MORE ART & RECONCILIATION AT THE NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE OTTAWA: Going Home Star, Florent Vollant, & 100 Years of Loss Exhibit closes a full month of Indigenous programming

TRC Commissioner Marie Wilson moderates a panel of cultural provocateurs speaking on Art & Reconciliation. 

“It’s time for the rest of Canada to do the heavy lifting” ~ I Lost My Talk composer John Estacio

On Thursday, January 14 the National Arts Centre hosted a panel discussion on ART & RECONCILIATION prior to the opening night of I Lost My Talk, a performance inspired by the poetry of Mi’kmaq elder and poet Rita Joe. The response to this event was tremendous. Hundreds of people swelled up the stairs from the lobby where the 100 Years of Loss exhibit on the impact of Residential Schools is installed until the end of this week. The event also drew political support. In attendance was the Prime Minister’s wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, the Governor General’s wife Sharon Johnston, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde and former Prime Minister The Right Honourable Joe Clark. I Lost My Talk was a commission by Clark’s family for his 75th birthday. A moving and lovely gift that we all got a chance to participate in and benefit from.

Canadian writer Joseph Boyden speaks on his commission to write the libretto for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Going Home Star. 

It’s encouraging to see a National cultural institution take such a leadership role in implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. It’s also poignantly symbolic to have a National cultural institution recognize, in the present moment, a fact that history has tried to obscure. Both the panel and the performance of I Lost My Talk opened with the National Arts Centre acknowledging that “we are on UNCEDED Algonquin territory.”

On the panel, along with Canadian writer Joseph Boyden and John Estacio, the composer for the musical score of I Lost My Talkwas Rachel Maza, “acclaimed Australian theatre director of Jack Charles V The Crown.”  I had the opportunity to attend this incredible play that delved into the impact of assimilation policies on Indigenous people in Australia. Over the course of 75 minutes Jack charmed us with his beautiful way of presenting his biography – a life full of identity confusion and much loss but also an amazing amount of grace due to Jack’s own incredible resilience. I left with many mixed emotions. Find out more about the play…

Jack Charles receives a standing ovation at the closing of his performance of Jack Charles V The Crown at the NAC. 

Going Home Star opens this week in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre.

As this month draws to a close the NAC is hosting Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of Going Home Star. 

“Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation is the brilliant result of a star-studded collaboration between the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, award-winning Canadian author Joseph Boyden, acclaimed choreographer Mark Godden, and renowned Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. Going Home Star was ten years in the making, first envisioned by late Cree elder/activist Mary Richard and RWB Artistic Director André Lewis. Searing and sensitive, this powerfully emotional classical ballet is the deeply resonant love story of Annie and Gordon, a pair of contemporary Aboriginal young people coming to terms with a souldestroying past. Hatzis’s multi-layered score incorporates music by Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq (winner of the 2014 Polaris Music Prize), Steve Wood, and the Northern Cree Singers.” Read more…

The creative team and performers of Going Home Star speak at the NAC about the ballet during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathering in May/June 2015

Going Home Star runs from Thursday, January 28 to Saturday, January 30 and then will continue its tour in Vancouver. Click here for performance dates and tickets. Tickets will be given to Residential School Survivors, more information can be found here.

Also, this weekend at the NAC is Innu author, composer and singer Florent Vollant performing on Saturday, January 30.

“born in Labrador in 1959 and grew up on a reserve named Maliotenam, east of Sept-Îles. He began his musical career in the middle of the 80s and helped to create the Festival Innu Nikamu, which, since its founding, has brought together many musicians and singers from various Amerindian nations.” read more…

And the National Arts Centre has more in store so be sure to follow along with their 2016 programming around Indigenous Storytelling on their website, Facebook  and Twitter @CanadasNAC.

Photography by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

 

JUSTICE FOR FIRST NATIONS KIDS: Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rules in favour of Indigenous Children in Canada

Image from Have a Heart Day 2014 on Parliament Hill, Ottawa with former NDP MP for Ottawa Paul Dewar. 

