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 “lalalalala” 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 “Hey Niecy!” to me at 4 a.m. on Monday, I knew what he was gonna say next was probably something I really didn’t want to hear.
“E. Steven’s dead!”
And the trend continues….
On Sunday, E. Steven Collins, national advertising manager for Radio One, host of the program, “Philly Speaks” 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 University’s WRTI. He worked for WHAT before going to WDAS and making his mark on the city’s radio landscape there.
It’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.
That’s because I know just how gigantic the loss of E. Steven Collins is for Philadelphia. From Concerned Black Men to Philly’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 wouldn’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, he’d put on his tux, grab the microphone, and make your event memorable. If you were a young person who wanted to learn radio, he’d take you on as an intern.
And if you were putting on a mayoral debate and you couldn’t get one of the candidates to commit to it, E opened up his Rolodex, made a call, and got you what you needed … even if it did mean dealing with a recalcitrant university in the process. (That was former Mayor John Street and Drexel University.)
E’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 … because we couldn’t help it. Philadelphia NAACP President Jerry Mondesire said it best when he said E’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 didn’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 E’s outsized shoes. It’ll be a challenge. But if we don’t try, we won’t be doing justice to E’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 can’t express how glad I am now that I didn’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 E’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.