Upon receiving news of the passing of Anne Parsons, Detroit Symphony Orchestra president emerita and CultureSource founding board member, I would have expected my own heart to beat slower.
In the reality of the moment, yes, my sadness is real, though it has been rather unexpectedly paired with a quickening inside me.
I recognize this sensation as one that moved through me when I was around Anne. During our interactions, there was a persistent transfer of energy from her as she collectively used her words and presence to project onto me her vision for my abundant success. Those projections warmed me and became imprints I used for guidance.
Anne did this notably in the context of CultureSource’s immediate reaction to Covid-19. On March 11, 2020, the day Covid-19 became a pandemic, she left a voicemail message for me asking what CultureSource’s position was on responding to the exponentially increasing infections and consequential series of closures and calls for distancing.
CultureSource did not have a plan, and Anne’s message made me think, “wait, we should totally have a plan!”
Late into that night, I worked out CultureSource’s Covid-19 strategy. As our team worked to implement it the following morning, I called Anne to share the news, and when I finished my final point, she said with matter-of-fact confidence, “Omari, I knew you had this figured out.”
Anne believed in me, and I did great work because of it.
This was actually characteristic of Anne. Across her career, she meted out her signature mixture of care and toughness in service of our cultural sector institutions and colleagues, often acting outside of self-interests to uplift others. Always showing up. Always picking up. Always speaking up. Always believing.
Anne regularly offered us all access to her platform and privileges, trusting that what she could share could be part of making a community better.
She was right.
We are all better having benefitted from her allyship and leadership. As I sit to write and pace to think today, I do so bolder and steadier recalling that Anne Parsons imprint on me. While I will miss her dearly, I exist today with a renewed sense of life and service and will thrive on keeping her spirit alive in my heart and in the vision of CultureSource.
As you see them, please allow any tributes about Anne’s life to be a call for you to believe in yourself and in someone else, and join me and our CultureSource team in sending heartfelt condolences to Anne’s family.