I didn’t sleep well last night. And when I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was lie in my bed and let tears just trickle out of my eyes. Yesterday I learned that Erica Kennedy is no longer with us. She was a best selling author of Bling and Feminista, inspiring and funny blogger, prolific freelance writer, and most importantly she was my friend. Even though in the course of the three-almost-four years that we became friends, we never even managed to meet in person. Erica Kennedy proved just how powerful and special the internet could be. More powerful and more special than many realize. She took her online relationships and created real, strong, lasting friendships that came off the screen and into your reality. If you were lucky enough to have known her in any capacity — real life or online — then you know right now how very lucky you were.

Yesterday I went back and read some of the oldest e mails we exchanged, and many of them were from early 2009 just as I was about to leave my job. It was a hectic time for me, and Erica was always Erica. Always busy or almost-available-but-wait-something-came-up. Both of us were. We exchanged message after message on some “let’s do lunch!” “No, wait…I can’t. Next week?” “OK, next week it is!” We never managed to make it happen before I moved to Chicago, and then it was obviously a wrap. Even though we never met in person, our phone calls and e mails, tweets and Facebook interactions, made her a true friend. Everything Erica Kennedy ever did for me, was to encourage, uplift, connect, celebrate, and assist me professionally. Not for her own means or agenda. Just because that’s who she WAS. When she saw a certain magic in you, she did everything she could to encourage it.

When I was about to leave my job, I was scared. My future looked murky and unsure. I was quitting my job and leaving behind my security, my insurance, my salary, the only American city I knew as home, and we were moving to Chicago. But when I talked to Erica, she reassured me. She could see me moving to Chicago, working for myself, and taking Afrobella to a whole new level. She encouraged me behind the scenes to follow my dreams. She wrote the first comment on this post, Rolling The Dice On My Life, which was about the decision to leave the Miami New Times and Miami altogether. My Miami experience wasn’t Erica’s Miami experience. I worked on gritty Biscayne Boulevard and lived in suburban Kendall. My weekdays were largely spent editing newspaper copy and driving to and fro for over an hour on the highway in miserable Miami traffic between work and home. She lived on South Beach and spent her days wandering Lincoln Road, writing at Starbucks, and interacting with South Beach’s quirky natives. She loved Miami. I know she loved her life there.

I didn’t join a sorority in college, but when Erica reached out to me and connected me with her magical group of friends, I pretty much joined hers and I was beyond honored to do so. Because of Erica Kennedy, I am friends with an incredible group of women spanning ages, interests, and ethinicites. These women are like my sisters, and we draw tremendous strength from each other. Erica handpicked a tribe and when she welcomed you into her tribe, you knew you were amongst intelligent, savvy, real, COOL people. That’s the thing about her. She was SO COOL. Being friends with her made me feel cool, too. And besides being that, she was a woman with vision for herself and vision for others. A truly unselfish vision. She always saw greater things for me than I saw for myself. When we talked, she’d be like, “ummmmm WHY haven’t you written a book yet?” She was candid about her publishing experiences, and encouraged me to dream big and to take action. “Do you know how HUGE your book would be?” I can hear her voice in my head now. It breaks my heart  and makes me cry all over again, thinking that she won’t be here to read it. Lord knows she encouraged me to write it enough times. When I do write my first book I will hear Erica again in my head, pushing me forward the whole way.

I’ve never sought anyone out and asked them “will you be my mentor.” For me it’s never happened that way. My mentors have been women who I’ve admired and built organic relationships with over time. Women who have watched me grow. Helped me grow. Inspired me to grow. Erica was that for me, and she introduced me to a whole family of other women who do that for me as well. So if there’s a lesson in this loss, it might be about legacy. Erica’s legacy is so much bigger than I think she would have realized. Just from the immediate response on Twitter — check out Dr. Goddess’ amalgamation of tweets — there’s an incredible diversity. Such a wide variety of people, from celebrities to bloggers to authors to regular folks. Spanning ages and accomplishments, genders and races. The overwhelming response has been shock and sadness and then a memory about how freakin’ cool Erica Kennedy was. She was ALWAYS cool, down to earth, genuine, encouraging and engaged. She looked beyond the bubble of people she could have stayed in, and reached out to others. Like me. Just because.

