Category Archives: Activism

Purse String Stagecraft, By David Scott Pointer

brain-barcode

   Purse String Stagecraft

By David Scott Pointer

 

Flesh-eating economic system

innards,

rolling

over community blood pressure apparatus,

attached to intergenerational empty wallets

attached to local and international poverty

attached to invisible, intertwined groups

with similar, different interests systemically

turned upon each other like pit-bulls or birds

innards

opening up the doors of paddy wagons

dispensing

box spring-bounce house, driver euphoria

disguising decades old ‘screen test’ metal

rebranded as unfortunate rough ride…….

splashed into teenage brain cells

addicted

to corporate college, mass consumerism

revisionist

page-turner TV, sound byte burn-bits

strategically misusing blackness stilled

aiding 1% adding machine economics

 

 

Brake Slamming Role Players

 

Police act like casting agents

while

driving

prisoner transport van, vamoose,

stomping on, lead-footing gas…

catapulting cuffed, unsuspecting

prisoners head-neck first into

their ‘screen test’ debuts, with

slim chance at Hollywoood, now

enroute to overcrowded hospital

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser David Scott Pointer

david-scott-pointer-writing-for-peace-advisor

David Scott Pointer is a long time social justice/political poet. His father, a piano playing bank robber, died when David was just 3 years old, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother, who determined that the best way to keep her young charge from emulating his “scoundrel” father was to socialize him to be a good soldier.  David’s earliest memories are of training for battle in his backyard in Kansas City, Missouri. Learn more about David and his work here.

 

 

quill3Victoria’s Writing Tips~

Creating Story Tension with Characters

By Victoria Hanley


An important part of writing a story is creating a convincing antagonist to oppose the main character. For this writing exercise, bring to mind someone from real life whose personality grates on you and whose perspective seems to be all messed up. Now, write a scene from that person’s viewpoint. Describe the world through their eyes, and do your best to imagine and express the turbulent tides of their emotions. How will this help you to create an interesting antagonist for a story of your own?

 

Meet Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace Adviser

Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace AdviserVictoria Hanley’s novels have won many honors and awards at home and abroad, and inspired two nonfiction writing books: Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write, and Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market. She teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver and at Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins.

Learn more about Victoria’s books, read her blog, download a free chapter of Wild Ink, and watch Victoria in action at www.victoriahanley.com.

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Writing for Peace News

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “The Climate Deception Dossiers,” proves that the corporations which profit from the burning of fossil fuels knew about global warming decades ago, knew their industries contributed to it and responded by funding propaganda to deny global warming and pushing policies that increased their profits at the expense of a livable future.”

Follow the latest Popular Resistance developments here.

 

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverPurchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales help to cover the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.

 

 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Poems from ROOTWORK, by Veronica Golos

Veronica rootwork croppedPoems from ROOTWORK

by Veronica Golos

From The Lost Notebook, Mary Day Brown_________________
 
Elba, New York, late evening, December 6, 1859.
five days after the hanging of my husband John Brown
 
This morning they began to arrive. First
a small wagon, a man, his young son
beside him. Then an entire
family, three children, father
mother, grandmother.
Even some we had
helped on to Canada. I stood
in my doorway, as the tract around the house
filled with horses, wagons, those who
had walked. Mr. Epps was nearby,
Mr. Riddick, silent as always.

I will not weep.

All day, the crowd grew, many wearing black armbands,
mostly the negroes, & there were
hundreds—& a number
of whites as well. There was little talk. Whispers
as someone moved to make room.
Dusk settled upon us; campfires flared—
huge stars, the ground
a hard sky. Somewhere, someone
began to sing:

My Lord what a Morning
My Lord what a Morning
Oh My Lord, what a Morning
When the stars begin to fall.

People stood, swaying, firelight flickering.
It was a song well known,
their voices came together, a keening sound.
A sole harmonica,
far back in the crowd. I could hear horses snorting,
the rustle of animals in the woods.
The words, no, the feeling inside the words, for him,
made me tremble. I had to sit. His chair,
where he liked to rest
as the sun went down.

From The Lost Letters, John Brown to Mary Day Brown

Charlestown Prison, Jefferson County, Virginia,
December 1, 1859.

Dearest Wife,

Mrs. Frances Harper has agreed to deliver this letter.
I trust her completely, as do you. She will help, I believe, in the days
to come. Trust, also, in the Lord.

