A Dear Friend Departs This Realm
Dear Sister Nida Ikahlas Ali . . .
|Sister Nida Ali (1941-2016)|
I’d visit with her monthly for many years and she’d work her magic in my hair, whether this was press and curl, California Curl, Sister Locs or just a wash and conditioner. The price was always the same, $20 unless I was getting a trim and then it was $35. For over twenty years, the price never went up.
Only two sisters ever did my hair, and that was Sister Haneefah and then Sister Nida. I don’t remember why I switched, but I liked how Sister Nida was always trying new products, moving away from chemicals towards pineapple based hair relaxers, shea butter conditioner, and natural dye colors. She sold Obama bling in the shop and we could even take a photo with the President (smile). His life size cut out lived in the shop on Telegraph near Alcatraz.
|Sister Hajji Nida Ali |
in Mecca (Feb. 2001)
|Sister Nida Ali |
at a wedding in 2007
|Sister Nida Ali|
|Sister Nida Ali at her shop|
We’d talk about men, and she’d share what she’d learned over the years with a laugh. Her life wasn't flawless; however, I learned watching Sister Nida and Brother Ernest that for a relationship to work, there had to be trust, respect and freedom. Sister Nida was the freest black woman I knew. Perhaps this freedom was tied to faith. I remember the early morning Sirah study sessions at Masjid Warith Deen she'd attend. Sister Nida was a devote servant of the Din exemplified in service.
|Classic Black Family: |
Sister Nida and Brother Ernest Sr.
It was lovely watching Sister Nida and her husband, Brother
Ernest Sr., in the shop too. He’d bring her lunch and she’d brush his hair into a pony tail.
Her Merrakesh was truly a place where one could travel. Sister Nida and her Sister and Sister-in-law would trek the planet. She knew how to relax and have fun. I loved looking at her photos when she returned from Egypt, Morocco, Hawaii and elsewhere across the globe. Rides on camels, sunbathing on the beach, spa days . . . . Her stories of Mecca with her sister friends from Oakland gave Hajj a dimension or a spin only a black woman would have the audacity to share.
|Sister Nida Ali on a camel in Egypt (2001)|
|Stop in NYC at the Apollo en route to Mecca|
When I learned that she had been sick, I called her and she told me I could visit her. I took a calendar with natural hair styles I thought she’d like, some lavender and a small bottle to put the oil in with water. She told me she was not in pain at all, just a bit weak after being in bed for over a month. One of her sons was helping her with exercises to strengthen her legs, that and climbing all the stairs to her room.
She looked great. You wouldn’t have known she was sick unless she told you. It was good to know she was not suffering. I couldn’t imagine a disease that disappeared all your white blood cells. The soldiers were being taken hostage, however, when I saw her they were coming back home.
I remembered back when Sister Sadaqa was alive, along with Sister Laiqa Louise Muhammad (6/14) and Sister Ummus Salaama and Sister Nida (6/1)— the five of us would have a June Gemini Birthday Party on Sister Sadaqa’s birthday. I don’t remember the exact day. Sister Nida’s birthday is June 1. We’d go to Housewives Market in West Oakland and get a goose or duck for the meal. Sister Sadaqa would cook it. I don’t remember the entrees we’d have with the main course. I do remember enjoying being with my elder sisters even if I didn’t like the duck. I don’t know how I lucked up to be invited and a part of the party, but I was not complaining one bit.
|Sister Nida Ali on the runway at an Evening of Elegance|
When I met Sister Nida, she was First Lieutenant for Captain Sadie at Mosque 26 in San Francisco. I remember when the Evening of Elegance was launched as a fundraiser for the Sister Clara Muhammad School. Sister Nida was elegant and beautiful. There were lots of photos in her albums from many such evening programs. The audience looked just as wonderful as those on the runway. It is not every day that one can wear one’s formal garments, so the black folks were stepping in high cotton (smile). The models ranged from little biddy kids to elders. One year I helped the models dress for the runway--that was fun! Years later I went on a date . . . another fun evening. The two made a great team; Sister Sadie was so lovely to work with. They used love, not fear to manage the sister community.
I remember when Sister Nida made 70. Time kind of stood still for me; she didn’t age, she looked the same as 30-40 years ago when I first met her. But she had pictures from her birthday parties and holiday parties to share with her other family, her friends from the market place—from her life before Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, World Community of Islam, American Muslim Mission and after that too. She was just so beloved by all, the space her absence leaves will certainly mean we have to tip carefully around the chasm so that grief does not swallow us whole.
Sister Nida Ali (June 1, 1941 - March 2, 2016) is survived by: Na'eem Perry, Sadat Perry, Ernest Deshan Perry, Ronald Woods, William Wood, and husband Ernest Perry. She is proceed in death: Louis Ragland, Madeline Beal, and Mary Louise Jackson.
Sister Nida Ali's Janaza or funeral is Tuesday, March 8, 11 a.m. at Fuller Funeral Home, 4647 International Blvd., Oakland. The internment is at Rolling Hills Cemetery in Richmond, CA. What a fitting day to celebrate a great woman's life, than on International Women's History Day!