Thursday, July 31, 2008

Family Camp and Traditional Powwow

Wiconi's 5th Annual Mni Wiconi Wacipi – Living Waters Powwow and Family Camp starts on Thursday, July 31 in Turner, Oregon.

July 31st - August 3rd 2008
Turner (Salem), Oregon
4th Annual Mni Wiconi Wacipi
(Living Waters) Family Camp and Traditional Powwow
Worship, native speakers and fellowship, plus an all day powwow on Saturday

For all of you Portland/Vancouver metro types, please join them this Saturday for their all day traditional inter-tribal powwow. They have 85 young people attending this year – their most ever! They send a huge "thank you" to those who helped sponsor a Native family with a scholarship to attend this year.

Jacob Trevizo designed a beautiful poster for this years powwow. I mean, it’s a beauty! You can look at it at their website under "family camp.” For the month of August ONLY, they are offering t-shirts with the beautiful artwork for sale. The T-shirts will be $20.00 plus shipping and must be prepaid. They come in all sizes, but only one color, light blue. Call the office for ordering details. We’ll have it posted next week on our shopping cart.

Monday, July 28, 2008

When silence ends

Not long ago I made the decision to share a personal journey that before now had been something I kept very private. Since I posted this a few weeks ago I've thought that more than just the small group of folks who read my blog might get something they can take away from this.

Why am I writing this? Because I have been silent on this topic for far too long, keeping this part of myself intimate and private. It’s not only because of recent attacks on my cultural identity that have prompted the need for me to speak out, though they were certainly a catalyst for the timing of my decision to do so. Nor is this just about me alone. What I say today, the stance I take, not only effects myself and my children, but anyone else who may be afraid to speak the intimate truths behind their own identity.

It’s never easy to know where to begin when you are dealing with such a deep a private topic as this is for me, but after giving it much thought I’ve decided to start with why I identify as Cherokee, when most look at me and assume I’m white. That is a simple answer really.

My grandfather grew up in Tennessee, far from any connection to the people of his mother, and often abused and ridiculed for being half Cherokee in a white man’s land. He dealt with this as many like himself did, by renouncing his Indian blood, and doing his best to fit in among white society. I know little of this time. He never spoke of his childhood, and my grandmother ordered me never to speak of his Cherokee heritage at all, to him or to others. She insisted any reminder would only cause him pain.

My grandmother cut my hair short, and dressed me in clothing unfit for play, all in the name of passing, to make me fit into white society. This same lesson she forced on my mother before me, the same game of pretend taught my beautiful mother to hide her shiny black hair, to wear glasses that downplayed the crescent curve of her eyes.

My grandfather was everything to me. He was my protector and my best friend. I would have done nothing to cause him pain. I’d have rather died then had him turn away from me. According to my grandmother my mother would bring his shame and disgust upon herself if he ever saw the image of his mother people in his daughter’s face. This fear of his revulsion was eventually passed down to me, too.

I won’t say I was the best student of these lessons. The more I was pushed away from any information about my grandfather’s people growing up, the more the urge to learn everything I could gripped me. This meant without proper guidance I learned many inaccurate things I am even to this day purging from my mental texts. And still with all my thirst to know, I never once asked my grandfather anything.

When I was nineteen my grandfather died. I remember running to his room as if called there, in a panic, and watching him fade away, struggling against the convulsions that shook his face and shoulders. I felt his touch deeper in that moment than I can explain, and I knew, knew that I had been a fool to listen to her, knew all this time that it had been my grandmother’s own hate that had not only silenced my questions, but silenced the stories that he’d wanted to tell me. In that moment I knew the truth and it changed everything.

I remember the funeral. I remember hating the people at the funeral home when I saw my grandfather’s body in the casket. The make-up they’d used was so pale, seeing it tore at my heart and I couldn’t bear to touch him, and still everyone kept saying “oh it looks so natural.” I hated them too then. He didn’t look natural. The makeup was one more attempt by my grandmother to hide my Cherokee grandfather under a white man’s shell.

I left as soon after as I could afford to, came back to live up north again, closer to my mother. After his death I stepped forward to claim what the mistreatment of other people had made him leave behind. Every application, every form of any kind that asked for race, I proudly marked Native American. In my family the only love and compassion I’d ever felt had been from my grandfather and mother, those linked to my though our Cherokee blood.

