The news started trickling through via social media yesterday and I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to believe it. Then people started tweeting me and DMing me and sending me private messages. I read the posts on Facebook, via NV Magazine, via Lipstick Alley, via the now-private video by filmmaker Andre Robert Lee simply titled “My Titi.” That video ends with a photograph of a funeral program. The dates on the program say that we lost Titi Cree Branch on December 4, 2014.
I didn’t want to believe the rumors, but seeing that funeral program in the end of that video made my heart sink, my head hurt, and my eyes well up with tears. I went to bed, seeing a slew of Instagram homages with RIP and that date on it. I woke up to see that even though there has been no official statement, the news has been shared on Hello Beautiful, The Root, Washington Post, Ebony.com and Essence.com among other sites. BGLH wrote a really warm and respectful post. As of right now there still is no official statement from the family, when I called the business number myself this morning, I was told in no uncertain terms that a statement would come later this week. So right now all we have are tweets from the Miss Jessie’s Twitter account and from Miko Branch’s personal Twitter. Those tweets said just one word – “Titi.”
I first interviewed Titi Branch in 2007. We never managed to meet in person but communicated often throughout the years behind the scenes. What can I say about Titi from my personal knowledge? I can say that she was down to earth, honest, genuine, passionate, an incredible visionary and hard worker. A good person. She was open and friendly but still private, and I respected that about her. I can say that she believed in the power of family and she worked hard to build their brand. I can say that she truly was a leader in the natural hair space and helped to blaze a trail in the industry for many others to follow. I respect her and the Miss Jessie’s family tremendously. This is an unimaginable loss. This hurts.
I pray for Miko Branch and the rest of the family, and for everyone who worked at or with Miss Jessie’s. I absolutely hate some of the ignorant, insensitive assumptions and judgmental statements we’re seeing in comments online. Remember that this wasn’t just the beautiful, curly haired woman who you might see in magazines or on blogs – this was a real woman with a real life. Remember that depression is real, and doesn’t discriminate. Remember that everyone you encounter in life is going through SOMETHING.
This is a time for us to say a prayer for the Miss Jessie’s family, to hold them in our good thoughts and do what we can to bring about healing. This is also a time to let your friends and family and loved ones know that you love them, and a time to reach out to offer support and strength to those who are hurting, who might need help. This is an especially important time of year to spread love, because so many people we know are struggling in one way or another. This is a time for support and community and love.
I want to say thank you. Thank you for everything you did for the natural hair industry and the natural hair community, Titi. RIP.