I cannot tell you how much your support and example and leadership have meant to me over the years. We have been friends since I first came to visit you as a Program Associate in 1988, when you were running the Economic Development Institute at the Ms. Foundation. I remember watching the terrible events of Tiananmen Square together in Atlanta at the Institute.
I remember joining the Ms. Collaborative on Women's Economic Development and Self Employment and meeting friends like Peggy Clark and Lisa Mensah. I remember you and me talking about having a baby and your funny antics (headstands, anyone!?). In 1995, you invited me to join the Ms. Foundation delegation to the Beijing Conference -- what a life changing experience and one that took me to the life work that I have pursued for 14 years at the Global Fund for Women.
I watched you lead as a partner and ally of Marie's and I watched you step into the role of CEO with such grace and confidence after Marie stepped down. You never failed to remember that the women you served were the ones we had visited together in public housing, on Lakota reservations, and poor communities in the Mississippi Delta. You built a strong and powerful foundation that was fierce in its pursuit of justice for women in the United States. You stepped in after Katrina devastated lives and made a real difference.
You created a vision and a brand for Ms. that will live on in a million ways. I hope you know how much you have done -- we do!
I have loved every minute of our friendship and as I began to think about my transition -- there you were again to help me review with wisdom and clarity what needed to be done -- what the important pieces of the process required, and how to keep myself together through it all.
You have been sister, ally and dear friend for so many years, I know it will never stop. Saying goodbye to something we love, even when we know we are ready to do so, is never easy -- so here is a poem by Palestinian American poet Naomi Shibab Nye that has helped me through it. It is my gift to you.
It is a good word, rolling off the tongue
no matter what language you were born with.
Use it. Learn where it begins,
the small alphabet of departure,
how long it takes to think of it,
then say it, then be heard.
Marry it. More than any golden ring
it shines, it shines.
Wear it on every finger
till your hands dance,
touching everything easily,
letting everything, easily, go.
Strap it to your back like wings.
Or a kite tail. The stream of air behind a jet.
If you are known for anything,
let it be the way you rise out of sight
when your work is finished.
Think of things that linger: leaves,
cartons and napkins, the damp smell of mold.
Think of things that disappear.
Think of what you love best,
what brings tears into your eyes.
Something that said adios to you
before you knew what it meant
or how long it was for.
Explain little, the word explains itself.
Later perhaps. Lessons following lessons,
like silence following sound.
– Naomi Shibab Nye
Kavita N. Ramdas, Senior Advisor (President and CEO 1996-2010), Global Fund for Women
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