I felt no connection to my racist grandmother, or my absent father, None of the kin from either my father or grandmother’s side ever showed any interest in me or my mother. It was as if we three, my mother, grandfather, and I stood alone together. And at the moment I released that no matter what we’d done, what we’d given up to fit in with the whites in the family, nothing ever changed. We three still stood apart from them, forever different from the rest, seen as less in their eyes for those differences. And in many ways I found peace in those differences, in the understanding that we three were connected in way they could never understand.

I spend years learning what I could where I could, double and triple checking each bit of information best I could. With him gone and my mother wrapped up in her own drama after his death I went on alone. I don’t know how many time I feared my fair skin would forever doom me to remain alone, how many times I looked in the mirror and hated the orange skin that make me as neither white nor Indian, how many time I wished I would wake up to the beautiful copper brown skin everyone thought I should have.

Of course that was a ridiculous wish, but understanding why I was looked on with mistrust and resentment often made that desire difficult to brush aside. I knew about the fad of the 70s when everyone wanted to be Indian, as if that was the only way they could find a connection to the earth. I resented the charlatans myself not only because they stole the culture of others to make a buck, but that because of them it was rare to find a teacher in the ways of my ancestors.

As I became more comfortable with my own identity, however, the teachers found me. There are a great many things that I learned from elders not just of my own tribe, but others who fell drawn to share with me hidden knowledge. I hold what I have learned close to my heart, knowing most of it I can neither teach, talk about or even write. Just as, within the Dianic tradition there are rites and lessons I can not talk, teach, or write about as well. Breaking those vows would be an unspeakable wrong, so I still look upon those thieves and liars that have broken such promises with rage. It is they that taint the pride of those lost to the tribes, and we have to suffer for their action while they make their money without a care.

In the end this is not about the perception of others, but simply the truths within my own journey of self discovery. Many things have happened in this journey. One of the events I am most proud of was the earning of my name. Moondancer wasn’t a name I simply chose. When I was told I had to seek my name on my own I spend six years trying everything form of meditation I could find to make this happen. Sure, I had known it wouldn’t be easy, but after facing years of pain, frustration, and self blame I thought there was something wrong with me, that I couldn’t read the omens or that my ancestors didn’t want to give me a name. I even thought I had done something wrong and they were angry with me.

And then, as easy as you please, it came to me in a very vivid dream, dreams like I used to have when I was young before the abuse of my grandmother made me doubt my own magic. I had forgotten then, forgotten how connected to dreams I had always been. The same dreams that now bring me more story ideas than I think I could write in a lifetime. Perhaps if I had know to trust that gift back then, it wouldn’t have taken me six years to begin to learn who Moondancer really was.

I know Moondancer now. I am proud of who I am far beyond my cultural identity, but just as much because of it. I wear what I wear because I like it, it speaks about who I am, not just one aspect of me. I do not need to wear a false face, because in truth the body I live in now is just right for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present
By Harriet A. Washington.
Doubleday. Random House
512 pages
Published: January 9, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-385-50993-0 (0-385-50993-6)

I swear! This book just makes one cry, weep, shake one's head, get seriously angy.
Here's the blurb:

From the era of slavery to the present day, the first full history of black America’s shocking mistreatment as unwilling and unwitting experimental subjects at the hands of the medical establishment.

Medical Apartheid is the first and only comprehensive history of medical experimentation on African Americans. Starting with the earliest encounters between black Americans and Western medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience that resulted, it details the ways both slaves and freedmen were used in hospitals for experiments conducted without their knowledge—a tradition that continues today within some black populations. It reveals how blacks have historically been prey to grave-robbing as well as unauthorized autopsies and dissections. Moving into the twentieth century, it shows how the pseudoscience of eugenics and social Darwinism was used to justify experimental exploitation and shoddy medical treatment of blacks, and the view that they were biologically inferior, oversexed, and unfit for adult responsibilities. Shocking new details about the government’s notorious Tuskegee experiment are revealed, as are similar, less-well-known medical atrocities conducted by the government, the armed forces, prisons, and private institutions.
The product of years of prodigious research into medical journals and experimental reports long undisturbed, Medical Apartheid reveals the hidden underbelly of scientific research and makes possible, for the first time, an understanding of the roots of the African American health deficit. At last, it provides the fullest possible context for comprehending the behavioral fallout that has caused black Americans to view researchers—and indeed the whole medical establishment—with such deep distrust. No one concerned with issues of public health and racial justice can afford not to read Medical Apartheid, a masterful book that will stir up both controversy and long-needed debate.

