Remembering Kia Hays

Fri, 02/02/2024 - 2:49pm

When one works in the field of Holocaust memory, you tend to find that your colleagues are a mission driven, self-effacing, highly dedicated bunch. We work with hard subjects, care deeply and build strong bonds with one another as we cope with the challenging, yet abundantly meaningful work. We were blessed here at USC Shoah Foundation to have formed those strong bonds with the brilliant and compassionate Kia Hays.

Kia Hays passed away on January 20 following a sudden illness at the age of 35. Attempting to encapsulate all she contributed to the USC Shoah Foundation, as well as her impact on the colleagues, countless survivors, and organizational partners she worked with over her 8+ years at USC Shoah Foundation, cannot be measured in one obituary, one memorial tribute.

But here at USC Shoah Foundation, we are used to working with archives and within the visual medium. Looking through our organizational records, we pulled the following images, ones that capture just a fraction of Kia’s essence, her warmth, her keen eye for detail, and her delicate yet commanding presence behind the scenes in her work with Dimensions in Testimony.

Kia Hays was the heart and soul of the Dimensions in Testimony initiative -- of which the first 50 interactive interviews were made possible under her leadership. To Kia, these were more than a work product or an assignment. She became caretaker for each individual survivor's story. She embraced deeply meaningful friendships with survivors nearly three times her age. And she mentored countless student interns. Kia was a remarkable innovator, an extraordinary talent, and a passionate advocate, tirelessly working toward a future where the hatred and bigotry faced by the survivors she cared so deeply about would no longer plague another soul.

In Jewish tradition when a loved one dies, we say "may their memory be a blessing." In more recent years, "may their memory be a revolution" has also come into common parlance. We cannot think of a more fitting sentiment to hold onto. May Kia's memory be a revolution. May Kia's memory spur us to action, to strive for a world where we listen to one another, where we value each other’s stories, and where we speak out for justice.

USC Shoah Foundation