We lost beloved SONG Birmingham member leader and organizing fellow, Alexis “Murph” Murphy on March 22, 2020. Since 2012, Murph has been a dedicated member leader who was passionate about transforming Alabama and the South. We knew Murph as a quiet, funny, kind, movie lover, and an incredibly brilliant organizer who had the walls of their home, filled with flipchart paper with strategies on how to get our people free.⠀Murph, you are and will forever be the prime example of what it means to show up for our people.
As we grieved with our kindred, we heard so many good, heartfelt and hilarious stories about Murph and their impact on us. To remember all Murph was and continues to be to us, our members share some of their fondest memories of Murph.
I’ll always remember Murph’s sweet spirit, the best smile and a great laugh. When I recall Murph’s laugh, it was almost surprising which made it even better. I met Murph (or Murph Dawg as I called them) back around 2011/12. Low key with it but a real party animal. Lol. We have stories from the JB (Juicebox). I’m grateful to have encountered a quiet spirit and bomb ass being. Love y’all! xoxo – Angela Hill
No one had more of a constant presence, no one was more brave or more funny, no was more of an amazing brilliant badass weirdo example for all the rest of us introverts to strive to be, no one was more Forever SONG than Murph. I met you in your home state, that first SMA. Part of my original SONG crew- those of us coming into the work together, growing and sometimes fucking up and learning. Back in the smaller, more scrappy days of SONG, driving endless hours to convenings to sleep on floors or pile into beds until Mary woke us up for the meeting to start, never knowing quite what we were doing but still doing the damn work and figuring it out together. Y’all’s Alabama crew helped shape me- I mean all 4 of our state groups did- but Alabama folks you held me in a different way as a rural NC person whose amazing team wasn’t always rural or Southern, to be near y’all as fellow country people was so important.
I could count on your consistency, knowing I could find you at every gaycation, every convening, up to this very last one just 2 weeks ago. you were ALWAYS there, ALWAYS so solid, ALWAYS the real thing. That brilliance and that smile. Always that smile.
My heart hurts so much and my love goes out to you and all your family in Gadsden and the rest of Alabama and to all your SONG family everywhere. So grateful for reconnecting deeper over this past year through Kai’s work that brought us together- being deep in political study and on those zoom calls with you, as someone I already had connection with was grounding, I learned so much from you as an introvert, still so much to learn from you and how brave and brilliant you always were. So grateful that just 2 weeks ago I got to spend the weekend with you in your pink bunny suit… all my love Murph.
Murph and I facilitated the Black Mamas Bailout in Birmingham in May 2019. That week we spent many hours together, getting coffee, visiting banks and bail bond agents, and waiting at the jail for the mamas to be freed. The last day of the bailout was their birthday and we went to brunch at one of their favorite restaurants to celebrate. They were so caring and patient and passionate about making their community a better place. I was so lucky to get to know them and they were a light and a gift to everyone who was lucky enough to love them. – Helmi Henkin
Met Murph at the Guerilla training in Alabama. So kind, sweet and made me feel welcome. – SONG member
Murph and I shared space together at one convening and while I didn’t get to know them super well we shared a beautiful connection where we both wrote notes to each other and put them in our letter mailbox things at the convening appreciating each other for positive energy and presence. I didn’t know many people and felt pretty awkward at times so it stuck with me and felt really nice to be seen by someone. I took note that this was a person I really wanted to get to know better. -SONG member
Murph was ALL the things! I don’t know a SONG without this fucker. Was a ride or die from the jump! Was always here for the shits! Held it down in Birmingham, even when others couldn’t. -Mary Hooks
Here is a link to videos from many (but not all) of SONG Birmingham’s actions. All of these demonstrations, workshops, gathering, canvasses, etc. — everything was made possible by Murph. A true revolutionary’s revolutionary – Apollo Soléy Enki
Made this yesterday. I know murph had a special relationship with the plants. And that wild revolutionary surrealist spirit folks have been talking about. Xoxo Simons.
