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Ishma Asonté "Ishy" Stewart
Birth: Nov. 12, 1987
Death: May 4, 2008
Illinois, USA

While looking for updates on a story I have been following, I came across the story of a beautiful young woman who had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her life was tragically cut short and I was touched by what I read. I felt compelled to create a memorial for her. Her mother, Tracy, came across her memorial and contacted me and we have shared some emails back and forth.

It is interesting how you can feel a connection with a total stranger. My daughter is so much like hers. They both grew up with vivid imaginations and a deep love of words and the magic they can spin when those words are strung together. Both possessing a great love for poetry, literature, and performance. They both learned that you really can make a difference and should.

I am a believer in the concept that there but by the grace of God, go I. This could be the story of my daughter just as easily as it could be yours ... but instead, it is Tracy and Ishma and their family. Street violence is terrible and so many innocents die as a result. When will it end? Ishma Stewart touched many people's lives while she was alive. She touched mine with her passing. She is clearly loved and missed by many. This is what I read that touched me about the girl with a meaningful name and beautiful soul that left far too soon ...


As a child, Ishma Stewart, her family called her "Ishy," liked to park her kid-sized rocking chair in the middle of a family gathering, where she'd spin a tale about a girl named Wendy who lived within the colored bands of a rainbow. Sometimes, Ishma's living room performances incorporated her grandmother's wigs and dresses. Sometimes a little dancing got thrown in, her relatives said.

Stewart's mother sat on the front steps of her Oak Park home, reading some of her daughter's high school fiction, and wondered what might have been: "This is my baby girl. We had so many plans."

Accompanied by her boyfriend, Stewart, a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago, was struck and killed by a bullet as she drove late Sunday in the South Side's Canaryville neighborhood near where she lived.

Police are investigating whether Stewart was caught in the crossfire of a gang gun battle that apparently involved a high-powered assault rifle, sources said.

Stewart's brother, Mancill H. Stewart, described his younger sister as a woman with a lifelong love of the written word. While other kids might read Dr. Seuss, Ishma Stewart was happier creating her own stories, her brother said. Ishma Stewart's adolescent poetry mused on the meaning of the poverty that she saw in Chicago's public housing.

As a student at Oak Park and River Forest High School, Ishma, or "Queen Ishy" to her friends, decided she wanted to be a journalist, hoping one day to write for Time magazine, her brother said. "She wanted to travel the world . . . see how [people] were living and see what effect she could have on the world," her brother said.

Ishma had much to accomplish in her short time here. She propelled herself to finish high school and graduate early and propelled herself in college too. Stewart was set to graduate from Loyola this year. In the days before her death, she was trying to find a summer internship. It had not been an easy search, said her brother, who said he'd typically speak to his sister twice a day.

Stewart called her brother at 7 a.m. to say that she'd been told "no" repeatedly by prospective summer employers. But she was up early Friday, determined to get hired. "She said, 'I'm going to keep knocking on the door until someone lets me in,' " her brother said.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ishma wrote this poem in January 2005

Mumbles and screams
Scratched against the freezing tile floor No longer where we walk But where we weep.
Fists, fluently flying
Words with wondering
Syllables, smashed the possibility of exhaustion Tears spilt and combined a glacier of Elevating pain.
Me and hermano stood,
Water in our eyes and fire on our tongues.
Like a bird with a fractured wing,
We saw him snap her arm.
That midnight he whooped her
Asthma became chronic.
She shook, we shook.
Scene1
He was racing in the game of 43rd street, Under the el tracks next to the man with the backwards foot And the store called "In and In" with the lady with one front tooth Next to where he grew.
The happy mop-headed lady
Threw acid on her man to see
His boiling point.
I was young

I never knew reality to be so real
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That poem was passed along to me by one of Ishma's former teachers that was touched by her abilities and passion. His name is Peter Kahn and he is a co-sponsor of The Spoken Word Club at The Oak Park and River Forest High School. This is a bit of what he writes regarding Ishma:

We put on three "showcases" a year comprised of group pieces of students' original writing. Ishma only participated in one showcase, but as with everything else she did, she wholeheartedly threw herself into it.

She told me she loved doing it, but simply didn't have time for after-school clubs, so it was her only show. She was determined to move forward quickly, which meant an over-booked schedule of classes and work. We recently dedicated our Spring Showcase in her memory. I asked her three group-mates from the February 2005 showcase to say a few words about her. They spoke of her dedication, excitement and nervousness to do well. They talked about all the responsibilities she had to juggle in order to participate. They mentioned her perennial smile.

The rest of Peter's article can be found here:

http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/race/2008/05/in-memory-of-is.html#more

If you have photos of Ishma, please post them.

A thank you goes to:

Peter Kahn for sharing Ishma's poem with us and being an excellent teacher and mentor.
To all those that have added photos here. :o) 
 
Burial:
Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery
Hillside
Cook County
Illinois, USA
 
Created by: Zen
Record added: May 07, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 26673523
Ishma Asonté Ishy Stewart
Added by: Zen
 
Ishma Asonté Ishy Stewart
Added by: Zen
 
Ishma Asonté Ishy Stewart
Added by: Anonymous
 
 
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Happy 26th Birthday my Love. We still think of you daily and love you very much.Yes while you were taken from us too soon, I know you are in a better place and you are happy and smiling down on us all now. I love you always,Big Sis
- Lena
 Added: Nov. 12, 2013

- Kathleen Fleury Bilbrey
 Added: May. 28, 2013
Miss you Ishy. I hate to think about how robbed we were. I try to keep positive through it all, but it still hurts so bad. I know you're in a better place, but it still seems so unfair. Pray for our peace.
- Lena
 Added: Mar. 22, 2013
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