Eulogies for an artist, writer, poet, health warrior, activist who came full circle at age 27
Nikki Pursued Truth
By Lara Gregory, Esq.
Good evening, everyone.
Marivir asked me to say something tonight and I’m probably as surprised as some of you are. You see, it may not be obvious to you but I’m not a 27 year old like Nikki. I didn’t get to hang around a lot with her. In fact, I know her through her mom, Marivir, whom I met at a book launch a few years back.
After a few conversations with Marivir and as I learned her story, I was drawn to her and to NIkki, perhaps due to the fact that like Marivir, my mom was also widowed at a young age. Although I didn’t get to hang out a lot with Nikki, I have had enough interaction with her, laughing at the same things on social media and even attending the same AF3IRM summer class.
Going back to her age, when people hear that Nikki died at the age of 27, the usual response is that “Oh, she’s so young.”
However, as I sat and listened to her friends who know her well, especially from her sisters from AF3IRM, there is more to Nikki than her age and if we look closely she may have lived a fuller and more meaningful life than others who have lived more years.
As most of you in this room are aware, Nikki moved to New York in 2009. She moved here to join her mom who was already in New York at that time. Her mom was in New York for about a year and a half before Nikki joined her and since she moved when she was a teen-ager, there were a lot of adjustments she need to make to thrive in a new country. Nevertheless, she did not allow these adjustments to deter her from being herself.
Nikki sought truth. She pursued what was true about herself and how she wanted to define herself. As she sought and found her internal truth, she lived out her truth, in her choices and in her art. She also pursued external truth, whether in terms of political issues and causes, particularly in transnational feminist issues.
Nikki built community. As she sought truth, Nikki also built community. She was a passionate and steadfast member of AF3IRM. In fact, as you heard from the members of the AF3IRM community, Nikki’s art is an integral part of AF3IRM. As you look around you, you will see samples of her art, reflecting the principles she and AF3IRM stand by. The strength of the AF3IRM community was also exhibited as Nikki fought for her health. AF3IRM organized a GoFund me for her, visited her, encouraged her and did all they can to show their love for her, thus defining the organization in clearer terms by the way they loved and moved as a community for Nikki and her family.
Nikki loved. Nikki would sass her Mom now and then but she listened to and heeded her mom’s advice. At times, she would scowl and not move but in the end she would yield to her Mom. Perhaps the best testimony of her love for her Mom is when she said “I don’t want to leave you, Mommy. I don’t want you to be alone.” Indeed, Nikki was loved and she loved. She experienced the highs of romantic love and the lows of relationship break-ups.
Nikki united our community. Perhaps the most telling aspect of Nikki’s life is that it united the Filipino community in New York city. Her friend Kirby and her mom Shirley were moved by their love for Nikki and Marivir to hold a fund-raising concert for her. Members of the Filipino community and friends set aside their differences worked together and attended the concert to express love for both Nikki and Marivir. On the night of the concert, Kalayaan Hall of the New York Philippine Consulate was bursting at the seams with people expressing their faith, hope and most of all, their love. Indeed, for that one brief shining moment, Nikki and her mom Marivir elicited the best in our community.
To seek truth, build community, to love and to unite people for a good purpose – we don’t need a lot of years in our lives to pursue and do the things that really matter. Nikki showed us that just as he is, she did all of that.
(Maria Lara Gregory is a Manhattan-based litigation and immigration lawyer.)