The incidents in Ferguson might be likened to a case of lethal domestic violence. A misunderstanding, which instead of being talked out, led to a killing. And in the wake of the killing, as the family began to voice it’s pain and outrage and demand that there be justice, tragedy only deepened. The killer was a member of a state sanctioned gang. The killers gang members gathered all of their weapons and surrounded the community as they expressed their grief and threatened them – pointing guns from every side demanding silence. The family mayor said “Shhhh…we always get along, there is no real problem here”. And then without warning they turned on physiologically deafening 160 dB LRAD audio weaponry, began shooting war banned chemical weapons indiscriminately into the family (yes tear gas is banned in war by US signed treaties), began shooting “less lethal” bullets, plastic, wooden and bean bag indiscriminately into the family (all of which have killed US citizens and been banned in other communities), pointed sniper guns with live ammo onto citizens verbally threatening to kill them, chased them into dead end alleyways, went after them with dogs, insisting they stop expressing themselves and disperse. They climbed into armored vehicles and raced them through the fleeing crowds of family members.
This is the description of a gang of bullies backing up a perpetrator of domestic violence. But it didn’t stop there. They had effectively threatened and diminished the fundamental right of human beings and a community to freely express their pain and outrage. By making this expression of pain life threatening, they insured it’s chances of becoming an intergenerational disabling trauma. They insured the sight of their gang would deepen the visceral terror felt in the prescence of killers who know impunity. They demanded that the grief and outrage be expressed on the gangs terms. They demanded that even in grief the family be obedient to it’s terrorists.
Other families and communities heard the cries and many who heard responded and came to bear witness. The cry of pain was so strong and so clear people travelled from all of the continents of earth to bear witness to this pain.
The gang insisted this was a family matter and that it must be dealt with without interference. Witnesses were gassed and shot at, arrested in restaurants, knocked to the ground, kneed in the back and arrested for asking questions, corralled into holding pens, and had all their cell devices disconnected before the most violent gang attacks at the expressions of the wounded family. Witnesses without gang approved credentials were told they could not exist as witnesses. The gang called in backups from bigger gangs who had given them many of their weapons. The family was given a day to feel itself, on a Sunday, and began to strengthen. The gang decided they could not be allowed time to strengthen and insisted that they must walk, that they could not assemble as a family, they must walk, 5 seconds the longest they could stand still. Suddenly rules were changed and at the slightest whim the family was subject to attack over and over and over again. The family was told it was being punished for allowing those from outside who have heard your pain to be among you. The whole family would be punished if one among them acted out of the prescribed lines. At the slightest provocation, such as the tossing of a water bottle, the whole family was repunished.
The family was not a stranger to this violence. Just down the road lies the grave of Dred Scott who had once appealed to the heart of the gangs elder wise men to recognize his humanity as a free black man. The Supreme Court of the gang had ruled that the country was set up for property owning white men and so as a black man he had no rights that a white man was bound to respect. The gang members had started a war with each other over that and with their newly crafted guns killed each other more successfully than humans had ever killed each other before. The family had survived 100’s of years of such ignorance and it’s violations. The family knew about the heart. A shrine to Mike Brown was built over the place his blood has poured into the Earth. Grandmothers let out a call 4 & 5 times a day and circled people into song & prayer, young men & women wrote poems and rapped them to the beats of their feet walking on the stones. Grandfathers called out the truths of their hearts and let the witnesses record their truths. Young women & men faced the guns and spoke their truth hands raised… HandsUpDontShoot! Those with unconsolable grief and outrage were touched with love. The people fortified each other with NoJusticeNoPeace! Young citizens realized they knew the cost of freedom and they could not live without paying it, even if it meant death. Rights of existence cannot be asked for, they must be claimed. The people rinsed each others faces from the burning gas. They bound bullet wounds and helped each other find medical help. The people found each other. The poverty of soul endured by the gang members code of silence around their violations was obvious. The people had each other. Their burning and righteous light was shining around the world visible to those with eyes to see, audible for those with ears and hearts to hear, opening for those with hands to hold on to one another. The flame of righteous life burned bright. At times it had to burn down the known but it was burning. The flames of transformation are sometimes all that exists to hold onto. In those moments of eyes meeting one another – there was just enough – to be more than enough. And the family rejoined in the cries… JustUsMikeBrown!
