A former student of mine, Heather MacAllister, died Feb. 13, in Portland, Oregon, after a three year fight with ovarian cancer. She was a remarkable student, a creative person, a seeker of truth, and a fighter for justice. If I recall correctly she was an African American Studies/anthropology major, but no category can encompass the range of her interests.
She directed the LGBTRC in the late 1990s, and the range of her community activism is unparalleled: she organized to bring Muslim and Arab-American civil rights after 9-11, served on the boards of Al-Fatiha (the nation’s only national organization for sexual minority Muslms) and of Transgender Michigan, and advocated for the rights of fat people, to name just a few. In recent years, she founded Big Burlesque and Fat Bottom Revue, which I never got to see. In 2005, Leonard Nimoy photographed Heather and her dance troupe for his exhibit “Maximum Beauty”.
I will always remember Heather as one of those great students, who eagerly learns what the instructor has to teach, and much more, and who teaches the instructor a lot too. Her critique of the Stephen Speilberg film “Amistad”, which came out while she was taking HIST 315 with me, was devastatingly pointed, funny, and educational all at once. She delivered the critique spontaneously but it came across with the strength of a fully developed performance piece. She could have been a great professor, but she had other tasks….
Memorials are being held in several cities for Heather, including one in Detroit at 4210 Trumbull on Feb. 25 at 2pm. I recall her speaking fondly of EMU, yet always, both toward EMU and toward the rest of the institutions on this poor ol’ planet, she had creative ideas for making improvements. Such a patriot!
Heather died way too early, but she touched the lives of many, and her works and her love will live on.