Here’s a list of Horror Films Murph sent me (in no particular order). Please add on if they have told you of another film that you feel should be added to the list. <3Thank y’all for everything- Laura Quattrochi
- The Shining
- Rosemary’s Baby
- House on Haunted Hill
- Night of the Hunter
- Let the Right One In
- The Vvitch
- It Follows
- Eyes Without a Face
- It Comes at Night
- Children of the Corn
- The Amityville Horror
- Dead of Night
- The Last Man on Earth
- The Haunting
- The Omen
- The Innocents
- Rosemary’s Baby
- Night of the Living Dead
- The Exorcist
- Black Christmas
- Texas Chain Saw Massacre
- Get Out
- The Conjuring
- Cabin in the Woods
- A Nightmare on Elm Street
- The Wickerman
- Silence of the Lambs
- Autopsy of Jane Doe
- The Babadook
- The Blair Witch Project
- Child’s Play
- The Craft
- The Sixth Sense
I did not know Murph well but the few times I met them, they were tender and caring, remarkably so. At QSR last year, they saw me crying and gave me a sweet note that said I could have some privacy in their room if I needed, knowing that I was staying off-site. I remember when they started their garden last spring and I built a native bee hotel to send to them. I never got a chance to deliver it but I am making a space in our garden in their honor. So deeply sad to see you go Murph. Rest in power. <3 Alexandra
Murph contributed to SONG for years without being asked but instead doing what was needed. They shared their sense of humor in the perfect moments, keeping our spirits alive with dark comedy and an anarchist attitude. I will never forget all the times Murph spoke up for their own home in the South, Birmingham Alabama, and the organizers and relationships Murph was a part of building. You could always rely on their leadership of embodying SONG values and showing up for our people. Thank you Murph, for showing me how to love the people around so limitlessly through intention, gift giving, listening and loving. Rest in Power Murph. – Alan R.
Murph was unlike any person I’ve ever met, and yet they felt like family no doubt. I loved snickering in the back of the room with Murph from the silliest to the most dire things. I loved their otherworldly and often dark humor and the kinds of things they liked to laugh about. They loved that Sun Ra song “Springtime Again” and would play it on repeat. I felt a sense of wonder knowing this, remembering what it felt like during times where I’d be in that other world. I knew Murph was the kind of person whose internal world was in tune with a reality much greater than the everyday. Cosmic. And at the same time connected to the earth.They showed how those truths can coexist, which is a lesson I really needed to know. When Dawn and I went down to Birmingham, they asked us to bring some dirt that they could add to diversify the soil. We brought some from this river we used to go to. I still have the blue Mason jar of dirt Murph gave me on my altar. When they gave it to me they said “that’s some good dirt right there.” It made me laugh every time I thought about that moment. Murph just has that special quality about them. They create those moments in time you can’t quite explain or maybe don’t need to explain. But you get the feeling. I’ve been waiting to pour that dirt out on some land in a place I can call home. I know that when I do I will honor Murph and hold immense gratitude for all they have to offer. In this world and out of it. -Angela
I will always remember when I was asking if people could show up in support of Chikesia Clemons’ trial and Murph was like “I’ll go, when is it? Next week, ok cool I’ll be there. I’ll take the bus.” And how Murph really showed up in a lot of ways that whole week. One particular way that shows Murph’s heart is they literally gave Chikesia the shirt off of their back. Literally. One morning Chikesia had a political message on her shirt I didn’t see what it said, but they stopped us at the door and said she couldn’t come in at her own trial. And without hesitation, Murph took off their shirt and gave it to Chikesia. Also, the last time we spoke they were asking what I had planned for Earth Day and said me and Angela should come back to Birmingham to plant with them if we were available. So now Earth Day is permanently transformed for us to Murph Day. #reclaimEarthDay #MurphDay -Dawn
I had admired Murph from afar at a few different convenings, and then got to know them better at the cultural organizing retreat in Birmingham. I was really lucky to be in carpool with them. They were early mornings, and it was cold, but I always felt like the day was about to get good when Murph got into the crowded van with their huge backpack. Finally I got to hear some of their thoughts and funny comments up close, after having seen them laugh from a distance. I think that is when I first heard about their Carrie prequel, though I’m not sure. I wanna see that movie so bad. –Hannah Pepper
A Life is Built of Days
One night, Murph was on a greyhound from Alabama to Tennessee. The bus was delayed by two hours, so Ryha and I went out to pick them up around 1am. Here we were driving through these rugged ass backwoods of TN with a paper map, directions, no GPS signal out there. We finally arrive at this Marathon gas station and see dog-tired Murph, standing on the side of the road at two o’clock in the morning in motherfucking Shady Corner-Crossville, Tennessee. We roll (and I literally mean roll because my tank was on E) a little bit up the road to another gas station, a 24/7 Circle K. I only had cash for gas, I needed to go in. At the register a British guy in front of me wanted to buy Smirnoff Ice. He shows the cashier his ID. The gas station attendant was not having it! She goes, “No. We can’t accept that.” “It’s a British ID,” he protests.“No. We can’t accept that. Might be a communist.” I’m doing my best not to burst out laughing, I get up to the register like, “$10 on 9 please. Thank you ma’am.” “Thank you honey.” Left that situation just laughing my ass off, chuckling at how fucking funny life is sometimes.
