Forever young: remembering Donise White

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Kenzie O'Keefe | Editor

Earlier this year, community culture maker and HWMR owner Houston White wrote a column for North News that celebrated the “phenomenal women” in his life.

“My journey in life has been greatly impacted by the presence of my dear wife Donise White.  She is the inspiration behind the entire women’s line at HWMR and the embodiment of the modern phenomenal woman,” he wrote.

On Thursday Nov. 8, Houston and the community said goodbye to that phenomenal woman when she transitioned peacefully surrounded by her loved ones.

Donise, 37, was known for her self-assuredness, intellect, bright smile, timeless style, and giving fair and thoughtful advice. She caught everyone’s eye but was never the loudest voice at a gathering. 

“She was so outspoken without words,” said her friend, comedian Shed G. “Her presence just exuded joy. In a crowded room, she stood out. It was her overall personality. It wasn’t just because she was beautiful and successful. It was also her energy,” he said.

She embodied “true black excellence,” said her friend, Minneapolis Public School Board-elect Kimberly Caprini. “The woman I knew brought light in every moment as she moved through a room. Timeless beauty, completely classic.” 

“She would give really logical, ‘I’m here for you’ advice. Some days when I couldn’t think of anything positive to say, she was right there buzzing in my ear,” said her friend, community artist and anti-violence activist Nikki McComb.

“Donise taught us that authenticity was just as important as impact. Yes, she taught us black excellence, but she also taught us true faith, hope, and love; all wrapped up in a smile that could light up the night sky. She still does!” said her friend Jeffrey Aguy.

The Whites, who spent two decades together, once considered leaving Minneapolis because—as an ambitious, creative, career-driven African American couple—they didn’t feel like there was space for them in a city known for its racial disparities and microaggressions.

But instead of leaving, they stayed, they loved, and they built. They devoted themselves to being models of black love and entrepreneurship. They poured into their relationship, their careers, and several clothing brands that have turned into movements. Together they have motivated a diverse cross section of our segregated city—from Northside teens, to local entertainers, to the mayor and the police chief—to celebrate “Black Excellence” and “Be the Change.” They have stayed positive; they have unfailingly chosen unity over division.  

“Our primary aim as a unit is and was to change the narrative about black love, break generational curses and to sow seeds that would benefit others,” Houston wrote on Facebook on Nov. 18. 

“Her legacy will forever live as I carry our life’s mission forward," he said.

In lieu of flowers, Houston has set up a scholarship fund in his wife’s honor and is asking those who love her to contribute. Donate here.

Kenzie O'Keefe