The South Portland woman who founded Rise and Shine Youth Retreat was killed in a hit-and-run in Acadia National Park between Saturday night and early Sunday morning, Maine State Police said.
On Monday, police identified the woman as 35-year-old Nicole Mokeme and said her death would be an isolated incident. Police are asking for help in locating a black BMW that may have been involved in the incident.
The 2016 BMW X3 SUV with Maine license plate 5614WM is registered to Raymond Lester, 35, of Portland, police said. The vehicle may have front end or undercarriage damage. Anyone seeing the vehicle is asked to call the police and stay away from the car.
Rise and Shine Youth Retreat organized the Black Excellence Retreat 2022 at the Schoodic Institute. The retreat was the second held in conjunction with the institute and was described as “a getaway for black people and their friends and families from all walks of life to come together in community to celebrate June 19th, liberation and black excellence” , according to a post on the retirement Instagram.
The retreat was scheduled for June 14-20 and was designed specifically for Black youth and adults as a time to unwind for deep rest, outdoor exploration and art.
Mokeme was featured by the Portland Press Herald in 2020 as “Mainer to be Thankful For”. Mokeme described how she fell in love with camping on her first trip and started a camping weekend for teenagers of color.
“When we think of wellness or yoga, we usually think of white women. I wanted young black women to see black women, a little older than them, in this area and share in the well-being,” Mokeme said in 2020.
Mokeme, who lived in Bowdoin, grew up gardening and playing outdoors in the Philadelphia area, but said she started to really appreciate nature when she moved to Maine in 2008.
In 2014, Mokeme founded Rise and Shine Youth Retreat, a farm and retreat center in Bowdoin that offers co-op living, outdoor programs, retreats and plant sharing. Mokeme said she wants to create a diverse community of teenage girls who celebrate and support each other. Over the years it has expanded to include people of all ages.
“This work offers the BIPOC community a place to come together, a place of brotherhood,” she told the newspaper in 2020.
In a Q&A with Mokeme posted on the website of Coastal Enterprises Inc., a non-profit community development financial institution, she described how Rise and Shine has evolved into a place where black, brown and Natives can develop leadership skills, build confidence through the outdoors, experience a sense of community.
“It brings me so much joy to see people of all ages running through the woods and experiencing complete happiness,” Mokeme said.
A spokesperson for Acadia National Park declined to comment on the Mokeme’s death because it involves a criminal investigation and referred all questions to state police.
This story will be updated.