Manuel T. Sozinho, 71, Angolan revolutionary

Manuel T. Sozinho
Manuel T. Sozinho
Posted: January 11, 2014

Manuel Tulombo Sozinho, 71, an Angolan revolutionary who in this country became a taxi driver and a respected leader in Philadelphia's African community, died Friday, Jan. 3, of complications of pneumonia at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Born in what was then the Portuguese colony of Angola, Mr. Sozinho was educated there, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ukraine, and Tunisia. He worked as a teacher in Angola, then fled the country as he rose in the ranks of the National Liberation Front of Angola, the group that helped end Portuguese rule.

Mr. Sozinho's political efforts were far-reaching, said his son Sozi Tulante - he directed attacks against the Portuguese army, led military reforms, and reached out for international recognition of his group's struggle.

After Angola gained independence in 1975, Mr. Sozinho was named the first commander of the Angolan navy, his son said. When the transitional government failed, Mr. Sozinho resumed fighting before escaping to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He was arrested in 1982, and held in prison for more than a year. After pressure from the United Nations and United States, Mr. Sozinho was freed from prison in 1983, then granted political asylum here.

Mr. Sozinho; his wife, Maria, nine months pregnant at the time; and their three children arrived in Philadelphia late that year. He was 41, with no job or home, and did not speak English.

Still, "he neither despaired nor abandoned hope," Tulante said.

Mr. Sozinho enrolled in English-language classes at Community College of Philadelphia and found a job driving a cab, typically working from dawn until midnight six days a week. He eventually earned enough to buy a house in Olney, where he lived until his death.

In 2006, complications of illnesses Mr. Sozinho contracted in prison caught up with him. He received a liver transplant, retired from driving a cab, then bought his own modest cab company.

Even as he worked long hours and raised a family, Mr. Sozinho remained involved in Angolan political and social matters. He was a founding member of the Angolan Community of Pennsylvania and its first president. In 2004, he visited Angola and was elected as a member of the National Liberation Front of Angola's Central Committee.

A believer in the transformative power of education, Mr. Sozinho was proud of his four children, all of whom graduated from college. He could often be seen wearing the Harvard or Harvard Law caps given to him by Tulante, now an assistant U.S. attorney and a graduate of both schools.

Mr. Sozinho spoke six languages, devoured issues of the New York Times and the Economist, and "was eager to listen to you and give you advice, whether or not you asked for it," his son said.

"He often declared that America gave his children the best opportunity to fashion a successful future for themselves, if they worked hard and committed themselves to excellence," Tulante said.

In addition to his son and his wife of 39 years, he is survived by another son, Garcia; daughters Kayilu Sozinho Kosberg and Christina; two sisters; and three grandchildren.

A viewing will be from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at Robert L. Mannal Funeral Home, 6925 Frankford Ave., with a memorial service to follow at 10:30. Burial will follow in Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Nationalities Service Center, 1216 Arch St., Fourth Floor, Philadelphia 19107.


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