Here's the interview on Democracy Now:

Here's a review at motherjones

Here's a review from blackeducator blog

Here is her bio from random house website:
HARRIET A. WASHINGTON has been a fellow in ethics at the Harvard Medical School, a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a senior research scholar at the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University. As a journalist and editor, she has worked for USA Today and several other publications, been a Knight Fellow at Stanford University and has written for such academic forums as the Harvard Public Health Review and The New England Journal of Medicine. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards for her work. Washington lives in
New York City.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Island of Eternal Love

The Island of Eternal Love
Daina Chaviano
Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA)
Jun. 2008. c.336p.
tr. from Spanish by Andrea Labinger.
ISBN 978-1-59448-992-1. $25.95. F

This is the Blurb over at the Penguin Site:

Cecilia is alone in a city that haunts her. Life in Miami evokes memories of Cuba: a scent in the breeze like the sea at the Malecón; the beat of a clave recalls island evenings when couples danced to forgotten rhythms. Far from her family, her history, and her home, Cecilia seeks refuge in a bar in Little Havana, where a mysterious old woman’s fascinating tale keeps her returning night after night.
It is a story of three families from opposite corners of the world—from Africa, Spain, and China—that spans more than a century. Within it, a Chinese widow seeks protection for her daughter in her family’s idols; an African slave brings the rhythms of her birth to an enchanted island; and a curse dances before the female descendants of a charmed Spanish matriarch, forming the mythic origins of one family’s indestructible bond. The connection strengthens with each generation into a legendary, unbreakable love. Under the story’s heady sway, Cecilia begins to discover the source of the elusive shadows that plague her and, along with it, a link to the past she cannot shake.

From Daína Chaviano, a distinctive literary voice available to English-speaking readers for the first time, comes this multifaceted portrait of the Cuba of this century. As haunting as it is tantalizing, The Island of Eternal Love is an ambitious, provocative, and magical novel that uncovers the secrets of a woman, a family, and an island—all in one spellbinding tale.

The novel was awarded the Gold Medal in Best Book in Spanish Language during the Florida Book Awards 2007. The Island of Eternal Love has been translated into 21 languages and is the most translated Cuban novel of all time.

Black and Beautiful but Invisible

Interview with Kadiatu Kamara the face of the Mahogany campaign , “Black And Beautiful But Invisible:

Black in America program on CNN

"Did you know that companies in the US have said they would hire a white man with a felony record and no high school education BEFORE they would hire a black man with NO criminal record and a 4-year degree?"

On July 23 and July 24 at 9pm, CNN will premier a series, 'Black in America with Soledad O'Brien'

The aforementioned statistic and many others will be revealed during the series. Racism is alive and well in America.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sweet Mandarin by Helen Tse

Sweet Mandarin:
The Courageous True Story of Three Generations of Chinese Women and Their Journey from East to West
by Helen Tse
St. Martin's Press
Biographies/Memoirs, 288 pp.

Here's the blurb from Thomas Dunne books website

About the Book

Spanning almost a hundred years, this rich and evocative memoir recounts the lives of three generations of remarkable Chinese women.

Their extraordinary journey takes us from the brutal poverty of village life in mainland China, to newly prosperous 1930s Hong Kong and finally to the UK. Their lives were as dramatic as the times they lived through.

A love of food and a talent for cooking pulled each generation through the most devastating of upheavals. Helen Tse's grandmother, Lily Kwok, was forced to work as an amah after the violent murder of her father. Crossing the ocean from Hong Kong in the 1950s, Lily honed her famous chicken curry recipe. Eventually she opened one of Manchester's earliest Chinese restaurants where her daughter, Mabel, worked from the tender age of nine. But gambling and the Triads were pervasive in the Chinese immigrant community, and tragically they lost the restaurant. It was up to author Helen and her sisters, the third generation of these exceptional women, to re-establish their grandmother's dream. The legacy lived on when the sisters opened their award-winning restaurant Sweet Mandarin in 2004.

Sweet Mandarin shows how the most important inheritance is wisdom, and how recipes--passed down the female line--can be the most valuable heirloom.

Here are a few reviews on book browse

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Two nominations for Wind Follower

I told you earlier that Wind Follower was up for a nomination for the Clive Staples Award. Now I just found out that it's also been chosen as a nominee for the 2008 Pluto award. Nice, uh?

It's the first year for the Clive Staples and the second year for the Pluto. Clive Staples Awards are for speculative fiction books that have a Christian worldview.

