Our beloved friend Sharon Pavlovich died April 20, a stalwart of World Can’t Wait since the Bush regime years; a thinker, human rights proponent, teacher……and someone who cared very deeply for those cast out by this society.
Memories of Sharon
“I will miss Sharon, her energy, her commitment, her great good will in all she did. She was always reliably there, protesting, standing up for universal human rights and justice, with her great hear She was such a fixture of our protests, it’s hard to believe she won’t be there in body—but in spirit, yes.” -Joel Simpson
“Sharon had a too-rare combination of warmth, compassion, intelligence, and rock-solid opposition to oppression. I want to live in the kind of world she was about…where that combination of qualities isn’t only no longer rare, but one where they’re finally what guides our little planet.” -Scott Trent
“If we had a world full of Sharon Pavlovich’s we would be a world free of greed and hate and would be a wonderful world in which to live.” -Dr. Frank W. Sannella
“Sharon was one of the most caring, loving and dedicated people I’ve come to know in this struggle. She always had a smile on her face and was always ecstatic to see you. Sharon cared deeply about getting people to work together. She always listened to everyone’s opinions and seemed to take great pleasure in finding ways to unite people. Sadly, the movement has lost a ferocious freedom fighter but her impact will live on.” -Richie Marini
Friends, family and co-workers of Sharon gathered in New York City for a special memorial service commemorating her life. It was a truly touching occasion where people came together from all aspects of Sharon’s life to share their stories.
Prepared statements read at the memorial
Stacie Lorraine, P.S. 191…
My name is Stacie Lorraine and I had the honor of being Sharon’s friend and colleague at PS 191.
I met Sharon 12 years ago when I came in for my interview at PS 191. I remember her clearly sitting to my right and being asked to describe a math lesson I had recently taught. After I finished my explanation, Sharon looked at me and said, “What if the kids didn’t understand it? Then what would you do?” So I somewhat confidently explained my next steps and looked at the principal, Dr. Nasereddin, anticipating a new question, and again from my right I hear, “And what if they still didn’t understand?” And that’s when I knew that this was a woman I needed to work with and know – that this was a woman who would push my thinking and my expectations about teaching, about politics and about life.
In many ways, and I know I speak for others as well, Sharon was a huge part in making me the teacher that I am today. What I loved about Sharon is that she was always up for a great conversation. She was the person to go find after school when you just needed to share a new idea, talk through a problem or just vent. The best part about venting with Sharon was that it was never a fruitless airing of grievances. She would listen and let you get it all out, and then very carefully and gently she would look at you and say, “But what if…” or “Have you tried…” That’s when you knew not only that she had heard you, but that she also saw another side and wanted to push you beyond just complaining, but to finding some kind of solution.
Sharon shared with many of us this beautiful yearning to make the world better. When I knew her she spent her time doing that with teachers and children. Her love of the great educational philosophers always inspired me to do my best. As I tried to think about what to say today I looked to some of her favorites for some inspiring words. I found this from John Dewey: “Anyone who has begun to think, places some portion of the world in jeopardy.” That’s the goal, isn’t it? I know Sharon lived by those words every day. When I first met her I saw her as focused more on getting the students to think, but as our friendship grew I realized that she also pushed every one of us teachers to think in ways that pushed our grown up understandings of and sometimes complacencies in the world. She guided us to becoming ever more mindful of the work that was our charge with the children.
In Variations on a Blue Guitar, Maxine Greene, the great educational philosopher, writes: “For us, education signifies an initiation into new ways of seeing, hearing, feeling, moving. What we want to make possible is the living of lyrical moments, moments at which human beings (freed to feel, to know and to imagine) suddenly understand their own lives in relation to all that surrounds.” Sharon made possible the living of lyrical moments. She inspired us, even demanded us to find new ways of understanding that moved us to action. She helped us to notice deeply the world around us, the children, the art, the poetry – to question everything – and in doing so try to make some new meaning for ourselves and others.
Another one of my favorite memories with Sharon was such a small moment. It was a chilly November night, and we had just finished what was to be one of our last book club meetings at Roz’s apartment. As some of us walked down the street, Sharon and I walked arm in arm talking up a storm – about what I can’t remember – but it was that moment of camaraderie, of close friendship, of intimate sharing that I will always treasure most.
Something else that Maxine Greene wrote really resounds with me today. She asked: How can the extinguished light be lit again, so that teachers and learners can appear before one another and show, in speech and action, who they are and what they can do? Sharon is an extinguished light in this world, and we must ask ourselves that question today. In doing so I think we will find that it is our mission as teachers and learners in this world that Sharon spent her whole life trying to make better – it is our charge – to honor her by continuing her work.
Bob Parsons, The World Can’t Wait…
Sharon talked with her sister Denise, her brother Skip, and I about what she would like on her headstone. It was: “May peace, justice and equality reign.” Sharon and I talked and she was considering adding a second line. That was never finalized because she was unable to finish the discussion before she died. That second line was, “What will you do to make it happen?” Those two phrases did express what she spent the greater part of her life doing–fighting the many outrages of this system with that goal in mind and, very importantly, also challenging others to do the same.
