GVFaces: Jeff Kelly Lowenstein

January 23, 2024 (Volume 47, Number 11)
Article by Samantha Drougel

headshot of Jeff Kelly Lowenstein

Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, associate professor of journalism, broadcasting, and digital media

Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, associate professor of journalism, broadcasting, and digital media, co-authored a book last year, Comrade King, with Khulu Radebe, a South African freedom fighter who learned at age 50 that he was a king. 

Radebe is the ruler of the Embo Nation, which stretches from Central Africa along East Africa and down into Southern Africa. 

Kelly Lowenstein is an investigative journalist and a former Padnos/Sarosik endowed professor of civil discourse. He said the university played a critical role in the book by providing multiple sources of support, including funding to travel to Africa. 

Kelly Lowenstein said he first met the king at Radebe's inauguration in 2015. He traveled several times to Africa to record conversations with Radebe and those conversations became the basis for the book. 

“It was fascinating because you never knew what was going to happen,” Kelly Lowenstein said. “It was a very powerful experience for me to listen to this incredible life which is so different from anything I have lived or other people I know have lived.” 

He had to overcome many challenges like the king's busy schedule. Unless he was in South Africa with Radebe, not much writing would get done. Cultural differences between the United States and South Africa provided another hurdle to surmount. 

“In general, audiences here in the United States don’t understand kings,” he said. “They understand the king of England, but in terms of an active presence and moral guidance, they don’t understand that.” 

It was important to Kelly Lowenstein that the people of the Embo Nation understood the book. Kelly Lowenstein said he talked with about 100 Uber drivers on his way to meet with Radebe to tell the story and get their opinion about whether it should be told from a first- or third-person point of view. 

“I would watch them, not only to hear their words but to watch how they responded,“ he said. 

The work has a positive message for people in the U.S., Kelly Lowenstein said. 

“I think people should read this book because his life is a good example of someone who had a lot of obstacles but pushed through to stand for truth and justice,” Kelly Lowenstein said. 



This article was last edited on January 22, 2024 at 3:53 p.m.

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