WHO WAS NICOLE SANGSUREE BARRETT?

As a songwriter, artist, musician, puppeteer, farmer, and teacher, Sangsuree gave herself completely to the cause of liberation and justice for all beings. She fully embraced her own identity as a mixed-race, queer woman.

Sangsuree earned her bachelor’s in theater arts and women and gender studies from the University of Oregon, and completed a graduate degree at Portland State University just this past year. She taught an urban farming series at Portland Community College and worked as a waste reduction educator. In Thailand, Sangsuree studied seed saving and natural building at Pun Pun Organic Farm, and she became deeply involved with the work of the International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice, based north of Chiang Mai. You can read more about her many accomplishments in this article by Heather Spalding, director of the PSU Sustainability Leadership Center, who worked with Sangsuree.

Sang’s love of the earth was palpable and some of the greatest gifts she gave to all of us were rituals and songs that helped us to re-connect with the wisdom inherent in nature. One of the last songs Sang recorded, with the help of Emma Carroll, was “Fistful of Bones,” her original song woven around a beautiful chant, “Earth My Body.”

Beyond all this description, Sang was simply unforgettable — someone who had the rare gift of shining herself while at the same time creating space for others to come forth and shine. As one friend put it,

“She spied your highest potential, your unseen sides, and knew exactly how you need to be encouraged, ‘C’mon now, I see You in there, show me. You don’t gotta hide.’ Sang was an activist, but her most potent social change work was surely made through her every day interactions, insatiable curiosity for people, loving kindness and whacky humour. Plus uncanny inability not to begin accidental-jam-session-talent-sharing-celebrations that go all night.”

Sang was only 34 years old when she was killed after being hit by a car in Chiang Mai on the night of July 17. As news of her death spread, the many communities she was part of have come forward to express their great love and respect for her, and to connect with each other. This, too, is part of Sang’s legacy — a growing awareness of our points of connection and an aspiration to support the work of healing and liberation going on in many quarters.

~ written by Maia Duerr

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