Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kathy


It's been 12 years last week since her suicide. I didn't really want to blog about her but, something about Kathy always made you take notice... always made you want to write and say something. That's how she was... expressive, dramatic, inspiring.

I was going to lunch yesterday and I saw a huge metal peace sign that had been constructed at the sight of her death. Someone had printed her many quotes and left flowers. I smiled... finally, 12 years after her death she is taken seriously. Wherever she is, Kathy would have liked that.

This is one of my more bizzarre life experiences. Kathy was not one of my ex-girlfriends. I met her the year after I got married. I can't even say we were friends. I never knew her real name until after her death and she never knew my last name.

I met Kathy in 1990 when I first began working at the university. I was walking across campus with a co-worker and I saw a throng of people crowded around the front of the library. Drama junkie that I am, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about so, I walked over to the crowd and worked my way to the front and there she was... all 5' 2" of her. This little petite Asian woman was standing and giving a rousing speech without a stitch of clothing on.

Usually, when I meet a woman, it takes awhile before I see them in their birthday suit. Standing beside her and holding up two placards were two long-haired white men and they didn't have on any clothes either. They were protesting the first Gulf War and George Bush (the first one, not Junior).

She talked about his involvement in the CIA and how he wanted the United States to go to war with Saddamn Hussein, a man who was once his ally and who he had armed himself. She warned of the very thing we are facing now... an agressive war with Iraq, supposedly in the interest of the American people but, really for the greedy interests of "the corporate-military elite". Twelve years after her death and she was right on the money. Mind you, she was saying this is the late summer of 1990.

Half of the people in the crowd came to laugh because these three people were naked but, if you listened closely to what she was saying, she was correct in her analysis. I didn't say anything to Kathy that day but, I would later see her again (when she had clothes on) and we would talk. I heard that she had once been a student at the university, was a brilliant Poli-Sci major, and then, one day she just dropped out... never to return. I don't know if that was true or not. She was surrounded by mystery. She had been in the forefront of several un-popular causes, like the movemant for world peace, the movemant to clean up the environment, amnesty for political prisoners around the world, divestation of funds from cruel African dictatorships, etc. (real far left stuff).

She supported herself by running a book store off campus that also had incense, top paper for "looseys" (handmade cigarettes or joints, if you were nasty), Greek stuff, paddles, t-shirts, etc. We would talk, discuss this book or that, methods of protest, etc. I found her to be quite intelligent. She was about eight years older than me but, you couldn't tell that by looking at her. She looked a lot younger than she actually was. Her musical taste ended somewhere in the 70's. She was into Bob Dylan... Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young... David Bowie... and such. The only black music she knew of was Sly & The Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Motown, and Stax. I always teased her and said she was trapped in a time warp.

Kathy cared about her causes and she would do anything to get attention.... from protesting naked to laying down at the foot of campus and blocking pedestrian traffic. I don't know what cause she was expousing on the afternoon of October 22, 1996 when she doused herself with gasoline and lit herself on fire. She went up in a blaze and fell into a bed of leaves. Do you know that on that day, me and some friends walked right by that fire from a distance? I had no idea that it was Kathy. I do remember everybody saying how bad it smelled (we were smelling burning flesh and just didn't know it). There was something eerie and just plain wrong about how high the flame burned that day.

I found out in the afternoon as I was getting ready to go home that Kathy had set herself on fire and killed herself. The final act of a public career that had never been taken seriously. I walked by the peace sign yesterday and saw her quotes, name, the year of her birth and death printed in big letters underneath them, and the beautiful flowers. It was all so peaceful. For a minute, I could almost see her standing there on the steps protesting something.

In Memory of Kathy C.
1950-1996

18 comments:

James Perkins said...

Brother man, Brother Man, you have lived quite a life and met many interesting people. That's what I love about your blog...It's like no other..You are like no other.-lolololol..Great Post.

Toni said...

Keith, when are you going to write your auto-biography?? and who is going to play you in the movie version??? Wow!!That was a bizzarre
story.

Angie said...

Man...You know some interesting
people...I'm with my roomie...You
have got to write your auto-biography?-lolol.

Sunflower said...

I remember her Keith...That was a very touching tribute..Yes, I think
she would've been happy that she was finnally recognized.

Simon Bastion said...

A very moving tribute Keith.

Shorty said...

Keith, I've known you long enough thru your blog to know that you love and appreciate life. I wanted you to see this post another blogger friend of mine posted today. http://netteniche.blogspot.com/2008/10/must-see.html
Just another reminder of how great God is, and how blessed we are to know some of the people He places on His earth, even if their lives are brief.

Opinionated Diva said...

This is definitely a great tribute...but damn...I wish she'd left a note or SOMETHING behind as an explanation.

I'm just sitting here smh at knowing she doused herself with gasoline and lit herself on fire...just leaves me speechless.

Keith said...

@Opinionated Diva-It left me speechless too toknow that I walked right past her and didn't realize it..didn't realize that a human being was burning.

Thoughts of a Southern gal said...

Wow! What a story.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Wow!

-OG

A Go Bytch said...

Wow...Kathy.. I bet if she knew 12 years later you still remember her would make her feel so good!

Good Post!!!

Go B.

SLC said...

Keith; Thank you for the education.
Kathy Change did leave a note.
I found some info on wikipedia, but that led me to http://www.kathychange.com/

I never thought I could be impressed by a suicide. Anyway this is from Kathy Change...

"CALL ME A FLAMING RADICAL BURNING FOR ATTENTION, BUT MY REAL INTENTION IS TO SPARK A DISCUSSION OF HOW WE CAN PEACEFULLY TRANSFORM OUR WORLD. AMERICA, I OFFER MYSELF TO YOU AS AN ALARM AGAINST ARMAGEDDON AND A TORCH FOR LIBERTY. "

Thanks again Keith.
SLC

Shanita Waters said...

Deep... it's a shame what some people have to go through just to be heard. This just goes to show that sometimes we need to take a minute out to listen to one another. Perhaps if more people had listened to her she wouldn't have had to take such extreme measures.

nikki said...

riveting entry. what a great tribute. i wish i had known her.

Raven said...

Wow...not much renders me speechless,but I am. This was very touching. Thank you for sharing this with us.

LadyLee said...

Now that was a great tribute. Really, it was.

Keisha "Kitten" Isaacs said...

Hey Brother!

Wow...that's deep...I wonder if she had an mental illness?...wow..this was a nice tribute...

Somebodies Friend said...

Hey Keith,

Great post as usual.

I also know a gal that was a lot like your Kathy. She had a long career in the public eye and was never taken seriously.

Her final act was something that very few would ever even think of doing, and she undertook it with no reservations whatsoever. She, like Kathy, are the true heros in this country. People that are willng to do anything to bring attention to the opression and evil that is so common in our world today.

Willing to die if need be, to save another, that is the ultimate sacrifice and we as a people need to remember the causes that these people gave their all for.




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