Rest in peace Elizabeth Kitsos-Kang

Elizabeth with her husband

Ken Martin

Pound for pound, Elizabeth Kitsos-Kang was the most inspiring “homeless advocate” I have ever known. It was not her vocation. It was her passion.  

Devising Hope was her brainchild —  and what a brilliant idea! Bringing together under-represented teens and overlooked homeless adults to discuss their misconceived public images, discover their commonalities, develop relationships and devise an entertaining performance that brings hope to both groups as it strengthens the awareness of an under-enlightened domiciled community.  

Her message was always about inclusion, never, ever, exclusion. Elizabeth knew and taught that everyone has a valuable story to share and should be permitted a platform to express it. She also taught that we all have a responsibility to contribute to the betterment of our mutual existence.   

Each skit, poem reading and song her group performed drove home the fact that we are more alike than we are different. Bonds were made in these groups of strangers from vastly different lifestyles that became stronger than any super glue could have made them. This I declare with great conviction because I reluctantly joined in once as a performer. I mean RE-LUC-TANT-LY! 

Elizabeth Kitsos-Kang in the Church of the Epiphany where Devising Hope practices. Photo by Ken Martin

Before I knew the secret, I used to tease Elizabeth about the depth of her commitment. She seemed to be more determined to end homelessness than her housing-deprived cast members. So petite, yet her heart and strength were unmatched. Not only did Liz possess the creative talent, leadership and imagination necessary for this work — she also had energy and “go after” skills that could only be rivaled by the likes of PT Barnum.  

I often told her she missed her true calling: used car sales! 

The secret was that Elizabeth worked tirelessly, generously and courageously while fighting brain cancer. She was the strongest person I’ve known.  

She was family: that sister, cousin, aunt or niece you wish you had. Much like the relative you only see at special events, and when you do it’s like you were together yesterday. You hate to part company but somehow life intervenes and you lose contact until a birth or a death or a wedding.  

What makes her the exception is that you don’t lose connection with someone that ignites love in your hearts. I believe she lives. Her legacy and her message shall live on. 

I encourage each of you readers to give a little bit of yourselves to continue what she did. Elizabeth brought unity to the community. She did what we all are charged to do: make the world a little better place for all she encountered.  

Ken Martin, Artist/Vendor

This song was Elizabeth’s favorite in Devising Hope, a program in which high school kids across the city teamed up with the Street Sense Media workers to create original theater performances. Elizabeth Kitsos-Kang was the program’s founder and a friend. This group was a Street Sense Media seasonal program for several years and I loved to participate in it. 

Here Elizabeth is pictured kneeling in the center, with Patty Smith to the right of her. Photo by Ken Martin

Lean on me when you’re not strong  

I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on  

For it won’t be long  

Till we all need somebody to lean on  

Just call on me, brother, when you need a hand  

We all need somebody to lean on  

I just might have a problem that you’ll understand  

We all need somebody to lean on

Patty Smith, Artist/Vendor

An overflowing blanket of love covered the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington in Virginia. Oblivious to the absolute hottest heat of summer, everyone came to say farewell and express their love, honor and respect for Elizabeth Kitsos-Kang and to embrace and console her husband, Stan, and her children, Jamie and Eli. 

Elizabeth founded and ran the intergenerational theater group, Devising Hope, which brought together Street Sense Media vendors and local high school students. 

The memorial was very special. Family and friends shared stories of how they knew Elizabeth and shared the words of others to her and the family before and after her death. 

An empty chair, mic stand and music stand were set for Elizabeth at her memorial service. Photo by Ken Martin

Ken Martin, Sheila White, Julie Turner and Roy Barber and I attended. So did Shira Hereld, who helped start the theater program at Street Sense Media when she was a student and community service volunteer at George Washington University. Leslie Jacobson, who ran our adult-only theater group, was out of the country. 

The program ended with Devising Hope’s favorite song by Bill Withers, “Lean on Me.” 

And yes, Elizabeth let all of us lean on her! She devised the hope and dialogue between youth and adults across the strata and spectrums of race, color, -isms and gender.  

Over the summer, Devising Hope and Educational Theater Company convened and performed a beautiful program produced and directed by Francesca Chilcote. At the end of each show, a candle was lit and a moment of prayer was offered in memory of our beloved Elizabeth. 

I am still grieving and very sorrowful. Elizabeth, her family and the Educational Theater Company were and still are a big part of my peaceful coexistence, inspiration and a bridge to a calmer, happier and better place. 

I still cry when I stop and think of Elizabeth and what she gave and what she left. Her dream to be fulfilled is an undying wish that we carry on and light the world with never-ending love, limitless forgiveness, forever mercy, oceans of kindness and galactic interstellar snow storms of DEVISED HOPE!

Angie Whitehurst, Artist/Vendor


Issues |Art

Region |Washington DC

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.