Among the dozens of lives lost in the horrific Oakland Ghost Ship fire on December 2 was that of musician Cash Askew, of the group Them Are Us Too. Today, Askew's family has released a statement which serves as both a heart-rending remembrance of an artist who left the world far too soon, and also as an important reminder that the loss of Oakland's Ghost Ship also means the removal of a safe space for vulnerable communities in the area. The loss which Askew's and all of the other victims' friends and families are feeling right now is profound and searing, thus it is all the more moving that Askew's family took time during their grief to remind people of the importance of continuing "to embrace, respect and protect outsider spaces just as we need to embrace, respect and protect our outsiders themselves." It's a beautiful message, and an important one for us all to read; see for yourself in the full statement below.
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.
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.
We have been very immersed in our own pain bubble, but as the scope and scale of this tragedy continues to unfold and to be unearthed we are sending love to the other friends and families of those whose lives were also lost in this disaster. 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.
It is tempting to try and speak for her, as one very close is wont to do, but we would prefer her words give you a glimpse into her articulate wisdom and intricately beautiful mind.
"I’ve never been a very assertive person, so I have a hard time confronting people on a level of this, whether its the blatant sexism or the misgendering. 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. I want to take advantage of my position even if it just means one kid at our show feeling a little safer or prouder. But in advocating visibility as we try to make a living off our music, I also need to be really careful not to slip towards some assimilationist bullshit of incorporating relatively radical queer identities into a violent and oppressive mainstream culture. I don’t want my identity or anyone else’s to be tokenized for liberals to pat themselves on the back for being so progressive while ignoring myriad other injustices, and I don’t want our identities to be commodified and sold back to us for the benefit of people who already have power."
The outpouring of love has been utterly moving.
Sunny Haire and Leisa Baird Askew
Cash is also survived her beloved Father, Christopher Conn Askew.
While Leisa and I appreciate your love and concern, we ask that you respect our privacy, as we are wading through the depths of an immeasurable grief. Please direct any media inquiries, messages of love and support and MOST IMPORTANTLY a memory or photo of Cash you’d like to share with us to firstname.lastname@example.org.