Queen Mother Mashiriki Jywanza: Eternal faith in the oppressed

Queen Mother Mashiriki Jywanza, a lifelong fighter for the oppressed of the entire world, passed on January 1, 2024. The Indianapolis Liberation Center expresses our deepest solidarity and condolences to the immediate family, friends, comrades, and community, which extends across the globe.

We met Queen Mother recently and consider ourselves privileged for the time we spent getting to know her during the ongoing battle for a democratically-ran Indianapolis Public Library system

Queen Mother was a fierce advocate for not only appointing Nichelle Hayes as CEO of the Public Library, but more broadly for literacy, education, equality, freedom, and liberation for all people. Yet Queen Mother leaves a national legacy that started decades ago.

In the 1990s, Queen Mother and her husband Kamau Jywanza co-hosted the public access program, Our CommUnity, that centered Black life in Indianapolis. The mission of the show was to “raise consciousness in the community on relevant issues affecting the Black community.”

She was the Director of Indianapolis Public School’s Office of African Centered/Multicultural Education ensuring students had access to learn about Black history using teaching methods to engage students in learning. 

Beginning in 2001, she served as co-chair for National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA). N’COBRA started in 1987 and advocates for reparations for descendants of African slaves. “If we never, ever get a dime for reparations, we have a responsibility to our community, to our children, to try to do whatever we can to heal,” Jywanza said.

Queen Mother approached her community organizing from a place of great care for working poor and oppressed people of Indianapolis and fought to make our community more connected and conscious. 

Perhaps nothing speaks more to her life’s work and the power it will carry forward than when, in 2007, she attained the honorable title of Queen Mother in Ghana West Africa, Volta Region. Queen Mother formed the Adokwa/Awusi Institute to support the children of her village, Potame.

As a relentless organizer who consistently worked to rid society of all forms of racism and oppression, we salute Queen Mother Mashiriki Jywanza and pledge to do all that we can to carry on her legacy.

Queen Mother was part of the annual Kwanzaa celebrations here in Indianapolis and left us on the 7th day of Kwanzaa, the day that signifies Imani, or faith. We take her faith in the people as a duty to internalize, demonstrate, and carry forward; as a torch to carry towards liberation.

Rise in Power, Queen Mother Mashiriki Jywanza!