Niki Massey, one of the founding members here at The Orbit, died yesterday, at the appallingly young age of thirty-five. (The cause of her death is still unknown: please don’t speculate on it.)
I’m struggling for words, so this may be brief. Niki was an extraordinary person and an extraordinary writer. She was a force of nature: she filled every space she was in with humor, rage, passion, intellect, honesty, and love. She was fierce: many people writing about her have described her brilliant and unparalleled snark. But she was also deeply kind. She was kind in that way that shows up as fierce anger towards those who cause needless pain.
She was brave. Brave doesn’t mean not having fear: it means being afraid, and moving ahead anyway. She was strong. Strong doesn’t mean not having weakness: it means having weakness, and moving ahead anyway. She had so many strikes against her — a culture that hated her race and held it in contempt, a body that betrayed her, a crappy social safety net that forces sick people to struggle and claw so they don’t fall through the gaping holes. And she kept fighting, for herself and for others. To give just one example among so many: I was gobsmacked by the fact that she struggled with serious physical disability and anxiety disorder — and still did clinic escorting at abortion clinics. To give one more example: At last year’s Skepticon, when a scheduled speaker no-showed, Niki stepped up and gave a full presentation to hundreds of people with zero advance notice — and hit it out of the park.
She was thoughtful and insightful. Her rants were hilarious — holy shit, were they hilarious — and they were full of rage. But they were also needle-sharp in their perception. She could smell bullshit a mile away, and pinpoint its true source with deadly accuracy.
Niki was my friend, and my colleague. But the word “colleague” doesn’t begin to describe the intimacy and value that a working relationship can have. When you work with people doing work you’re passionate about, work that is embattled and attacked every day, work that is working to change the world, you can become closer than blood family.
It was a delight and an honor to know her and to work with her. The world has become smaller without her. I love you, Niki.
If you want to do something to honor her memory, please consider donating to Whole Women’s Health of the Twin Cities (the place where she did clinic defense) or This Week in Blackness — or, if you can, volunteer to do clinic escorting at your local abortion clinic. Here is some other good writing about her. I’ll update this list as more writing about her comes in.
Who Niki Massey Was, by Stephanie Zvan, at Almost Diamonds
For Niki, by Olivia, at We Got So Far To Go
Rest in Power, by Ania Onion Bula at Alyssa and Ania ‘Splain You a Thing
Remembering Niki Massey, by Alex Gabriel, at Godlessness In Theory
The word for Niki was VIVID, by PZ Myers, at Pharyngula