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WBAI LAB member, activist Jon Cohen dies

From: Bob Lederer
Sent: Tuesday, October 14, 2003 11:11 PM
Subject: Our beloved Jon Cohen dies

WBAI LAB member Jon Cohen, fearless fighter against injustice and gentle spirit, died last night after several years of struggling with leukemia, surrounded by family and friends. All of us who loved him are in shock, though we surely knew this day was coming sooner or later. The funeral is Thursday at noon at the Riverside Funeral Home in Great Neck (Long Island) at 55 Station Plaza - phone: (516) 587-9600. A full and proper memorial/celebration will occur at a later date.

Below I have pasted two things:

1) The script I hastily cobbled together for tonight's WBAI Evening News (both the part I wrote to be read by the anchor, Jose Santiago, and my own statement). It aired at 6:20 pm or so, and will be rebroadcast at around 11:20 pm tonight. That's at 99.5 FM, or for those of you out of town, tune in at www.wbai.org.

2) The beautiful message that Liz Roberts, Jon's devoted partner, miraculously was able to compose and send out in the midst of her extreme grieving.

A big hug to all of you who loved Jon. Let's continue his legacy, and as Liz reminds us, always remember, like Jon, to sing, dance and enjoy life.



Date: Tue, 14 Oct 2003 18:29:36 -0400
Subject: Precious Jon
From: Liz Roberts

Dearest Community of Friends and Loved Ones and Comrades..

Jon passed away last night (his sister and i, independently, both mused that it might have been his silent protest of columbus day) he was in no pain, and was surrounded by his family and a couple of dear friends. We held his hand, told him how much we love him, and how we knew he loved us. We told him how much joy, wisdom, magic he brought into our lives, into the world at large. We played music all day (lots of 'grateful dead) we told him we would always be with him, and he would remain deeply in our hearts. We told him it was okay to let go: he could fly, he could be at peace, he could move on to the next place of learning and adventure. No more struggles.

He lived a very rich, joyous life. Each day really WAS a gift--he sincerely felt that way. He played, and danced and enjoyed people like it was an art. And he felt blessed that he could do work that brought him so much satisfaction, and was part of the bigger project of affecting social change and creating a peaceful, just planet. Jon was a truly extraordinary person. i believe it is not just his family, friends' and colleagues' loss, but a loss for all the world. We need more people like Jon, to fix up this planet. He was the most compassionate, passionate and wise person i've known. An extremely gentle man, he was powerful in his love and convictions. He and i had 7 beautiful years together. Along with the normal challenges and struggles, and those compounded by illness, each day was filled with sweetness, learning and play. i wouldn't trade it for anything--the past 3 1/2 years were indeed tough, and the loss unfathomable, still we had tremendous happiness together. It was a miracle to me, a great romance.

Thank you all for your incredible support-- your love and prayers. Your notes and gestures. Jon felt it ALL. Really. He knew how many people we're 'on his team' (those who knew him, and those who just knew me, or his family, but still sent good vibes. We're convinced it's why he had much more time than they said he would. There is no way to name the emptiness and sorrow, but his soul is mighty, in life, and i imagine, thereafter...i know people will carry his spirit with them in their work for peace, their building of community, in their relationships. The best tribute to Jon's life is to dance, and wage peace and be present and loving to those who are dear to you.

There will be a service on Thursday, October 18 at noon at the Riverside Funeral Home in Great Neck (Long Island) at 55 Station Plaza phone: (516)587-9600. Jon wasn't too keen on funerals, but understood we might all need it in our own process of grieving, but he was very much interested in a celebratory memorial which we will be planning in the coming weeks. And what a life to celebrate....

In peace, gratitude,


[From WBAI news report]

We are sad to announce a death in the WBAI family. Jonathan Cohen, a member for the past three years of the WBAI Local Advisory Board, died last night of complications from leukemia. He was 40 and had been ill for more than two years. A proud bisexual, he is survived by his partner Liz Roberts, the Outreach Coordinator of the Brecht Forum, two sisters, his parents and many friends. Jon Cohen was a longtime activist for peace and justice, and worked professionally as an organizer and activist in the movement to end violence against women.

Bob Lederer, the editor of the WBAI Website and Folio and co-host of
"Health Action," was a friend and colleague of Jon Cohen.


Jon Cohen devoted all of his adult life to the fights against racism, sexism, heterosexism and imperialist war. His activist resume -- both in St. Louis where he lived for many years, and in the New York metro area for the past decade -- included not only leadership of many organizations and campaigns in but also numerous civil disobedience arrests. In the 80s he was co-chair of the National Organization of Men Against Sexism. In the 90s he was active with the NY Free Mumia Abu Jamal Coalition and supporter of many U.S. political prisoners. For more than a decade, he was a member of the National and Executive Committee of the War Resisters League. I knew him as a colleague in the anti-imperialist collective called Resistance in Brooklyn, and as a tenacious fighter on the WBAI Local Advisory Board against the pro-corporate Pacifica coup that snatched our station, and then after WBAI and the network were reclaimed, as a strong voice for affirmative action in the Pacifica bylaws. More than all this, Jon was a gentle and loving spirit, who brought respect, calm and caring to everything and everyone, and who dared to struggle lovingly with people to overcome the negative conditioning of this society. I want to read a short excerpt of a memo he wrote this past winter on racism within the peace movement that exemplifies his spirit and commitment:

QUOTE - White people need to stop insisting on defining problems related to race and above all, must cease from telling people of color that there is no problem when people of color indicate that they perceive a problem. People of color live with overt and covert racism every minute. Those of us who are white miss a lot of the subtleties. UNQUOTE

Jon was also devoted to integrative healing, combining conventional and alternative medicine in his tenacious fight to survive. In his final years, he became a passionate critic of the abuses of the medical-industrial complex.

Jon's loss is incalculable to all our movements for peace and justice, not only locally but nationally.


Bob Lederer, editor of WBAI's Website and Folio.

At the time of his death, Jon Cohen was the assistant director of the Community Change Project of the Volunteer Counseling Service of Rockland County. Phyllis Frank is the director of that project.

[Phyllis then made a beautiful, spontaneous tribute to the devoted professional/political work Jon had done for years as a national leader and teacher in the movement against violence against women.]

Phyllis Frank is the Director of the Community Change Project of the Volunteer Counseling Service of Rockland County.

We will notify WBAI listeners when funeral arrangements have been made, and the information will also be posted on our Website, www.wbai.org. That's www.wbai.org.

We send our deepest condolences to Jon Cohen's family and friends. And we end with the tune "Truckin" by Jon's favorite music group, The Grateful Dead.

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