Lake Forest Park proclaims Juneteenth and recognizes Octavia Butler

Saturday, June 27, 2020

At its meeting on June 25, 2020, the Lake Forest Park Mayor Jeff Johnson proclaimed Friday, June 26, 2020 as a day to celebrate Juneteenth in the City of Lake Forest Park.

Following the proclamation, Deputy Mayor Phillippa Kassover read the following essay about Octavia Butler, who made her home in Lake Forest Park.

Octavia E. Butler
By Phillippa Kassover

I want to take a moment to recognize one of Lake Forest Park’s most distinguished residents, whose 73rd birthday would have been this past week. Her name was Octavia E. Butler and she was born on June 22nd, 1947 in Pasadena California and died here at her home in Lake Forest Park in 2006.

An only child whose father died when she was just seven, Octavia was raised by her mother and grandmother in a strict African-American Baptist household. A shy child, whose mother cleaned rich white folks’ houses for a living, Octavia spent much of her time at the local library, reading fantasy novels and writing her own science fiction stories.

Octavia became a celebrated writer of science fiction, and in 2005, was the first ever science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship – commonly known as the Genius Grant. Over her career, she wrote 15 novels and many short stories which explored issues of racism, sexism, and abuse of power. 

She received numerous awards in addition to the MacArthur, including two Nebula Awards and two Hugo awards and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010.

Octavia moved to Lake Forest Park in 1999, where she lived on 37th Avenue NE, across the street from Sheila Liming, who was then a student at Shorecrest High School and is now Assistant Professor of English at the University of North Dakota. Sheila wrote a wonderful essay called “My Neighbor Octavia”, in which she describes her relationship with Octavia, who did not drive, and to whom she often gave rides back up the hill.

Octavia, who was mostly a very solitary person, talked with Sheila during those rides and told her that she chose Lake Forest Park because “she desired only that a grocery store, a bookstore, and a bus stop be located within walking distance, and that the neighborhood should grant her access to the city without actually being in the city.”

I think many of us might agree with that reasoning and are proud that Octavia E. Butler became a neighbor in our city, even for just a few years.


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