I pause for a moment to remember my former housemate, Akili Tyson, who died nine years ago today.

What follows is a transcript from NPR’s All Things Considered, remembering Akili and acknowledging the family at NPR that cared for him in his final year.

And after that, his obituary in The Washington Post.

Family Not Necessarily Indicating A Blood Relationship

NPR: All Things Considered
May 11, 1996

SCOTT SIMON, Host: This week we lost a colleague and friend here at National Public Radio.

Akili Tyson was an assistant producer on All Things Considered. He died of AIDS early Thursday morning. He was 35 years old. During this last year of his life, Akili was surrounded and cared for by a remarkable group of people here – some of them gay, some of them not – who saw to it that he took his many medications and kept doctors’ appointments. They shopped and cooked for him when he was too sick to move, cleaned his apartment and cheered him through days and weeks when frustration and depression would grip his disposition. When the pain of his sickness shot through his limbs, they were there to hold Akili and rub his feet and hands and stay with him through dark and angry nights.

Over the past few years as more Americans have been claimed by AIDS, we have seen more AIDS patients surrounded and sustained by these kinds of families. I say these kinds of families only because they lack a blood relationships. In all the important respects, of course, love and regard and selflessness, these groups of people are families.

Frank Browning a former colleague who’s become a leading commentator on gay issues and culture says that because many homosexuals have had to live outside the law, as he calls it, they have devised forms of families, extended, not exclusive, that frame love and commitment within their lives.

We know there are Americans who see homosexuality as wrong and homosexuals as miscreants or misguided souls. When we report stories of current controversy over proposals for same sex marriage, for example, or gay adoption, their views will be included.

But we wish some of those people could see, as we have, the depth and the beauty of caring many gays have brought into each other’s lives and the strength and sense of purpose with which they have confronted the epidemic of AIDS.

This week we mourn the loss of a friend. We remember how Akili used to steam through the halls here with his dancer’s grace, head bent down near to deadline, seeming to miss, almost by magic, swinging doors and spilled spools of tape, waving a reel in his hand and calling out to anxious editors, `I’ve got it, I’ve got it.’

But as we grieve, we are also grateful to know those who cared for Akili. To work alongside people who bring so much kindness and so much courage into this world is a blessing.


SCOTT SIMON: Akili loved this music by Seal.

Akili Ramon Tyson Dies; News Producer at NPR

The Washington Post
May 9, 1996

Akili Ramon Tyson, 35, a producer since 1990 of the National Public Radio program “All Things Considered,” died May 9 at Georgetown University Hospital. He had AIDS.

Mr. Tyson had lived in Washington since 1989, when he was first employed by NPR as a production assistant on the program “Performance Today.” In addition to producing daily news coverage for “All Things Considered,” he was a producer for election coverage in South Africa two years ago and of coverage of the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.

Mr. Tyson was a Los Angeles native and a graduate of Harvard University. He began in radio as a volunteer with Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles and later was a producer of “Mountain Stage,” a music program of West Virginia Public Radio.

He was a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and of Gays and Lesbians in Public Radio.

Survivors include his parents, Ramone E. Tyson Jr. of Atlanta and Ujima Tyson of Bunker Hill, W.Va.; [a brother in Atlanta]; two sisters, Khela Tyson of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Katalika Kaiser of Lake Arrowhead, Calif.; and his grandparents, George and Kathleen Hisaoka of Sacramento and Georgia Green of Martinsburg, W.Va.

Creative Works by Tyson

Allies, a poem
Maple Leaves, a photograph

Personal Recollections of Tyson by Others

Proceed At Your Own Risk, present-day NPR excerpt, June 5, 2006
Matzah and Marinara, October 25, 2005

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