In Honor of Mama Dee- African/Taino/Roma Skolar for without whom there would be no me
The Passing of POOR Magazine's Mama Dee
The Passing of POOR Magazine's Mama Dee
As chips of ice fell from the sky, my Mama, Mama Dee, African/Boricua-Taino/Roma orphan from the streets of Philly, passed on her spirit journey
Mama Dee, co-editor of POOR Magazine, Grandmama to Tiburcio, disabled artist, conceptualist and story-teller.
Mama Dee, corporate media critic and independent media producer, singer, and dancer to all rhythms.
Mama Dee, torture victim, fighter for social justice for mamas, children, families and folk locally and globally.
Mama Dee, mother of tiny for without whom there would be no meï¿½
On the snow-laced San Francisco night of March 10th - Mama Dee toiled on a segment - for PoorNewsNetwork's monthly radio show at POOR Magazine's office. At 7:19 PM she called me to say she was going home to the tenderloin apartment we have shared ever since we stopped being homeless not so many years ago. We laughed together about what she called Dick Cheny's new scam to sell Amerikkka to Halliburton (i.e. the "Dubai" issue)
That was the last time we spoke. She died suddenly without feeling any pain while in a catnap on our couch at 8:45 PM
Mama Dee has been suffering for the last four years from a heart condition that she believed stemmed from her days as a child who was starved and severely beaten in a series of brutal foster homes. She has been suffering for as long as I can remember with psychological disabilities and fear from those years.
As a very low-income single mother she struggled through welfare, low-wage jobs and motherhood to earn her masters degree in Social Work so she could help children like she had been. Battling with conventional forms of "treatment" and service provision, she became a champion of Black psychology and other forms of non-western treatment modalities for poor mothers, poor families and folks of color
In her role as co-editor of POOR Magazine, she co-authored the WORK issue which explored unrecognized forms of labor including panhandling and motherhood, the MOTHERS issue which looked at the experience of poor mothers locally and globally and she launched COURTWATCH, an extremely innovative media advocacy project which stemmed from her own personal hell with Child Protective Services and their bedfellows The Juvenile Dependency Court. Through this project she helped countless low and no-income families of color who had been abused by this very racist and classist system.
She was also one of the lead artists on the fascinating Poverty Hero Project at POOR which incorporated her love of literary art, visual art and advocacy as well as countless other media projects. But the one that she would want me to mention beyond all others was her hilarious children's book series; The Po' Cats- A coupla low-income cats talk back! - for voice that's never heard. Through the allegorical lens of two felines, Hands and Lester the reader gets a critique of issues such as indigenous colonization, orphanages, eldership and more.
As her sole caregiver since 12 years old, her daughter, her best friend and her collaborator I have supported her in every way I can. As her collaborator I have had the privilege of making art, performance, video, and poetry through her lens. As her partner in dance and song I have had the privilege of learning how to dance, sing and see people, life and community with, through and along-side her brilliant world view.
A creative artist and innovative thinker in death as in life it was her clear wish to not be buried in the ground. Coming from a long line of poor women who didn't even have the money to buy a burial plot, it was her wish to be strapped to the top of a car and driven around for at least a year. Barring that option (which I did explore) and on the advice of close friends and fellow artists, Gerry A., Robin S., and Barry S, Mama Dee was cremated and her urn was strapped to the car in an interactive life-art installation.
The installation included a multi-media shrine in her honor with pictures, videos and mediaInAction performances that she created over the years. The installation departed on a road trip at 6:00pm on Friday, March 24th from UN Plaza in San Francisco - this was the the official Bay Area ceremony in honor of Dee.
Excerpts from the ceremony can be seen on channel 29's news broadcast throughout the months of May and June.
To hear some of Dee's incisive art and political commentary on issues of race, class, culture and consciousness as well as a poetic tribute from her POOR Magazine family you can listen to PoorNewsNetwork's March 20th radio broadcast on KPFA's morning show which you can access on-line any time by going to www.kpfa.org and clicking on the morning show for March 20th