15 Ripples In My Ocean of Gratitude

Tomorrow is not promised today….
So we must show gratitude whenever we can. Today is the only gift we have, the “present”. And the only thing that is certain is the Future is uncertain. So I must focus on today to ensure a better tomorrow.

For many indigenous nations across Turtle Island Gratitude is Eastern Direction medicine. Giving thanks is our soul rising like the Sun at Dawn. Gratitude is healing. Our smile; touch; laughter; presence….is each of us blessing the universe.

Gratitude says: “We all have a story to tell…an ancient story passed through the bloodlines and spirits of our ancestors.” When someone shares their story be grateful. They have exchanged a life giving energy flow as nourishing as water.

As part of my continual work on “self-awareness” and healing. I am going to share my truth and the deeds I will put forth to honour that truth in this 4 part blog post. Many of these revelations of wellness practices through an indigenous lens are currently being explored by participants enrolled in my weekly course at the TD Centre of Learning in Regent Park. To practise my teachings here are my 15 acts of gratitude or kindness, which I will demonstrate in this life time.

15. Continue to celebrate the changing of the seasons in an authentic way. This means calibrating my mental; physical; emotional and spiritual to the natural rhythms and manifestations each season brings. Allowing my eating; sleeping; working; playing; fasting; celebrating and meditative habits mirror those of my ancestors within a contemporary context.

14. Smile effortlessly if I’m moved to. A forced smile is a fake smile. I want to smile because someone or something moves me in a real way and share that moving moment no matter how simple or complex in a giving; kind expression of “some kind of wonderful”. This will be challenging since I am smile self-conscious somewhat still…that whole gap tooth thang. And living in the screw-face Capitol doesn’t help matters. Regardless there is a soft; warm; happy and humorous side to myself that I’d like to beginning sharing more.

13. Say Nya:weh; Chi Miigwetch and Wela’ lin to anyone, stranger, friend or foe who demonstrates an act of kindness towards me. It’s more than manners for manners sake. It’s karma. To get appreciation you must show appreciation. Never let pride prevent you from doing this even to those who curse the ground you walk on.

12. Tell those who demonstrate effort and good intentions that they are appreciated and I am proud of them. Seeing the potential in others and making someone aware that you see it; assists in elevating collective consciousness and when you lift as you rise the universe will reward you.

11. Visit immediate family members at least once a month. Sometimes it’s as if I don’t have kin living in the same city I am these days. We all have demanding careers; families and other commitments on the daily, but this “only getting together during birthdays and statutory holidays” means in fact I’m only seeing my parents; and my siblings maybe 4 times a year. No more. I’ll be checking in on family in the tdot at least monthly. Even if it’s just for dinner. In these times; our family ties need to be strengthened.

10. Make time for bi-weekly chill out’s with fellow artivists; and leaders who are part of my social networks; but we have not spent enough time kicking it face to face to discuss potential collaborations. The movements of a balanced individual embody the intrapersonal and interpersonal. So while I enjoy introspection and independent pursuits I must also make time to build where a common goal between others can be found.

9. Continue to participate civically in my communities. Balancing paid work with volunteerism. Not just talking about making things happen but being motivated to get shit done. One of my motivations for giving of my time is a better overstanding of “MY PRIVILEGES”, what this means is there are ppl who cannot eat at the tables I eat at because I benefit from something they haven’t got. For example I completed high school and have Bachelor Degrees; while some ppl are unable to read and write. Maybe this is why I gravitate towards giving in areas connected to education and literacy. I am also gonna stop turning a blind eye to someone in need if it’s within my capacity to do something. For example if the same homeless elder is asking for change to get a beverage from the Timmies I’m frequenting before work. Why not just ask them what drink they’d like and buy them one. Or drop off that spare blanket I never use. Nuff said.

8. Attend and support at least two artistic, educational or cultural events other than my own per month. This is called “showing love”.
Liking or clicking on Going on an event on Facebook and not showing up is not acceptable to me anymore. Aside from showing love, I also want to gain more artistic knowledge to up my own performance game.

7. Write down a minimum of 4 things I am thankful for at the end of each day in my journal. May sound a lil corny, but they say once you write your thoughts on paper it’s easier for you to manifest their intentions through action. Receiving is giving; and giving is receiving.

6. Conceive a new artistic creation even if it’s as tiny as a three line concept or as large as 16 bars of rap lyrics or a new drum song composition at least once a week. By honouring my artistic gifts I am showing gratitude for my purpose and commitment to my path.

5. Make time to learn from and share teachings with both an elder and a youth on a weekly basis. The more we know the more we grow. And learning is a lifelong adventure. Praising another’s expertise brings everyone in the sharing circle joy. And joy is uplifting.

4. Make time to spend outdoors; outside of the urban jungle at least once a week and long distant travel bi-monthly to maintain my spiritual connection to the land; it’s natural wonders reignite me; keep me grounded. Appreciating Mother Earth is the first and only treaty. A promissory note our first exhale makes with the creator. We owe it to our fragile existence to give thanks for her and all she encompasses.

