Her Passing Erases the Possibilities
Valerie Boyd entered life’s stage as an old soul with Zen-like calm and a pointed yet quiet grace. From her teenage years as the editor of her high school newspaper, her talents would stretch beyond the craft of journalism. Wordsmith architect, her work was precision storytelling that plotted the breadth, depth and dimensions of Black women.
Boyd, 58, who died February 12 after a five-year bout with pancreatic cancer, was the definitive biographer of Zora Neale Hurston. Her 2003 award-winning book Wrapped in Rainbow: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston traversed the decades of glory and tragedy of one of the most influential authors of the 20th Century.
Boyd’s meticulous gifts as researcher, writer and documentarian also moved Alice Walker to entrust Boyd as a caretaker and editor of her writings in the forthcoming book Blossoms Under Fire, covering Walker’s journals from 1965 to 2000. It is scheduled for release by Simon & Schuster April 12 – exactly two months after Boyd’s death.
Walker called Boyd’s contribution “a huge act of love and solidarity, of sisterhood, of soul generosity and shared joy.”
In a statement released by Simon & Schuster, Walker described Boyd as “one of the best people ever to live. Even though illness was stalking her the past several years, she accompanied me in gathering, transcribing, and editing my journals.”
“More than the tragedy of her passing, journalist Sonya Ross, who shares childhood roots in Atlanta, mourns the possibilities that were erased by Boyd’s death.
“I’m struck by the certainty that there was so much more for her to do,” noted Ross, whose kinship with Boyd includes moms’ PTA activities, elementary and high school.
Ross remembers Boyd as possessing “vast wisdom and a humility that was above all of us.” Boyd was one year behind Ross, the 7th Grade valedictorian, who returned to the school the following year to hand off the honors to her successor and rising star — Valerie Boyd. During her senior year as a staff writer with the high school newspaper, Ross remembers an unprecedented choice for the editor went to a rising junior. “Val was chosen for the editorship because it was the best choice and she was not only good at it. She excelled.”
The former arts editor with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Boyd has written for the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. She was also a cofounder of the arts journal Eight Rock and Health Quest.