First Nations Child and Caring Family Society of Canada files complaint and wins after a long battle!

Congratulations to Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations Child and Caring Family Society of Canada. Today is an important moment as the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the Federal Government is guilty of racial discrimination against First Nations, Inuit and Métis children.

On their website, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) has provided the full document of the Tribunal’s decision.

Over and over the federal government, under former prime minister Stephen Harper, tried to stop Blackstock with Department of Justice lawyers doing all they could to have her human rights complaint dismissed.

Each attempt was defeated allowing the complaint to proceed.”  Read full article on APTN

Below is the livestream of the Press Conference following the Tribunal’s announcement with Cindy Blackstock of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations

In the fight for justice for Indigenous children Cindy Blackstock has engaged local youth. Each Valentine’s Day kids arrive on Parliament Hill to give speeches in support of their peers who have been continually denied equitable education. This popular and positive event has leveraged social media and you can find out more by following #HaveAHeartDay on twitter. You can also join this year’s gathering on Wednesday, February 10 from 10:30 – 11:15 am on Parliament Hill.

BLACK LIVES MATTER: For Andrew Loku, Sandra Bland & …

…Jermaine Carpy,  #KindraChapman, #RalkinaJones, #RaynettaTurner, #JoyceCurnell, #EricGarner, #MichaelBrown#TamirRice#TrayvonMartin

I’ve tried to write this post many times. Every time another man or woman is killed by the police and the news comes up on my feed. Another friend, usually a Black friend, sharing, yet again, a sickening story.

I am going to try and write about how it makes me feel as someone who isn’t black but has loved ones who are. I am going to breakdown what happens to my body – the taste of fear that starts to hit the back of my mouth, the hot tingling that runs from my feet up my spine. My mind goes to a place that I can’t explain, it’s primal, and my ability to offer myself some sort of logic ceases. Even inside my own head there here is no passage out. I stop thinking and my body takes over. I panic wondering how the hell I am going to protect my loved ones.

What if they have a moment where they are pushed too far and that tension breaks costing them their life? Will others be around to intervene on their behalf? As we have already seen that often doesn’t even matter.

That’s my body’s reaction. And so what is the reaction of the parents, wives, husbands, and children who find out, that at the hands of someone whose job is to serve and protect, their loved one’s life has been taken? Their bodies must sink into a spot they will never fully recover from. And if they are Black themselves, they have to continue to go out into a world that has proven it’s hostile. There is no way they can reconcile this. Not everything happens for a reason and has a silver lining if you just look hard enough. Things happen because there are systems in place that allow for racism to continue despite the fact that slavery, in North America, has legally ended. Things aren’t in the past because the mechanisms, social structures and economic drivers that positioned slavery as acceptable are still in place.

Andrew Loku. The most heartbreaking thing I read was a friend of Andrew’s who cried out that he survived war in Sudan to be killed by police in Canada.

It’s happening here folks. Close to home.

Do you have someone in your family who is Black? What about your favourite teacher? Or your high school sweetheart? A good friend, your dentist, your therapist, the great neighbours you grew up beside?  If these people matter to you what will you do to protect them?

I brought my body to the Black Lives Matter Toronto Die-in for Eric Garner back in December. And who did I see there? Black people.

For all the talk of how Multicultural our society is and for all the families I see that are multi-racial I wondered where were all the people whose cousins are Black, whose friend or lover or business partner is Black? Where were all the people who don’t have to carry skin colour as a burden? Why aren’t they here to help share lighten that burden for the people they care for?

How does this craziness end? By non-Black bodies saying enough – by standing their embodied with a physical presence in the moment to say I am here committed to this cause. Let those being targeted know that you get it that there is a hatred for Black bodies and that even in saying BLACK BODIES it allows a way for us to distance ourselves. Yes, all lives matter but at this time Black Lives are the ones at risk. So what are you going to do?

Because I want you to help protect my loved ones. I want you to help be the buffer that creates a circle of safety around the people I care about who need to be protected.

