It was a beautiful, sunny day when we were blessed with the birth of Akeylah Nizhoni Hill on April 4, 1997. So, it was only fitting that it was also a beautiful, sunny day when she was returned to the loving arms of The Creator as she slept on May 13, 2021. In her short 24 years here, she blessed us all with an abundance of love, her sweet laughter, her silly sense of humor, her fierce strength and her endless inner beauty. We will miss her terribly each and every day, although we know her spirit remains with us.
Akeylah was born in Portland, Oregon, then moved to New Mexico shortly after with her mom Kimberly and twin sister Zakiyah to live with their grandparents, Karen and Don. While living there she was blessed to be accepted and adored by the Native and Mexican families whom she become a part of. She cherished those lifelong family connections that remain to this day. She was honored to receive Native ceremonies while living there and years later to be included in a very special quinceanera.
When she was three years old, she returned to live in Oregon with her mom and twin sister. But her regular visits to her grandparents and her chosen family members there continued to strengthen her love and admiration for her special second home, New Mexico. Even when her grandparents returned to Oregon to live, she often spoke of visiting New Mexico and the people she loved so much there.
With the return to Oregon, Akeylah was able to spend more time with her mother’s extended side of the family and always looked forward to the fun of family gatherings. She loved hearing memories of them growing up and creating more new memories together. Now living in the same town, she was also re-united with her Pacific Islander family whom had “adopted” her mother many years prior. Her Mama, Papa, Aunties, Uncles, Brothers and Cousins meant so much to her. When her aunt Sherrie, uncle Alex and cousin Jacob later returned to living in Oregon, Akeylah cherished the bonds that they were able to continue building.
Even though her cousin Mike lived in another state until recently, she shared a timeless relationship with him across the miles. When Akeylah was eight years old, her mother met and later married Kip. Akeylah valued having his constant love, support and the playfulness they always shared. She was also grateful to gain two older brothers and an older sister. In recent years, Akeylah and her twin sister had re-connected with their father Patrick and his side of their family. She was so grateful to have been welcomed with open arms and shown so much love after time away. Akeylah held such pride in representing her Black heritage and was honored to find her place among the Kings and Queens of her family.
As a little girl, Akeylah quickly displayed a natural artistic ability in drawing, singing, dancing, writing and photography. Through the years these talents grew stronger and stronger, bringing her such happiness, and at times offering solace from the tougher days. Although school was not always easy for her, she never gave up and graduated high school in 2015, making her
family so very proud. She took some college courses and explored different careers, learning that what she valued most was caring for others. Akeylah treasured being able to make a positive impact in the lives of those she worked with and that provided such a strong sense of purpose for her. Whether it was working as a Direct Support Professional to people with
disabilities, as an Educational Assistant with at risk youth or as an Advocate for victims of domestic violence. She intended to spend the rest of her life empowering others, especially her Black brothers and sisters.
Akeylah’s laughter and smile could brighten the darkest day, you could feel the joy resonate from her heart and soul. She had the best sense of humor and she would often have you giggling for hours about the silliest things. Akeylah had such a sweet and tender heart, she could say the kindest words and write the sweetest notes that made you feel just how much she loved you to your core. She had such beautiful way of seeing and expressing even the simplest joys in life. You could so often find her singing and dancing to her latest favorite songs, at home or in the car, music was such an important part of each and every day for her.
Akeylah had friends from all walks of life and held those friendships so close to her heart through the years. She had family from many nations and this helped to make her the dynamic woman that she had grown to be, what an immense blessing. Like so many others, Akeylah also struggled with her mental health at times. But even in her fight, it became so important to her to do her part to end the judgement and/or stigma that too often accompanies those struggles. This included working with her sister on an Instagram page aimed to support BIPOC in speaking their truth and finding the help they need. Zakiyah plans to continue their work in Akeylah’s honor and with her spirit always present. Over the past year, Akeylah struggled so bravely with medical issues, that severely impacted her overall health and ability to do all the things she loved so much. We all had so much hope for a complete diagnosis and cure, when she had finally secured an appointment at OHSU scheduled for the day after she passed away. We will always struggle to understand why, after she fought so hard for so long, she was taken from us. But we know that she is with The Creator now and healed of all her pain and struggles. Her spirit will live on in our hearts each and every day as we ache for the time that we will hold her in our arms again.
Akeylah leaves behind many friends and family members, both blood and chosen. These include; her mom Kimberly, her father Patrick, her dad gained in love Kip, her twin sister and best friend Zakiyah, her siblings gained in love; Tim (Emily), Jon (Heather) and KayLynn (Chris), her grandma Karen, her grandpa Don, her aunt Sherrie, her uncle Alex, cousins Mike and
Jacob. Akeylah experienced the love of her life with her partner Deshone, standing by him, “ten toes down” as she would say.
We take comfort in knowing that as Akeylah gained her angel wings, she was met by a huge party of her loved ones who had gone before her. We believe that they hold her in their arms now that we are unable.
Please join us in celebrating the life of our phenomenal queen Akeylah Nizhoni Hill, on the evening of Friday June 18, 2021 at Armitage Park-Shelter J in Eugene, Oregon. We will begin at 6:00pm, but please know that you may come when you are able. Dress will be casual, come in what feels right to you and makes you think of our girl smiling down. We will be providing some
of her favorite foods, but please also feel free to bring something if you are inspired to. Please come in Akeylah’s honor to tell stories, share hugs and break bread together as we give thanks for the blessing of her life with us. *There will be a $5.00 parking fee from the county, so please car pool or reach out to us, we would be happy to cover the cost if you need.
We do plan to have another celebration of life in the Portland area for Akeylah as well, we will work to get the word out when the details are finalized. Please feel free to check back here for updates as well.
We will be creating memorial scholarship fund in Akeylah’s name, to keep her name and generous spirit alive for years to come. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation towards this scholarship. You may donate to the Akeylah Hill Memorial Donation Fund with Routing#123205054 and Account#3959731823 through any Umpqua Bank branch. If you prefer to donate through Zelle, please send to: Karen Smith-Ahrens and if you prefer to donate through Venmo, please send to: KSmithAh.