“You’re not gonna believe this one, Murph…” I get back in the car. Murph wakes up laughing at first then real serious-like, “Let’s go. We gotta get outta here.” So we split and as we were driving back to camp we saw a legit huge wolf on the side of the road. -Aaron
Murph was such a candid spirit! I was extremely lucky/blessed to have shared space with them several times in SONG gatherings. However, the most cherished memory I have of them may be the one from Gaycation, they shared a room with me and my fellow interpreter. We saw them with a very nice white tray and asked what they had in it, and they said it was “special butter” (well it was a mix of butter and cannabis) it cracked me up, they had brought it all the way from their home to spread over their bread. I will always remember that along with other memories. Thank you for all your work, thank you for making me feel welcomed <3 – Rocio
A Eulogy for Alexis Murphy
i met Murph in a meeting. Of course it was a political meeting, a place where most activists and organizers take refuge and comfort in knowing that they can find like minded individuals to challenge power and shift conditions and make friends. We were young, about 22 or 23 years old. By the time Murph showed up, i had been a part of the organization that was convening the aforementioned meeting for about 4 years. It was a LGBTQ organization at the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa. Over those years, I noticed that the organization was shifting from a political organization that raised money to send to folks living with HIV and AIDS in the deep south; an organization that was once open to all LGBTQ community members in the city, to an organization that had been whitewashed into a social club by middle class, uninspired and a-political college students.
During this particular meeting, i saw Murph sitting quietly in a corner far off from everyone else. They had come by themselves and really was not bothered with trying to make new friends. As they quietly observed the meeting, notebook and backpack at the ready, i eagerly observed them. After the meeting was over, i immediately introduced myself because secretly i was looking for black and brown folks to stage a coup, ya know, a right round takeover of the a-political organization that i once called my political home. Our exchange was brief, they told me they had just transferred schools and we exchanged facebook information.
That evening i looked up Alexis Murphy on facebook, and immediately i was transfixed with the Emma Goldman quotes, funny memes, and admiration for revolutionaries they had laced throughout their page. Who was this person? I absolutely had to know more! Over that year we got closer, went to many meetings and convenings and my most vibrant memories are when we just chilled out in the comfortable silence of a long car ride.
Our coup was never successful, but we (Murph and a few other black members) did end up forming a black subgroup of that whitewashed GLBTQ organization. We fought hard against ignorant professors and racist students and we won black autonomous meeting spaces for our QTPOC family at that university.
Around that same time, Mary Hooks was coming around talkin’ about SONG. So of course, Mary would invite Alabama folks to meetings and/or convenings and Murph and i would always show up. Lots of the time it was just the two of us and our white queerdo friend Alex. It seemed to me, nothing really ever seemed to shake Murph ya know, they were always steady; while me on the other hand, i was riddled with the anxiety of trying to get everything perfect… but we were magnetic and i guess, as physics would have it, opposites attract.
Fast forward about a year, and i am living in Birmingham, Murph is in Gadsden and we are organizing HEAVY with SONG, stumbling into our leadership. We started to attend statewide political education meetings that Mary Hooks and Kate Shapiro organized. We met with black and brown folks from all over the state of Alabama who were interested in the concept of queer liberation. These were exciting times! It seemed like no one had ever come to Alabama and talked about a ‘queer agenda’ specifically geared toward black, brown, immigrant and working class communitues. Honestly, it was such a blessing to come into the SONG kinship network. During those meetings, we met TC, Nakia, Que, Miguel, Alice, and many other queer folks in Alabama i cannot name right now. Over that time Murph and i began to build political trust with other SONG members which was essential to escalating our tactics; the state is forever harsh and we needed to be tight on relationships and tight with our analysis if we were going to take it on. We would spend our nights high on caffeine; me a black coffee, and Murph, a more exquisite and unique taste: a chai tea with a few dashes of cinnamon. We’d be up late researching Alabama city council members, school boards, and random popular events to snark and laugh at. I’ll never forget their smile. We traveled by car from city to city trying to find our people. From Lowndes County to York to Huntsville and back again, trying to enrich the histories of this place with a black queer twist that would stand alongside and not in contradiction to the dense and widely popular histories already rooted in those places. We were always on the move, me running my mouth about things i didn’t know nothin’ about, and Murph; always there, forever stoic, letting me know that not knowing was just fine.
But, i guess Murph wasn’t all stoicism. Just like i guess it is rare that any human being is just one thing; we aren’t only nice or neat or kind or stingy. Murph was dynamic. Underneath Murph’s calm and concentrated demeanor was a smoldering fire and if you weren’t careful, it would erupt! Murph was always down for their people. Whether it was their blood family who worked in the poultry industries of Gadsden, Alabama or their grassroots movement family organizing to shift power across the nation; Murph had a creedo, and it was simple: don’t fuck with their family.
