Ajamu Mutima (1952-2019), rest in power

by Linda Altman

Ajamu Mutima, 67, died on October 13, 2019 in Neptune Beach, Florida.  Ajamu was born on Aug. 21, 1952 in Daytona Beach to Stimon L. Meeks and Ruth Butler Meeks.

He graduated among the top students at Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School, and due to his excellent academic record, he was nationally sought after by many colleges and universities. He subsequently signed with the University of Florida Basketball Team and was one of the first Black players to play on the team.

Sure, he could play basketball but his love for the humanities and arts was always an undercurrent. Ajamu fell in love with poetry when he was 8 years old and published his first poem when he was 10. 

When asked what influenced his poetry, he said: “The deeper you go within yourself, the more you can understand and connect with others. My poems are words from my soul. The poems become songs and they find a place where the need and the fit converge into one thought, one harmony, and they are at peace.”

In 1980, Ajamu founded The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre (ART) as a grassroots community theater in the old Star Garage. This was a part of a consortium called the Neighborhood Arts Coalition, which included the Laverne Porter dancers. Ajamu agreed to share the nascent theater with another troupe called Theaterworks – at first alternating productions, then merging – and The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre was born. From the beginning, ART was dedicated to cross-cultural theater, producing classic, avant-garde, and sometimes original material. The theatre is still operating today.

All along the way, Ajamu was continually honing his musical skills and soon became recognized for the healing nature of his music. His songs were powerful and touched the hearts of so many. In 1990, he was asked to work with UF Shands Arts and Medicine Program in Gainesville, FL as a musical therapist and resident artist. For the past 18 years, he has been a resident artist with Art with a Heart at the Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, FL. While there, he touched the lives of more than 6,000 children.

In 1994, he became intricately involved with The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens annual Arts4All Florida program (formerly VSA Festival), a statewide organization that provides opportunities in the arts for individuals with disabilities. Over the course of four days, nearly 1,800 children, 700 teachers and chaperones, and 1,200 volunteers filled the Museum to engage in art viewing in the galleries, movement, music, and art-making activities throughout the Museum. Ajamu’s room was a favorite spot filled with music and children.

Ajamu was at home playing and performing for celebrities like Civil Rights Activist, Stetson Kennedy and English primatologist and anthropologist, Jane Goodall. One song was all it took for Ngala Wildlife Preserve in Naples to hire him to be a featured artists. This exclusive preserve hosts meetings and dinners among roaming exotic animals for banking and financial CEOs. Ajamu was one of their most requested performers.

For a period of time, Ajamu worked with Hospice of NE Florida. He played in 600 individual rooms for terminally ill people. He was later commissioned to write a theme song for the organization. 

Ajamu became very well known as a performing artist, poet, musician and storyteller. His performances have been described as “healing” and “spiritual” … “transcending the barriers of race, gender, age and class.” 

His poetic songs were uniquely interwoven expressing a love of life while addressing cultural and environmental issues.  His stories “Palm Tree” and “Healing Hands” have been told internationally by many storytellers. 

He is survived by his mother, Ruth Butler Meeks, his sisters Cheryl and Antoniette Meeks, his brother Alphonso Meeks, his three children Malcolm Meeks, Adio Faucher and Kamaria Faucher, and his longtime partner, Linda Altman.

A gathering Celebrating Life and Love will be held in honor of Ajamu at Karpeles Manuscript Library and Museum, 101 1st Street in Jacksonville on November 30 from 1-3pm. Please share this announcement with friends who may have known Ajamu and invite them to this gathering.  

In lieu of flowers please make a donation to Art with a Heart in Health Care, 841 Prudential Drive, Suite 150, Jacksonville, Florida 32207; more information atwww.artwithaheart.info

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