I want you to show up to Black LIves Matter events because when everyone shows up, not just those who are targeted, that will be how we change this thing.

This just came through my feed:

“For all you crying about this damn lion while it’s open season on black people but remain silent… I see you.”  ~ Dayna Danger

Don’t be that person.

#BlackLivesMatter Tonight in Ottawa
Friday, July 21 at 8:22 pm
Vigil for Sandra Bland
More info on the Facebook Event Page

Black Lives Matter Ottawa Coalition & Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition 

And for Eric Garner, Michael Brown Jr, Tanisha Martin, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin,

NATIONAL ABORIGINAL DAY: Celebrating women who are making a difference for Mixed Bag Mag’s coverage of the TRC

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Walk for Reconciliation Ottawa, Rideau Hall Ceremony for Survivors and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

There is always that one little girl, at whatever march or demonstration I am attending, that grabs my attention. I begin to follow along to her skips and steps in an effort to come close to the lightness she contains in her little being. She is at once a promise but also a ghost of all the other little spirits who came before her, with similar promise, but who didn’t make it.

It’s been a few weeks now since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had their final series of events here in Ottawa closing the process of investigating and documenting the Residential School experience on generations of Indigenous children in Canada. Much has been written and said about the TRC. As I attended the events each day I came to the realization that what I witnessing was going to best be expressed without the use of words so here I deliver a message through the images of women. Throughout the four days I ran into many friends and made some new ones. One thing was clear, that despite the heaviness of what we were participating in, there was a lightness contained inside each of the women who you see here and that lightness will continue on as a promise for a different type of tomorrow.

Below are women, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who are putting their energies into ensuring this country will be accountable to the children lost and to the children yet to arrive.

All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

REMEMBRANCE DAY OTTAWA: Monuments, Memory & the Cultural Amnesia Many Work to Change

Remembrance Day at the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument & the National War Memorial.

I will let my images speak for themselves. Information on the people who have served this country:


Above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

WHOLE LOT OF H’ART: A New Show of H’Art Ottawa Artists Opens at Ottawa Art Gallery

A whole lot of H’Art at Ottawa’s OAG.

Meeting with the Thursday Group of H’Art of Ottawa right before heading into the holiday weekend was a great idea. If anyone knows a thing or two about being thankful and present in a moment of appreciation it’s these women. Open arms welcoming me and lots of parting hugs as I said my goodbyes is what I got from the women who are part of one of the Ottawa Art Gallery’s current exhibits – Open Spaces.

It’s been a busy year for H’Art. Along with the show at OAG some other members are part of the Breaking Barriers show at the Diefenbunker. H’Art was also the inaugural show (Turning the Page) at the new Gallery 101 space and H’Art artist Irene Beck exhibited at SAW Gallery.

In Open Spaces each artist of H’Art’s Thursday group got a chance to dive into the online archives of the Firestone Collection for their inspiration. OAG is now the custodian of the collection that was begun by O.J. and Isobel Firestone, an Ottawa family that valued Canadian artists. They began collecting in the 1950s and their collection expanded to 1,600 works of art. The artists in the collection include names like Emily Carr, Paul-Émile Borduas, and Rita Letendre – names that show the diversity of background and style of artists working during the 20th Century in Canada. Rotating selections from the collection are always on view at Ottawa’s City Hall Art Gallery (the current home of the OAG Annex) and at OAG’s Firestone Gallery (where this exhibit is being held) but this show engages with the collection in a unique way. Each artist was asked to pull from the collection work that they would combine in a grouping with their own.

3 women dressed up at art opening

Curator Stephanie Nadeau (Curator of Public, Educational and Community Program at OAG) had already spent time volunteering with the women and had a strong rapport with the artists prior to the production of the show. Her special connection with the artists (Malinda Caron, Anna Coulombe, Jenny Francis, Carol Gregory, Christine Hammond, Jessie McComb, Debbie Ratcliffe, Alexa Vanveen, and Mandy Wellman) was evident the moment she stepped into the H’Art studio at the Bronson Studio last Thursday. It had only been a week since the opening but they expressed how much they were already missing Stephanie and her positive presence in their art practices.

