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Sister Rama Betty Lomax, 1930-2014

2/6/2014, 1:47 a.m.
Rama Betty Lomax

Rama Betty Lomax, lecturer, radio personality and former wife of the late author Louis E. Lomax, died on Friday morning, Jan. 17 in Manhattan. She succumbed to complications from a longterm illness.

Born in Canada to Harry Bell and Mabel Scott Bell, with family roots in Jamaica, they moved some years later to New York. Lomax was one of several exceptionally gifted children in the family and possessed what is known as “perfect pitch” and “a gift for speech.”

“Sister Betty,” as she was popularly known in her broadcasts from Harlem’s famed Palm Cafe and on WLIB-AM radio, came from a proud family who adored their strong-spirited father and compassionate mother. It is easy to imagine that Harry Bell would have been an advocate of the philosophy of Marcus Mosiah Garvey. For Lomax, great race pride was like the air you breathe, and her commitment to social justice was strong throughout her entire life. As a member of the Committee of Concerned Mothers for Mrs. Malcolm X and Family, this letter was written on Feb. 22, 1965:

“To Martin Luther King Jr., Southern Christian Leadership Conference ATLA:

“In the attempt to gain recognition and justice for Americans of African descent, one of our indefatigable fighters in the struggle for human rights has been assassinated. Four children are fatherless, homeless and destitute.

“As concerned Afro-American mothers, we beseech you and your organization to assist in the provision of a home for his widow and children.”

During this period in history, Lomax continued her interviews of, and friendships with, musicians of note in the jazz and popular musical world. Her interviews included Dinah Washington, Brook Benton, Leon Thomas, Yusef Lateef and Natalie Cole, to name a few. Lomax was a very close sister-friend with Aminata Abbey Lincoln Moseka and her husband, Max Roach. They were the godparents of Lomax’s son, Omar Lomax.

Lomax was also known to family and friends as “Rama.” Rama, which means “the infinite object that supplies infinite happiness” in Hindi,was the host of “Facing Facts With Rama Lomax” on Time Warner Cable. She was a musician who often played piano and composed songs. She was a longtime friend of famous musicians such as Randy Weston. Organist Reuben Wilson was a close friend for many years. Lomax enjoyed sharing her musical gifts with her children and even her great-grand children.

She was also a keen and incisive intellect with an important critique of contemporary society. Lomax’s consistent critical analysis was one of the ways she aspired to awaken her family and others from the hypnosis of “business as usual” and its oppression of human longings for justice and fairness.

Lomax’s appreciation for the teachings of the African American history scholar Dr. John Henrik Clarke reenforced her family’s right to know that, as a people, we have contributed much to the world through leadership, ingenuity, governance, science and the arts.

Lomax is survived by her son, four grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, several nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews and many friends.