Remembering a Sister: Channing-Celeste Wayne
November 15, 2016
Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity to speak upon the legacy of my sister, Channing-Celeste Wayne.
I met her at the Color of Violence Conference in Chicago, Illinois, last winter. We instantly had a connection, along with our other sisters Bre' Campbell and Tiommi Luckett. We were brought together because of our activism in our communities by someone whom I have grown to love, Cecilia Chung of Positively Trans. We all became sisters and would have each other's backs until the end.
I didn't know about the depth of her work until we began to have late-night conversations in which we checked in on each other and supported each other's endeavors. Channing-Celeste embodied a fierce activist and advocate. She had gone into remission five times with cancer and was living with Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer we rarely see anymore in the United States. I can remember her traveling to conferences barely able to do anything because of how bad her legs would swell, but she always remained in good spirits.
The only time she would voice her opinion in disdain was when something was truly out of order. She was far from a push over and was never afraid to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves. She fought many battles throughout her journey toward becoming the lady who would still the hearts of many. I only knew her a short period, but it seemed like a lifetime. She came into my life for a season but left me, along with Bre', Tiommi and so many more, with a lifetime of memories. I can truly say that we gave her flowers while she could still enjoy them.
She knew that her time on this earth was ending when she called Tiommi and me to come and see her one last time. However, to be quite honest I was trying my hardest to postpone that trip because a part of me knew that it would be our last encounter. She was heavily medicated until the last day of my stay with her, and all of a sudden about two hours before my shuttle back to the airport, she was able to hold a full-scale lucid conversation in which she conveyed that she was tired.
She told me that she was afraid of dying, and that's when I lost it. I lost it because I felt like I was being cheated out of one of the greatest gifts of all: true sisterhood. I was angry because of all of the things that she had overcome to meet such an undeserving fate in dying the way she did. However, I was thankful that she allowed me to meet her mother, father and sister, who had traveled a great distance to be by her side. Her longtime companion and partner Nicholas was there until the very end and showed her what true love looked like.
So, even in her passing, it was a lesson to be learned that love truly conquers all, and her family loved her until the end. I can only hope that I will be as fortunate as she was to transition from this life to the next surrounded by those who love and support me. I will speak her name and carry on her legacy to ensure that people know how she fought for all of those affected by HIV/AIDS. She has joined the ancestors of the ages and shall always and forever more have a place in my heart.
Octavia Y. Lewis, M.P.A., is an activist, mom and Ph.D. candidate, as well as a member of the Positively Trans national advisory board and the Positive Women's Network - USA's board of directors. She lives in the Bronx, New York.
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