I remember in 2012, Alabama along with several other southern states copied Georgia’s house bill 287g. Basically 287g authorizes the Director of ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies allowing the local law enforcement officers to act as ICE. In lay-mans terms 287(g) meant you could get stopped for a routine traffic violation and instead of getting a ticket you could get deported. This was a huge blow to the south where many migrants were living and working in large numbers in Alabama and Georgia. Migrants were fleeing, our economies were shifting, and our people were unsafe. It was times like this that grassroots organizations like SONG leaned into coalitional work to build power and push a demand that would protect our people. This particular demand was NOT1MORE, basically…stop deporting our people. Paulina Helm-Hernandez was leading the charge unafraid & unwavered by the policia. Murph and i, along with many other folks across the region got into formation. We showed up and in the thick of the fight our folks got arrested on the grounds of a detention center. When the cops took our people away Murph was so angry! Surprisingly so. They paced around, both fist balled up, ready to fight! Our stoic Murph transformed into the incredible hulk! I felt like they could have taken on ten cops or more to get our people back. But they never raised a finger toward those cops because i guess they didn’t want to put the rest of us in harm’s way. We stayed in Georgia all day and late into the night until our people were free, and when our folks came out of that detention center Murph was there with water and hugs and soft giggles. Like, that’s the thing, Murph always was showin’ up for their people. Shortly after that i left the state of Alabama and Murph and i lost touch. But i know Murph never stopped organizing. Never stopped challenging power. Never stopped finding their people and building lasting kindred relationships. That was their passion before i knew them and long after i left. They held down the state of Alabama in a way that i couldn’t and i am forever grateful to them for that. They stayed on the battlefield.
Alexis Murphy was the blues. The blues with that kind of rough, sweet, low guitar reverberation that lingers in your belly, that shakes an emotion outta you, and you don’t even really know why…all you know is, it just sounds good. They were a rolling stone and a beautiful soul that passed away far too soon. i hold all these memories (and many more) close to my heart because even in your passing, Murph you continue to shape me into a stronger organizer and a better human being. You were astute and observant and funny as hell. i’ll never forget you and i promise to stay even when it’s hard, to fight even when we think we won’t win, and to continue to try when we know it’s not gonna be perfect. That’s the model you left for us to follow, so i’ll take heed and and continue to struggle for our freedom. I love you. ~jazz
I met Murph at a SONG convening in Alabama in 2014 (super- flashback foto below). The next time was at Gaycation in the summer of 2014 (phew). I’m grateful for the brief moments I was around their quiet, silly energy and the ways they affirmed others around them. In the interim years I often saw posts or heard stories about their humor, love of horror movies, and steadfast commitment to justice for Black LGBTQ and other PoC in the South. We are all blessed to have you around for as long as we did. See you on the other side <3 – SONG Member
It finally hit me this morning. Murph is gone man. I can’t believe this shit man. There’s something that happens to you sometimes when you are raised to believe you don’t belong here. Like, your very existence is anti everything you are supposed to represent to your family, your community, your tribe. Being raised the first born daughter of Catholic Nigerian immigrants AND being queer or trans just isn’t an option. You never really dream about a future… I never really dreamed about a future. I never wondered what growing old would be like. I didn’t know what that meant or how it could look. I just didn’t think it was possible for me to exist in the future. Nothing morbid exactly, I just didn’t know how. I always thought making it to 20/25 would be interesting. I didn’t dream. I didn’t hope for a future. I just was. I lived to make other ppl happy (still do). It wasn’t until I found SONG and Murph and ppl like Murph that I started to think about a future.
Murph told me at one of my first Bayard Rustin’s that I had a right to dream and that I deserved to be here. That’s the kind of person they were. They were my friend, a true comrade too, the type of people I didn’t know I needed in my life. They told me I belonged here and all of a sudden I started to believe them, even if it was just a little, because Murph believed it. Murph believed in our people, believed in liberation. They believed we deserved it, all of us, right now. They believed we would get there. It wasn’t until this morning that I realized that Ive REALLY started to believe it too. Believe I deserve a future too. Started to dream and vision about liberation, in our lifetime. Woke up realizing that Murph wouldn’t be there….and I can’t stop crying. I wish they were still here man. I wish I could hug them one more time. Ruffle their fro one more time lol. Thank them for gifting me a future. For welcoming me into the kindred. Into their home. I don’t know what we do now. I do know, I owe Murph liberation. WE owe Murph liberation and the future.
Thank you Murph for being such a good friend. For being a real one to the core. I love you fam. -Natt Offiah