I say trust in the Lord & yet I send this missive
full of questions. What have I left
undone, unsaid? I do not doubt the Lord, but
we tried to rally great numbers, & we did fail. Have I
sacrificed my sons as Abraham might have done? Have I
laid down others upon an altar? Did I
judge wrongly? That slavery will come to its end
through fire, that I do not doubt. It is my own life
that I wonder, have I done it right?

I know the Lord is righteous, & the passion the enslaved
bring to Bible removes any doubt – yet, Mary, the suffering.

We lived together at Kennedy’s farm, negro and white,
your daughters too. All were upright & were branded with friendship,
not iron. Can not the world be as this? Together & in dignity?
 
All fallen as we are?

Your husband, John Brown

Veronica Golos, Writing for Peace Adviser release, small

.ghost code. before.
Here
sand is flat
and the wet
salt ticks
through air
the sea slurs

into the hair of tides
I am still damp
when I wake from before
deep in this
in-between

I hear the low bells
charge the air
a bonnet
of ringing about my head

O I remember     once I loved a bound man

I hid
his flowers
under the floorboards
and the small
shells
of his loving
I buried
beneath the tulips

I owned nothing
not   myself   only
his kindness
dripping down my throat
for me to taste

Veronica Golos, Writing for Peace Adviser release, small

From The Lost Notebook, Mary Day Brown

Elba, New York, May, 1855.

It is dark & I write by a thin light.
The children still sleep.
John Brown away to Kansas with his sons.
I am gaining something here. Hard
work does not fray me; I am a dry
cord, wood piled & ready to be burned.

Yesterday, two Abolition Ladies visited
to bring us funds. They lifted their skirts
above the mud.
I was planting with my negro neighbors, Mr. Epps & Mr.
Riddick. We’d already shorn their sheep. We were heavy
with work.

“Oh, I see,” Mrs. Wrightworth said. “You
have no men folk here.”

I write this, my anger a blue flame.
My neighbors turned—walked
the steep hill toward their farms; the maples
were shaking in the light.
Here, in Elba, finally, it is spring.
Outside is all loveliness—the lilacs are just about to
bloom

through. I am so ashamed.
The good-intended
can cut a wound & worse, they do
not know what they do.

About Writing for Peace Adviser Veronica Golos

Veronica Golos, Writing for Peace Adviser B&WVeronica Golos is the author of Vocabulary of Silence, winner of the New Mexico Book Award, poems from which are translated into Arabic by poet Nizar Sartawi, and A Bell Buried Deep, co-winner of the 16th Annual Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize (Story Line Press), to be re-issued by Tupelo Press. Her most recent poetry book is Rootwork: The Lost Writings of John Brown & Mary Day Brown, (3: A Taos Press, 2015). Golos is the Poetry Editor for the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Harvard Divinity School), and co-editor of the Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art. She lives in Taos, NM, with her husband, David Pérez. Learn more about Veronica’s work here. ROOTWORK is available for purchase through 3 Taos Press.

 

 

quill3Victoria’s Writing Tips~

Writing Through Sorrow

By Victoria Hanley

For this writing exercise, I encourage you to remember and record a sorrow that you have lived through. When and where was it? Who was there, and what happened? Write it all out, and let your emotions come through, as if your words are tears on the page. Keep writing, and let it all pour out of you, even if it feels as if your tears are an ocean. Write, write until your heart begins to feel something new, until you have some bit of freedom from this sorrow.

Meet Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace Adviser

Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace AdviserVictoria Hanley’s novels have won many honors and awards at home and abroad, and inspired two nonfiction writing books: Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write, and Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market. She teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver and at Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins.

Learn more about Victoria’s books, read her blog, download a free chapter of Wild Ink, and watch Victoria in action at www.victoriahanley.com.

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Writing for Peace News

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserRead Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese latest article on TPP Fast Track here.

Follow the latest Popular Resistance developments here.

 

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverDoveTales “Nature” is now in the distribution process, making its way across the globe through the USPS. We’ve sent two shipments this week, and a third will go out on Saturday!

To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales go a long way toward the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.