She came to NYC—an intellectual from the Illinois plains, to delve more into philosophy. She became a teacher…and somewhere in there came Sasha. I’m looking forward to learning more from Sharon’s friends and fellow teachers at her school about her teaching. She was very passionate about the children in her school.
Thanks to Stephanie, Sharon found World Can’t Wait and she quickly became a core member of the staff of the National Office. The video Richie and Adrienne put together captures much of what Sharon was about, as she found a way to express all her fury at the oppression of people all over the world. She fought to end it all and pursued that with great integrity and principle. She was not afraid to look at the truth, no matter how unpopular. This became especially intense when so many who had very actively opposed the war in Iraq under Bush became swept up in the euphoria around Obama’s first election and just lost their minds and ability to do any critical thinking. The numbers of people in the streets took a nose dive. World Can’t Wait took out a full page ad in the New York Times and made banners both of which had mug shots of Bush and Obama and said, “War Crimes Are War Crimes and Must Be Opposed No Matter Who Commits Them.” Many were angry at World Can’t Wait to put it mildly and we lost supporters and donors. However Sharon stuck to her principles and argued with everyone that they must also have principles and morality.
In her firmness, she brought to my mind a quote from Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party: “The whole point of principle is that you have to fight for it when it is not easy to do. There is no need for principle if the only time it is applied is when it doesn’t matter.” She lived that. Her stubborn streak—OK, some others can talk more about that, chuckle, chuckle—but the point is her stubborn streak served her well in adhering to principle.
And yes, many of those who had lost their minds eventually found them again as it became clear Obama was carrying out war crimes as did Bush. There are many examples of that but one stands out and became an issue that was especially dear to Sharon’s heart—the prisoners held in the U.S. torture camp in Guantanamo. She fought tenaciously for years with many others—for example our friends in Witness Against Torture–to force the closure of Guantanamo. She felt very viscerally the horrible pain of those prisoners from all over the world, still being held with such inhumanity. Her feelings for them were a living expression of another slogan she loved: “Americans’ lives are not more important than other people’s lives.”
One of my favorite pictures of Sharon that didn’t make the video was one that served as the masthead for the World Can’t Wait website for some time. Amidst other protesters at the White House demanding “Close Guantanamo, there are three people in orange jumpsuits and black hoods on their heads. She is one of them. Of course, you can’t recognize her. I knew it was her though and always kidded her that she couldn’t hide from me.
She drew the parallels with the prisoners in Guantanamo and the 2.4 million prisoners in U.S. prisons. She stood with them equally. The last year and several months after her heart attack in Jan 2014 (incidentally in Washington, D.C. for the yearly demonstration at the White House around Guantanamo) she spent a lot of her time with World Can’t Wait’s support of The Stop Mass Incarceration Network. She loved the uprisings in Ferguson and protests all over the country last fall and going into this year that demanded “STOP murders by police.” She was thrilled by a new young generation joining with veterans like herself in this crucial political battle. While unable to walk, she continued to write the New York City elist during this time. She demanded I come by to give her reports on all the demonstrations. She wanted to know the feel of it all and know what the people were saying and thinking, especially the youth.
I want to share with you one other trait that concentrates Sharon’s intellect and again, her integrity and morality. She was not satisfied with just fighting all the outrages this system produces. She knew that billions around the world live lives that are horrendous. She found this quite simply unacceptable. One of the things Sharon and I loved doing together, along with fighting in the streets, was engaging in spirited discussions about what caused all these horrors and what was the solution to ending them all.
I will leave you with one photo of Sharon that exists only in my mind, that expresses what I’ve been trying to convey. She is sitting at a table and spread out on the table and propped open to some page is Piketty’s “Capital,” one of David Harvey’s books and Bob Avakian’s “Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon.” Her searching, her integrity, her intellectual honesty, her principles, her morality.
I love you Sharon and miss you immensely.
Mary Lou, Revolutionary Communist Party, New York Branch…
Sharon Pavlovich had a smile you could never forget – and an indomitable commitment to fighting injustice that inspired everyone who knew her. Accepting “the way things are” just wasn’t part of her make-up. Whether in an orange jump suit in demonstrations against Guantanamo or engaged in sharp political discussion over humanity’s future, Sharon was tenacious in pursuing what she thought was morally and politically right. She had great heart for the people, especially those who catch the worst hell, and she refused to look away or cast her eyes elsewhere. In the seventh decade of her life, braving great physical challenges, she never gave up the fight for a different and far better world or stopped asking the hardest questions and challenging herself and others.
We are pleased and proud to stand with everyone today in celebrating Sharon’s life – a life whose value and meaning surely will be reflected in the future world she fought so hard for.
Videos of the memorial
Photos of the memorial