I’ve been thinking of my role as a creative in light of the holidays July 1st and July 4th. I’ve been thinking about my role as a creative settler in light of the ‘birthdays’ currently celebrated in Canada and the USA. What you see below is part blog performance, part journal, part critique of colonialism, whiteness and specifically, white silence. It seems to be undone and unfinished. I’ve edited this piece multiple times since first reading it. It is in flux.
This blog entry was inspired by this short video followed by the extended version of this video. Will you join me in listening? You can also open yourself for further indigenous knowledge by following Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail on Facebook. She’s right, we are guests here and yes, without indigenous peoples, we’d be homeless. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the indigenous knowledge I’ve been lucky enough to have had access to and the opportunity to learn and grow from. I’m in a listening place and these words below are my escape from a structure I’m pretty sure is not invested in my well-being. Still, I use these words to build a life raft. To float and think. To leave the howling ships in the background. Thank you for being here. I have no idea where I’m going.
Who are you?
For over 3 decades, my work as a poet, as an interdisciplinary artist, performer and an educator has been my central service to others. We, creatives, take time and space to process various forms of storytelling and deliver these stories through the mediums of our bodies and memory. We relentlessly deliver to a society primarily invested in a fast pace. I argue this pace is inhuman. The dominant portions of our society steadily professing to propel us forward are simply afraid to breathe deeply let alone absorb messages from independent creatives on the planet.
But, like trees in the forest, we must breathe anyway. We must breathe so others can breathe. We must breathe to live. They deliver us mass media and corporate sponsored news and the same movie and the same song over and over and over. We respond with songs from our ancestors. We respond with poetry. We respond with independent film. We respond with color, invented words, unapproved patterns of gathering and speaking. We respond with growth in imagination. We respond with urgency and fever. What choice do we have? What choices are we given? Who cares about the choices before us? We choose to create a space despite the pressures patriarchal domination bring forth. We can’t always react. Sometimes, more often than not, most times, these days, we must must must Create without asking first. In doing this, we will fold time and inspire a path to healing we have yet to embrace. What is this healing journey Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail speaks of? I have a lot to learn.
Choosing Creativity in 2017
As creatives, we must continue. We live in a society demanding we move faster and achieve at a faster pace what is chosen for us not what we choose. I choose to be a creative. I am open to making mistakes and growing. I seek to explore the shifting, liminal and crumbling spaces reforming and renaming every form of inhumanity, injustice and immobility. There must be movement and we, as creatives, can be part of a great undoing and healing. It’s time you showed up.
What is Whiteness?
The concept of whiteness is a problem. It shifts. It’s about power. It’s about property ownership and the concept of owning land. I have a lot of opinions about whiteness from many perspectives, not starting or ending but including an identity rooted as the living extrapolation as part of the greater Italian-diaspora coming through the USA and Canada about 100 years ago.
What holds us to beliefs of superiority, separation and greed? How do these beliefs manifest in our choices moment by moment? Who are we protecting when we protect whiteness? I think we’re protecting the concept of property and not ourselves, as humans. I think we’re protecting the holding and owning of things and not growth.
What I find most troubling these days is the wavering of those who are named and recognized as white (along with those who ascribe to what they believe whiteness is) – the wavering speak and act to things they know are true. It’s not like we haven’t been given space to speak before but we have. We’ve hogged the podium.
So, what is it? What is it that becomes the gravity to our silence? Is the the physical manifestation of white fragility? Silence can continue to grow but we have ways, if we search, to shift from silent to vibrant with our truths and imperfection. And beyond the speaking, we must first remember we must listen. We must listen so much more than we speak. And after we speak, we must find an action to manifest our intentions. You can’t unknow. True. But what if you have no idea how to take what you know and put it into action in the face of a patriarchal legacy designed to dismember the streaks of sunshine from your spirit. You must not muzzle or muffle yourself. If you don’t know how to exist and express with this new knowledge, then maybe it’s time to ask someone who knows how to open up. I am asking you and please know I am also speaking to myself in a very public way.
Confronting Personal and Communal Silence
I have invested in this type of silence, as well. Silence in silence. Silence in inaction. Silence in fear of speaking up or acting up. I refuse to condemn myself to a swelling frozen death. I will not and am not invested in being a person unable to breathe, grieve, sweat, cry and grow. I’ve had it. How are you doing with your knowledge of personal and communal silence? If you’ve escaped it as a single entity or a community, how did you get there? So many of us need to know. So many of us beg to know.
Truth & Water
Recently I experienced what holding and releasing a difficult truth can look like in dominant society. As if facing a full and heavy lake of fresh water one moment and having that same water, glistening and swaying instantly disappear before my eyes, revealing a gap, a crater, a crispy grey. This is how the truth has sometimes been met in my life when I have spoken to personal experiences surviving violence, especially sexual violence. I’m speaking, the water moves. I speak a difficult truth, the water shifts from reflective and supple, hydrating and present, to hallow, vacant, missing.
The water becomes thirst. My voice echoes. The person listening closes. Sound runs. You can hear it running. There is a competing duality of whisper and silence holding and pressuring me to stop speaking, stop acting, stop asserting this violence be named. But I’m going to keep naming it because I’m not the only one on this planet, I’m not the only person on this planet gaining strength and accessing healing by speaking in words, screaming in spirit the first truth, that I must live. I must continue. My light will not be dulled.
I want you to see me.
I am here to admit mistakes, reveal my blood, my bones, scars, trauma and to challenge the concept of linear time while mocking, reusing and warping what’s left of American English. I’m here to help formulate a new way of being in what seems to be both a sacred and dynamic responsibility to connect with other creatives, other storytellers, other open spirits, others shifting. Others who were born to arrive at this moving point in time and space.
I’m trying very hard to see and listen to you. I’m asking for the space to develop the creative work I was born to do. My process as a creative involves confronting my personal legacy as a settler here. My process as a creative involves difficult conversations. My process involves having the capacity to want to grow more than I fear messing up falling victim to a rabid internet culture which could possibly take my words and make them weapons for my destruction. I’m open to falling down and knocking my teeth out. I’m also open to flying. I’m open. I’m walking. Walking alone in the woods to a space where I’m pretty sure I’ll meet others. I’m open to the humanity of my creative growth. For this reason, I must challenge any assertion my name is a brand. I must confront all forms of white silence and fragility. This work coming through me is a spirit. Because I’m choosing to live, I have to remain open. Part of that openness is going to be ugly. Despite the pressure, America, I have to tell you – I don’t have to be beautiful all the time to be human. I know that’s hard for you – America. You’re invested in my selfie face. Think of today as the day before the cell phone camera was invented in thought. Imagination matters. And so does reflection.
I am a poet.
You ask me what I do and I tell you I am a poet. Don’t ask me how I eat before you consider first who is feeding you and who is gifting you poison and telling you it’s your birthday.
Don’t blow out the candles,