Young woman holding a colourful painting of abstract feathers

Signature saying Jessie McComb

Under Stephanie’s guidance the women explored the digital archives to find works that spoke to them. Sometimes the searches were straightforward and other times more serendipitous. For Jessie McComb, who loves the ways ducks form V patterns as they fly, a random photo from a Google image search became part of her grouping that also includes works by Jacques de Tonnancour, A.J. Casson and AY Jackson. In a vitrine Jessie partnered Florence Wyle’s small plaster and iron casts Totem with her collection of rubber ducks. For her birds are the most beautiful thing and on Thursday she showed me a stunning new work of a circle of feathers looping back into each other.


Signature that says Jenny Marie Francis

An older work by Jenny Francis (The Smiling Pig) includes her signature motif of repetitive lines. The same lines are echoed in one piece she chose for her grouping – Norval Morriseau’s Bear-Fish. Jenny is a quiet spirit but her work is complicated and layered. Worlds inside worlds – you could spend hours exploring her visual vocabulary.


Signature that says Debbie Ratcliffe

Debbie Ratcliffe (aka “The Dragon Lady”) likes to construct elaborate narratives in her paintings that are informed by the novels she reads.  I love Debbie’s technique of grounding the images that build her story on top of an inky background. The way she renders her colourful compositions to involve her storytelling articulates her outgoing personality. What I found interesting about the choices she made was that for how detailed her own work is are she decided to pair her pianting with simple compositions – two paintings of landscapes (Alan Collier’s Near Squamish, B.C as well as H’Art artist Malinda Caron’s Mexico) and two paintings of homes (Alan Collier’s On the Spit, Homer, Alaska and Bay St. Lawrence, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia). For Debbie the image of a home is symbolic of life.

Collection of paintings on gallery wall

Signature that says Malinda

Malinda Caron selected an AY Jackson drawing of an iceberg because it made her recall a beautiful memory she had of seeing icebergs on a trip she took. It’s lovely piece that I have to say I much prefer over Jackson’s sketch! Malinda was really touched by her experience working with Stephanie, who she says is like a big sister. Along with working with her “big sister Steph” Malinda appreciates that each week she can create alongside her best friend of almost 15 years, Alexa Vanveen.

Signature that says Alexa

Alexa Vanveen’s way of engaging with the collection was to include a sound component. Some of the other ensembles include audio of the women sharing background about their work but here, in front of Alexa’s choices, she encourages us to have a seat and pause for awhile. Beatles tunes pump through the headphones while viewing Philip Surrey’s Listening to Music and three of Alexa’s own pieces – The Great Blueberry Pie, Strawberry Cheesecake with Lemon Squares and Music is My Life!

Relax for while and enjoy the space she has created for us to sit with the work.

Collection of paintings on gallery wall
Image of woman holding a colourful painting of butterflies

Signature that says Carol Gregory

Carol Gregory rediscovered her love of architecture and passion for buildings. As a child she was an avid reader on ancient architecture. Her choices from the Firestone Collection were works of small buildings against expansive horizons but in the works she produced after engaging with the collection she reflects the contemporary reality of how Canada has shifted from a rural population to an urbanized one. Her buildings are bigger and in Happy Day in Old Montreal the horizon is completely erased from view.

Signature that says Anna

Anna Coulombe is another H’Art collective artist who is interested in both landscapes and cityscapes. Her paintings are vibrant. She works with a gorgeous palette we don’t often see used to depict the landscape of Canada. I applaud Anna’s breaking with tradition and seeing the world through rainbow-coloured glasses! You can understand her selection of Marian Scott’s Quebec Fields from 1932 – kindred spirits connecting to each other through lines, form and most obviously colour!


