Thursday, October 21, 2010

First to the mountains near Tibet

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted anything, a whole lifetime has happened since I last wrote here.  Before I get into that though, one of my best friends just returned from the most incredible life-changing trip in China.  And the project she is creating is truly awe-inspiring:

more from me soon...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 1 (four days late) through now (day 5, obviously).

When I got back from Australia, I said I wanted to just pack up my car and drive around showing the film, KANYINI, but that was not practical.  Lack of practicality is usually not a viable reason not to do something though, for me (though fun to say, not always best practice). :)  So, last week, after my last day of work teaching GED students in Asheville, I was lucky enough to have a job catering a women's weekend at a retreat centre deep in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains.  So much happened there, that I don't even know where to begin... so i won't say anything.  But, I do believe seeds were planted there that will find their fruition sometime in my future.  <3

The morning after I got back, my Mom and I hit the road for Fort Belvoir, Virginia (just outside of DC).  We went to visit my cousin Vinny (and that's the truth), and it was actually fun to stay on the base.  Strange how growing up in the military comes back to you...

The real adventure began on Wednesday, when I loaded up my computer, a backpack full of books, and my suitcase, to venture into our nation's capitol.  I love Washington (and after being in New York, I must say how much i love the escalators at the DC metro stations...), and I made my way to a coffee shop with Wi-Fi and set to work.

This wasn't the most organized trip, and while I admit that, it has been absolutely perfect and I've learned a great deal.  The screenings have been small- but very meaningful.  Life the Aboriginal anthem, "From Little Things, Big Things Grow...".

After many metro rides, walking up and down hills, a ride on the Chinatown bus to NYC, Long Island RR, Subway, and walking between 17th and 20th (across Broadway and through a parade)... I'm pretty ready to not carry luggage any more.   But funny enough, it kind of feels like it's part of the process.  My world is jam-packed with metaphors, so,  this trip has given me much to work with. :)

Tonight, through an amazing confluence of events, and brilliant friends, I was able to have a screening at The Wild Project on E. 3rd. St. in the Village.  It was amazing.  There is something very satisfying and humbling about doing an event in New York City.

I'm now at my friend's house in Queens (we were roommates in London in a room the size of a closet, with four girls... did I mention how happy I am not to be 20 anymore?), and ready to give these tired bones a rest.  I will dream of massage therapy...

The best parts of all of this have been the connections and conversations.  I don't pretend to know everything, and the subjects of historical trauma, displacement, racism and violence are fraught with minefields- but, maybe some explosions of trapped consciousness wouldn't be a bad thing (at least then we could see the pieces we need to pick up).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Screening Aboriginal Film in New York City!!!!!!!