This militaristic gangsterism, masquerading as a government, revealed itself as all too willing to violate the people and their most fundamental rights of existence, expression, witness and safety from harm. The family is waking up. Other families are awakening. We have hard truths & good work to face together.
Photos from Thursday August 18th Ferguson Solidarity – Martin Luther King Jr Blvd – Portland Police Dekum Police Station – Demanding Mayor Hales and Police Chief Reese – condemn militarized police response in Ferguson
Photos from a Citizen gathering in Portland OR on August 21st, National Day of Outrage in Solidarity with the peoples of #Ferguson and all Human Beings suffering State Terrorism – Portland OR (Pioneer Square – Federal Justice Center – Portland Police Dept).
Ferguson has revealed our need to use our ears to hear, our hearts to feel, our hands to hold one another, our minds to rethink – knowing our human family to be in crisis – this is a time to stretch beyond our comfort zones…
How are we writing the next chapter in this… our story?
Love and Strength to US
Check Back — will add a reading list soon…
Magic and Majesty of Mountain light on the crest of the Cascades.
Gratitudes for being able to share in the beauty. To be able to receive the gift of wild foods, waters, lights, air & songs.
It is strange to be up in the huckleberry fields amidst an abundance of whitebark pine forest with no bears. Oddly this prime grizzly bear habitat had the last bear exterminated by humans over 80 years ago. Black bears have not filled in their place… no bear aware restrictions despite fields of huckleberry so dense we never left sight of camp while harvesting. The whole system is weakened by the absence of the grizzly and there is an unnatural quiet felt.
Ecological awareness can be bittersweet. Thankful the wolves are returning and hope we can allow the grizzly to continue to follow and return to these landscapes where they have suffered removals.
The forests of the Cascades were protected with a vision of keeping intact corridors for ecosystem communication. The Grizzly has made it down from the North Cascades to I-90, which is a barrier to southern emigration. We have heard rumors of signs of them down to the Columbia Gorge where I-84 is a second obstacle. We need to build under and overpasses for the wild ones to cross such barriers.
Did hear an inspiring story along the trail – Of a fellow who was passing by on his walk from Mexico to Canada. He served in two tours in the Middle East and then lost his pregnant wife in a car accident. He was drinking himself to death and decided to walk. The walk through the mountains saving his life.
May he and we keep strong with the Earth as we find balance in facing the forces, which have been destroying her. Thanks for listening good people.
One of the great cultural musical treasures that lives among the people here in Cascadia is the music of Zimbabwe. And one of its beautiful manifestations has become the annual ZimFest – organized and created by a shifting group of volunteers – usually hosted on a University Campus. Festivals have happened over the last 24 years in Washington, Oregon, California, British Columbia, Colorado and Idaho. This year’s festival was held at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma on land ceded by the Duwamish people.
The first time we heard the music was in 1979 upon arrival at the Evergreen State College. Dumisani Maraire, the man who brought the music to the region, while an ethnomusicology student at the University of Washington, had a hard working touring band that was playing outdoors. We danced deep into the night… brought out conga drums and joined in drumming among the dancers… when not dancing myself. We will never forget Dumi invoking the spirit to be upon the people and the way people opened themselves to the spirit, dancing as one together through the night. I have rarely experienced people directly on the earth with one heart and mind dancing together with the music with such passion. Though Dumi and his 1st wife Mai Chi, Linda Nemarundwe / Maraire have passed on, many who played and danced to his music are keeping it going, and adding to the depths and horizons, while new generations join in.
