Morgan Ahern, born on March 10, 1948, in Brooklyn NY, was born of immigrant parents – her father’s family from Cork, Ireland, and her mother’s family from Naples, Italy. She died of lung cancer on December 4th, 2019, Vashon Island, WA.
She attended Queen of the Rosary Academy (high school), Amityville, NY, and then went for two years to Notre Dame of Staten Island College. She graduated from Richmond College, part of the City University of NY, where she received a women’s studies degree. As one of the first women to receive a women’s studies degree, she was recruited by the University of Colorado in Boulder to help set up a women’s study program there.
Morgan moved to Denver in 1975, working in a lesbian bar, the Velvet Hammer, and in various political groups. She volunteered in one of the women’s bookstores, helped out at Big Mama Rag, a feminist newspaper, and was an organizer of the Women’s Psychiatric Inmates Liberation Front, which protested the use of electroshock therapy and forced drugging of psychiatric inmates.
Morgan moved to Seattle in 1985, where she immediately became involved in political activism there – solidarity with liberation movements in Central America, Palestinian rights, fighting the right-wing emboldened by Reaganomics, fighting racism and anti-Semitism, working for women’s and gay rights, against police brutality. She got a job as a note-taker for Deaf students at Seattle Central Community College, where she enjoyed interacting with the Deaf community and with the other students and teachers. She became a sought after speaker about Romani culture and politics, about anarchism and fascism, gay issues, Madness, and the Porajmos (Romani Holocaust), speaking at Seattle’s community colleges, the University of Washington, King County Libraries, the WA State Holocaust Education and Resource Center and more. She started Red Bandana, an educational and political organization formed to draw attention to racism against the Romani people. She created a blog and Facebook page, both called Lolo Diklo: Rromani Against Racism: dedicated to raising awareness about the history, culture and true lives of Romani people worldwide. She helped organize many protests, demonstrations, marches, concerts and cultural events.
In the late 1990’s Morgan moved to Vashon Island, where she continued her speaking and activism and also founded the Romani Traveling Museum, which is a collection of Romani books, clothing, jewelry, and artwork. Morgan worked at the Vashon (King County) Library, where she made many friends of both co-workers and patrons.
Due to Morgan’s early negative interactions with the health care system, she rarely went to the doctor. In October of 2019, she became so ill she consented to go to a clinic, and they sent her to Tacoma General Hospital where she was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 cancer. She decided against any treatment, which would perhaps have prolonged her life somewhat, but would have had debilitating side effects. She left the hospital to stay with friends on Vashon (big thank you to Rayna and Jay), who took over her care until her passing, along with much help from the many friends that Morgan had made over the years. Her body was cremated and she will have a plot and stone in Vashon Cemetery, with her ashes making their way to places dear to her and to her people.
Morgan is survived by her brother Neil, sister Laurie, nephews Brendan (Kelli) and Sean, her cousins in Ireland, and her chosen family – LoriLu, Susanna, Liz, Clay, Shon, Amber, the community of librarians on Vashon, her Burton friends who looked out for each other, the college teachers she worked with over the years, the Colorado and Seattle feminists, the Eugene contingent, her dog Pinkie Lee, friends young and old, near and far, too numerous to name them all. We will all miss her stories and her passion.