New Orleans, LA – Communist, working-class organizer Nath Clarke passed away at age 22 on Monday, May 31, 2021. Our communities and progressive movements suffered a tremendous loss with their death. We grieve them with incredible regret, and celebrate their life with gratitude, love and admiration.
Nath was born in Philadelphia, grew up France, and then moved to New Orleans to study biology, anthropology and ecology.
After arriving in the city, they soon poured their heart into community work. As they learned about charter schools’ offensive to privatize education post-Katrina, they jumped into supporting the Black-led movement for public education. They founded Students for Education Justice in New Orleans to mobilize others in college to help push for community schooling. They denounced the Orleans Parish School Board at its own meetings to cheers from parents, students and teachers in attendance.
Ashana Bigard, a leader in this fight and close friend-mentor of Nath’s, said, “Nath was kind, loving, strong, beautiful, brilliant, exciting, amazing, inspiring and fun, seeing the world through their eyes gave me hope for our future.”
Nath uplifted workers’ struggles. In late 2019, they fought in France’s yellow vest movement against capitalist austerity. Back in the U.S., they joined the New Orleans Hospitality Workers’ Alliance, a labor rights organization fighting for higher wages, real benefits and better working conditions. They helped plan International Working Women’s Day marches and stood in the firmest solidarity with survivors of sexual abuse.
Whether they worked as an office administrator, restaurant server, cook, tutor, lab tech or barista, Nath constantly agitated their coworkers to fight for what they deserved. They had a “finish the job” attitude, from cleaning up the house to getting out a thick stack of flyers.
An anti-imperialist and a lover of the planet, Nath furiously condemned the U.S. military as both the world’s deadliest war machine and largest polluter. They fought for Gordon Plaza, a Black neighborhood that the city placed on toxic soil. Shera Phillips, who also organized for Gordon Plaza, saw Nath as “courageous and bold” and “someone with values, someone with passion, someone with heart.” They worked closely with Pointe-au-Chien Indians, who struggle to protect their homes from corporate-made coastal erosion. They always said that, after the revolution, we’ll be able to enjoy Mother Nature without worrying for her.
During the pandemic, they joined the ranks of the housing justice struggle. They signed up with Southern Solidarity, a revolutionary mutual aid group dedicated to meeting the needs of unhoused people.
Toni Jones, another Southern Solidarity member, remembered how “Nath had boundless love for the people.” Towards the end of their life, they pulled off a winning rent strike with their co-tenants.
This overview can’t do justice to all their contributions.
Nath could break down how and why we needed to build the revolution in a moment with a stranger at a bus stop, or hours into the night while cooking and laughing with friends. It was tough not to feel moved by their deep compassion and impressed with their fierce devotion to fighting for ordinary folks.
They blew everyone away with their energy. They crisscrossed the city by foot daily, even with a heavy backpack in the Louisiana heat. They’d say it was nothing compared to the Chinese Communists’ Long March during their civil war.
They always grew new plants. They insisted on breathing life into every struggling sapling, even when others thought this was pointless. This attitude carried on in their work of cultivating community relationships after most stopped trying.
In the words of Meg Maloney, an organizer in the Hospitality Workers’ Alliance: “They always recognized, and pushed me to recognize, the need to build deeper relationships and connections as working people.”
Nath always told their friends and loved ones “you’re a gem of a human being” or “you’re a bright light everywhere you go.” The truth was that this was the best way to describe their own self. They were a one-of-a-kind comrade and friend, and their fighting spirit won’t stop advancing the movement.
Rest in power Nath Clarke!
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