The music has earth harmonics that connect it with Cascadia. While performing once in Victoria BC on Vancouver Island a fellow who had come to dance shared how he was from Cornwall in Great Britain (where much of my family immigrated out of in the 1830’s) and that each spring he would camp out at Land’s End to be first witness to the return of the swallows who migrate back from overwintering in Zimbabwe. The first mbira huru or chakwi instrument I obtained, at a ZimFest in Eugene, was made by Chris Mhlanga, who later participated in a project in Wales celebrating the communication between the landscapes by the swallows (Soft Earth Landings). We were later able to host him on a tour through Cascadia. Gardening books from that region of Great Britain can be used here in the maritime edge of Cascadia we share such a similar climate.
Maritime Cascadia is deeply informed by water… and much of Shona mbira music is informed by the Njuzu, water spirits together with the love of ancestors. In this spirit we have experienced the music as a way of aligning ourselves with waters, which are at the core of who we are and what sustains the lives of all we live among.
Here are some highlights from a part of this year’s festival.
Nhapitapi joined the festival traveling from Toronto, Canada carrying a fresh youthful feel… (Click on any picture to open up the full size gallery)
Njuzu mbira includes Marian… who first heard Dumi in Oregon and asked him what it would take to get a group going… which led to the formation of Boka Marimba… which is one of the hottest bands in the genre playing to this day… Njuzu has a way of trusting the music and allowing it to build into what have often been among the strongest mbira performances at the festival
ZiMbira opened up the Saturday night show with an incredible sound and lots of guests – fusing a wide diversity of instrumentations and voices around mbira stylings… A highlight was the sharing of a composition by Chiwoniso, eldest daughter of Dumi & Mai Chi Maraire, who tragically passed a year ago, at the height of a successful musical career (topping charts in Zimbabwe and in Europe). As a young girl she quickly demonstrated her innovations with the music and was the star in a movie about challenges of women in protecting themselves from HIV in Africa.
Sarungano based on Whidbey Island brought out some beautiful accapella traditional singing…
Cosmas Magaya has taken on the role of musical father for Zimbabwean music on Turtle Island… he has been one of the rare musicians able to travel between Zimbabwe and the USA almost every year… The US government does not make it easy to nourish peace building cultural exchange and we are thankful for the hard work all the folks in Eugene and elsewhere have done to help make this happen. Something special was going on with peoples feet while he played.
Cosmas Magaya & Friends “Ready to Fly”
Sheree Seretse – as MC, got folks to put on new dance moves during set changes…
Bongo Love has really matured their sound, a rare treat traveling from Zimbabwe once again, exuding an amazing amount of pure joy…
Kurai “Blessing” Mubaiwa never fails to expand our imaginations of what is possible in the music when he performs… and he held true this year…
Zambuko may be the only all African American marimba band on Turtle Island… they had a bunch of fun stirring up the music including the Mapfumo classic Nyoko Musongo…
This is only a tease of a much bigger festival with lots of incredible music, musicians and dancers.
Many thanks to all the good people who give so freely of themselves to nourish this annual festival. Always feel a bit more human after dancing with the people.
If you want to explore the music or learn mbira – mbira.org supports musicians and instrument makers living in Zimbabwe. They make available the finest of instruments and traditional mbira musicians music. Prices are a bit high but all the profits go directly to the folks in Zimbabwe. Always great to be able to support the hearts of the music so directly.
Wandering along Commencement Bay searching for bathing beaches we came upon this monument to healing and reconciliation… bringing to light a pogram against Chinese workers led by the Mayor of Tacoma in the 1880’s… Realizing unfinished work needed to be done in the 1990’s this monument was a part of entering a journey of reconciliation… Beautiful Monument to the Work of truth telling & healing supported by Fushou, Tacoma’s sister City in China. Here is a slide show of the informational panels
Other memorials exist in Cascadia such as this. Portland’s Waterfront park has a memorial dedicated to the internment of Japanese Americans during WW II. Centralia has a Memorial to those who died in the 1919 Massacre of International Workers of the World Unionists. It seems we need to begin this work at a deeper level of facing the colonial legacies in the landscape as well. Perhaps you know of one? Where near you is an unhealed history which deserves this kind of attention? The movement to restore First Nations names to places of geography is one of the ways in which colonial legacies are being repaired in the First Nations Sovereignty movement.