Shem M. Shakir, age 72, died Wednesday, July 9, at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
Shakir was interred in Marion Memorial Garden Cemetery on Saturday, July 12, in his hometown of Salters, S.C. A memorial celebration of life for him is scheduled for Sunday, August 10 at 3 p.m. at Macalester College Weyerhaeuser Chapel located at Grand Avenue and Macalester Street in St. Paul.
During his lifetime, Shakir was a farmer, student, husband, father, social worker, community activist and community entrepreneur.
Shakir was well known and a long-time resident of St. Paul. For more than 40 years, he was involved in efforts to bring social justice and economic development to communities in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. After a position as sales associate at Merck Pharmaceutical Company in Minneapolis, he spent more than 30 years working in various community-based organizations. Shakir spent more than 15 years with both the St. Paul Urban League, as a labor organizer and St. Paul Ramsey Action Programs, as the community director. For several years, he served in a similar capacity as director of advocacy and outreach with the Minneapolis Urban League.
However, Shakir was most proud of his 11-year accomplishments as president and CEO of Frogtown Action Alliance in St. Paul. There, he developed and implemented strategic resident-based neighborhood programs and services. He was responsible for strategic planning, program development and delivery, community organizing, legislative advocacy, fund raising, personnel management and financial controls. There he supervised 10 full- and part-time employees and 25-30 volunteers. For Frogtown residents, his community-wide initiatives provided business loans and training, economic development, jobs and employment, cross-boundary strategic corridor initiatives and commercial development. The Frogtown community's revitalizations, in a sense, can partially be attributed to his collaborative efforts.
Beginning June 2001, Shakir served as CEO with Infinity Consultants, LLC in St. Paul. He created, with three other partners, a consulting group that works with non-profit organizations to identify financial resources, utilizing various products in capital campaign modalities. He marketed these products to establish home-based businesses for clients, as well as for others with similar interests. During this time, Shakir also worked as a planning analyst with Hennepin County. He was responsible for researching, evaluating and implementing outcome measures and securing resources to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged African-American men, ages 18- 30.
Prior to his recent illness, Shakir began a new career in the insurance industry as a licensed insurance producer and educator in the life insurance field. He sold life insurance policies, while recruiting individuals to become licensed insurance agents who he supervised and mentored. Within a few months of joining the staff at ServU Financial Services Opportunity, he became a district leader, and built a team of several agents.
Shakir (formerly Ralph B. Stafford) was born June 9, 1942 to Edward and Kathryn Stafford in Greenville, N.C. He had 12 siblings – 10 brothers and two sisters. He received a K-12 public education in the racially segregated county public school system in Williamsburg County, S.C. Before graduating in 1960 from St. Mark High School in Bloomingvale, S.C., Shakir played basketball, while being very active in the school's social clubs and organizations and enjoying entrepreneurial farm life.
Shakir studied industrial relations at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C. (1960-63). While at A&T, he was a member of A&T's famous Air Force ROTC Pershing Rifle Drill Team. This made it possible for him to perform at President John F. Kennedy's Inauguration Parade in 1961, and, by chance, he personally met outgoing vice president, Richard M. Nixon. In August 1963, Shakir also attended the March on Washington, D.C., where he witnessed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech on the National Mall to more 250,000 people.
After relocating to St. Paul in the early 1970s, Shakir received a Bachelor's degree in psychology and industrial relations from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. He pursued a Master's degree in counseling and psychological services at St. Mary's College in Minneapolis. Later, he received a Certificate in Reflective Leadership and Public Policy from the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota. With support from the St. Paul Insurance Companies, Shakir participated as a community organizer in the Leadership Initiatives in Neighborhoods at the National Development Center in Washington, D.C. Upon completion; he received a Certification in Neighborhood Development. Additionally, he participated in numerous institutes, conferences, workshops, seminars, and webinars, all while doing graduate work along the way over the years.
As a spiritual and caring person, Shakir always maintained his educational and religious bearings. He was deeply vested in both the Quran and the Bible. Throughout his life, Shakir maintained a steady religious persistence with the utmost dignity and grace, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragements he encountered. He was said to have never spoken a hurtful word towards society's most vulnerable.
Shakir is preceded in death by both parents and three siblings. His immediate family survivors include Sybil, his beloved wife of more than 40 years; a son, Cabral of St. Paul, daughters Tia Whitlock (Sean) of Brooklyn Park, Ayana Shakir (Jibrail Amir Jefferson) of Taif, Saudi Arabia, Ayoka Shakir of Atlanta and Niambi Shakir of St. Paul. There are six grandchildren, a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, friends and an overabundance of acquaintances throughout the United States. Shakir and his wife made sure that all their children received at least their college bachelor's degrees.
The family has requested, in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Edward and Kathryn Stafford Endowed Scholarship Fund at North Carolina A&T State University, attention Ann McCabe Beamon, College of Arts and Sciences, General Classroom Building – A411, 1601 East Market Street, Greensboro, N.C. 27410.