NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Nashville woman who made the big screen died Thursday.
Shonka Dukureh’s personality was on full display for the world to see in this year’s ‘Elvis’ movie.
“There will never been another Shonka Dukureh, because Shonka sang from her toes,” said friend Cedric Sesley.
Friends who knew her say her voice was powerful.
“It’s so soulful,” said friend Warren Collins. “It’s so heartfelt. She puts her all into it so it automatically touches you.”
They also said her energy was dynamic.
“She would just light up the room,” said friend Dr. Peter Fields. “Even as a student, all of the energy that she had, you couldn’t have a sad moment. If you had a bad day she would lighten it up.”
Dukureh graduated from Fisk University and friends say she worked hard to help others and achieve her dreams.
“To see her get her flowers and see her to actually share that with everyone…it’s just proud,” said Collins. “It’s just pride.”
Dukureh spent many years serving as a teacher for Salama Urban Ministries, an after school program in Nashville.
“She had that energy that the students were captivated in her class,” said Fields.
But when she told her friends and family she had gotten a role in Elvis, proud became an understatement.
“She let me see her apartment on the beach over in Australia, and I felt like she took me with her and I was so happy for her,” said Sesley.
On Thursday, July 21, Metro police say Dukureh was found unresponsive in her Antioch apartment, something friends couldn’t believe.
“It took a moment to digest, and then it hurt,” said Fields.
“I’m still in disbelief,” Sesley added. “I can’t believe my sister is gone.”
While Dukureh left this earth so soon, those who loved her are just proud she was able to leave such a lasting impact.
“It’s about time that the world can see and share with what we’ve all known in Nashville,” said Collins.
Dukureh was set to perform at Ryman Auditorium Saturday, July 23 for this year’s Rep. John Lewis Way March.
Fisk University released this statement saying:
The Fisk University Community is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of our brilliantly gifted Fisk alumna, Shonka White Dukureh ’99.
She was just beginning to reach one of her goals in becoming a professional actress and singer,” stated Presephone Felder-Fentress, who served as her major advisor at Fisk. “The ‘Elvis’ movie and her portrayal in it as Big Momma Thornton brought her full circle. While a student at Fisk, Shonka performed in Smokey Joe’s Café signing Hound Dog. She had the “IT quality” in terms of her talent. Shonka’s major at Fisk was Dramatics, Speech and Dance.”
Our Prayers are with her family, close friends, and fellow classmates. We join them in the struggle to deal with the overwhelming heartache and sadness. We send our deepest sympathies to all of her loved ones while respecting the family’s right to privacy.
We ask that you keep them in your thoughts in the coming days as we join them in mourning the tragic loss of a member of the Fisk family.