 

 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

2015 Progress Report, by Carmel Mawle

cropped-winslow-homer-american-painter-1836-1910-girl-in-a-hammock-187312015 Writing for Peace Progress Report

By Carmel Mawle, Founder and President

One of the questions I am most frequently asked by fellow activists is, “How do you keep from getting burned out?” I always struggle a bit with this one. Like many artists I know, I’ve never found a way to face the suffering of the oppressed, the groaning of this beautiful planet earth, without internalizing that pain. As activists, we have different burn-out thresholds, and our resilience may rise or fall depending on health or other stress factors. We do need to make decisions about energy expenditures, and be aware of those times when our reserves are low. But, if you are lucky enough to have an artform in which you can express that awareness, if you can take the pain and suffering of the world and create art with the intention of shaking the imperial foundations and corporate pillars, then you might have already learned one of the hidden joys of artivism – pour your heart and soul in, and it fills you up. Creation heals us and increases our capacity. As Kurt Vonnegut put it, “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.”

Writing for Peace was founded on the premise that the very act of writing is transformative. We experience that shift when we read, slipping into a character’s mind, like walking in another man’s moccasins, to think their thoughts, and understand their reasoning. Imagine how exponentially greater the transformative impact when we are creating the story, researching the environmental, familial, or political pressures crushing down on our characters, and imagining our way into their consciousness. This is empathy, the seed of compassion, and the foundation of a more peaceful world.

One of the coolest aspects of Writing for Peace is when we check in with our young writers a year later. We ask them how their writing is coming along, and where they see it going in the future. This year we also thought it would be interesting to ask a more philosophical question: What does “writing for peace” mean to you? The answers are always moving and inspiring. For those of us who need the periodic boost to the energy reservoir, it’s helpful to shift our focus to where something positive is happening. Here are some examples:

Writing for Peace holds a special place in my heart because it’s really the first time I had written a fictional piece that digs so deeply into the struggles and wonders of cultural identity. It gave me the valuable opportunity to think about what peace really means, and how to apply the concept to a cultural perspective. Writing for Peace was truly a catalyst for my passion for writing, and I am honored to have participated in it. One of the best things about it is that it is open to the entire world; anybody can submit a piece of writing, and anybody can be encouraged to explore our world’s cultural diversity. Some of the most inspirational world leaders have all started out writing pamphlets or articles for a certain cause because to them and to me, writing has always had the power to move minds. Writing for Peace can truly make future world leaders.

~ Angela Yoon, Grade 10, Gangnam-gu, Seoul-si, South Korea

The next major phase of my writing came in the form of college essays. I carried the same lessons I learned from Writing for Peace—incorporating personal examples, evoking pathos, and writing with passion—into my college essays. The consummation of my college writing/application process occurred when I was accepted into Cornell University, where I will be writing the next chapter of my life.

~ Ben Gershenfeld, Grade 11, Voorhees, New Jersey, USA

To me, the moment that I was silent with incredulity at the sight of my name on the award-winning essays of Writing for Peace Young Competition, was one of important milestones in my journey to become an international journalist. Writing For peace brings me a great deal of personal experiences and knowledge that at a certain extent dissolves my cultural preconception and at the same time boosts my self-confidence.

~ Yen Nguyen, Grade 10, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I hope to continue to explore issues of current events and global citizenship through my writing. To me, Writing for Peace is a vessel for empathy between people who have little in common. It strives to break down barriers which we’ve erected over millennia, and I’m thrilled to be a small part of it. 

~ Dash Yeatts-Lonske, Grade 10, Rockville, Maryland, USA

 

In the future, I plan to continue writing and using this art form as a mechanism for spreading messages of peace.

~John Vernaglia, Grade 8, Medford, Massachusetts, USA

 

When I talk with our readers and advisers, I hear it again and again, “These young writers give me hope.” I feel the same way. How can we not be inspired by young writers who maintain their optimism despite what might be an unprecedented awareness of global crisis? But hope is a two-way street, a reciprocal commodity. While their optimism may give us hope, our faith in these young writers, our commitment to educate, support, and lift them up, also gives them hope. In the words of Cassidy Cole:

Writing for Peace, and all that it stands for, is what this world needs in the light of peace, happiness, equality, and a more desirable place. Just the pure existence of an organization that aims to create compassion and peace through creative writing gives me easeful thoughts for our future. Writing for Peace gives me hope and I am utterly inspired by its vision and what the organization does. This organization is the light of not only what lays on the other side, but the light that guides all us writers there.

 ~ Cassidy Cole, Grade 8, Denver, Colorado, USA

 

All of our 2014 winners’ work is featured, along with works from many of our advisers, and other established and emerging artivists, in our “Nature” edition of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. This beautiful book will be released a week from this coming Friday, on May 1st. Watch our blog, website, and Facebook page for information on how you can purchase your copy, and support Writing for Peace.

