The way we should remember Stephanie Parker Weaver

Critic’s Corner

stephanieStephanie Parker Weaver died shortly after midnight Tuesday after a long bout with cancer. Congestive heart failure was entered as the cause of death but it was the chemo treatment that damaged her heart. She was 52. She leaves her husband, Cordell Weaver, three siblings, and a number of other relatives and friends to carry on her cancer survivors’ network.

Stephanie was born during the planning stages of the March on Washington on September 30, 1962 in Jackson, MS. Carolyn Travis Parker was her mother and she only recognized famed civil rights attorney Frank Parker, who married her mother when she was just a little nappy headed girl, as her father. She grew up around civil rights icons such as Dr. Aaron and Ollie Shirley, Bennie Thompson, and her uncle, Jimmie Travis; and she was destined to be just like them.

She loved her alma mater Callaway High School but found college to obstruct her path to what the late civil rights attorney Chokwe Lumumba would often say, “Free the Land!” Stephanie didn’t have the patience for book learning; there really wasn’t enough substance in them for her. Anyways, she was a street fighter, a hell raiser. She chose instead to aid her father and Senator Henry Kirksey in their fight against voter i.d. laws and other forms of disenfranchisement of African Americans. She learned well and was handed the freedom torch upon their passing.

In the Jackson Advocate Black History Special Edition last month, I mentioned that Stephanie was one of the few people Charles Tisdale trusted to get to the bottom of conspiracies against black people and help devise a plan to right the wrongs. Her investigative research was impeccable and her writing, although eloquent, cut through the bone of hypocrisy. She was A+ smart and could have run a major city in her sleep.

Her willingness to step out into the spotlight to shed light on gross misconduct by the powers that be – CCI, in particular — should be applauded. Her work within the NAACP and SCLC was remarkable and actually restored faith in the civil rights organizations’ local chapters. ¬¬ No one can deny that Stephanie was able to galvanize national attention and support on behalf of Madison County residents subjected to eminent domain provisions in the state’s initial partnership with Nissan. She spoke with conviction and stood firm in her defense of the have nots.

As a loyal friend to the late mayor Frank Melton she worked untiringly in his constituency services office. There she found housing for the homeless and hope for the hopeless. She thought nothing too small when it came to improving the image of black people and doing away with the stigma associated with being black. As Eddie James recalls, Stephanie, along with the late Clara Spencer, demanded that the Metrocenter embrace a black Santa Claus to brighten the smiles of inner city children. Give her a cause and you were bound to get positive results.

After she was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, her focus began to shift to improving access to health care for survivors with the HER2 gene, an aggressive form of cancer that affects more so black and Ashkenazic Jewish women. She also didn’t have the strength she needed to tug the cannon across the civil rights battleground. Those that do volunteer civil rights work will tell you that it is exhausting with no sick leave or vacation pay.

Stephanie wrote a book about her life journey – Rebirth: A Breast Cancer Journey of Many; Survival of Few — and established the Rebirth Alliance to meet those challenges associated with ensuring HER2 survivors with quality health care. Unfortunately, her own health took a toil due to the stresses associated with removing health disparities within communities of color. The medication she was prescribed also damaged her heart already weakened by lost loved ones.

But fortunately, she never gave up fighting the injustices she saw in the delivery of health care services, even when she fought alone as many freedom fighters must do.
The night Stephanie died, Kathy Sykes, her truest friend who remained with her until the end, gave her the news that Dr. Dan Jones would not continue as chancellor of Ole Miss. Few people know that Stephanie waged a one woman war to have Jones investigated for misappropriation of funds at UMMC. I believe she fell asleep in perfect peace believing she had a direct impact on his departure. What a way to go Stephanie — out like a champ!

My prayer is that you now know how much you were loved, admired and, as you would have it, feared. Rest well, Sistah Hurricane!

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 10 a.m. at Word and Worship, 6286 Hanging Moss Rd., Jackson, MS.

By Alice Thomas-Tisdale
Jackson Advocate Publisher