In Memoriam - Demetria Shabazz
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
We are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved colleague Professor Demetria Rougeaux Shabazz. Her obituary was published on Sept. 19, 2023 as shown below.
Dr. Demetria "Dee" Shabazz, 56, of Amherst, MA, passed away on September 11, 2023, after a courageous battle with cancer. She was born on October 26, 1966, in Texas (Galveston Island) and celebrated life as the third child of Lawrence Paul Rougeaux and Diana Gradney. She spent her childhood writing poetry and songs, working as a lifeguard and swim coach, playing softball and guitar, performing in musicals and theater, enjoying friends, and visiting family in Louisiana.
Dee was the hope and dream of her ancestors, who were enslaved in Louisiana and lived many years as sharecroppers. In 1995, she became the second person in her family to graduate from college. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature with a minor in African American Studies from the University of Houston. In 1991, while at college, she met Amilcar Shabazz, who was pursuing his Ph.D. in history and teaching in the African American Studies Program. She took his course "Invisible Houston," which emphasized community engagement and service learning as she was already actively involved with the SHAPE Community Center. After the course ended, they began dating and were married in 1992, by Alexander Green, now a representative in the U.S. Congress.
In April of 1993, with a shared mission of social justice and love of family, Dee and Amilcar celebrated the birth of their son, Amilcar II. He grew up watching his parents as community-minded voices.Together in the 1990s, they fought to save the last Freedmen's Town historic district in Texas, in Houston's fourth ward. It was there that they co-founded the Rutherford B.H. Yates Museum with Catherine Roberts, fulfilling a dream of Olee Yates McCulloch, with whom Dee recorded interviews. With this effort, Dee began her life work as an oral historian and videographer using local public media.
The year 2000 brought another graduation for Dee. She received her M.A. degree in Telecommunication and Film from the University of Alabama. She later completed her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Mass Communication from the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) in 2005, when she and Amilcar welcomed their second child, Ursa Sekou Shabazz. That same year, Dee and Amilcar accepted tenure system jobs at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, with her working in its English department as a film studies and African American literature professor. In 2007, she moved to join the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts as an assistant professor. She taught hundreds of students there and in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-Americans Studies, as well as at Westfield University, Bay Path University, and Cambridge College.
From history and education to social justice and media, Dee always used her storyteller lens and voice to amplify truth, pursue dialogue, and educate, with students as her focus. From academic works to scholarly projects and video/film efforts, her voice has advanced justice in the face of adversity. From community leadership as a project scholar for the inaugural Voices of Resilience project to oral history projects, active membership in the National Council for Black Studies and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the groundbreaking work at Amherst Media including two series she produced, numerous grant projects and consulting efforts nationwide and locally, Dee has always signaled the call to action to all who listen. In 2020, she became the Founder and CEO of Seven Generations Movement Collective, LLC., a diversity training, research, and serving as the co-chair of the Community Safety and Social Justice Committee, that helped the Town of Amherst, MA, to to end structural racism and achieve racial equity, inclusion, and public safety for black lives.
Dee is survived by her mother, Diana; her husband, Dr. Amilcar Shabazz, and their children, Ursa and Amilcar II, and her husband's son, Mandela; her sister, Sheila Rougeaux, and her brother, Paul (Jill), and host of other family relatives, friends, community members and comrades the world over.
A funeral mass will be held at Most Holy Redeemer in Hadley, MA, on September 30, and a public celebration of her life is planned for October 26. The family gives special thanks to her devoted health advocates, Pat Ononibaku and Vira Cage, and others who filled her days with good food, fun and adventure. In lieu of flowers, Dee would appreciate donations to Sankofa Gumbo, 330 New Africa House, 180 Infirmary Way Amherst MA 01003-9289 (a tax-exempt charity / EIN: 87-1145105).
For more information contact:
Amilcar Shabazz, W.E.B.Du Bois Professor of Afro-American Studies
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Obituary published on Legacy.com by Casper Funeral & Cremation Services on Sep. 19, 2023.