FORUM

  • Vivian Phillips

MY COMMUNITY - A TRIBUTE TO OUR ELDERS

If the elders leave you a legacy of dignified language, you do not abandon it and speak childish language. ~ Ghanaian Proverb


When a community loses a keeper of our culture, we lose a piece of our root and our foundation is shaken. There is solace in knowing that these souls are now ancestors but the loss of their physical presence wounds our spirit. We must remember the dignified language they taught us and give honor and appreciation for the lives they shared on this earthly plane.


On May 6th, Nashira Priester took her wings. Nashira was a divine presence in the Seattle community. She was an activist and lover of all things arts. Over the history of Seattle’s Black Film Festival, (formerly the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival), Nashira was a constant and welcoming presence. According to her husband, musician Julian Priester, Nashira was passionate about Black history, Black heritage and justice.


“Nashira was a force, as everyone who knew her knows,” stated Priester. And we agree. We are grateful for the contributions to community and the arts made by Nashira, and give gratitude for all that she provided to our culture. We will miss her smile and her warm presence. We wish her peaceful eternal rest. You can read more about Nashira and support her family here.

Nashira Priester
Photo courtesy of Atuanya Priester

Lois and Thaddeus Spratlen were both quiet and boisterous in their commitment to the community. Lois transitioned in 2013, and we recently lost Thaddeus on May 18th. He was 90 years old. Mr. Spratlen ushered generations in our community to a higher standard of being. Always dignified, never stuffy, his presence and his ever-present kufi lent an air of cultural memory. He seemed to be from the past, perhaps a ruler of some ancient African kingdom in our midst.


As Professor Emeritus of Marketing at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, the UW remembrance describes Spratlen as, “a genuine giant, a trailblazing Black business educator, a potent and prolific researcher of prescient societal challenges, an innovative textbook author, a mentor, and role model for generations of students, a formidable advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion, and the inspiration behind a center that has accelerated the growth of small businesses owned by underrepresented minorities and in underserved communities across Washington and the United States.”


We thank you Professor Spratlen for your dedicated life and legacy! Read more about Professor Spratlen here.


Photo of Thaddeus Spratlen courtesy of UW Foster School of Business

To commemorate Nashira and Thaddeus and their limitless contributions to community, by permission of the poet Lisa Brown Ross, we offer this excerpt from her poem, “My Community,” from her book of poetry Sapphires and Satin: Beauty of Black Soul. Her latest book, Life is about the Dance: Poems and Inspiration, is available on Amazon.

My community sparkles

like

sunbeams dancing

on water.

Exploring seascapes of

sapphire blue

set against a black satin canvas

nothing is as soft and inviting.


My community is a

kaleidoscope

multi-layered hues of

Jacob Lawrence

and Romare Bearden.

King Solomon’s mines

reside here

diamonds ubiquitously

cut with precision

from coal withstanding

excruciating fire.


My community houses

the original griots…

Langston Hughes, James Baldwin,

Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston

walked through these doors

soul survivors of

uncivilized ravages.


My community, hums…

a spicy gumbo, rich and

tasty to the palette

it bows to greet me

like a million tulips

in spring’s breeze.

smiling on me always.