 

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Writing for Peace News

Victoria’s Writing Tips~

Writing for Peace is pleased to introduce our newest adviser, Victoria Hanley. Victoria is an award-winning author, known for her exciting young adult and middle grade fiction, as well as her nonfiction books dedicated to developing the craft of writing. Victoria has offered to provide bi-monthly writing tips for our young writers (and the  rest of us). Thank you, and welcome to Writing for Peace, Victoria!

Writing Exercise for Peace of Mind

By Victoria Hanley

No one else will read what you’re about to write. This is because you need to know you can confide in yourself no matter what you have to say.

Write about something that’s troubling you. Let the emotion pour through you, and use your strongest verbs and most illuminating adjectives to describe how you feel and what’s going on. When you’re done, hit the delete key–or if you’ve written on paper, feed the page through a shredder or tear it up.

When at least two hours have passed, write again, and this time write anything that occurs to you that might be able to solve your problem.

 

Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace AdviserMeet Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace Adviser

By studying fiction, I’ve learned that a good story is built around conflict. However, a good life is built around peace.

~ Victoria Hanley

Victoria Hanley spent years preparing for a writing career by holding as many contrasting jobs as possible, from baking bread to teaching anatomy and hosting radio shows. She’s lived in California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Oregon, and Colorado, and traveled throughout North America via plane, train, bus, car, and bicycle. Who knew she’d be the author of 7 books published in 12 languages!

Victoria’s novels have won many honors and awards at home and abroad, and inspired two nonfiction writing books: Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write, and Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market. She teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver and at Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins.

Learn more about Victoria’s books, read her blog, download a free chapter of Wild Ink, and watch Victoria in action at www.victoriahanley.com.

 

Writing for Peace May Day Events

  • 2015 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Nature” Edition Book Release! Watch for news of the latest DoveTales, a truly extraordinary and beautiful edition of our annual journal.
  • 2015 Young Writer Winners Announcements! Find out what our prestigious judges (Antonya Nelson, Fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; and Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry) have to say about our talented young writers!

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Staunching Wounds, By Richard Krawiec

 

antonio-rotta-helping-hands-approximate-original-size-24x30Staunching Wounds

By Richard Krawiec

 

Recently I met with a group of women who had suffered terrible transgressions and losses in their lives from an early age. Deaths of loved ones, violent rape and abuse, humiliations by friends and abandonment to strangers.

We all know the clichéd responses to this, right? When life gives you lemons…put it behind you and move on…etc.etc.

But I think there is something ultimately dismissive in failing to recognize that sometimes we suffer damage we can’t get beyond. Sometimes we suffer damage that creates a wound so deep it will not heal. We can learn to live through it, we can try to accommodate it, to go forward despite the wound – but the wound remains. It’s what is meant by the term ‘survivor’ I think. The person who knows what happened can’t be ignored, or changed, but has found a way to live past without denying the damage.

Many of us have things happen to us that are difficult to move on from. I had a girlfriend who was haunted by the memory of watching her father die on their kitchen floor, begging God not to take him from his family. I can’t seem to get past my best friend as a child growing into an estranged teenager who blew his brains out with a shotgun; I’m still haunted by memories of the time I walked out of a Juvenile Court in Pittsburgh without the 5-year-old girl who was returned, by the courts, to her sexually abusive father.

I know these incidents pale in comparison to what others have to deal with. I didn’t survive the concentration camps. I wasn’t a child growing up in war-torn Gaza. No gang of soldiers raped me in a tent. I wasn’t that girl, that friend.

So it always feels childish, whiny to admit these things still create a profound sorrow in me when I think about them. But we don’t choose our damage, and to a large extent we don’t choose, at least initially, our ability, or inability, to deal with the traumas of our lives. Aren’t our ways of response to at least some extent conditioned by those around us, especially those around us when we were growing up?

On another thread a woman speaks about visiting her father in the hospital and holding his hand, like she used to when she was a child. I can’t remember ever holding my father’s hand. He wasn’t a cruel or abusive man, but he wasn’t attentive in that way.

When friends died in high school – from hanging, drug overdose, leukemia – I don’t remember any of our parents offering support, advice, condolences or ways to deal with the loss to those of us who remained.

