Today, I pay tribute and remembrances on what would have been my daughter Riki’s 41st birthday. As we near the seven-year anniversary of her passing, I observe that losing a child to death at an early age tends to stay fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. Riki made such an impact on those around her, and her tight friend group, “The Village” continues to honor her on her birthday. The Village, also, continues to offer emotional supports to the children left behind by the premature death of their mother, my daughter.
I loved watching Riki connect to people. She always paid special attention to those who were, perhaps, less fortunate. At her funeral, during reflection comments, a man stood up to tell about how she made him feel special when he met Riki for the first time. Many told similar stories. What made her special? She loved to laugh, and she had a quick and clever wit. Riki loved to engage in deep discussions with her friends. Before “google,” she would call us for answers to questions in these deep discussions. Mainly, the call would be for us to affirm her points of view.
Riki knew how to make moments special even in the most mundane of tasks. She directed nutrition in school food programs. Riki loved to prepare and share food with friends. Her children consider her “the best cook ever!” On Wednesdays, Riki used to prepare a “taco bar” for the Village. This year’s “Riki Celebration” will feature a taco bar for friends and family paying tribute to her memory.
I took the day from work to pay tribute. My 92 year old mother and her 85 year old husband are visiting. My mother and I took the day to prepare a lovely meal of grilled steak, asparagus, caprese salad, and fresh cucumbers. We offer a toast to my daughter and my mother’s great granddaughter, Riki. We prepared foods loved by Riki.
We could have enjoyed a lovely meal at a local restaurant, but Riki loved to cook and bake, so Mother and I prepared a meal that Riki would have loved: steak, asparagus, caprese salad, and fresh cucumbers. A nice bottle of cabernet sauvignon rounded out the meal, and we had a lovely slice of peanut butter cake for a crowning glory to the “good eats!”
As Indigenous tradition would have it, at least for my tribe/nation, we sing songs and give thanks to Mother Earth and the Creator for what we have and for what we love. We built a roaring fire to which we gave sage and tobacco. We felt Riki’s presence. It was a great honor to be Riki’s mother. She gave all to those who were around her.
To that point, I received a lovely note from one or Riki’s high school friends. Joey thanked me for bringing Riki into the world, and he shared in honor in knowing her. That lovely note came at just the right time to give me a great blessing. Thank you, Joey.
I am a geographer specializing in human systems. My passion is studying underrepresented populations so that I can assist in their integration into the communities in which they live. I studied Human Ecology because it is a wonderful blend of the disciplines of geography, anthropology and sociology. No matter the context in which I find myself, I am an observer of humans in their environments and how the influences in those settings build and nurture sense-of-self, sense-of-place, and sense-of-direction in educational, familial, and community settings. My work focuses on the cross-cultural and intercultural traditions of multi-lingual populations acculturating into their receiving communities and being successful in educational arenas of higher education. This work includes gathering, analyzing, and writing about health, well-being, and environmental/social connectedness in their communities. My research focuses on Minority-majority, rural, Midwest communities. My role as director of intercultural learning and academic success at Kansas State University allows me to discover more about myself as I work with others in their paths to self-discovery in their own interactions with students and families who come from different parts of the country and the world all converging in educational spaces. Recently, I lived, worked and played in Southwest Kansas, a region marked by Minority-majority populations centers (56% – 68%). Some of my research results are used to address poverty, low educational attainment, poor health outcomes, and cultural norms in multi-cultural settings. I work to assure a representative sample for my research, so I engage in multi-lingual research (English, Spanish, Burmese, French, Tigrinya, and Somali). Building trust and relationships is the key to my success as a multilingual researcher. Presently, my research takes me in the micro-communities of populations represented by nine African countries (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Somalia, and Cameroon), seven Latin American countries, and six Asian countries. Yes, it is rural Southwest Kansas, and many of the densely-settled and frontier rural communities act as receiving centers for refugees and other displaced populations, because of the availability of jobs.
I am the recent recipient of National Geographic Society’s Research and Exploration grant to introduce Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to females of color. This inter-generational, intercultural class hosted middle school, high school, and adult females who learned the basics of GIS with a variety of applications from remote sensing to city planning to Google Earth, and to Pokémon GO! By the time the young ladies finished the class, they were able to build cities, map their communities, log trips from their countries of origin to the Midwest. I am in the mid-year of the grant funding, and my target for completion was July 2018. I have new funding to extend this work to new cohorts.
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One thought on “Remembering Riki”
I loved your tribute to Riki and I am sorry that I didn’t know her. Your loving stories of her kindness to others brought tears to my eyes because I know that the grief never stops for you and her children.
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