Even when I lost touch with Erica for a week, a month, a few months — as was her way — she’d re-emerge with words of encouragement. She constantly tweeted and DMed me articles she knew I’d find interesting or inspiring, thoughts on the projects or posts I’d done, suggestions of things I could be doing, words of praise.

Like this.

She looked at me and saw greatness, and helped me to see that greatness myself.

One of the last times I talked to Erica, I admitted that I’d turned down a TV appearance because I felt self conscious about my weight and was scared of going on TV because of that. And she was like ***expletive expletive WTF***. She told me not to be stupid and to not hold myself back. But then she admitted that she totally understood my insecurity. She knew what it was to let concern about appearance or just feelings of insecurity hold you back from flying your highest. It felt good to share that with someone who understood, and who also knew I should know better. And do better.

We talked maybe 6 weeks ago. 8 weeks ago. I lose track. But I know it was before my wedding anniversary, because she was like wowwww congrats on a decade. We talked for almost two hours and she was so full of energy and ideas and jokes. She told me about The Conversation, that TV show hosted by Amanda de Cadenet on Lifetime — Erica had assisted them with social media and ideas for the show, and was super stoked about it. She knew I would love it. We talked about book ideas and moving forward on exciting new projects. I told her two of my most urgent ideas, and she loved them. She got me to admit a secret that not many people know, and she cackled with delight about that. Erica was great with secrets. As a woman with many of her own, she knew the importance of keeping them safe and sharing them only with the precious few you can let inside your heart. Conversations with her were a riot. She would go from telling you some super insider celebrity story to bonding with you about some deep reality anyone could relate to.

I spent last night reading old e mails and tweets. This morning, I called my mom to talk about this and learned that she too had lost a friend unexpectedly this week. I cried for Erica, and she cried for her friend. I told my mom about what Erica meant to me and even though Mama Bella isn’t a fan of social media or Facebook and it sounds strange to say you’re grieving for someone you’ve never met in person, she got it. This morning my mom comforted me with these words. “Erica was a mother figure. You were one of her children. And she’s right there. People like that, they never go away. She will always be with you.”

While we were at Blogging While Brown, Luvvie and Scott Hanselman and Kathryn Finney and I sat and talked and somehow Erica came up and we all shared how we knew her and how great it was that we all knew her even though it wasn’t all in the same way. We each mentioned how we hadn’t heard from her in a while. So Scott sent her a text, basically letting her know we were hanging out and thinking about her, and missed her. There was no response. I just hope she knew.

I hope she knew how much she was loved and by how many people. I hope she knows how much she will be missed. Love you, Erica. BBRTW.

Click here to read an awesome interview with Erica about her book Feminista. And click here to read Bassey Ikpi’s post about Erica, and just be forewarned cause you might need tissues. I did.