When you don’t have a way to deal with a wound, it remains unstaunched. People find different ways, not so much to move forward as to cover it up, to bandage pain with sex, drugs, violence. Because they don’t know how, or aren’t allowed, to look at it. Just put it aside, we’re counseled, forget about it, so you can become a productive member of society again. It’s a type of cultural denial, isn’t it? But what do people do when they can’t. Well there is the previously mentioned trinity –drugs, sex, violence. But there are other ways for people who can’t articulate but somehow know their concerns aren’t being addressed.

Some people turn to writing, others to song, painting, dance. Because nothing offers a better path into the interior, a more honest and unflinching way to look at what has happened, as well as a better vision of new paths out of that darkness, than art. I think it was Springsteen who once said the best part of him existed in his songs. In real life he could be a mess. I know that feeling. God, do I know it.

But the point is, art offers us the potential to examine the past and an array of paths – spiritual, moral, ethical, philosophical, psychological – that can lead to a future full of what, in another context, David Brooks calls “the eulogy virtues”.

I never thought I’d say Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote a probing piece -but there it is. In today’s NYT, Brooks talks about something that resonates with what I’m thinking about here. He discusses how we live in an age of self-absorption; we are told to be individualists, “be true to yourself…follow your own path.” It’s easy, Brooks says, “to slip into self-satisfied moral mediocrity.”

And he contrasts this with those whose lives had followed a pattern of “defeat, recognition, redemption. They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding…The people on this road see the moments of suffering as pieces of a larger narrative.”

What’s the connection with this and damage? I guess that what I’m trying to say is this – the culture that says take an anti-depressant when your loved one dies so you can obscure your pain is not a culture that accepts damage. Damage is distasteful, unpleasant, not something we want to discuss. Let’s all get beyond it as quickly as possible so we can go out and have fun.

And if you don’t? Why isn’t there something wrong with you?

Because if we really, truly looked closely at the damage people endured, and it’s long-lasting effect on them, wouldn’t we have to do something to help?

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Richard Krawiec

Richard KrawiecRichard Krawiec is the founder of Jacar Press, A Community active Press dedicated to paying writers and working in under-served communities and has worked extensively with people in homeless shelters, women’s shelters, prisons, literacy classes, and community sites, teaching writing. Richard’s second book of poems, She Hands me the Razor, (title poem nominated for a Pushcart Prize) was published by Press 53. It was one of 17 finalists for a SIBA Award. His latest collection is Women Who Loved Me Despite (Press 53).  To learn more about Richard Krawiec, check out his page here.

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Meet Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace AdviserAs a Palestinian, peace for me is the the end of Israeli policies of the occupation of our historical lands, ethnic cleansing, colonization, and racial discrimination that have been continuously condemned by human rights and international law organizations, yet Israel chooses to ignore all these calls with full impunity. Peace is by putting so much pressure on this settler colonial state to abide by human rights and international law. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is one of the tactics that has proved its success to tell Israel that you’re no more impune; the world is watching and looking for a peaceful Globe. I use writing as a way to raise awareness and to express myself. It is good to have approachable platforms that one can use to reach a large number of audience around the world.

~Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed is a Palestinian activist, freelance writer living in Sheffield, and our newest member of the Writing for Peace Young Adviser’s Panel. A powerful voice for peace and justice, Malaka graduated with a BA in English literature from the Islamic University of Gaza and a MA in global politics and law from the University of Sheffield in Britain. Read Malaka’s articles on Huffington post here.

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserBeyond Extreme Energy: Uniting to Retire Fossil Fuels

Clearing the FOG speaks with activists from Washington State to Washington, DC who are taking on Big Energy to say “no” to more fossil fuel infrastructure. We begin with four organizers who walked across the United States last year to raise awareness about the climate crisis. They visited front line communities along the way. When they arrived in Washington, DC, they spent a week protesting the little known Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of the Beyond Extreme Energy coalition. Now they are planning more resistance. In Washington State, the “SHell No” campaign is organizing a Flotilla to keep Shell Oil out of the Port of Seattle. We’ll discuss why direct action is the necessary tactic to end fossil fuels and move to renewable energy sources.

Writing for Peace May Day Events

  • 2015 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Nature” Edition Book Release! Watch for news of the latest DoveTales, a truly extraordinary and beautiful edition of our annual journal.
  • 2015 Young Writer Winners Announcements! Find out what our prestigious judges (Antonya Nelson, Fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; and Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry) have to say about our talented young writers!

