I am writing this post through tears. I just learned that the world has lost an incredible young woman whom I had the privilege of working with during my tenure at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Charisse Cecil was the intern I hired all those years ago, and it was her passion for African American culture that really spoke to me. It was her work ethic that impressed me even more. She had the ability to synthesize the multiplicity of ideas running through my mind, and create a cohesive product that hit all the right points.
I was happy to see her join the staff of the National Trust, as a full time employee, and to see her interest in historic preservation, particularly the preservation of African American historic places, grow. We often talked about the links among, history, literature, music and preservation, and how more black folks needed that exposure to see the rich tapestry of our past. In Charisse, I found a kindred spirit, and a good friend. I wanted to see her reach the height of her potential. And I just knew that future generations would one day sit in the classroom of the future Dr. Cecil to learn about African American literature and culture.
It hurts to know that that will not happen now. It hurts to know that I will not be able to catch up with her, when I visit Washington again. It hurts to know that I will never get to know her better. And for all of the hurt that I feel, I cannot imagine what this loss is doing to her family and her closest friends, people that she spoke of so warmly, and with whom she had so much pride.
If only we had more people in this world as open, honest, giving and forthright as Charisse. All of us who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing her will miss that remarkable smile, a smile that could brighten one's spirit the moment she flashed it.
Charisse, you will be missed, but never forgotten. May you rest in peace.