Wednesday, August 4, 2010

From Kathy Engel

Rhonda was pure energy. Metaphysical, cellular, biodynamic, daring, loving, genius shaking up kickass energy. We know what she did in the world. What can't be measured are the ripples and waves into other times and corners of the planet.

The vastness of human life she affected with her audacious, brilliant, persistent, imaginative drive for justice. And that justice, in Rhonda's world, was joyous and engaged.

The last time I saw Rhonda was not at a rally or a meeting or a fundaiser. It turned out she was the Millstone Road, Sag Harbor neighbor of another dear friend, the singer/songwriter Terry Winchell, who was having a yard sale. I think it was late fall 2009, a bit chilly but not too cold to be out at a yard sale. In true Rhonda form she was thrilled to discover the connection, told Terry we must all get together for dinner, and tried on several cool clothing items. She was terribly thin and clearly struggling but absolutely glowing at the same time. She asked me about my family in detail, as always, with eager generosity, someone who really wanted to know.

I first met Rhonda around 1980 when she was a staff attorney at CCR and I was working with Blanche Cook and others at the Fund For Open Information and Accountability. I had already known about her groundbreaking work and met her through Vivian Stromberg. I think, as I look back over the years, what amazes me most about Rhonda is her constant curiosity, readiness to tread into new waters, broaden, deepen, reach farther. I never remember her moaning about the state of the world, just working too hard, and also living, talking, traveling, asking, pushing.

When I was the director of MADRE in the early 80's, she brought a delegation of women she had led to Nicaragua, to meet with me. Now I think of the humility of this experienced older (than I was!) leader coming to talk to this pipsqueak! She was thoughtful, open, probing, deeply respectful of our approach to the work, ready to cross borders and open channels.

Shortly after her first bout with cancer I was walking down the street in Bridgehampton with the poet Sonia Sanchez. I hear this voice calling out: "Kathy Kathy." I looked back and thought I saw a child. Then looking again I saw it was Rhonda in a hat, no hair, thin, and full of the verve and delight that defined her.

I'm so grateful to have known her, followed her, benefited from her glorious work and being. I'm grateful for my daughters and their friends and my students. For all of us.

Pure energy.

Kathy Engel
August 2010