Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rest In Power, Zahid

I recently learned that a dear friend passed away, Zahid Shariff. He was a longtime professor at The Evergreen State College and my teacher for much of my time there. Despite graduating many years ago, we remained close. He was the best teacher, mentor and friend anyone could ask for.

As a college professor, Zahid set minds free. That is what he did best. Zahid was the consummate mixture of fierce intellectualism, moral consistency, tenderness, warmth and absolute devotion to his students. The generosity of spirit in which he taught and nurtured his students made them feel deeply cared for and valued.

Most remarkably, his classroom always held the promise of building a better self, of connecting heart, mind, and experience and situating them in lived reality and the broader struggle for global social justice and equality. Zahid's courses on colonization and imperialism were instrumental in my own political awakening. He taught me about the colonizer and colonized, the oppressor and oppressed, and the possibility of something more, of exceeding this fraught binary, of reaching a place of collective flourishing, the rendezvous of victory, in the words of Aimé Césaire, the first of many freedom fighters I encountered in his classes.

Words fail to do justice to the profound affect Zahid had on all those lucky enough to have known him. Ten years ago I was wholly unprepared to meet a person like Zahid and today I am just as unprepared to let him go.

I will miss his voice most, his pleasant British lilt, the slow rise of a gentle voice that carried great moral force. There was gravity and grace in every word he shared.

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