Luvvie says:
June 16, 2012, 6:27 pm
Erica was everything. EVERYTHING. And those cheekbones? Life. Erica Kennedy was so damb epic. Talk about leaving your fingerprints and making impact. Gone way too soon. RIP EK.
Nik says:
June 16, 2012, 6:52 pm
This not only saddens me but this post has encouraged me to go forth with my writing. I stopped writing bc of personal issues in my life but life is too short to have the "what if" factor. I thank God for inspiring people like Erica and pray that her soul is at Peace. My prayers are with those of you who knew her and how blessed you are to be able to say that.
Tia Williams says:
June 16, 2012, 7:12 pm
This is beautiful honey, she would've loved it. Erica was a true original. RIP.
Jennae says:
June 16, 2012, 8:01 pm
Your and Bassey's posts really make me wish that I had known Erica and gotten the opportunity to experience a little bit of her light. I recognize her face from having seen her around the blogosphere and Twitter, but I never knew her personally. I will say a prayer that your memories of her and her words will help ease your grief. So, so sorry for your loss. This is a harsh reminder of why I want to get better at connecting with women like you, Bassey and others, and why I need to do it immediately.
Wes says:
June 16, 2012, 8:05 pm
Wow this really saddens me... I first became familiar with Ms. Kennedy when I read Bling (I actually read Bling AGAIN this past summer because I enjoyed it so much the first time). I remember emailing her (after reading Bling the first time) to compliment her on a job well done. Much to my surprise she emailed me back and we conversed back and forth briefly. I had truly gained even more respect and admiration for her. She will certainly be missed.
Pets says:
June 16, 2012, 8:46 pm
RIP Erica but while you were here you made a difference! Thanks Afrobella for this post - I know how hard it was for you to write.
Tasha says:
June 16, 2012, 9:02 pm
Thank you for sharing this with us. I didn't know who she was until this all happened and I wish it had been under different circumstances, as many have stated. Her selflessness is a true lesson here. If there was anything to take away from what many have said about her, it was this.
Amanda says:
June 16, 2012, 10:33 pm
Thank you for writing this....we share a similar story...I met Erica online in 2005 when I had no faith in myself and my future. She pushed me relentlessly and forced me to realize me...to see me..to own me...Last night I went to bed at 3am just reading our old emails..our candid confessions about our past,our insecurities. We lost contact and I sent her an email last summer to let her know that I would hear her words everyday in my head pushing me to follow my dreams and that at long last I took that step. Her reply was "Girl, I love it follow your dreams". I moved to NYC from Europe because of Erica's guiding light that illuminated the dreams inside my heart and all the things I wanted for myself. I will never forget her. We never met in person but we met. R.I.P EKJ
I Am Your People says:
June 16, 2012, 11:12 pm
I was so confused when I first heard about her death online. I was in for real denial thinking it must be a "Kennedy" who died, knowing full well #negrotwitter wouldn't give a damb if JFK's 2nd cousin died. I never met Erica or personally interacted with her, but I loved her tweets and blogs. The world is a lesser place without her
Carmen says:
June 17, 2012, 12:17 am
Love this Patrice. I remember buying Bling several years ago. I took it in my carry on and couldn't wait for the flight attendant to shut up so I could crack open my book. I remember looking at her pic and bio thinking she looks so cool and and dope to hang around. Gone way too soon. I always remember the scripture,from John 14 during these untimely events. 'In my Father's house there are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you.I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you ,I will come again and receive you unto myself;that where I am there ye may be also.' Her place has been prepared. She is free of suffering from this world and living without sadness or worry.
Marsha S. Haneiph says:
June 17, 2012, 1:31 am
Such a beautiful piece about your friend, Afrobella. My condolences.
Sabbio says:
June 17, 2012, 2:39 am
I'm deeply sorry for your loss Patrice. And this post was a really beautiful hommage to your friend!
Tasha says:
June 17, 2012, 4:46 am
I never knew her. Sorry to hear about your loss, Bella. But thank God for friendships and the fact that her own life has such an impact on your life and the existence of others near and far. May she rest in peace. XXXX
Nastassia Davis says:
June 17, 2012, 6:49 am
I'm just learning about this woman from all the talk on twitter. Very accomplished and beautiful - I could see why she meant a lot to many people. Her story inspires me and my work actually. To continue to do more and leave a mark, just as she has. I'm SO sorry for your loss, Patrice. She's made her great impact and loves you. She's one of God's angels now. May she rest in heavenly peace.