 

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

How to Become a Revolutionary Icon, By Lyla June Johnston

Young Diné women prepare for “Nihígaal Bee Iiná: Our Journey for Existence.” To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x. Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley

Young Diné women prepare for “Nihígaal Bee Iiná: Our Journey for Existence.” The group will embark on a 200-mile trek through western New Mexico—a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the tragic “Long Walk.” To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x. Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley.

How to Become a Revolutionary Icon

By Lyla June Johnston

1. Speak your truth aloud
2. Say it with love and humility
3. Ignore the thousands of people (including yourself) who will tell you that you’re unworthy of bringing this message
4. Repeat
……………………………………
I look at some of these young warriors like Nahko Bear, Ta’kaiya Blaney, Xiutezcatl Martinez, and others who are so sought after for their presence and their words. They are no different from anyone else. They are simply willing to stand up and speak light into the darkness, brazenly, at the risk of seeming overly idealistic or arrogant. This is not idealism, this is the truth that our child-selves saw so clearly but did not have space to express. This is not arrogance, this is the deliverance of nourishment to a world starving for truth. I was blessed to learn that I CAN speak in a society that expects and rewards silence.
……………………………………
I remember once at Stanford I came to my poetry collective with a poem that loudly professed my allegiance to unity and love. My entire team laughed at me and said they would not partake in the group performance I had sketched out. The tagline was, “WE WANT YOU FREE!” I guess it was too corny for them… But when I have the courage to say these things to the crowd something happens in their hearts. The rumbling of my voice, the clarity and conviction of the message, awakens dormant volcanos within them that have been waiting, silently, patiently, for years to erupt. Once I am finished they burst with applause and rise for the standing ovation. I know in my heart they are not cheering for me. They are cheering because, finally, the sleeping wolf has arisen within them. The wolf that sits in its conformist cage. The wolf that begs to howl this truth into the dark night with all its might but is not allowed to by societal norms. They are cheering for the Love that has triumphed, the Truth that has overcome all obstacles set before it. They are cheering for Creator, that Her message has finally been released, that it has finally breeched the walls Iktomi has built all around us. Walls meant to distract us from the ever-present, ever-shining, ever-true reality that we are free, we are love, we are loved and we hold the very breath of the Creator within our lungs and in our veins. This is the beauty our child-selves knew we were born for. This is the beauty we are all able to hold again. If we only have the courage, to step forward and… speak.

About Writing for Peace Young Adviser Lyla June Johnston

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world. After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide. She plans on attending Harvard Business School to obtain the platform she needs to disarm the private sector and repurpose the capitalist infrastructure for healing and social change. Her ancestors are Diné and Cheyenne and it is from this ancestral worldview that she derives her visions for helping to create a culture of peace and generosity. Learn more about Lyla’s work here.

 

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BREAKING NEWS:

Young Navajo Stage 200-Mile Trek for Cultural Survival

Young Diné women prepare for “Nihígaal Bee Iiná: Our Journey for Existence.” To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x. Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley

(Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley.)

By Writing for Peace Adviser, Lyla June Johnston

HUERFANO, New Mex.- At dawn on January 6th 2015 a group of young Diné (Navajo) women and their supporters will gather at a fire department near the base of Dził Na’oodiłii (Huerfano Mountain). From there the group will embark on a 200-mile trek through western New Mexico—a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the tragic “Long Walk.” Throughout this journey they intend to raise awareness about historical and present day challenges faced by Diné people and inspire hopeful solutions to address these issues.

Organizers are calling out for community support in the form of walking, hosting or helping to garner basic materials. This first journey will end at Tsoodził (Mount Taylor), their southern sacred mountain. Three more walks are scheduled for spring, summer and fall so that each of their four sacred mountains is visited. The walkers intend to cover over 1000 miles in 2015.

The commemorated event occurred in 1864 when Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson—under the command of General James Carleton—enforced a merciless, scorched earth policy to bring Diné people into submission. During this time nearly 9,000 Diné and 500 Mescalero Apache men, women, children and elderlies were marched at gunpoint for 300 miles to a small patch of arid land known as Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Many perished along the way.

During their four-year internment at this reservation “experiment”—known in Diné as Hwééldi or “the place of suffering”—hundreds died due to starvation, illness and physical violence. In 1868, high costs of rations and soldier commissions caused the federal government to disband the experiment and release them back to Diné Tah, the Navajo homeland.

