Alexandra Noghaven lived her 26 years against the clock.
At 9, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. At 22, after earning her degree in political science from George Washington University in 2013, she was the youngest employee by a good 10 years at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington. “She was really something to knock them over at 22 to have them hire her,” said her mother, Anne Jackaway.
That year, doctors told Noghaven, a writer and co-founder of the Miami literary reading series Rüf Reads, that she would lose her sight in 10 years.
“She spent her free time off traveling the world and seeing what would be lost to her,” said Jackaway, a Miami architect.
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Noghaven and her younger sister Genevieve “Jonvi” Del Sol went to Mexico City earlier this month to explore its culture. “Both were in love with art and museums,” their mother said. “They saw Frida Kahlo’s home that week. They climbed pyramids the day before.”
The next day, on Aug. 16, the sisters were to go to an archaeological museum. Instead, Jackaway received a call from the U.S. Embassy to tell her that her daughter had died. The night before, Noghaven had a bout of food poisoning. “That probably sent her blood sugars out of whack so she didn’t realize her vulnerability falling asleep,” her mom believes.
“I almost lost her at 9 when she was diagnosed. I had another 15 years with the most incredible intellect and compassionate heart I have ever known,” said Jackaway.
She taught me a lot about standing up for what you believe in. She had a relentless tenacity in her pursuit of knowledge and justice.
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Social justice fueled Noghaven, who had formed an art collective and hosted open-mic events in South Miami and Little Haiti. Born at Mercy Hospital on Valentine’s Day in 1991, she went to the private school Palmer Trinity in Palmetto Bay. She was different from many of her peers, her mother said. She started wearing a Black Lives Matter button and protested civil injustice.
“She believed passionately in social justice,” Jackaway said — adding that her daughter will be wearing her Black Lives Matter button when she is buried.
Jackaway served on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Miami branch and her two daughters learned early about social activism.
“I think she took it to another level,” her mother said. “She was much more of an activist than I am. I’m more behind the scenes but she stepped out and let her thoughts be known to say what is right or wrong. She was horrified by what is happening in Washington. This was not the direction she thought her country should go.”
In 2016, while working for YoungArts, Noghaven, along with Atena Sherry, formed Rüf Reads, a reading series staged on the roof of a print shop in Little Haiti. The open-mic format gave young writers a platform to read from their works.
“Miami is just kind of burgeoning with this stuff. Everyone is kind of starting up and getting stuff out there, and suddenly now there’s a response to it,” Noghaven told Miami New Times in 2016. “I grew up here, and I knew Books & Books, and that was pretty much it, and then…”
Alex was “one of the most talented and courageous young women I had the pleasure to teach and direct at PTS,” Catie Cunning Paschick posted on Facebook where a memorial site, Celebrating Alexandra Noghaven, has been created.
“The most badass woman I know,” Del Sol posted the morning she lost her sister. “She wanted the best for everyone and when you’re having a bad day I hope you remember her smile like I will.”
Noghaven’s survivors also include her half-sister Sibyll Noghaven. She was predeceased by her father Serge Noghaven.
A viewing will be at 6 p.m. Friday at Stanfill Funeral Home, 10545 S. Dixie Hwy., Pinecrest. Services will be at 11:45 a.m. Saturday at Plymouth Congregational Church, 3400 Devon Rd., Coconut Grove. Donations in her name can be made to Diabetes Research Institute or Miami’s ACLU.