Daa’iya El-Sanusi, who hosted one of the most important live radio shows in Harlem that streamed around the world, died Nov. 11 in New York. She was 63.
She died at home of cancer, which she had been battling for some time, as confirmed by her son, Khalif Lomax.
One of the joys of Saturday morning was waking up to the beautiful smoky voice of El-Sanusi on her show, “First Light/Gardens of Tranquility and Contemplation,” from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. She hosted the show for the past 15 years. She was affectionately known as the “woosah” lady on WHCR.
She carried on the grand tradition of radio pioneer Alma John, whose morning conversations were a must, and Stella Mars, who took music and conversation to another level.
“Daa’iya was a real and true warrior queen and still is on another very high spiritual plane at the moment,” said Lamon Fenner, WHCR host of “Lamon’s Jazz Break at 8” (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.). “Continue to pay close attention. She really ain’t gone. She still lives.”
She was the community organizer whose show was the catalyst that welcomed all from the Black Diaspora. Blues and jazz musicians, film actors, directors, playwrights, dancers, choreographers and promoters were all invited to sit at her table of talk and music.
There were times when this writer was an invited guest with at least eight other guests, all having an opportunity to speak and network. It was like being at a Thanksgiving dinner, where everyone was cool and contributed something important to the conversation, usually pitching an upcoming project. Many friendships and networking opportunities were developed through El-Sanusi’s radio show.
“Daa’iya was a wonderful person full of love and commitment,” said Cliff Fraser, president on the International Communications Association. “She always looked for the positive things that happened and our accomplishments as a people. Her program celebrated us as a people and she will be greatly missed. We love you, Daa’iya, forever.”
El-Sanusi’s shows weren’t just about meditation and jazz. She brought years of journalistic experience with her to WHCR. She was a researcher and co-host on “Afrikaleidoscope” on WBAI, hosted by the late Elombe Braith.
“She researched background information on countries and guests from the motherland,” said Cinque Brathwaite, son of the late Elombe Braith. “Her research skills were impeccable, and she brought a calming spirit to often troubling information.”
She also worked with Imhotep Gary Byrd on WLIB and WBLS.
El-Sanusi was born Jacqueline Thompson April 25, 1955. She was a native New Yorker raised in Harlem. As a child she loved to draw and paint. When it came time to attend college she attended Pratt and FIT in pursuit of her passions—art, fashion, radio and clothing design.
Her uniqueness was being a caring, sincere host, who loved her audience as much as her guests. Her smile radiated like the sun shining on us, and those within earshot were drawn to her mellow voice like bees drawn to honey. At her table, we were all family inspired by her natural being.
Within her sweetness and compassion, she was a warrior who picked up on the relevant news in the country or community and took a stand. Like Sly Stone sang, “She was free in her mind and didn’t hesitate to take a stand.”
After she helped us breathe deeply and center our calm, she would play musical treasures from jazz greats such as Reggie Workman, John Coltrane, Tyrone Birkett, Al Jarreau and Nina Simone, as well as up and coming artists such as Sheryl Renee and Kahlil Kwame Bell. As a jazz aficionado and activist in the jazz community, she gave a platform to jazz artists Rome Neal, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Ty Stevens and Antoinette Montague, and a host of other Jazz greats were regular guests on her show.
“Daa’iya welcomed me on her WHCR radio show several times,” said singer/songwriter Okaru Love. “During the 2014 International Jazz day event, she gave me a chance to perform my composition ‘Flame of Wishing Star,’ a message of world peace. She always treated me like a sister although I am Japanese. Her true organic human love and voice we will never forget.”
One of the things El-Sanusi was proudest of was spearheading a collaboration between the International Communications Association and WHCR-90.3FM in celebration of International Jazz Day. April 30, 2016, at a ceremony at the Dwyer Cultural Center, awards were given to WHCR jazz hosts Lamon Fenner, Nelson Rhadames, Tammy Shoji, Quadir Perez and El-Sanusi in honor of WHCR’s 30th anniversary.
“Whether as a journalist, caring for her grandchildren, or as a community activist, Daa’iya was unstinting, committing herself completely to these endeavors without complaint,” stated author, AmNews writer and educator Herb Boyd. “It was amazing how she could get up at the break of day Saturday mornings at WHCR to provide the calm and tranquility in our lives, soothing us with her mellow voice, and providing a platform for the musicians, heralded and unheralded. Even if the flesh was often unwilling, her spirit never flagged. We will miss her care and concern, a void that will be difficult to replace.”
Most of all we will remember her beautiful large Afro representing her revolutionary spirit and that huge smile that could under extreme circumstances calm a tiger.
El-Sanusi is survived by her children, Medina, Safawa, Chadae and Malakai Lomax.
For a host of messages in her honor, visit her Facebook page at Daa’iya El-Sanusi.
Details on her home going service will be posted as soon as they are available.