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Imani-Nadine Addington

August 9, 1949  –  November 23, 2004

Born in Columbus, Ohio; died in St. Paul, Minnesota

Celebration of Imani-Nadine Addington


A letter to our family: From Nadine to Imani 2004


Love is what I need to help me know my name” from Seals recording of “Love Divine


First, we would like to express our appreciation to all of you for your participation in the celebration of Imani-Nadine’s completed life. Even those of you who were not able to physically be with us were, we know, with us in spirit. You all helped make the event one of profound family remembrance and celebration.  It was an opportunity for all of us to experience the breath of this family; and, for many of you it was the first time being with one another.


We would like to share with you a few reflections that came out of conversations the three of us in (Indira, Emanuel and James) had during our time away in Mexico.


The last two years of her life, Imani-Nadine was deeply addressed by the experience of receiving a new name. Experientially, it was as though her new name claimed her – rather than the other way around. Over a period of many months her name emerged in her consciousness: Imani. In Kiswahili Imani means faith or faithfulness. It was not simply coincidence that Imani is one of the seven principles lifted up in the African American celebration of Kwanzaa.


This celebration has become such a part of our family experience that it began to occupy a place at least as important as Christmas. The commercialization of Christmas had repelled us for years – and when Kwanzaa came into our experience, it was a way of recapturing the dimension of family and memory and rootedness that the season of Christmas once held. This is not to say it took the place of Christmas. Rather, Kwanzaa became a celebration of family and heritage that subverted the commercialization of the season and helped restore it to traditional significance.


Imani – faith or faithfulness – gave Nadine an identity that was couched in courage and trust, in the midst of a time when her body began to fail her and the frightening specter of death loomed. Following the renewal of her baptismal vows, when – before others – she was given her new name, she began a period of “living into” her new identity. This was not an easy time. She had to learn how to embody her new sense of being. In some ways, she did not fully live into this identity until her final days in Regions Hospital.


Over the last few years, the mischief wrought by lupus in her body was demanding more and more time and attention. Severe pulmonary hypertension, congestive heart failure, kidney failure – and likely the impact several small transient strokes at times made it difficult for her to focus on anything else. In spite of this disease’s impact she never finally turned in upon herself. She chose to keep her attention on the issues of society and her capacity to respond to them.

During her last two years, she learned to crochet – and crocheted several small Afghans for single mothers with infants. Each Afghan had a label attached that read “Handmade by Imani with peace and love.” She received a letter of gratitude from the Red Cross for her volunteer crocheting. She participated in a support group made up of women and men with kidney failure. She was resolved not to allow the group to become a gripe session about the dialysis clinic staff or merely an opportunity for people to commiserate about their misfortune. She saw to it that the group had a series of guest presenters that offered creative ways to deal with the challenge of living with kidney failure. She also never lost track of the work that she and James began several years ago – visiting the office occasionally and always inquiring about the status of the work.


Her comments to us during the final weeks provided the text for her “living into” process. “I don’t want to die I just want to be with you and our family …  I don’t think I’m going to make it. … Where is my son?  He needs to be here.” Then on Sunday two days before she completed her life. “Honey, take my clothes home.”  The same day, during ‘rounds’, a crowd of residents, interns and medical students all stood around her bed listening to the attending physician. After asking how she was feeling, and sharing a few observations with us, the attending physician ask if she had any questions for anything to say. “I love my husband and my children!” she replied in a strong voice. This proclamation took them by surprise; it didn’t seem to fit. The attending had asked if she had any questions or anything else to say.  She used the occasion to proclaim something to anyone within hearing.


In the final days of life, Nadine lived into her new identity. She became Imani. Consequently, it is Imani that will remain with us, her family, all the days of our lives. And by remaining with us, she calls us into new identities that bear witness in our own journey of faithfulness. Her drama will continually call us to deeper levels of consciousness, courage and trust as we each negotiate the drama of our life passages.


We hope these few reflections give you an additional perspective on the life drama that we all had a part in. With love and deep appreciation,

          ~~  Indira, Emanuel, and James






Celebration of the Completed Life of

Imani-Nadine Rebecca Hairston Addington

St. Paul Reformation Lutheran Church 12/5/04


Imani Nadine Rebecca Hairston Addington, widely known for her activism on behalf of racial and social justice, has died at the age of 55. Imani battled the progressive ravages of lupus for 18 years before succumbing to heart failure. Imani was born in Columbus Ohio to the Rev. Thurman and Rebecca Hairston. She was the second youngest of eight children. As a musician in her father’s church, she developed a lifelong love of African-American musical traditions. In later years she would be known for her gospel styling as she accompanied herself on the piano. Following high school graduation she attended Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland Ohio and in recent years continued her education at the weekend college of Augsburg College in Minneapolis.


Her family’s history parallels and influenced her life’s work. She hails from the Hairston Clan, which includes the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans as well as the descendants of slave owners. The family’s history and its struggles to heal from and understand slavery’s impact are described in the book The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, by Henry Weincek. The book  received the National Book Critics Circle Award and was featured on The CBS TV news program 60 Minutes.


Imani joined the staff of the Ecumenical Institute/Institute of Cultural Affairs in 1969. She remained with the Institute working across the United States and the world until 1985. She and her husband lived and worked in rural India, Jamaica, and Venezuela prior to moving to St. Paul in 1985.


In November 1985  the Addington’s became members of St. Paul Reformation Lutheran Church. She remained an active member of our church, serving as co-president of the congregation council from 1987 to 1989 responsible for the mission dimensions of leadership. She sang in our choir and was a soloist on several occasions. More recently Imani was an adviser to our antiracism team. Imani also served as a member of the St. Paul Area Synod Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


She was the first African-American administrator for Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul, serving between 1986 and 1995 as manager of the office of contextual education. She also served on the boards of the Walker West Music Academy in the Twin Cities and the Urban Racial Reconciliation Network. She was a member of the mayor’s anti-drug task force in St. Paul. She was active in the parents’ organization of Adam’s Spanish Immersion School and an active participant in her Westside St. Paul neighborhood. In 1990 she was a delegate to the World Council of Churches consultation on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation in Seoul, Korea.


In March 1995, she and her husband, James, became the co-directors of the Minnesota Collaborative Antiracism Institute (MCARI)I – a state-wide training and organizational development program sponsored by the Minnesota, Greater Minneapolis and St. Paul Area Councils of Churches. Over 10,000 individuals participated in programming in the ensuing nine years. In April 2003 she and her husband received the Race, Church and Change award given by Luther Seminary in recognition of their work for racial justice across the upper Midwest. Imani was a tireless advocate for dismantling racism.


On August 11, 2002 Nadine’s baptism was reaffirmed as she accepted an additional name, Imani, which means faith in Ki-Swahili. This identity gave for hope and optimism in the face of struggling with the effects of her disease. Imani is survived by her husband James, daughters Indira Addington and Kathy Roberts, sons Emanuel Ward, Daniel Addington and Robert Addington, granddaughters Sarah and Emily Addington, Sisters Lorraine Smalls, Wynola Wayne and Arnita Hairston; and brothers William Hairston and David Hairston.


Imani’s warmth could light up the room. She could also be rigorous in the pursuit of justice. She was a skillful trainer with a lifelong commitment to social justice and her large, extended family.