Signature that says Mandy Wellman

Mandy Wellman asks us “Imagine that the sunset came close to you?” On the gallery wall beside her striking drawing of a section of the sun’s rays the question is written and posed to us. The work that she showed me at the studio was a collection of drawings on paper that incorporated great use of lines so it is of no surprise that she selected two Marian Scott works (Untitled, 1968 and Untitled, 1969) to partner with her own.

Signature that says Christine Hammond

The biggest hugger of the bunch is Christine Hammond and much like Debbie, she is a storyteller as much as she is a painter. Her paintings are filled with an array of animals going about their business. Illustrative in nature, she paints what she loves most! “I had a lion fetish as a kid and still do!”

One of the curatorial decisions Stephanie made with the assistance of the group was to have the signature of each artist cut in vinyl and placed on the wall. Another way that delineates each woman’s grouping is a band of colour at the base of the wall. Each artist decided on the colour that would represent them. A decision was also made to include audio of the women’s voices speaking to us about their practice, their passions, and their memories. The group process resulted in these meaningful details that allowed for each artist to mark the space in their own individual way resulting in nine distinct vignettes of nine wonderful women.

Before we left the studio that day the group presented Stephanie with a painting they knew she admired because it reminded her of organ pipes (Stephanie’s dad is in the organ business!). “Stephanie you are someone we trust more than anyone and you are always welcome here” Christine shared from her heart then the rest of the group chimed in with their praise for a woman who has become near and dear to them.

And along with their presentation to Stephanie came numerous farewell embraces. Through them and their process as artists we can learn a lot about warmth of the human spirit. Their openness and the generousity in the space they provide is both their asset in life and the gift they give to us.

Thank you Jessie, Jenny, Debbie, Malinda, Alexa, Carol, Anna, Mandy and Christine for a great morning!

Ladies – I will be back!

Open Spaces continues at the OAG until Jan 4, 2015.

Find out more about H’Art on their website as well as Facebook and twitter @HartStudioOtt.

Writing that says "Imagine if the sunset came close to you"

OTTAWA LOVE: New Opportunities with The Governor General’s Rideau Hall Foundation, CUAG & Michaëlle Jean’s The Power of the Arts

Diverse group of people standing in half circleRideau Hall Foundation Activators at Rideau Hall, Ottawa. 

In a word this past week has been tremendous! Last fall, on a hunch, I decided to visit Ottawa again after two great visits during the summer for Sakàhan at the National Gallery of Canada. I thought I would stay for just a month. Fast forward a year later and I have decided to make Ottawa my (more) permanent home (with regular visits back to my community in Toronto). The decision to stay has turned out to be a good one!

Now on Board at CUAG, Ottawa!

A week ago it was officially announced that I will be joining the Advisory Board for the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG). When I walked into CUAG for the first time last year to visit Rebecca Belmore’s What is Said and What is Done (literally minutes before it wrapped) I knew I loved what CUAG was up to! Since my arrival in Ottawa they have consistently hosted incredible shows with more amazing ones lined up for the fall season.

Older white man standing in front of podium

Activating Rideau Hall. 

This past weekend I was one of 40 people selected across Canada to be an
“activator” and take part in an incubator for the Governor General His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston’s legacy project Rideau Hall Foundation (Let’s Build Rideau Hall Foundation). As part of the branding team it was our mission to start to envision the key messages and look of the future RHF as well as how to get the word out to potential audiences. It was intense, exhausting and absolutely exhilarating because at the end of it all I realized how truly radical a space I was in. The leaders and co-creators I worked with are committed to building a New Canada that seeks to reconcile historical narratives that have been about exclusion and invisibility in order to grow as a country committed to deep diversity.

Presenting on Culture.

Yesterday I got word that I have been selected to present at the former Governor General Michaëlle Jean’s Power of the Arts Forum. I will be speaking on “THE CURATOR AS A 21ST CENTURY AGENT OF CHANGE: Assessing the role the institutional curator can play in facilitating deep cultural transformation in Canada.”

logo for Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG)

Also a big thank you to Ottawa Art Gallery for inviting me this past August to moderate the “Art as Resistance” Panel as part of the People’s Social Forum Ottawa. Another great experience.