Date:  Saturday, May 22, 2010
Time:  8pm - Doors at 7pm
Location:  The Wild Project 
195 E 3rd StpastedGraphic.pdf; (212) 228-1195)
Suggested Donation:  $5 - $10
written and narrated by UNCLE BOB RANDALL
The evening will begin with a traditional Anangu welcome, and feature the film Kanyini, followed by audience dialogue 
Plot Synopsis:  
This documentary is based on the remarkable life and philosophy of Bob Randall, an elder of the Yankunytjatjara people of Uluru in Central Australia. It explores his idyllic early life, shattered when he is taken from his family as one of the 'Stolen Generation', and his journey since then. 'Uncle Bob' also explores the reasons for the tragic problems in many Australian Aboriginal communities today. While there is sadness and desperation, the film finishes with a sense of hope. Archival footage from the very early days of white contact with indigenous peoples is skilfully interwoven into the film. Written by John Haberecht,
About Uncle Bob: 
            Uncle Bob Randall is an elder, a “Tjilpi” of 
          the Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal Nation, and listed traditional owner of 
          Uluru, the great monolith in the Central Australian Desert. He is the 
          subject of the award-winning film, Kanyini, and the author of several books
          including his autobiography, Songman. 
Bob Randall is a 
          visionary educator, story-song writer, and bridge between the spirit 
          and science of ancient indigenous and modern, non-indigenous 
          cultures.  A living legend, Bob Randall articulates the wisdom, 
          lore, and traditions of the Aborigines’ way of living sustainably, in 
          environmental, social, and political harmony with All Things.
             In the early 1970s, his song “Brown Skin Baby" became an anthem for 
          Aboriginal Australians, and brought international attention to the truth of the 
          Stolen Generation.”  Like thousands of other Aboriginal children, Bob Randall 
          was forcibly taken away from his family by white authorities at about 
          the age of seven and placed in a mission institution. Early in life he 
          began the long process of searching for his family and Aboriginal 
          identity. His experiences and a diverse education gave him a unique 
          perspective of two divergent cultures. This has led to a life of 
          service and leadership, working tirelessly for equality, 
          reconciliation, and peace through collaborative, cross-cultural 
          education and sharing. Bob Randall lives and teaches the practical 
          application of “Kanyini,” the Aboriginal principles of unconditional 
          love and responsibility, for all things.
About the PresenterAsheville, NC local, Katie Kasben, was invited to visit Mutujulu community and stayed to learn from Uncle Bob at the end of her recent trip Down Under.  Katie had the opportunity to listen to many Traditional Owners across Australia, and has come to understand a truer picture of life in Aboriginal Australia.  Please join her after the film for a discussion about "KANYINI" and her experience with Uncle Bob.  She is currently working to create an Indigenous Leadership Centre in Hawai'i to heal Historical Trauma through shared experience and service.
Yo. (a term of acknowledgement, affirmation in 
          Yolngu language)
Nhama.  (goodbye)
An excerpt from Kanyini: Aboriginal Teachings From Uluru, Australia's Red Centre
By Kate Orchard | 18 July 2007
Central to the film is Bob Randall, a Yankunytjatjara elder, teacher, activist, an Anangu (person of the Australian central desert).
"This is my BIG HOME and I belong here. My name is Bob Randall. And I'm an Anangu man from Uluru. My culture been around maybe 40,000 years.We're probably the oldest culture in the world. When Caesar and Christ were walking this earth. We were here, living in the moment. When Cleopatra was ruling on her throne. We were here, living in the moment. For thousands of years these things you think ancient, we were here, living in the moment."
Uluru (Ayers rock) a vast seductive red rock in the middle of the Australian desert. Around 75% of Australians want to visit this beautiful place before they die. Thousands travel to the heart of Australia's 'red centre' to see the sun rise over Uluru, the largest monolith in the world.
Yet aside from a token memorable photo or a mass-produced t-shirt 'dot painting' it is still easy to leave unaware of the untapped potential of Indigenous rural Aboriginal communities. The film Kanyini is a timely window into this world, and offers culture as the means for reconciliation, to make sustainable change.
One of the traditional Aboriginal owners and carers for Uluru, Bob Randall takes us on a journey to explain the concept of KANYINI meaning interconnectedness, through unconditional love with responsibility for all things. The film explores four areas that underpin this particular Indigenous way of living: 'Tkurrpa'- belief system, 'Waltja'-Family, 'Ngura'-land, 'Kurunpa'-spirit. These living cultural traditions continue to be passed on to care and sustain people, water, land and shores.
A still from the film showing Aboriginal Australians. Courtesy of the filmmakers.
"Our life was quite often very disciplined, we were trained to look after the ceremonies, the land and each other. That was important to our people... not to take more than you need and not to destroy anything that's there to the level that it cannot produce again. We are connected to everything else. And proof of that is being alive...You are never lost you’re never ever alone. You are one with everything that is there.”
Living on the sunrise side in the Mutujulu community right next to Uluru, we see Bob with walking with pride, merging with his 'country' where the stars are his roof, the wall as far as you can see to the horizon, and it is as he says 'very hot and very, very beautiful'. Snakes, lizards positively dancing.
