Purple was Rahsheka Keith’s favorite color. Purple cloth hung over the altar at the memorial service for the former UC Santa Cruz student, arranged by friends in her memory last Thursday.
At the memorial, a small crowd of those who had been close to Keith stood in a hushed circle bordering the redwood building’s Engaging Education office and remembered their friend.
Keith died in a snowboarding accident Jan. 22.
She studied intensive psychology from the summer of 2006 through the spring of 2010. Family, friends and members of various organizations she was affiliated with spoke of their admiration for her ambitious pursuits and open personality.
“Everyone’s still very much in shock when we think about what happened, and we’re just all trying to remember the good things,” said Rahne Keith, Rahsheka’s older sister. “She was a good person and gone much too soon.”
Loved ones mourn Keith, who died of blunt force trauma in a snowboarding accident at Lake Tahoe’s Granlibakken resort.
Keith’s close friends remember her as someone who had a positive impact on those around her, and big plans for her future.
“I remember [telling Rahsheka], ‘When we’re older, we’re going to be [Engaging Education] and Rainbow [Theater] alumni,’ and we would come back … and talk about how it all started here,” said fourth-year Sara Mokhtari-Fox. “I was thinking about society’s loss and thinking about how much she gave, how much she could do. That’s what hurts the most. If somebody was going to change the world, it was Rahsheka.”
Keith’s plans — geared toward social activism and inspired by her coursework — led her friends and colleagues to remember her as an individual poised to be a strong influential figure. She planned to attend law school in Chicago.
“She had a lot more to do here, and it’s very sad,” Rahne Keith said. “She wanted the world to be a really good place and a fair place for everybody — not just minorities, for everybody.”
Rahsheka involved herself in various community outreach programs at UCSC, like Engaging Education and theater arts projects. She was also an active member of the African American Theater Arts Troupe [AATAT].
“Rahsheka lives in all of us,” said Don Williams, director of cultural arts and diversity for the Student Affairs Division and AATAT. “She was one of the most extraordinary people. She came to this university, and she was a server. She encouraged people.”
Those close to Keith remember her as a well-balanced and composed person, and as a lover of all things purple and all things Michael Jackson. She was well known for her Michael Jackson earrings and Michael Jackson ringtone, which often let her colleagues know she was in the room.
“We drove all the way from Santa Cruz to San Diego for an outreach meeting with all other UCs,” said Paulina Raygoza, organizing director for Engaging Education. “The whole time she had her iPod on, all we listened to was Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. That got us through the [eight-hour] drive down and the drive back.”
Keith’s friends and colleagues said she was an important influence in their lives.
“She was a student leader that showed incredible integrity,” said Sayo Fujioka, director of Student Organizing Advising and Resources. “I think she inspired a lot of students and staff. She brought a sense of community.”
Keith’s family — who has been following activity on her Facebook page — said they are thankful for her friends’ considerations.
“A lot of her friends from the school have reached out to the family,” Rahne Keith said. “Our family has read every single [Facebook] post, and it’s really nice to see how many people she touched.”
The family will have quiet hour today from 4 to 6 p.m. in Duggan’s Funeral Services. Memorial services will be held on Friday at 11 a.m. at Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church in San Francisco. A memorial was held Wednesday night at the Namaste Lounge at College Nine.
Rahne Keith wrote to friends on her sister’s Facebook page with details, and a request that they keep Rahsheka in mind when dressing for the service:
“She was never a fan of the idea of wearing all black to a memorial service,” Keith said on the page. “Some black is fine, and her favorite color is purple.”