By Imani Williams
I consider myself to be a spiritual person and I make a distinction between being spiritual and religious. In doing so, tradition honoring my ancestors is of personal significance as I make my journey through life.
In my place of worship we pour libations in honor of our ancestors and those who have made their transition to the next world. As names were called during this special time in our church service this past Sunday, I called out the name of a friend I miss dearly. Her name is M. Liz Marshall. I’d like to share a letter I wrote to her honoring her life after she left this earth far too early in 1999.
Too many of us are hurting on the inside as we go through our daily routines. Liz was in so much pain she took her own life. Remembering Liz reminds me to honor my commitment to be the best that I can be every day and to thank the Creator for a chance to be of service to others. In addition we are reminded to be true to ourselves and seek someone to talk to when life’s burdens get extra heavy.
Where do I start-
My dear sister you will truly be missed. I feel your spirit and it is very hard to deal with the realization that I can no longer call you up and ask for an opinion. You were always quick with a sincere down to earth, no nonsense response that may have been totally counter to what I wanted to hear.
You were the type of sista friend who pulled no punches. You spoke your mind when you knew that others may not agree with you, but nevertheless you stayed true to your convictions.
Our phone conversations, which always started out light enough, would sometimes turn into debates that ran the length of full courtroom battles. Not quick to concede, you were a wonderful ear to bounce things off of because you ‘examined every angle.’
It is no wonder you were in the helping profession or that you used the art of spoken word and writing to help heal the souls of those in need of conscious raising stimulation and thought provoking situations to ponder.
Anyone who had a chance to hear you read or even listen to your poetic outgoing phone message got an earful from a sista who was here to take care of business.
I often marveled at your energy and willingness to help others between caring for your elderly mother, a full time job, martial arts, freelancing, poetry readings and school.
As busy as you stayed I always knew two places I could find you. The Eastern Market on Saturday morning in search of fresh veggie, and at someone’s poetry venue.
I appreciated you taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with my college students each semester. Especially since you graciously accepted my handcrafted jewelry in lieu of a monetary honorarium. Your candidness with my students helped them to begin to understand and grasp some meaning of gay culture and what it is like to be an LGBT person of color.
So, while I am deeply saddened that someone I love is no longer here I accept the charge and promise to make it my business to do all I can to ensure that there is a safe space for people of color to find refuge when they feel they have nowhere to go.
We often talked about the role of the black church and that there needed to be accessible outreach services inside of the city limits for people in times of need.
So in closing, I say that since the Creator blessed you with pen pad and wonderful expression, I vow to keep your spirit, fire, and wisdom alive by being of service to persons in crisis, and by doing all I can do to make people aware of the LGBT community and all the positivity and beauty in our family.
Peace and Love, Imani
FAMILY REUNION is a support group offering safe space and a chance to talk, learn, and get information about gay issues. If you are gay or trying to understand a loved one who is gay please join us. PFLAG Detroit, For People of Color, meets every 2nd Monday, 6:30-8:30 p.m at Ujiima Youth Center, 80 E. Manchester, three blocks east of Woodward Ave, Highland Park, MI 48203. All ages are welcome. For more information contact 313-220-3227 or 313-899-2591, P.O. Box 11025, Detroit, MI 48202-9998 or at firstname.lastname@example.org