2008-09 was supposed to be her senior year of college and the year she turned 21, an important year she would remember for the rest of her life.
Instead, Tumi McCallum’s loved ones at Mills observed the first anniversary of her death with a celebration of her life at a small memorial on September 3.
Boitumelo “Tumi” Arabella McCallum died on August 2, 2007, barely a week after her 20th birthday. She was killed by her estranged boyfriend in her mother’s New York Apartment, ending a heated argument between them. The Mills community and members of McCallum’s family gathered at a memorial service for her in the College chapel at the beginning of last school year, and it was then that McCallum’s closest friends and Director of Spiritual and Religious Life Erika Macs decided they would come together in her honor again at a later date.
Close to 20 people attended last Wednesday’s event, held at the grove of trees between the Vera Long Building and the Alumnae House, one of McCallum’s favorite places on campus. The gathering was more a celebration of McCallum’s life than mourning of her passing because, as some said, the passing of time had taken the sharp edge off some of the pain.
“Everything was so raw and fresh [a year ago], and there’s been a lot of healing since then,” said senior Tenagne Habte-Michel, a close friend of McCallum’s who helped to organize the memorial. “I’m approaching this from a celebratory place rather than a mourning place, celebrating Tumi’s spirit and her life.”
Macs shared several ways in which Mills as a whole has worked to honor and celebrate Tumi’s life. The first Boitumelo “Tumi” McCallum Memorial Scholarship, amounting to nearly $10,000 given by 92 donors, was awarded to Stephanie Cooper, an Ethnic Studies major.
Macs also informed the group that a memorial garden will be set up outside the chapel in October. This garden’s aim
she said, is to provide a space for the ongoing remembrance of students like McCallum, who died before they were able to graduate. The first two plants to be placed in the ground are McCallum’s own succulents, and an aloe plant from the Mills Botanical Garden, symbolic of healing.
Others in attendance at the anniversary memorial included Dean of Students and Vice Provost Joi Lewis, who read from a copy of McCallum’s posthumously awarded Bachelor of Arts Degree, and Senior Class Vice-President Amanda Page, who announced her class council’s decision to give back to the College in McCallum’s memory.
“Since she would have graduated with us, we wanted to give a gift in her honor,” Page said at the memorial.
The Class of 2009 decided to plant an olive tree on campus, since McCallum loved olives. Page welcomed other suggestions for gifts as well.