need to explain that reality to. We also needed to be in a room filled with people who understood it will take all of us to fill Eâ€™s outsized shoes. Itâ€™ll be a challenge. But if we donâ€™t try, we wonâ€™t be doing justice to Eâ€™s memory.
On Saturday, E and Lisa had played host to the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists at a pool party at their home in the Philadelphia suburbs. We were all hanging out and talking as E grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and made sure that everyone connected with everyone else.
But while the party ended at 7, a group of us stayed behind and talked with E about everything from politics (he had this huge picture of President Barack Obama and him hanging up in his house), sports (there was also a picture of him, his son Langston, and Phillies slugger Ryan Howard) and the importance of organizations like PABJ when it comes to telling the stories of our community.
It was a party I almost blew off. Words canâ€™t express how glad I am now that I didnâ€™t.
Rest in peace, my friend.
His public memorial service will be held this Saturday, Sep. 21, 12-3 p.m. at Sharon Baptist Church, 3955 Conshohocken Avenue.
One of Eâ€™s favorite charities was Concerned Black Men. If you want to make a donation, make checks payable to: Concerned Black Men, 7200 N. 21st Street, Philadelphia, PA 19138. CBM is a 501(c)3 organization.