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Afua Pili Busisiwe "Siwe" Ayo Monsanto

March 8th, 1996 - June 29th, 2011

My due date was March 8th, International (Working) Women’s Day, my labor began on March 8th and she was born on March 8th, 1996 in a snow storm at 8:38pm. I will celebrate her 15 years of life in various ways, but I invite you to join me in 15 minutes of divine silence and reflection. Unplug from radio, TV, telephone, work, family, facebook, twitter, social media, email, et cetera. Just be with yourself in reflection of life for 15 minutes in honor of Siwe and others that have ended their lives too soon.

Butterflies are but flowers that blew away one sunny day, when nature was feeling at her most inventive and most fertile. –George Sand

Why a butterfly?

Siwe transformed herself in each environment. But never as a chameleon. She never blended. She stood out, drew people to her with her beauty, charm and intelligence. She then sought to fix them and make them happy. Example.

New school. New personality. New nickname. She was Bubblez. New look. She was Zippee.

She lost herself and found herself. She wrote a story in 3rd grade about a beautiful butterfly that had to break its wing to get attention. She had butterfly jewelry. She carved a heart in her shoulder. She loved hard and lived hard. We had butterfly birthday cakes. At 14 years old, she got her ear pierced, nose pierced, and at got 2 tattoos on her back (eye of Horus and the Sanskrit OM symbol). She cut her locs short, then off entirely. She corn-rowed her hair. She dyed her hair. She straightened and curled her hair. We had framed butterflies. She co-authored a song in Spanish. She saw butterfly exhibits. She studied German. She crocheted gifts of love. She weaved herself into the hearts of many and colored herself anew each day.

After her death, in my research of butterflies I learned a lot. It is a rare privilege for a butterfly to live to see the birth of her children and grandchildren. The Greeks considered them symbols of the soul’s immortality because of their transformation from pupa to butterfly. Butterflies have fascinated humans for centuries. Because of their bright colors and friendly appearance many of us often forget they are part of the insect world. Living somewhere in between worlds was where Siwe was most comfortable too. She loved butterflies because she was one, she seemed to know her time was short.

Her last flight transformed her from a 15 year old girl to an ancestor. She lives on in my heart and many others. We continue to learn from her pain, passion and brilliance. I live a transformed life because of her. I invite you to join me in helping others transform their pain into lives they want to live.

I continue to celebrate who Siwe was, is and the work she has inspired in her death.

  • Beautiful is spelled S.I.W.E, a piano concerto composed by her friend, Nkosi

  • The Siwe Project, a non-profit organization founded by my dear friend, Bassey Ikpi

  • A beautiful piece of choreography by my friend, Nia Love

  • A praise dance for mothers and daughters being performed nationally choreographed by my dear friend, Nina Boykin Jr.

  • A 21-day gratitude challenge created by my friend, Ashley Mui

  • Poems by various people

  • A Movement to get POC to get support and leave the stigma associated with therapy and mental illness behind them by various people

March 8th, 2012

Perhaps you can use this day to reach out to someone you love and have not connected to in a while. Perhaps that person is yourself. There are all so many suicides every day, mental illness pervades our planet. Donnie Hathaway, Phylliss Hyman, Amy Winehouse, Don Cornelius, Whitney Houston are some of the more recent famous losses. Some suicides are sudden and direct, others are subtle and slow in which a piece of that person dies each day.

Love someone and mean it. -Bassey Ikpi

Start with 15 minutes of silence on March 8th. See what comes up next for you. Let me know. I love hearing from you.



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