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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 24, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 12
OBITUARY:May her legacy live on!
Section One
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OBITUARY:May her legacy live on!

Vickie Williams, an African-American lesbian leader, elder, community builder, mentor and beloved family member transitioned on March 3rd, 2017. Vickie was the co-owner of Life Enrichment Bookstore for almost 2 decades, otherwise known as LEMS, the only Black owned and Black lesbian owned bookstore in Washington State. LEMS was a community center, a cultural hub and portal to Black ancestral heritage in Columbia City. Vickie was known for being a mentor to youth, a community leader in sharing Black heritage and culture, and a community builder in the Black LGBTQ community. She is survived by her partner Aaliya Messiah and family.

On March 14th there was a memorial for Vickie of almost 1000 people, according to a Seattle Times article, at Skyway's Holy Temple Evangelistic Center. Vickie has touched many lives, as she has mine, so it is not surprising that her memorial was flooded with community that loved her. At her memorial King County Councilmember Larry Gossett made a proclamation that March 11th is 'Vickie Williams Day' in King County. Gossett also acknowledged that LEMS is the 'epicenter for African-American' events in Seattle. Dominique Stephens, representative from the Mayor's Office, Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, Representative Eric Pettigrew and Senator Rebecca Saldana were also in attendance and Stephens and Tomiko Santos also spoke.

I met Vickie almost 20 years ago through a previous partner and admired her strength and commitment to the Black lesbian community. At the time I met Vickie she was one of the lead organizers for Seattle's Sister 2 Sistah group the only organization in Seattle specifically devoted to Black lesbian and bisexual women. Vickie, in her leadership, ensured that LEMS was a cultural hub for LGBTQ women of color, like hosting Sistah Sinema, a Black queer women led film forum, creating a space where women of color could see themselves in film. Whenever I attended events at LEMS I was always warmly welcomed by Vickie who was waiting by door. It was as if she wanted to know each person coming into her bookstore and get to know them.

In 2012 I reconnected with Vickie and asked her to be on LGBTQ Allyship's Advisory Committee.

During one of my visits with Vickie, she shared with me a story about a friend of hers, an older black lesbian that fell ill and needed extra care. Her friend's daughter admitted Vickie's friend in a nursing home, but the daughter did not approve of her mother being a lesbian. Vickie's friend, who had a vibrant black lesbian community, became isolated from the very community who loved her wholelistically. Sadly, Vickie's friend passed away in the nursing home cut off from her community. It was at that time I asked Vickie to speak at the 2013 Over the Rainbow Washington State LGBTQ Aging & Long-Term Care Summit, a conference LGBTQ Allyship helped organize, on the challenges and needs of older black lesbians in Seattle and King County.

Vickie's stories on the barriers faced by older black lesbians around aging, health care and housing have inspired me to adamantly advocate for a LGBTQ equity lens (that includes the impacts of racism, sexism and economic injustice) in senior housing. Her life and devotion to community has inspired and changed the lives of so many people, including mine.

I am grateful to have known Vickie and to have learned from her.

May your amazing legacy live on!

Debbie Carlsen
LGBTQ Allyship


P.S. Please consider supporting the survival of LEMS, the only African-American lesbian owned bookstore in Washington State, and supporting Vickie's family to pay for funeral costs. Vickie's legacy must live on! Donate to Vickie William's Go Fund Me 'Homegoing' page https://www.gofundme.com/5c3qc-ms-vickie-williams-homegoing Reprinted with permission from LGBTQ Allyship's March 17 SPECIAL EDITION e-newsletter

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