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J. Vern Cromartie

visual artist, musician, author, and political activist, was born Joan Angela Lewis in Oakland, California, to John Henry Lewis and Florence (Reid) Lewis. She is also known as J. Tarika Lewis, Tarika Lewis, Joan Lewis, and Matilaba. At the time of her birth, her father was a salesman for G&W Refrigeration. He was the first black man to become the light heavyweight champion of the world, a title he held from 1935 to 1939. After retiring as a prize fighter, John Henry Lewis and his father Edward Lewis operated a boxing gym in Oakland.

While attending Oakland Technical High School Lewis was active in the journalism music and athletic programs She wrote for the school newspaper and played violin in the school orchestra Lewis was also a member of the swim team and a sprinter on the track team From the 10th to ...