bella says:
June 17, 2012, 8:52 am
I wonder if she knew how beautiful she was. She was always critical about her appearance, but she was sooooo gorgeous. She was epic on every level
bella says:
June 17, 2012, 8:57 am
the main thing I'm taking from this is go forth AND BE EPIC. Don't limit yourself or your dreams. GO FOR THEM.
Sherry Blossom says:
June 17, 2012, 9:08 am
Twitter seemed at a standstill when I first logged on and reading tweets of "please say this isn't so" and "I must be dreaming" contined as I scrolled through. I had a sinking feeling and didn't know why. I knew someone great, someone epic was gone. I could feel the sadness and pain through the tweets and wished everyone who was personally affected the strength to go on. I remember the book "BLING" and I have a vague memory of being excited to read it. Long before social media, before I knew what a blog was and when my mind was still developing. When authors were like literary celebrities to me and I could never imagine knowing one personally. I was a teen, perhaps 17/18. I feel the bond through your words. I smiled at your memories and felt my eyes well up with tears at the feeling that many are trying to cope with, she was "gone too soon". And I thank you for sharing something so personal with all of us. If I could hug you I would and I know it wouldn't feel like enough. I hope the entire bloggersphere, social mediums, literary community, and more hold each other as everyone deals with her passing in their way. I'm so sorry for your lost Patrice. Thank you for sharing your feelings, memories and life with us.
dream hampton says:
June 17, 2012, 9:22 am
This is good writing. As someone who knew Erica pre-social media, I'm so glad that she was able to populate what seemed her self-isolation with a virtual, but very real, community of women. She has been missed amongst the Rockhouse Hotel crew for years. These pieces by her newer friends fills in many blanks. Thank you.
Tonya says:
June 17, 2012, 9:10 pm
I logged in to my Twitter acct and kept seeing the Name Erica Kennedy dies... Curious, I Googled her name and read every single link I could find on this inspiring woman. I do not know her personally, nor have we ever exchanged words via social media, but the impact she has had in the lives of her friends is a testament to how loved and cherished she was. This was an inspirational post, under sad circumstances. Thank you for sharing your memories of Erica. It has made me re-think my own dreams and goals for the future.
bella says:
June 17, 2012, 10:51 pm
dream, I have looked up to you forever, so your kind words about my writing mean the world to me. I'm absolutely gutted over this, even though my relationship with Erica was virtual her encouragement of my work was so, so real. She was a gem. I'm honored to have known her, even for a little while. Thank you for commenting.
divynenhealthy says:
June 18, 2012, 9:16 am
I truly appreciated this piece on Erica. I didn't know her personally. However, I did read her work and loved Feminista and Bling. I find that there are mother-sister-warriors who enter our lives and inspire us to reach our levels. Our gifts to them for their love and inspiration is to live our lives to the fullest, unabashedly and with no shame. Keep on keeping on. I love your blog!
No Nonsense says:
June 18, 2012, 9:25 am
OMG I am shocked!!!! My last images of her was when she did the big chop and posted on her blog. She was an awesome writer. Remember when she was writing that memoir of that old lady in Aventura? Wow, can't believe she's gone
Ananda Leeke says:
June 18, 2012, 2:30 pm
Thanks you for sharing your reflections about Erica. She will be missed.
flygyrl72 says:
June 19, 2012, 1:41 am
What an honest, heartfelt tribute Bella!. I love this. You paid a fitting tribute to your friend, it don't matter whether you ever met her in the flesh or not. She made an impact on your life & your work & that's what matters! I had just a few interactions with Erica via Twitter over the years & I just feel devastated about this. Her voice not being here any longer is a tragedy. It breaks my heart. From Twitter & her blog, I felt like I knew her. Not intimately, of course, but I felt like "this chick gets it. And I get her" Even though the extent of my exposure to her was a few replies she gave me, she made such an impact on me. As the saying goes, Quality not quantity... RIP Erica, you will be sorely missed. Funny, I haven't been on here in a while, this would be the post to lead me back to you. Been too long. Peace.
LisaLisa1913 (@lisalis1913) says:
June 19, 2012, 3:48 pm
I used to follow her articles when I was younger and read VIBE and all those other pop culture magazines because I wanted to be a fly journalist like Eric, dreamhampton, Danyelle Smith, Aliya S. King... She was a great writer and it seems an awesome spirit to be around. I did not know her personally but I am saddened by her death.
tanyas image says:
June 20, 2012, 7:41 am
I never knew Erica is so beautiful! It is such a big loss without her.. :-(