Panagioti Tsolkas: “Next Step, We Burn it Down” A Tribute To Karen Smith, Rest In Power

Antistasis, December 1, 2020

Karen passed on to the ancestors’ realm in the late hours of Nov 29, 2020 as the result of a fatal car accident near Waldo, Florida.

It’s hard to describe what organizing alongside Karen Smith was like in a way that won’t sound hyperbolic on account of her absence, but I’m gonna go for it anyway. Movement circles can get bogged down and organizers often get overwhelmed by the magnitude of what we face. Its inevitable, yet Karen Smith figured out how to manage it all with a rare style and grace. She dodged the obstacles, confronted the bullshit and stayed focused on her two-pronged mission of supporting prisoners and attacking the prison system, relentlessly. All while being an amazing mother of two and stellar friend to so many.

Since her passing, several of us who had the fortune of organizing closely with her have noted the feeling of disbelief stemming from a view of her as invincible, unstoppable… a supernatural creature walking among muggles. The organizational energy that she could harness in planning protests, conferences, bail funds, social events is unmatched. She could motivate and focus a group without it feeling pushy, and she could host a killer party without seeming stressed, and then totally chill out and relax without seeming all high-strung from pulling these things together. She was also an incredible example to me as a parent, and countless other future parents, that people with kids can balance movement responsibilities and commitments to their children.

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