These are very painful and dark times. The October 7th massacre and the Israeli hostages still being held in Gaza, the unimaginable systemic death and destruction of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, the rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia, the increasing anti- trans and anti-abortion legislation, voter suppression, and so much more. And… of course losing our dear Sam so abruptly and so tragically.

Myself and a lot of us here find ourselves being pushed by grief onto a journey that we did not ask to be on. This extremely painful, unpredictable ride has been utterly destabilizing. Waves of grief have led to my body collapsing and becoming paralyzed. They have  made me feel utterly crazy in actually believing that this must be a nightmare that I will soon wake up from.

I deeply long for Sam. I want to see that beautiful smile again. I want to go on another Thursday walk with her. I even miss being annoyed by Sam’s chronic lateness and her subsequent endless apologies for being late. I just wish with my whole being that she was physically back in our world.

And, in all of this indescribable physical, emotional, and spiritual agony, I have moments that I feel Sam. And it is Sam’s unique, sweet, sweet spirit that is actually guiding me and many of us on how to move forward in this very challenging time. And in this moment that we are all finding ourselves in a reality none of us would have chosen, we are also being given the special opportunity to try to embody Sam. To be transformed into becoming more kind, more open, more loving, more thoughtful, and more humane beings. This is the gift Sam will continue to give all of us.

The essence of Sam’s soul and vision is building, nourishing, and sustaining community. Community that grieves and heals and transforms together. A community that is founded in the core principles of democracy and gives the power to the people. A community that is inclusive and accessible to all,  that is intentionally and proudly diverse, that is committed to dismantling racism and white supremacy, and that is fighting for social justice rather than criminal justice.

A community that is so deeply feminist that it doesn’t just grant women equal rights, but honors the unique power they hold, that celebrates all genders and sexual orientations, that respects all religions and allows space for you to be proud of your own and share in other traditions. And a community that is in Detroit, in all of its beauty and complexity. 

Sam did not just preach these progressive values of kindness, peace and not war, and love for all. She embodied it in the way she lived her life . She would leave sweet notes in my mailbox and send flowers to many of her friends. She would do countless door knocking to get more people to vote. Sam showed up to the movements she believed in. She participated in countless demonstrations — women’s marches, anti-war marches, Black Lives Matter marches.

She would create real relationships with people from all different communities, as she understood that relationship building is the foundation for change. 

And that is the vision and intention of this event and why you are all here today. It is to continue Sam’s legacy. It is to actually be in community, in dialogue, in spaces with all different people, many of whom we may disagree with, just like we are doing today. It is to hear each others stories and histories, to allow us to feel and understand deeply that we are all human- that we all love our children, that we all feel pain and fear and experience trauma. 

May we all be part of imagining and creating a world together that is more peaceful, loving, kind, and inclusive. May Sam Woll’s memory be a blessing. May Sam Woll’s memory be the revolution. 

Thank you all for showing up and committing to do this transformative work in honor of our dear Sam.