Black and white archival footage merges with this present, the same places, like the very belief system, there is no past present future, no 'then' and 'now'. He reviews anthropological footage, 'as far as I can see we were healthy … because they lived in a beautiful way. In our way, Anangu traditional way’ children swimming and diving, elders strong, capable - all the signs of a thriving, healthy culture and community.
The story of culture clash has begun to be told in mainstream Australia in his lifetime - violent dispossession, killing, the loss of land, conflict for resources between pastoralists who fenced in land, and drove out natural sources of food. These, Bob says cut the ties of connectedness and responsibility.
It has been Bob's lifework to strengthen Kanyini. A living system of relatedness we all can learn from and share - the central message of this film. This was how he lived until he was forcibly taken, he doesn't know his age, but about 7 years old. He would not begin to seek family until over 30 years later. He never saw his birth mother again.
Young Aboriginal girls. Courtesy of the filmmakers.
His story typifies the impact of the government assimilation policy which led to 50,000 Indigenous children being forced from their families between 1910 -1970 'assimilated' as white Australians- now known as the Stolen Generations. It wouldn't have been possible had Indigenous people been granted normal civil rights -they were not recognised by law as citizens until the 1967 referendum.
Bob's Randall's own journey into cross cultural education and activism began with his song telling his mother's story My Brown Skin Baby - They Took Him Away. This song inspired an international documentary telling Stolen Generations stories. 15 years later an official public inquiry Bringing Them Home acknowledged the need to hear these experiences.
On his journey through 'country' to trace his roots many women stepped forward to claim him as their son. Bob realized the magnitude of loss, so many children were taken. Sadly the burden is still felt today and the film highlights these aspects, children forced to grow up in a wholly white-oriented system with no trace of their traditional ways.
To date 250,000 non Aboriginal Australians are supporting Native Title and Reconciliation and thousands have signed 'Sorry books'. Implicit in the word Sorry is another responsibility- not one of blame, or reprimand but compassion and action. For government official apology, the word 'Sorry' is surrounded by a debate that perpetuates the failings of past governance; to date the federal government has merely stated 'sincere regret'.
In 1950 at Nuremberg, (Germany) Australia signed the Genocide convention to prevent atrocities 'where intent to destroy in whole or part a national ethnical or racial group - included forcibly transferring children of the group to another group'. Yet it was 20 years later before they stopped taking Aboriginal children away, as Geoffrey Robertson QC maintains 'that in itself should be enough for an official apology'.
At the end of the film, Bob challenges us 'don't let my people die in vain'. He calls to mind the voices of elders of the second and first world wars so that such atrocities will never happen again.
June 2007 saw the Federal government pass a law for Northern Territory banning all Aboriginal men from alcohol and enforcing a compulsory medical examination to exclude sexual abuse of all Indigenous children under 16 years in rural communities (regardless of the evidence of alcohol misuse and abuse of each child). The Prime Minister John Howard has sent in troops to 'take control' of 60 Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.
 Tourists first visited Uluru in the 1940’s. In 1985 traditional owners were finally handed back freehold title, but Mutujulu, the Indigenous community on Uluru’s Eastern side, reap little of the lucrative income the tourism industry provides: "those of us living here on the eastern side seem to have nothing. Just travel to the other side, the sunset side and those people seem to be having everything. The contrast is vivid, it’s real”
Yet, the same government has over the last six years consistently reduced funds to these same communities for education, health and opportunities for self-management. The current Australian government 10 point plan continues to undermine Native title, in turn reducing opportunity for these communities to maintain the fundamental rights to manage their lands. At the same time it seems there is little challenge to the 30 mining companies prospecting for highly profitable Uranium in the same Northern Territory.
Communities do find their own solutions. In the time since this film was made the Uluru Mutujulu community has eradicated petrol sniffing by negotiating with the petrol company to use Opal fuel - that does not give the 'high' of octane based fuel. This is one example of cooperation and community driven change.
Bob therefore calls for a dual white and Indigenous approach. Rather than sending in troops, he argues they should support Indigenous people to manage and develop their own services. 
Ultimately the Kanyini message reminds of our collective responsibilities. The notion of pilgrimage is not only a physical journey but one of transformation, action shaped by the spirit, heart and mind. As we move through our every day lives or as tourist visiting sites of unique natural beauty, rainforest, desert, coral reef, we can evolve our daily journeys, learn 'other' ways to act and understand the world.
In Kanyini as with all great stories, it seems we return to a 'place' we already knew, only to see it as if for the first time - that is with connectedness to the world we live in. And with that connection comes responsibility.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