3. Writing monthly love letters to my partner. I discovered that being involved with someone whose as committed to their art and community advocacy work as I am; means we don’t have as much physical time together as other couples. So every moment we do have we make it like it’s our last. When we are apart it often means my mind and heart are working overtime thinking about him and us…and so I’ve decided to write those questions, reflections down in love letters, which I’ll send him once a month. I want him to know how deeply he impacts my life and where I still have uncertainties or intense longings or just questions…I want to be able to share and ask….If my life were to end suddenly I wouldn’t want him wondering about our love. I am so blessed we have each other.

2. Hug and kiss those I have deep Konoronhkwa for like my seeds, my family, and my partner, my close friends, and tell them how much they are loved, valued, appreciated everyday. Affection wasn’t always consistent in my younger years so as an adult it’s still not easy for me, not only to give affection but to receive it. I do know however awkward this can be at times; it is also good medicine. Healing medicine. We all need love. Nurturing. Love.

1. Before I leap out of bed each morning I must hang my fire. Take four deep inhales in and four deep exhales out. So I give time to acknowledge how grateful I am that I have awoken filled with the breath of creation once again. I have and continue to overcome many struggles in my life. I am still here. Life is the most precious gift of all.

Remember the power of gratitude…
Embrace each nu day like it is the very first day of your life and the very last day of your life…to guarantee it will be a day well spent.

Nya:weh

Mahlikah

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Hashtag Poetry Portraits: an exploration of indigenous teachings through digital literacy

Ahnee, She:kon:

Wow it’s been a minute…almost a year since my last post. Mainly cuz life offline…analogue took a major priority. I think it is only fitting my return is motivated by a little project that could….no correction, “Will” create a nu form of poetic expression grounded in an ancient indigenous philosophy…how kool is that?! Hashtag Poetry Portraits is currently a top 10 finalist in the Neighbourhood Arts Network BMO Seed Arts Project Grant. Right now all 10 projects are fighting to make the top 6 by getting “liked” to death on FB. The 6 projects with the most “Likes” by 5p Monday June 10th…will be awarded
$1, 000 start up for their project. Honestly this is the most bananas competition I’ve ever been involved in. It’s become a full time job….it involves Friends, Family, Arts Networks, Community Organizations and complete strangers. Like after like after like, I feel like I gotta keep motivating all our supporters, rallying my digital soldiers….with the partnerships with ArtCity in St. James Town and Daniels Centre of Learning Regent Park in RP we’ve been able to hustle the whole social media landscape and support is growing. Artists and community members across Turtle Island and abroad have been holding me down. We came in as underdogs in 8th and climbed as high as 2nd. I am doing this for kids 6-13 native and diverse kids who struggle to express the written word but got a lot to say. Kids who live in hoods that get a lot of negative press…but for them that hood is where they call home. My connection to these inner city communities is authentic. I have been a part of them for almost 13 years and don’t plan on stopping.

Click on the link below:

Hashtag Poetry Portraits

Like! Share!!

It only takes on step to start a run…lets run together!!

Nia:wen Chi Miigwetch

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So Before 2008 My People Were Not Considered Human Beings…Shame!

The Federal Government for the past three years is experiencing what Malcolm X said, back during the Black Power Movement when Blacks began to assert their basic Human Rights against the powers that be, “the chickens would come home to roost so soon“….Well the eagle has landed…It was only until 2008, that our people were able to utilize the Human Rights Act of Canada to file complaints around injustice of our rights within the legal justice system, education system and within the child services system…where some of the most horrendous violations of the rights of our people of been inacted decade after decade….Under the “Indian Act” our people were excluded from the Canadian Human Rights Act…yes please take a moment to digest the blantant racism behind such policies….

Examine this issue closer in the following article which actually made the National Post:

First Nations challenge federal government and band governments with hundreds of human rights complaints

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Aboriginal Education in Tdot….Can we break the cycle??

As an educator and artist of First Nations heritage who has been working in communities and classrooms in Toronto, ON for over 12 years the inclusion of contemporary imaging and historical contributions of Aboriginal Peoples as the First Peoples of Turtle Island has slowly through mighty determination become more visible in our schools, which is encouraging students of Native heritage to self-identify and proudly embrace their roots; instead of being a invisible majority in the classrooms of our Toronto schools.

The Cycle that I am interested in breaking is our kids dropping out because they do not feel any validation and therefore their self-worth is low. I agree as many do that the nightmarish legacy of Residential Schools and the 60’s Scoop and the Child Service System is at the heart of the blame…

Please find the article:

Closing the ‘achievement gap’ for Toronto’s aboriginal students

Many people I respect in the community share their stories in this one.

