Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, known to friends and loved ones as Tilly, stood up to bigotry and paid the ultimate price for it. He was stabbed on a Portland MAX train while protecting strangers from a hatred-spewing man who became violent.
Two of the three Good Samaritans on that train died, making national news in May — a shocking example of just how divided America has become, even in an “enlightened” town like Portland.
Asha Deliverance, Tilly’s mother, will speak out at the Kiggins Theatre on Thursday during a live women’s storytelling event. It’s part of an ongoing series called “Roar — Fierce Female Storytelling”; the storytellers are all women, but all are welcome to attend.
Love will be the theme of this “Roar.” Love is what animated her son and his short, extraordinary life, Deliverance said during a telephone interview.
“He always seemed to be on a mission,” she said about her son, who died at age 23, one year after he graduated from Reed College with a degree in economics. He was already employed as an analyst for the Cadmus Group, a multifaceted consulting firm that works on environmental, public health, energy and other projects.
If You Go
• What: “Roar — Fierce Female Storytelling.”
• Featuring: True stories by four local women on the theme “Love.”
• Including: Asha Deliverance, the mother of Portland MAX stabbing victim Taliesin Namkai-Meche.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21.
• Where: Kiggins Theatre, 1011 Main Street.
• Tickets: $15 advance, $20 at the door.
“He was so directed — and his direction was all of us,” Deliverance said. “He was striving to be really effective in making the world a better place. Anything related to that was his mission.”
She pointed out that it was the first day of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, a monthlong observance of prayer and fasting, when Tilly died protecting a pair of young women, one African-American, the other wearing a Muslim headscarf.
“I believe that if an angel was looking down and picking a moment and a statement to make … that angel would do exactly what he did. He laid down his life for a Muslim girl and an African-American girl,” she said.
Deliverance, a businesswoman and community organizer in Ashland, Ore., has been a notably public person in the aftermath. That’s not unusual for her, she said. “I’m very open. I’m a people person, always have been. That’s how I am,” she said.
That’s how her whole family is, she added: “We’re socialists. It’s all about others. We believe in taking care of people. Nothing is a personal event. Everything is universal.”
Deliverance noted the fires and floods that have grabbed headlines recently: “It sure looks like we are going a million miles an hour toward a brick wall … but even greater in my opinion are the social issues and challenges we are facing,” she said. “With Trump, we’ve seen an acceleration and permission created for hate crimes and hate speech.”
Within days of the tragedy, she issued an open letter to President Donald Trump that said, in part: “Taliesin died a hero, like many other Americans who have died defending freedom. … These brave men saw the immediate injustice and didn’t hesitate to act. They recognized the truth: We are more alike than we are different. To ride the train home without being assaulted because of the color of your skin or your religious beliefs, is an inalienable right.”
“Please encourage all Americans to protect and watch out for one another,” she wrote to Trump. “Please condemn any acts of violence, which result directly from hate speech & hate groups. I am praying you will use your leadership to do so.”
Deliverance — the mother of seven children — said she believes she’s heard from her son from “the other side,” and that he has no regrets. “That’s the only reason I’m saying all this without grief or tears,” she said.
Roaring to heal
The founder of “Roar” has never met Asha Deliverance. But after what happened in May, storytelling coach and executive director Erika Worth said, she felt compelled to reach out.
“I certainly didn’t want to intrude on her grief, but I chose to call her and left a message,” Worth wrote in an email. She got a call back within a day. “We spoke for well over an hour. It was like talking with an old friend, which I find to be very common these days when reaching out to various women. We talked about life, loss, the state of the world today, and the healing power of love.”
Love seemed like the right theme at the right time for this latest installment of “Roar,” said Worth — an artist, actor and motivational speaker who’s eager to see women find their voices and tell their tales. The other storytellers on Thursday will be Soraya Deen, founder of the Muslim Women Speakers Movement; Rev. Felicia Parazaider, an author and “sacred activist”; and Kristine McClain, who transitioned from man to woman.
Women are essential to healing the world, Worth said. “With all the divisiveness, anger, and violence happening in the world today, I feel women can and will be a huge part of the solution. Our natural instincts are to come together, help where possible, and find common ground on which to stand. I feel like we have a brilliant opportunity to use the Roar platform as a vehicle for change and love, and the world could certainly use more of that.”