And it doesn’t end there! A few more wonderful initiatives are in the works. Canada’s Capital City is full of Change Agents and Cultural Provocateurs. I have been fortunate to join such a wonderful community of talent!

I <3 #Ottawa!

Teepee on grass in front of river and view of Parliament BuildingsImage by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. Taken during Asinabka Film & Media Festival 2014.

 

PUBLIC ENEMY #1: ‘The Accidental Activists’ at Peoples Social Forum Ottawa

Poster on pole that says Defend Our Mother and has a colourful print of a woman holding a child.

Those who become environmental activists by choice and others by necessity.

There are those people that feel called to activism, like those called to religious service.

There are those people that find that because they have a certain professional skill set as well as a social conscious they have what it takes to make a career out of making change.

There are the crusaders, martyrs and wannabe saviours as well as a whole host of other self-serving archetypal personalities that show up to eat at the activist table.

There are those people who do it because there’s a certain kind of sex appeal to being a rebel.

Then there are the ‘accidental activists.’ These are the people who find themselves forced, by life situations, to take action.

Here are my portraits of the accidental activists I met at the Peoples Social Forum. These are the activists that the government would have you believe are Public Enemy #1 because they pose a threat to industry in Canada.

woman holding a shell with smoking sage, smudging with feather

When the Kokums (Grandmothers) and Elders spoke they didn’t talk about their professional credentials or their heroic acts of bravery. Their stories were crippling tales of physical pain brought on by toxic environments that lead to chronic diseases. They spoke about watching their loved ones die from cancers. They told us how landscapes that never experienced dramatic change became unfamiliar almost overnight once industry arrived on or around their reserves. They told us of forests becoming void of wildlife and water void of fish.

They have had to become activists out of necessity. Instead of living out their life on their land surrounded by their grandchildren they are caught up in legal battles, being placed in jail all the while fighting their own health struggles. Imagine the emotional drain of being an advocate for both your land and your body. Nothing is sovereign. Not even your health is self-determined.

Three women marching. One woman smiling and drumming on a traditional First Nations hand drum.

We get to forget the impact that our lifestyle choices have on communities that depend on the land in a different way than we do in urban settings.

As the Peoples Social Forum Canada ends in Ottawa I hope we can honour the stories these women and men shared and carry their work forward.

They have walked long and hard. Let’s pick up their burden.

Chi miigwetch for their relentless service to this planet.

Find out more about the Peoples Social Forum on the website.


Three women marching. One woman smiling and drumming on a traditional First Nations hand drum. Women standing on city street corner drumming and smilingWoman sitting wearing a t-shirt that says ZapatistasMan with long hair and pony tail smiling in crowd of men. One holding a video camera and microphoneMan holding a rolled up flag and smiling Young woman in an audience clappingYoung woman standing in an audience clappingwoman holding a shell with smoking sage, smudging with featherAbove images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

#IFTHEYGUNNEDMEDOWN: Words by Ottawa’s Poet Just Jamaal

Man speaking into microphone with armed raised up, woman taking a pic of him on cell phone with arm raised up in a salute

In the wake of Michael Brown’s murder the world needs words of grace as an antidote to the hate.

The first time I heard Jamaal Jackson Rogers (Just Jamaal) was while I was busy waiting for a bus. His words made me pause, maybe even let a bus or two go by, because they were too beautiful to ignore. A crowd gathered and stayed in place. More people stopped and stood still. Magic.

Man speaking into microphone outside by tent on sidewalk, crowd gathered around him

Screen capture of tweets by black men showing wish image the media would use if they were gunned down by the police

The poem was BE and it was written by Jamaal along with Nathanael Larochette and Ali Alikhani

People may think they ‘know’ someone based on a quick assessment while sizing up clothing, body language and skin colour.

The #IfTheyGunnedMeDown twitter campaign is about demonstrating that you may not get the full picture of another human being in one quick glance, especially if that glance is informed by racism and media who continue to hype stereotypes and feed the beast.

