Emma Shafer, 24, was a much-beloved community activist, friend and family member whose life was taken suddenly and far too soon on July 11, 2023. Her life and her death have greatly impacted our community.
Emma was involved in a multitude of social justice and community activist groups including Resistor Sisterhood, Faith Coalition for the Common Good, Sierra Club (Sangamon Valley), Springfield Immigrant Advocacy Network, Moms Demand Action and many more. Emma often hosted "soup night" at her home to encourage activists of different causes to share ideas, debate topics and develop friendships. Her vibrant smile, bountiful hugs, hilarious sense of humor, thrift-store fashion and a serious passion for equity attracted people from all walks of life.
A native of Springfield, Emma grew up passionate about theater and music, as well as community. She acted in many area theater productions, including roles which matched her activist passions as well as taking part behind the scenes as a stagehand or playing in the orchestra.
Emma was inspired by the childhood book Miss Rumphius and, like the title character, she felt charged to make the world a more beautiful place. She shared Miss Rumphius' love of travel, and would soak up many things about the different places she went, wanting to carry some of the good things forward. Part of her travels included service projects to assist those mired in inequity and poverty.
If travel was in her soul, Emma's love of her family and deep roots in Springfield were her heart and led her back home. Emma loved Springfield and came home to make it a better place. She championed "Planning to Stay," an idea that local governments should consider the effects of their policies on future generations.
In Emma's own words, "I've never fully grasped the feeling that I'm meant to be in a certain place until now. I am grounded here on the land that I grew up on with the women who raised me who are raising new women. I get to talk class consciousness and discriminatory planning for work, I read poetry, I sit on my roof, I connect people and ideas. I have never worked so hard and had such fun in my life. In the uncomfortable and exhausting moments – there are a lot of those, too – I sing and remind myself where we're going. How things could be."
Her light will continue to shine in Springfield through the love and hands-on work of those who knew her and loved her. Rest in peace, Emma.