“We are walking to honor the resiliency of our ancestors who 150 years ago were forced to march hundreds of miles in the dead of winter on a genocidal death march,” says Dana Eldridge, one of several female organizers of the walk. “They sacrificed and suffered so much so that we could live within these four sacred mountains. So we’re walking to honor them.”

According to the organizers, the walk is not simply a re-enactment of The Long Walk, but their return to a traditional lifestyle.

“It’s something that people don’t do anymore. We have the convenience of vehicles. But walking an entire journey is something that’s revolutionary in a way,” says young organizer Nick Ashley of Gallup, New Mexico.

“Our ancestors walked so that we could be here on our homeland singing, dancing and praying the songs they did. But now everyone is chasing the American Dream and neglecting our homeland, our language and way of life,” says Kimberly Smith of St. Michaels, Arizona.

Several Diné elders, including Larry W. Emerson, think present day problems might be due to “an abandonment of self.”

“One purpose of the walk might be for us to come back into ourselves via our traditional knowledge—into our homes, families, relations, communities and earth-sky knowing. Ké and k’é hwiindzin—to be conscious of our interdependent relationships based on compassion, love, and nurturing—are vital to our survival and we cannot come home to ourselves without these vital teachings. [We] offered several teachings [to the walkers] that might address the practice of coming home to ourselves, including some prayer songs.”

According to organizers, land-based prayer is an important part of their journey. “Everything we do is a prayer to return to our original selves,” says Laura Red Elk of Pueblo Pintado, New Mexico. “The mountains were our original naat’áanii [leaders] before IRA governments or the tribal council. Since our government is failing to protect us, we are returning to our original leadership by letting the mountains determine how we walk on the land.”

Organizers and their elders have chosen to name their movement as “Nihígaal Bee Iiná” or “Our Journey for Existence.” Due to the widespread presence of uranium, coal and gas extraction throughout Diné Tah,organizers feel that their environmental situation has reached a boiling point.

“One hundred and fifty years ago our ancestors stared their extinction in the face. And today, we young people are staring our extinction in the face. Our home will become an unlivable toxic wasteland if nothing is done,” says Eldridge.

According to the EPA, nearly 4 million tons of uranium have been extracted from Diné Tah since 1944. With over 500 abandoned uranium mines throughout the region, both homes and water sources are contaminated with high levels of radiation.

Additionally, over 20,000 tons of coal are strip-mined from Diné and Hopi lands every day by Peabody Coal Company alone. This coal feeds Navajo Generating Station, rated by the EPA as the highest emitter of toxic nitrous oxide in the country.

Organizers forecast that the next major threat is the onset of a boom in oil and natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing—a process now banned in the state of New York.

Erin Konsmo of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network in Alberta, Canada, says that resource extraction is not only a threat to the environment: “Some of the highest rates of missing and murdered women are in the tar-sands extraction areas. This is related to worker’s camps and the lack of jurisdictional protection for women on tribal lands.” Organizers state that the heavy presence of extractive industries is having a similar effect on Diné women.

“We give life and we nurture life just like the land does. Our traditional leadership structure is matrilineal because we are the spinal chord of society, the first teachers of the children. We are journeying back to our original selves including our responsibility as women to protect the land and take care of it,” says Red Elk.

“It’s all the more reason for this walk to be led by majority women. As traditional caretakers of the land, their physical presence is in and of itself a resistance to resource extraction,” comments Konsmo.

Weekly paychecks for Diné miners and generator operators are a constant reminder of their economic dependence on the fossil fuel industry. Walkers hope to raise awareness about self-sufficiency as an alternative to the extraction economy. They will disperse heirloom corn seeds to communities along the way and speak on the importance of food sovereignty and self-reliance.

“We are being told to invest in our own destruction in the name of the economy,” says Eldridge. “People say we need these jobs, but we don’t. To take care of ourselves it will take a tremendous amount of work, but it is a beautiful dream and it is so possible.”

Organizers are urging others to join them, especially Diné people, for all or part of the walk.

Smith encapsulates the spirit of the walk by saying, “We have to go back to where the wisdom is embedded. We have to reintroduce ourselves to those places. It is our inherent right and responsibility. The uplifting that our people need is there. We want to bring it back for our people, we want to honor our elders, our children and most importantly, we want to honor the earth.”

For more information on “Our Journey for Existence,” contact nihigaalbeeiina@gmail.com. To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x

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