Below I include Jamaal’s photographic choices for #IfTheyGunnedMeDown along with the first words I heard drop from his lips, mesmerize a crowd and inspire a gathering of souls. I have also included Jamaal’s poem to his young nephew, his own words in response to the slaying of Michael Brown.

Man performing with two other black men, black man on right puts his arm around an older black womanLeft – Jamaal performs. Right – Jamaal puts his arm around his late mother. 

Follow Just Jamaal The Poet on Facebook and twitter @JustJamaalPoet.

BE by Jamaal Jackson Rogers / Ali Alikhani / Nathanael Larochette

You are told in so many subtle and discrete ways that you are not worthy of love, of joy, and after a while, you begin to believe it
And you tell yourself that you are not worthy of being loved, of living each moment on the cusp of joy, and the brink of possibility
Be reminded
That you are worth more than a sea of diamonds or any earthly treasure
Be reminded
That you are worthy of love
Of  joy
Of being loved
Copiously and unapologetically
Be reminded
You are the flowerbed, love is the water, so drink, and dance and sing
For you are the only being in the history of existence to have traveled your uniquely specific journey
No other soul has, or will ever experience what you have
When the universe opened its eyes, it made every effort to save a sacred spiritual voyage it was certain only you could navigate
From birth canal to a canvas you came to be
Like the thickness of earth-green oil pastels on a white blanket
Marking the world with marvelous strokes that hold no mistakes
Because every stroke and every pose that you chose is an act of faith
Like a child colouring their dreams into existence
To create understanding through the precision of persistence
In that first cosmic breath, a microscopic adventure of galactic proportions began
And in this world of consequences and physics, smoke and magic
You are walking, talking mirrors
Majestic reflections that do not need the power of the sun to illuminate perfection
So flow strong, but flow light
And bathe in the beauty of a new day
Tomorrow is a breathe away so inhale each moment
Come home, but come whole
Be the place where mind, matter and spirit become grown
Be reminded
Truth is the only existence. Love, the only power
Because love can only exist in truth
For truth is inarguable
As love is infallible
For you are impeccable
As life is invaluable
So be the drops that make up the crest of ocean waves
Be the blessing of shade in the sun’s hopeful rays
Be the words to the greatest story ever told
On the scale of infinity, be the impossible notes
Be the light immeasurable
Be the endless fields of pre-eternity tasting this one moment of now
Be the breath
The dust
The rock
The star
The earth
The birth
The child
The call
Abandon all limitations of being
For they are of your own weaving
Explore every crevice that is your very own chasm of opportunity
And be in awe when at last you discover
That this life was tailored to suit you alone
And no other
And even if you forget that all of this is true
I will always remember
To say this prayer
For you


NEW POEM ONE DAY ISHMAEL | August 12. 2014 by Jamaal Jackson Rogers

Today.
As the children flooded my home to play.
Right before it began to rain. I had a moment.
It was with my nephew.
He looked at me.
With his busted lip from taking a trip in soccer.
I asked him how it happened.
Just to hear his kind voice speak.
A sound I don’t hear much of in the world anymore.
And he told me.
He fell down trying to trap a ball.
At his other uncles house around the way.
I looked into his gentle eyes.
And he stared right back.
The way only he does.
I didn’t respond.
Cus his eyes trapped me.
With much more success than his failed attempt.
I swear to you he is the sweetest child.
And his parents are just as good.
But in that moment.
The moment I had taken to break from reading news about the murder of #MikeBrown.
The moment I had taken to engage my home full of beautiful brown skinned children.
I realized that.
For all the kindness that is part of my teaching.
In my safe space.
In my home day care.
These children.
My family.
Will still grow up victims.
Targets of rage.
For the colour of their skin.
The simple fact of melanin difference.
And for the first time. In my peaceful home.
I felt as if it had been invaded.
By an evil so frightening that it could destroy my faith in humanity completely.
Prejudice.
Arrogance.
Hate.
I knew that there would be no place for him to run away.
No safe space for him to find peaceful stay.
His eyes told me more than I hoped for.
It told me that one day he may not come to my house with a busted lip from playing soccer.
One day.
He may lie in front of this house with a busted lip from running into coppers.
I looked at him.
And then at the picture of a slain young man on my newsfeed.
I closed the computer doors so that he could not see the image on my screen.
And all I could say was, “Ishmael, you’re going to be okay.”

