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« Economic Development Starts at the School House Door... | Main | Reporting Live from Netroots Nation 2008 »


Community Bids Farewell to Jana Mackey

By Sarah Burris
July 16, 2008

I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday who told me that there were so many people that didn't know Jana until after her death. Those were glued to the news and blogs looking for details about the case and about the friends and family who mourned her loss in Lawrence.

But, my friend said, that there was a huge gap in information following the funeral. Many of those who weren't in attendance didn't hear about the events and missed out on the opportunity to learn even more about this amazing activist who left us all too soon.

The first update I can give is that the Facebook page (must be logged in) has 117 wall posts, and 66 pictures that have been posted by the now 817 supporters. To put that in context, Jim Slattery who is running for US Senate in Kansas has 819 supporters.

There have also been many many blogs posted and news pieces about Jana, Women's E-News did an In Memoriam that included her, and so much support from the community.

According to the Hays Daily News, there were over 1,100 people at the event. Liberty Hall was so full that there were people standing along the wall downstairs. They had to start later because there was a line down the block to get in the door. The kind of line you see waiting for a concert on a Friday night.

A political activist, Mackey was a lobbyist for social justice. She worked as an advocate for a nonprofit organization that provides support for survivors of sexual assault.

This summer, she was enrolled in a project in which she represented state and federal prisoners.

"Jana drew her circle large," said Gail Agrawal, dean of the School of Law at KU. "I regret more than I can say that we will not come to know the lawyer Jana would have been."

In short, Mackey touched a lot of people.

As for the service itself it was very, very difficult. I know that it was meant to be a celebration but it was a very sad event. I haven't cried like that in I don't even know how long. There were lots of pictures, and most of the speakers tried to bring the fun/funny part of Jana to the crowd as well.

The Law School Dean went first, and spoke of Jana's passion for justice and law, and her ability to put aside her own beliefs to ensure that people were receiving the legal assistance they deserved. She talked about the promise Jana had and the disappointment we all share knowing that we all lost a strong advocate.

State Senator Laura Kelly followed bringing the comments and messages of support from other Kansas leaders including State Legislators, Rep. Nancy Boyda, as well as Governor Sebelius. Laura surprised me when she said that she felt like Jana accomplished more in her life than she (Laura) had in her own - in more than twice the time. Laura spoke of service and dedication to one's community, a value Jana held dear. It was then that I began to tear up, just thinking about the fun times we had together and how much I'd missed out on in the last year that I was gone.

When Laura brought the condolences of the Governor it came with a flag that had flown over the capital. Laura walked down and handed it to the family, like officers do to the families of fallen soldiers. That's when I started sobbing. And looking back on it I think of it a lot in the same way. She gave her life serving... and working to make the world a better place.

Sarah Jane Russell spoke about Jana's dedication to women and those who suffer from domestic violence. She described a sign on the wall in their office that said "honey on steel" and how Jana understood what that meant to the movement.

The final speaker was Jana's step-dad Curt who spoke the words we all were asking. Why? Why now?

"She had so much work to do, and she had just started making a difference," Brungardt said. "Through her death she can touch many lives. Her single torch has turned to 1,100 torches here today."

"Most funerals celebrate a person's life; that's not enough for Jana," he added. "This ceremony is a call for action. I'm now handing you her torch. Make Jana proud, and go do great things."

It ended with a call to action for all of us. The 1100 people in attendance received a direct ask that we should move forward to make a difference. Whether partisan or not, there are things that mattered to Jana that we must carry on and advocate for in her absence.

Already I've had a great conversation with a friend Jana and I shared about what more we can do. How we can energize our communities and how we can make a greater impact in Kansas and indeed everywhere.

The question now is what will you do?


Comments (5)

kdyellowdog Author Profile Page:

Sarah:

I have been working to make this a better world for all of us for a while now, Jana was a kindred spirit, and now we will have to re-double our efforts to honor her memory. As one falls, the rest must keep going to honor the commitments made by all. We move forward because we honor our commitment and our freinds' commitments too.
Albert Einstein once said, "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile." I couldn't agree more. I see the legacy of Jana, and all of the others I've known over the years who didn't get the chance to see the fruition of their work, to be just that, moving forward, always striving for the next fingerhold or toehold against the tide of thuggery, of obstenance and of biggotry.
Jeff Z.

Nora Thomason Author Profile Page:

Jeff, where do you blog? Do you blog? I love your phrase - "moving forward, always striving for the next fingerhold or toehold against the tide of thuggery" - the last few years under Bush have felt exactly like that. I agree with you also - "As one falls, the rest must keep going to honor the commitments made by all."

sarahkatheryn Author Profile Page:

Thank you so much for your comment Jeff! I know Jana loved you as much as all of us do. You've been a tireless advocate for which the state has benefited considerably. Thanks for joining in the "stepping up" of our activism

Big hugs!

kdyellowdog Author Profile Page:

Norah – I don't blog, I just comment. My attention span too short these days, making it hard to stay coherent long enough to make an entry worthwhile.

I will always remember the gentle soul that is Jana. Einstein, as you can tell, is one of my muses. He showed that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can take on different forms. If you believe as I do that we, or our spirit that is, is made of pure energy, then you will see that Jana's spirit is now free to experience things we can only imagine in this corporal existence. Though I miss her smile, her quirky humor, I will honor her by continuing down the road to make this world what we long for it to be.

I just finished discussing government services with a libertarian. He objects to taxes and government of any kind. He is Jana’s antithesis. I know what Jana’s dream is; we share a common vision, which I know many of your friends share as well Sarah. I wrote to my friend that what I do want is a safe place for my family to live, eat, play, and sleep. I want hospitals that don’t look at what insurance I have before they’ll set a broken arm for my child. I want to know that the food I’m eating is safe, sustainably grown, and free from additives that will harm my family or me. I want a government that functions as it was intended, to regulate business, protect and serve the people, and lift up those who need a helping hand.

I like your blog Sarah, and i follow it regularly.

Jeff

Sarah-
Thank you for posting this. Your words are well-written and motivating. You've presented a touching representation of the service which was nothing short of inspiring. You've hit on the importance of us each carrying on a torch. Jana's efforts live on as we keep a growing community of activists and advocates inspired and moving forward.

Please help us carry on Jana's torch by joining the facebook group: Action for Jana; action for our world. We are 68 strong members but we need to reach 1100 and beyond.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=17786034846&ref=mf

Eventually we'll have a 'regular' page out on the web. You can help carry on the efforts of this courageous woman, inspire others and keep that torch lit and strong.

Best Regards,
Laurie

Join today, keep the torch lit!
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=17786034846&ref=mf

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