There is not enough time in the day to write all of the eulogies that need to be written. But at least let me write my own just in case they kill me before I’m ready. They meaning the state, most specifically, the police. May my loved ones have more time to care for each other if they aren’t busy trying to find the words to sum up my life.
So I will write to the best of my honesty and I ask of you to please use the eulogy if they kill me within the year. And next year, if these same words ring true, just change my age and proceed. If anything I write does not line up with my life, I give permission to alter this. But hopefully the heavy lifting will be done by me in life.
On A Life Lived:
Karen Wangare Leonard was loved. And she knew it. She wanted everyone to know that all of the care they dished out over the years was felt and she hoped it was reciprocated respectively. She spent twenty-one years on this earth and God knows she wanted so many more. If she were here today she would say that while it would be disingenuous to her humanity to paint her as a saint, she was proud of the life she lived and the woman she became. It was not easy and it was not always correct and community-serving, but the goal was always striving for excellence led by love, never perfection. And using that to guide our judgement, she did okay for herself.
Karen liked to think she was funnier than she was and quieter than people said. Neither of which was exactly the case. But she thought so anyway. Talking was one of her favourite things to do in this life and laughing was a close second. Relationships were important to her and dream chasing with others filled her heart more than words could say. Her life was full of connection and she would not have wanted it any other way.
Born and adopted in Kenya Karen lived life split between the USA and her motherland. It was the honour of a lifetime to be tied to Kenya and while she made home wherever she was in the moment, Kenya always set her soul on fire. She died in a home away from home, killed by white supremacy and her wish is that her image aids in the fight for liberation from all systems of oppression. If Karen were here today she would ask that you do not let anyone co-opt her life and struggle to weaponize against marginalized peoples. Also that you speak of her as truthfully as you can and tend to everyone of this side of living.
Anyone that has come in contact with Karen would know she was involved in more than it seemed she could hold. She always joked it was because she had commitment issues and that made her try everything she could. Whatever the reason, her talent shone through many different ventures. At the time of her death (not including her past ventures) she was a writer, a football player, an equestrian, a pole dancer, a visual artist. She worked at Starbucks and Target to afford to dream chase and she was incredibly thankful for everyone who pushed her forward.
Karen would not like to be solely remembered for what she accomplished and did not feel a need to list out her professional achievements today (although she asks her achievements not be totally brushed aside). Instead she wanted to end in an offering of thanks and a prayer for ‘someday.’
Karen wanted to thank you all for holding witness to this life and death. Here is her final note:
It is an extraordinary thing to be held so tightly in this life that you know love will reach you anywhere. It is also a wonderful grace to be held loosely enough to have room to grow. My life has been full of those that have done both and I cannot give enough thanks to you who have been my embrace. It is a testament to community that my goals have been achieved and were being chased. You have held my dreams when they became too heavy for me to carry and waited until I was ready to shoulder the load again. All that I am I owe to us. I would not have it any other way.
I can only hope that the love I have received was knowingly reciprocated. And where I have fallen short, where I have failed at care, I would like to apologize from the bottom of my heart. If I were alive today to reconcile, I would hope we could meet and all this fire and fury I dish out would’ve blazed a space for new soil to be planted in.
Twenty-one years. I never thought I would make it this far. Shortly after birth, upon abandonment, death started calling my name. What a feat to defy it for so long. And what a heartbreak to die at the hands of the state while I was fighting so hard for life.
So lest we forget as we proceed forward, my purpose in this life was not pain. I was not born only to suffer. My life was full of so much goodness. When I look back at me everything is bathed in yellow sunlight — save for the corners with shadows and we all have those. It is overwhelming to reflect upon how much warmth I received over the years. And I want to make sure that I write that down because somehow in death we always question love, given and received. I also want to make clear that not everyone got along well with me and we must give them the space to feel how they do. But to those who did not get along well with me on the basis that I asked for life in abundance, for Black liberation and freedom to be as queer as I was, remind them not to lie when it comes to my name and theirs. Let them change their opinion of me in death if they wish. But don’t pretend like I was supported by everyone.
Whew, that was a lot.
One more thing.
I want to say this very explicitly: there is no justice to be found here. Do not call for such. Justice would be me alive. Justice for me is a someday that only happened briefly yesterday and will never happen tomorrow.
Call for accountability. Call for abolition of the police and prison industrial complex. Call for life.
Let my murder birth a continuance in the struggle for Black liberation. This and nothing less is my wish. And so I ask, and may we receive.
Someday we will be free on earth’s side of living.
i dream like a prayer laid down
at the throne of a god that is not white.
who cannot be cannot be white
because white gods do not care //
to unlearn their love of Black bodies
at the gates of heaven.
and i am tired of begging for life from a god
that commands death as payment
to an eternity we will never be white enough for
i dream late night prayers to an omnipresent God
who created us, Black as we are, to look like them.
may i be heard
may we be seen and sent heaven
here on this side of living
where our blood is not a feast for whiteness.
i dream (prayer-like) that they stop killing us this year //
amen amen amen amen amen amen and again, amen
I will miss you until reunion. Until then, tend to one another with care. Tend well to your wounds you pick up along the way.
All my love,
*Of course, I am not dead yet. But if they kill me like they do my people, here is my eulogy. May it be enough, And know that for now I declare myself fully alive until my very last breath.