His hug was super. There was an unwavering faith and dedication. A pure spirit to the cause.
That’s how friends and family remembered Bishop S.F. Makalani-MaHee on Sunday in a memorial service. The local trans activist’s memory was laid to rest inside a near-capacity Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.
“I can feel the love in this room,” said Donnell Morris, who described himself as Makalani-MaHee’s “brother.”
“He was larger than life,” Morris said. “I used to call him my short, butcher half.”
The remark produced wide laughter as Morris went on to fight back tears as he said he was proud to be Makalani-MaHee’s friend.
A minister and activist who came to South Florida in 1997, Makalani-MaHee was employed by the Pride Center and Broward County Department of Health. He lived in Oakland Park until his untimely passing of heart failure on Nov. 20. Makalani-MaHee was 45.
The hour long service featured testimonials from close friends and clergy as well as remarks from U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“We know that he instilled a responsibility in each of us to carry on his work and to take the next steps down the pathway that he trailblazed for us,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Wasserman Schultz encouraged the audience to continue in Makalani-MaHee’s spirit of speaking truth to power.
“I will make sure that that power hears and carries out that truth,” she said. “That I can assure you.”
Michael Rajner, vice chair of the Broward County Human Rights Board, said Makalani-MaHee was the first trans person appointed to the board. Videos of Makalani-MaHee speaking to governing bodies in Miami and Tallahassee were shown during Sunday’s service. Memoriams to Makalani-MaHee from the Broward County and Fort Lauderdale Commissions are signed and will be delivered to the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, Rajner said.
“S.F. always looked at me like I was crazy because I would come up with these ideas sometimes,” Rajner said.
Rajner recalled marching down Fort Lauderdale’s Sistrunk Blvd. during a ‘Souls to the Polls’ rally carrying the rainbow flag while Makalani-MaHee marched alongside carrying the transgender flag.
“S.F. has carried the flag for the community in his many identities and it is time for us to celebrate him, let him rest and everybody take up the flag,” Rajner said.
The service began with drumbeats and contained moments reflecting Makalani-MaHee’s strong faith. Makalani-MaHee was a part of the Unity Fellowship and Metropolitan Community Church movements and presided over hetrosexual and homosexual marriages.
Morris read Makalani-MaHee’s poem “I AM BLACK” to the audience. A frequent performer of spoken word, Makalani-MaHee would often proclaim, “If Jesus were alive today he would be black, a woman and gay!”
Before moving to the South, Makalani-MaHee performed on Broadway in a number of shows, including “Grease.” Sunday’s services were donated at no cost by Jason Cooke and George Castrataro. Makalani-MaHee is survived by his mother Barbara, siblings Darcy, Geoffrey, Justin and Marsha and several nephews.