Cheri “Sheddy” Rollins Sanchez, a former organizer for Philadelphia Student Union, died March 12 in Miami, Fla. They were 28.
Sanchez was described as a jack-of-all-trades, with interests and talents including art, photography, music, writing, gourmet cooking, activism and community education.
Sanchez, a Philadelphia native, was described by friends as a “loving parent, loyal family member, friend and healer.”
Sanchez was a graduate of Philadelphia Girls High School and worked for Philly Student Union, which offers resources to and advocates for area students, as an organizer from 2004-05. Sanchez was co-director from 2005-06, the organization’s youngest-ever director. Sanchez also worked at Detroit Summer from 2005-2008.
Sanchez also worked as a freelancer at nonprofit organizations in the education and advocacy realms and was raising an 8-year-old son. Most recently, Sanchez worked in child-care.
Sanchez was visiting Miami at the time of their death.
Sanchez was an active member of Philadelphia’s LGBT community. Friend Kim Murray said Sanchez was the first out LGBT person she met.
“Sheddy was the first queer person that I knew,” Murray said. “Sheddy taught me so much about love, resilience and what it means to live your truth. Sheddy cared deeply about young people and believed in their brilliance and intelligence. They mentored and loved many of us as we came out and came into ourselves.”
Murray met Sanchez in high school, and they got to know each other more through their time at Philadelphia Student Union.
“We worked on issues of school funding, education for liberation, fighting homophobia in our high school and connecting the struggles of communities,” Murray said. “Sheddy was also my dance partner, pernil cooker, tomato picker and co-conspirator in the life.”
Talia Young met Sanchez at the second U.S. Social Forum in Detroit in 2010.
Young said Sanchez was an approachable person with a great sense of style.
“Sheddy was way too fashionable for me,” Young said. “But they were interesting, open and not intimidating once we started talking.”
Sanchez was a lover of food, especially pork, and enjoyed fishing, writing prose, photography and mentoring youth.
Murray said Sanchez was someone who was well-versed on an array of topics.
“Sheddy loved all kinds of things and had such an interesting and expansive mind,” Murray said. “We could start out on a conversation about something like yellow-belly finches and end up in a conversation about colonialism and diaspora.”
Sanchez also had a way of bringing people from different worlds together — even now, as people from all over joined to fundraise for Sanchez’s final arrangements.
“Even in the absolute heartbreak of this moment, Sheddy is doing what they do best, bringing people together,” Murray said. “Even though I have physically lost a family member, I have gained a number of others who mobilized to bring Sheddy back to Philly so they could be laid to rest here. We were thoughtful, kind and generous with each other even in a really hard moment. That is Sheddy’s gift to me, the ability to see past the current difficult moment to the person underneath.”
Among the lessons Sanchez left, Murray said they gave her a reason to be proud of her queer identity and helped her be brave in her life choices.
“They taught me what it means to really have someone’s back,” Murray said. “Sheddy gave me language for queerness and polyamory and modeled how to parent in a way that respects your child as a fully actualized human being. Sheddy challenged me to brave and go for it, whether that meant sliding down the secret water slide near Wilkes-Barre or honoring my path towards midwifery.”
Young said Sanchez showed her to always think positively.
“Sheddy is the best model for doing your best with the contradictions of the world we live in,” Young said.
Sanchez is survived by mother, Francisca; brother, Miguel; grandmother, Vinicia; aunts Frances and Nelly; son, Alejandro; co-parent, Mely; and many friends.
A funeral service was held March 20, and memorial contributions can be sent through PayPal to http://destroitsummer.wordpress.com/sheddy/.