According to a story from wavy.com, Cherie Reenee Brown was a prominent political organizer and activist in the city of Portsmouth, VA. But on New Years Day 2021 she passed away from complications caused by myositis, a rare illness affecting the muscles. Portsmouth was a center of political activity in the state last year, with its Confederate monument ultimately being taken down. However, Cherie was behind the scenes for years, using her platform on social media to encourage the community to become politically evolved and get out to vote in elections from the local to federal level.
Myositis, strictly defined, means a condition of swelling and inflammation affecting muscle. There are a variety of causes, such as infections and injuries. It is also a documented side effect of lipid-lowering therapies such as statins. However, when myositis appears on its own, it is typically the result of an autoimmune disorder, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. There are many different forms of myositis. Symptoms of myositis vary depending on the type and which muscles are affected, but can include muscle weakness, swelling, muscle pain, rash, thickened skin on the hands, problems with breathing, problems with swallowing, and falls. Treatment can vary depending on the cause; myositis caused by drugs can be addressed by halting the treatment and myositis from infections can resolve by treating the underlying infection. When it is the result of an autoimmune disorder, immunosuppressants such as prednisone, methotrexate, and azathioprine may be used. To learn more about myositis, click here.
Two years ago Cherie was giving rides to the polls. But last year, her health began to take a turn for the worse. She began to experience serious fatigue and unexpected weight loss. Her condition declined rapidly over several months, eventually leaving her bedridden in the hospital. She couldn’t eat, walk, or speak. Her sister Ronnette Wilson claimed that most people weren’t aware that she was stuck in the hospital when she was continuing to advocate and post on social media in her final months:
“She was still encouraging from her bed. She was in silence with her sickness. No one knew she was in the hospital.” – Ronnette
Lakeesha “Klu” Atkinson, who was arrested during protests in Portsmouth this summer and serves as school board vice chair, says that Cherie will be remembered fondly for her impact:
“Cherie was a beautiful soul, spirit, and person who was loved by many and had a passion for change in the city of Portsmouth…there are front line activists, but Cherie was always working from behind the scenes…she will be truly missed; however, her legacy will live on in the hearts and mind of the many she touched.”