Vickie Williams, owner of Lem's Life Enrichment Bookstore in Seattle, "the only black-owned bookstore in Washington State, specializing in African-American literature, history and visibility in the Pacific Northwest," died March 3. She was 65. "If you had the opportunity to visit the bookstore you know you had a platform to share empowering stories of your life that might change someone else's," wrote Bridgette Hempstead in a tribute for the South Seattle Emerald. "It was so much more than a bookstore, however. Lem's was the community center that was governed by pure love, strength and a portal to our black ancestral heritage.... Ms. Vickie was a black institution in her own right. She held us together by making sure all of us, young to old, had an unapologetic sense of self, purpose, and belonging. We will never let that legacy dies. Rest in Power Ms. Vickie!"
Hempstead told KOMO News that the bookstore's future is uncertain, but friends have set up an online fundraiser to defray funeral costs and help ensure the future of the shop. "She has charged her community to stand up to the plate. Now it's time for the community to grow up and embrace the wisdom that Vickie has left for us. We as a people just have to keep this bookstore going in her legacy--and I think that will happen.... The store is where you come and commune, where you come and can receive life. There's no other place like it in the state."
Canadian author Richard Wagamese, one of the leading indigenous writers in North America, died March 10. He was 61. Wagamese began his writing career in 1979, first as a journalist, then as a radio and television broadcaster. In 1991, he became the first indigenous writer to win a National Newspaper Award for column writing. His debut novel, Keeper 'n Me, was released in 1994 and won the Alberta Writers Guild's Best Novel Award. Several of his books are available in the U.S., including novels Medicine Walk and Dream Wheels (both from Milkweed Editions), as well as nonfiction work One Story, One Song. Next month, Embers: One Ojibway's Meditations will be released.
"I know that if I don't look at my whole history and embrace the dark and hard parts, I don't know my own story," he told CBC in 2012. "And if I don't know my own story, I can't heal myself."
On Saturday, CBC News host and Wagamese's friend Shelagh Rogers tweeted: "Heartbroken over the death of my friend and chosen brother Richard Wagamese. He was story. He was love. RIP dear one."