I don't really know the guidelines for the Pluto

These are the nominees for the Clive Staples:

Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet (WaterBrook)
Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee (NavPress)
DragonFire by Donita K. Paul (Waterbrook)
Father of Dragons by L.B. Graham (P&R)
Fearless by Robin Parrish (Bethany House)
Flashpoint by Frank Creed (The Writers Cafe Press)
Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson (Thomas Nelson)
Landon Snow and the Volucer Dragon by Randy Mortenson (Barbour)
The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka (Harvest House)
The Restorer by Sharon Hinck (NavPress)
The Restorer’s Son by Sharon Hinck (NavPress)
Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead (Thomas Nelson)
A Wine Red Silence by George L. Duncan (Capstone Fiction)
Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell (Juno Books)

These are the nominees for the Pluto:

FLASHPOINT by Frank Creed
THE LION VRIE by Christopher Hopper
BLUE by Melanie Budiarto
IN EXILE by Joanne Hall
SHEPHERD'S QUEST by Brian S. Pratt
WIND FOLLOWER by Carole McDonnell
TAU 4 by V. J. Waks
VIRTUAL EVIL by Jana G. Oliver
TIME MASTERS: THE CALL by Geralyn Beauchamp
QUEST'S END by Brian S. Pratt
MASON'S LINK by Bill Andrews

It really is an honor just to be included among these great stories. Good luck and blessings to all!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

MEJI by Milton Davis

Meji by Milton Davis

Meji by Milton Davis is a story of two brothers separated from birth. Two kingdoms live side-by-side in uneasy harmony on the continent of Uhuru. Inkosi Dingane, the upstart king of one kingdom is a warrior who is expecting his first son. Unfortunately, his beloved wife, Great Wife Shani, gives birth to twins. In Sesu, Dingane's land, this is a terrible taboo. (It doesn't help matters that his evil spirit advisor fears the prophecy that one of the twins will kill him.) However, the other kingdom, Mawena, sees twins as a blessing. Luckily the Chief Wife is from this kingdom. She sends her twins with a trusted warrior to her own homeland. Her husband pursues the warrior and retrieves one of the twins, believing (or hoping to believe) that the other child is dead.

Both boys grow up with varying degree of knowledge about their histories. In Sesu, gossip abounds around Ndoro because everyone knows he was born a twin. In Mawena, Obaseki has to deal with alienation because he has a gift that makes people uncomfortable. Both boys are not whole until they meet and they feel that something is missing from their lives. Through trial and obstacle they are fated to meet again and to restore their kingdoms and set the world to rights.

This is a self-published story which is quite well-written and which has a truly folkloric feel. It belongs to the category of fantasy first created by Charles Saunders with his Imaro books, a category called Sword and Soul -- as opposed to the high fantasy term Sword and Sorcery.

The book is both an easy and a hard read. It's easy to read because the story moves quickly and the breathless plotting begins from the first page. Lovers of fantasy, myth, and even children's literature will love this. But on the other hand, the reader is plunged into a world where different names, different kingdoms, and different titles abound. Knives, swords, houses, pacts, covenants, wizards, spirit beings, soldiers all exist -- but they are given African names. And although people of African descent, (and Asian descent, and Hispanic descent) are all aware of the Eurocentric words for these common items, the opposite is not generally true. The world at large --and even we African-Americans-- is not used to African spirits or the words for African knives. So that can be rough-going until one gets a hang of it.

The story seemed a bit short for me. Of course this is Part One, so it is possible that I was expecting more complications in the beginning. I'm not one who gets into reading works that are made into sequels. But luckily for me, although this book is the first of a sequel, the story in Part One stands on its own.

All great stories are about kings and queens; warriors and defenders; great and ignoble families; obstacles and victories. Unfortunately many stories written about the African culture, whether written by whites or non-whites, often are burdened by recent history. Thus slavery and the devastations of Africa under European imperialism has contributed to a body of literature which often uses the myth of suffering. In fantasies and even scifi many Black characters are faced with stories that relegate us to slavery and to oppression. Perhaps that is only to be expected. Yet, people of African descent are like all people. We like a good story with fantastical worlds and passionate longing. We want to take our part with mythic kings, noble heroes, and heartfelt spiritual quests. In Meji, Milton Davis has created a story that speaks to our culture's primeval and heartfelt need -- a desire common to all great stories, to return to a place where African storytelling expands itself.


wind follower

wind follower