#IfTheyGunnedMeDown

#JusticeForMichaelBrown

#MikeBrown

#Ferguson

#BlackLivesMatter

Young black man smiling takes a selfie in mirror holding little boy smiling at him. Screen capture of twitter image. At the top a title says This is Michael Brown.

 

WATER: A Human Right AND Responsibility, River Run Walk for Grassy Narrows in Toronto

First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in background

Our culture around water shows we are entering a spiritual drought.  

We say that clean water is a Human Right. Well, some say. The CEO of Nestlé thinks otherwise and it’s this type of reasoning that has created a situation where I wonder if we have gone past the point of no return.

First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in background

First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in background

First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in backgroundLast week I walked with those in support of Grassy Narrows and the River Run Walk. I had this moment where the absurdity of walking for water hit me. Walking in support of the right to clean water is like walking in support of the children of Gaza to live a peaceful life. It makes no sense. The protection of water, what we need to survive, and the protection of children, the ones who will carry forth our DNA into the future, should be our absolute priority. I remember my pride at one of my first primary school projects. It was about the affects of acid rain on our environment. I was 7 years old at the time and in somewhat sloppy printing writing out the facts (found in my Chickadee Magazine) about how unregulated industries were causing dirty rain to fall from the sky. In my childhood naivety I believed that if I shared this information with my teacher, an adult, people would surely change.

Former Treaty #3 Grand Chief Steve Fobister, who suffers from the effects ALS, ends his hunger strike in order to live to fight on.

Grassy Narrows is a reserve in Northern Ontario. The people have been suffering under the impact of corporate negligence my enter lifetime. Last week in Toronto many people came together for the River Run Walk in support of Grassy Narrow (Asubpeeschoseewagong) First Nation and Chief Steve Fobister’s end of his hunger strike. The evening before, Ryerson University hosted a public forum on Indigenous Rights & Water that included Stephen Lewis as well as Anishinaabe writer Leanne Simpson.

Leanne writes in an article for the CBC:

“…for eight years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a paper mill in Dryden, Ont., dumped 20,000 pounds of mercury into the English-Wabigoon River, the lifeblood of local Anishinaabe people.

The impacts of this contamination are still being felt in the bodies, hearts and minds of the people of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows), Wabaseemoong (Whitedog) and Wabauskang First Nations.

Forty years later, the mercury is not out of the ecosystem and it is still causing severe health impacts on the land and in the bodies of the people.

Unfortunately, this is not the only poison these communities are facing. Their territory is regularly sprayed with pesticides for new tree plantations after deforestation. Their rivers are still being polluted with pulp mill effluent, and their trap lines, hunting grounds and ceremonial spots are also being clear-cut.” Read more…

First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in background

Not even a week after the walk, my facebook feed confronts me with another disaster. In Likely, British Columbia “toxic slurry from the pond – equivalent to 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools” has leached into a river.

The war the Anishinaabeg people of Grassy Narrow are fighting needs to be the fight of all Canadians. It’s the only way.

Find out how you can support Grassy Narrows by visiting Free Grassy Narrow’s website.

#FreeGrassy
#RiverRun

Join Grassy Narrows Facebook Group.

MORE RESOURCES:
Rabble:Steve Fobister Sr. ends his hunger strike to live on to fight for Grassy Narrows

CBC: Grassy Narrows loses Supreme Court logging rights decision: Top court finds province of Ontario, not First Nation or federal government, has jurisdiction over logging
First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in background
First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in backgroundAbove images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.