Read the Touching Letter From Oakland Fire Victim Cash Askew's Family: 'The World Lost a Tender, Luminous Spirit'

Cash Askew
Kristin Cofer

Cash Askew

The family of Cash Askew, 22, one-half of the Bay Area synth goth/pop band Them Are Us Too, issued a touching letter Friday (Dec. 9) in which they mourn the death of a "tender, luminous spirit who was just beginning to imprint an indelible mark on the world through her art and through her humanity." Askew was one of 36 people who died in last Friday's fire at Oakland's Ghost Ship complex.

The statement from Cash's stepfather and mother, Sunny Haire and Leisa Baird Askew, begins:

Our beautiful, kind-hearted, brilliantly talented and endearingly innocent child, Cash Askew, lost her life in the tragic Oakland warehouse fire that took many other promising and vibrant young lives. To say we are shattered and shocked by this tragedy is a gross understatement and our love for her goes beyond language and beyond measure.

Any of you that were lucky enough to know Cash personally, know what an incredibly devastating loss this is to us, her family, as well as music and art communities worldwide. She was very special, an enigma, and I can say without hesitation she truly affected and made an impression upon everyone she met. Cash was a critically-acclaimed musician and artist, at the young age of twenty-two. With her passing, the world lost a tender, luminous spirit who was just beginning to imprint an indelible mark on the world through her art and through her humanity. 

Like a number of others who have seen the tragedy as a spur to focus on the importance of making affordable spaces for artists and the marginalized available, Sunny and Leisa made a plea for a radical re-thinking of how we support those communities.

We hope that Oakland and the country continues to consider how we make space and resources for lives and voices like Cash's and the other people who perished in the fire this weekend. People who are queer, poor, trans, people of color, immigrants and other disenfranchised communities are often our most vulnerable, and they are also our artists, our musicians, our visionaries, and our future.

We need to embrace, respect and protect outsider spaces just as we need to embrace, respect and protect our outsiders themselves. Not only are we Cash's parents, we are people who also grew up in the vividly diverse music, arts and queer communities of the Bay Area, and have inhabited and continue to benefit from these spaces.

In the letter, the couple (Cash is also survived by father Christopher Conn Askew) speak of their own unimaginable pain and the larger scope of the tragedy's effect on other friends and families of the dead. "As we all share in this collective grief and mourn the lives lost -- please remember to love each other and hold those you can, close," they wrote.

And instead of trying to speak for Cash, the couple linked to a 2015 interview the artist did with Slutist, in which Cash spoke of the struggle to find a comfortable space in an often unforgiving world and how putting music into the world helped overcome some of those feelings.

"I’ve never been a very assertive person, so I have a hard time confronting people on a level of this, whether it's the blatant sexism or the misgendering," Cash said in the interview. "Breaking down the constant conditioning enveloping anyone who is not cisgender/able-bodied/white/male -- that you are not entitled to space, or to be heard -- can be really difficult. As a trans person, I’m constantly doubting myself and afraid that people will like me less or take me less seriously if I make a point of who I am. But I’m working on being more assertive, especially because I have the privilege of having a record out and suddenly getting a lot more attention and praise. I feel some responsibility to claim space, to be vocal and visible. I hope that in doing so I can help these spaces feel more comfortable for other queer folks and femmes who are constantly being silenced, ignored and manipulated in music."

Read the full interview here.

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