Gary Gerard Strieker July 7, 1944 – July 16, 2022
GARY Strieker passed away at home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on July 16, 2022. He was born in the small rural town of Breese, Illinois, on July 7, 1944, and grew up in San Diego, California.
Gary’s eclectic career paths launched with his earning of a Juris Doctorate from the University of California Hastings College of the Law. He and Phyllis, his wife (high school and college sweetheart), moved to the newly independent African Kingdom of Swaziland (now Eswatini), both of them volunteering with the first team of US Peace Corps, where Gary served as the Treaty Officer and Legal Advisor to the sovereign Swazi government. Later, hired directly by the Swaziland Department of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Program, Gary authored a Land Speculation Control Bill to protect Swazi land rights.
After five years in Swaziland, Gary joined Citibank, living with his wife and their first young daughter, and training in Beirut during South Lebanon’s Insurgencies and the start of the Lebanese Civil War. After Beirut, Gary was a resident Vice President of Citibank for the Africa Regional Office in Nairobi. Here the Striekers’ twin daughters were born, raised, and later returned for schooling.
From international law and development banking, Gary migrated to television journalism, realizing his creative ingenuity through photography, writing, and story-telling. He worked for nearly 20 years as CNN’s Nairobi Bureau Chief and as the network’s Global Environment Correspondent. In his pioneer roles, Gary covered such stories as the famines in Ethiopia and Somalia and the civil wars in Liberia, Angola, Sudan and Burundi. He won an Emmy award for his role in CNN’s coverage of the crisis in Somalia in 1992.
On unique television journalism assignments, Gary traveled the globe reporting on the planet’s environmental health. Airing regularly on CNN and CNNI, his reports focused mainly on endangered species and threatened habitats, especially in developing nations facing critical choices between exploitation and conservation of natural resources, and the populations’ survival options.
Gary was an experienced freelance television producer and reporter, covering civil wars in Lebanon and Chad and the border conflict between Kampuchea and Thailand. In his Our Planet series, he covered stories ranging from the bushmeat crisis in central Africa to the destruction of tropical forests in Indonesia, Peru and Papua New Guinea. His work was awarded the National Press Club’s top prize for environmental reporting.
Living and working in Africa for more than 28 years, Gary’s most traumatic career experience was as the first television journalist to enter Kigali, Rwanda, with the Tutsi rebels during the genocide of 1994. Majority Hutu extremists operated to kill the minority Tutsi population and anyone opposing their genocidal intentions. Gary was held at gunpoint, declared dead after a car accident, and put in a morgue. He slogged across the Kagera River, holding his television camera above his head as massacred Tutsi bodies were swept past and up against him. He reported that the Rwandan genocides were the “worst periods of bloodshed in human history.”
Gary’s beloved Africa was also the stage for his most personally treasured career highlight. He was one of only a few journalists to interview Nelson Mandela, elected as the first president of a democratic South Africa in 1994. To meet in person and talk with Mandela who had endured 27 years in prison, following a lifetime of servitude and political struggle under apartheid, and then earning the Nobel Prize for Peace, Gary was awestruck. He reflected upon having lived for five years in independent Swaziland which was impacted by neighboring apartheid South Africa, ever hopeful that Mandela would survive prison and emerge the champion for human rights and dignity that, indeed, he did.
After three decades of reporting in Africa and the developing world, Gary returned to the U.S. where he found a void in coverage of environmental issues. He said, “There were so many great, untold stories that needed to be told, and I was attracted to that. I tried freelancing for a while but it was often hard to get news desks interested in what they perceived as soft stories.”
Eventually, as the Executive Producer of “This American Land” and with several former CNN colleagues, they started their own show for distribution to public television, which has allowed them the autonomy to cover the stories that they think are important and need to be told.
From a tiny Midwest farm town to the breadth and depth of this planet, Gary Strieker fulfilled his life’s passion for exploration, understanding, conservation, and equity. He was a fierce warrior for environmental and human justice. His power was observing, listening, recording, and disseminating. Gary was also a gentle, respectful, modest, and tolerant friend, colleague, and family man. He shared his fervent connections through attentiveness, sincerity, humor, and hugs. He loved fiercely. He is missed deeply.
Gary is survived by his wife, Christine Nkini Strieker; their son Reid Strieker and daughter Nandi Strieker; and by his daughters Lindsay Malaika Strieker, Alison Priya Strieker, and Rachel Thandiwe Strieker Hedges, from his first marriage to Phyllis Brady. His surviving grandchildren are Sophia Lyn, Grace Malaika, and Strieker David.