Longtime community advocate, music artist and on-air radio and TV host Ibrahim Gonzalez, 57, transitioned to the ancestral realm in his sleep on June 4.
Gonzalez grew up in Spanish Harlem’s Johnson Houses as one of five brothers; he eventually went on to father five children of his own. He attended City College of New York during the 1970s where he, along with other students, protested tuition hikes.
The ambitious activist ventured into media when he joined WBAI in 1990. He hosted two shows. “Radio Libre!” was a “foray into all things Latino and hemispheric, making all of the transatlantic musical and cultural connections. The program sought to explore the many genres of Latino Music—old and new, traditional and experimental, urban and folkloric,” according to his website. His other program, “In the Moment,” was described as a “spontaneous mix of eclectic sounds, interviews and live performances.” Later, he’d also treat listeners at 90.3FM WHCR to a similar format.
“Ibrahim brought lots of excitement and positive challenges to my life with his views, ideas, inspiration and always positive outlook at the future of WBAI,” said WBAI General Manager Berthold Reimers on the station’s memorial page for Gonzalez. Station staff and listeners have flooded the page with condolences since his passing.
In the early 1990s, the conscious communicator migrated to the Bronx, where he produced a community public access TV show on Bronxnet Cable that featured live, in-studio Latin-jazz performances, as well as many discussions on various topics relevant to urban communities. The television show also highlighted his love of travel and ethnic foods.
As a musician, he traveled across the country, sharing his skills as a percussionist, pianist, composer and music producer with audiences of various generations. He was known as the “Mambo Dervish” for his conga skills.
His other talents included writing, photography, videography and digital audio production. The well-versed teacher of Caribbean music history often conducted seminars throughout the country at various colleges and universities.
As a prominent figure in both the Islamic and Latino music communities within New York City, he advocated Sufism and co-founded Alianza Islámica, one of the nation’s first Islamic-Latino organizations.
In a statement, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. called Gonzalez “a pillar in our community. He was such a talented, multifaceted artist who truly contributed to the Bronx through his music, photography, videography, reports on television and his radio talk shows.”
Gonzalez’s funeral was conducted on June 7 at Harlem’s Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, followed by a burial at the Bronx’s Woodlawn Cemetery.
Gonzalez is survived by his wife, Janet Norquist-Gonzalez; brothers William, Fredrick, Alfred and Ray; children Anisa, Ismael, Halima, Sulaiman and Ahmed; and 11 grandchildren.