a heart engaged
without a ring
scored with measures improbable 

when touched
by incandescent flame
the certain seems impossible

a supernova in my chest
and unprepared
my senses reeled 

leaving me bereft 
of space
to hide in anonymity

one touch, one look, 
a burning sear 
that took my very breath away

unwitting your sorcerer's spell
has breached
my abandoned gateway to infinity.


To fall and become
For the sake of love, 
Yet missing the human connection,
Is the woeful gift 
Of the girl in woman form 
Yet to bloom from her 
Mind to her heart.  

Denied thus far 
The bursting of flame 
Through touch more than surface, 
Dormant eros congealed  
In practicality pumping daily 
Unused blood through 
Unenlightened muscle.  

The smallest prick of 
Sharpest gaze becomes 
Bewildering flow of feeling, 
Unable to be staunched 
With usual thought 
Gray matter deserter 
In war unwinnable.  

The dam broken, thank God, 
Can never thus be repaired 
Gratitude quells abandonment, 
For finally, though seemingly left alone, 
The physical understanding of connection 
Explodes into a certainness 
Of possibility.  

- k

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The sweat-lodge stream-of-consciousness

I had a thought on all the crazy news attention paid to the motivational speaker after the deaths of people in his sweat lodge.  In all the press, I never once saw an interview with a Native American person.

It brings up so many important conversations, but mostly how much we Westerners need to un-learn.

I had an amazing talk with a wise woman today that was somewhat liberating, and centred on the positive skills of the Colonists.  Now, I have a gut/knee-jerk reaction to the word, "colonization", so this one was hard for me.  It's just as hard as knowing that people of Indigenous descent are capable of being just regular human beings with base and mundane foibles and feelings.

So with my paradigms shaken up, I find myself at a unique place, and exactly where I should be.  It's part of the unlearning.  But it's also part of the Four Nations coming back together.  There are rifts deeper than my imagining and historical trauma pervasive in Indigenous communities that I can barely comprehend.  Yet, there is also historical trauma passed down to descendants of Western Colonial powers.

When I was in Vietnam I remember being struck so deeply by the violence depicted in the Saigon War museum (also the most objective museum I've yet to encounter).  There was a picture of a soldier holding the heads of two Vietnamese people.  My first thought was, "what must have happened to that young man to allow him to do that to another human being?".  This is where it gets hard.  I said this once before, and was misquoted by the local paper- which precipitated my ex-soldier neighbor to hate me and never want to speak to me again.  How could I explain?  I wasn't there when it happened, only after.  Even though both my parents were military and I was born on a base in the South Pacific at the end of the war- how could I criticize a soldier?  What if we take away sides and just have people?  It makes me think of Christmas 1914, during World War I.

How did I get to Vietnam from a Sweat Lodge, then to WWI?  Hm. Good question.  How about a quote?  "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation" - Johnathan Larson.

The healing has to happen on both sides.  I don't know how to help this yet, but that's what I want to do when I grow up.  What if we all made a space for authentic communication, beginning with true empathy.  hm. That's a tough one.   We're all shell-people.  How do we break those shells?  How about a world-wide exchange program?

Everyone on Welfare gets to run Congress, and everyone in Congress has to go on Welfare.  Then one side gets to see how hard it is to "govern" and another side gets to see how hard it is to be hungry with no advocates, especially without a place to live.  Then all of a sudden, there are no more "sides".

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A question on the State of the Union~

The State of the Union is an address by the President of the United States.  As far as I know, it's not a debate.  Why does the Governor of Virginia get a platform for a "rebuttal"????  Not that I agree with every single thing our President said, but I respect the office, and I was certainly inspired by his passionate oratory that was in excess of an hour.

Wouldn't it be so awesome if the American people tried thinking for themselves instead of looking to some news program to think for them?   I guess people would have to watch it in the first place...