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Jay Mohan of PhillyCAM: An appreciation

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Whenever you walked into PhillyCAM, the city’s public-access television station, you were likely to see Jay Mohan. He was the tall, slender guy with the big smile who sat behind the equipment desk, ready to help people check out the cameras, lights, microphones and whatever else they needed for their independent videos. He was also the person who assisted students, members, and others with their television shows and helped out in the many training classes held there.

The Notebook is mourning the loss of Mohan, who died Sunday. Mohan, whose full first name was Vijay, was struck by a car while riding his bike along Girard Avenue near Ridge Avenue. He was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he died later that morning. The tragedy has been a difficult blow to PhillyCAM staff and those who knew him well.

Mohan, 26, was a filmmaker who earned a degree from Temple University in film and media arts and was active in the local film and video community, including the BlackStar Film Festival and South Asian American Digital Archive. He worked as PhillyCAM’s access manager.

"From the day the Notebook moved in upstairs from PhillyCAM in August 2013, Jay was helpful to us in more ways than I can possibly recount,” said Notebook publisher and editor Paul Socolar.

“The Notebook has been branching out its publishing into multimedia work, and Jay was a go-to neighbor who was always responsive to our many requests for technical assistance with equipment or production, and he was always gracious about helping. Jay also cared really deeply about the shared commitment that the Notebook and PhillyCAM have to making sure that community voices are heard."

When Notebook staff members enrolled in a video production training course last year to sharpen skills in lighting, filming, and editing, Mohan was right there to offer technical support and instruction whenever we needed it. Recently Mohan had been helping students in a media training class that Notebook contributing editor Dale Mezzacappa co-teaches at the PhillyCAM studios.

“Jay was a godsend for those of us who aren’t that technically savvy,” said Mezzacappa.

“He always stopped whatever he was doing to find the right equipment or explain how something works. This is a terrible loss.”

Trenae Nuri, a student in Mezzacappa’s class, said, "When I think about Jay, I will always remember his patience and willingness to help me understand equipment before a shoot.”

Mohan was born in a suburb of Chicago and had lived in India when he was in high school. Before joining PhillyCAM, he worked at the Scribe Video Center.

“At PhillyCAM, Jay was committed to teach others media skills. Jay had a beautiful spirit, and he will truly be missed," Nuri said.

A fund has been set up in memory of Mohan to help coordinate the return of his remains to Kerala, India. You can get more information and lend your support through this GoFundMe page.

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