Also if you are a parent or teacher native or non-native and you would like an Aboriginal Artist to work with your students or your kids during the 2012-2013 school year and you are based in Ontario please check out the OAC Aboriginal Artists in the Schools Roster which I am also listed in:

2012-2013
ABORIGINAL ARTISTS IN SCHOOLS ROSTER

Finally if your in Toronto and your interested in the Red Slam 4 Directions Urban Community Arts Workshops check out our links on the Neighbourhood Arts Network which is supported by the Toronto Arts Foundation.

http://www.neighbourhoodartsnetwork.org/members/red-slam-collective

http://www.neighbourhoodartsnetwork.org/members/mahlikah-aweri

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Red Slam Collective @ Alignment

Red Slam is bringing sum heavy hitters to Haudenosaunee Territory John Waaseyahbin Hupfield aka 7th Son Anishinaabe from Wasauksing First Nations; MC Miles T Mohawk Six Nations; Mahlikah Aweri aka MC AngelHeart Mohawk (Kahnawá:ke) & Mi’kmaw (Bear River) First Nations; Beat Boxer Skratch Won Cree/Dene (Alberta); B-Boy Dizine Izm (Rawn Razer) Cree (Saskatchewan); William Charbonneau (Bass) and Fumu Jamez (Percussions).

2012 is becoming a monumental year for the little Collective that grew and grew up from humble beginnings at the NCCT youth program office to showcasing at the 2011 NXNE, Manifesto and the 2010 CFSW. This year started with performances in Vancouver, New Mexico and in June Red Slam will showcase at NXNE 2012 and Pride 2012. The Hip Hop Fusion Movement S.L.A.M. (Spoken Lyricism Arranges Meaning) is unstoppable with the anticipated release of their full length studio album on the horizon for 2013!!

Red Slam Collective

 

A multi-disciplinary event brought to you by Nationless Minds, Burlington Slam Project, and PENTA

On Saturday, May 12th, we converge on 2 floors of Hamilton’s beautiful Pearl Company to bring you Alignment. Hosted by the dynamic Greg “Ritallin” Frankson.

You won’t believe our stellar line-up of performers and artists… exploring where various artistic expressions intersect and align with spoken word.

Missing Lynx (Urban Legends 2011 team)
Red Slam Collective
Amanda Hiebert
Electric Jon
P.O.E.
Poetic Speed
Cathy Petch
the 2011 Burlington Slam Project team
Hyf & PrufRock
Kevin Sutton
Fire Flower Revue

and… as if that line-up isn’t more than enough to blow your minds… we also have one more dynamic duo… Brad Morden & Ian Keteku as Atomic Wednesday.

PLUS…
A Bboy-Bgirl showcase. Progressive Movement representing a downtown Hamilton youth centre known as ‘The New Globe’.
Live artists Komi Olafimihan & ZS Cheetham will be creating on the scene.
And a gallery including previous works by the above, plus photography & videography by Michelle Darby and Ruzanna Shortstuffyan.

$15
tickets will be available in advance at various spoken word events throughout April in southern Ontario, or
contact us at we.are.PENTA@gmail.com for online purchase.

Doors open and the magic starts happening promptly at 7pm and we party until late in to the night…

Red Slam Collective’s Mahlikah Awe:ri is a member of PENTA for more info about the artist collective check out the web site:

PENTA

 

Not to Be Forgotten

In 2010 I wrote Dodom. It was two years after Steven Harper’s “apology” on behalf of the Canadian Government, regarding the human rights violations experienced by First Nations, Metis and Inuit Children from the late 1800’s to 1996, in the residential school system. I wrote it to share a hidden truth within my great-grandmother’s life. I performed it live for the first time during the semi’s @ the Toronto Poetry Slam. I knew the judges would probably score low…but I the message meant more to me looking out into the darken room filled with more than 100 non-native audience members. It was so quiet during the piece…and I was shaking when I finished. At intermish…strangers embraced me crying…”colonial guilt”…maybe, but it all seemed to be very genuine.

Two years later students attending the Academic Upgrading Program in the Downtown East; which I am the Manager for are reading Fatty Legs. After reading the teachers request I present a one hour talk about Residential Schools in Canada. I start the presentation with Dodom and end with the lasting affects of this deliberate attempt to “Kill the Indian Inside” by the Church and it’s Government. We have the missing children who never came home….mass graves are being uncovered in Mohawk , Anishnawbe and Mi’kmaq Territories as we speak. The 60’s Scoop. And the current state of Aboriginal Health and Education and the continual increase in incarceration and suicide rates in our communities.

As a people we do not want to dwell in the past but our teachings tell us once you know you never forget.

Here is a project helping native and non-native communities remember

Project Heart

Dodom

My body is not a temple but a totem

Remember my Owena
when I say ur body is not a temple but a totem
ur Dodom each and everyday
Great gran lost her dodom;
so she lost her way
Was it the mush and maggots
that swelled her belly
or being forced
to watch her older cousin
have his head smashed against the front wooden pew
til it was nothing more than jelly?
Was it the nightly rape fest
while saying the rosary
while his cold pale holy flesh
b on top of she?
Was it his sour gin whispers in her ear
fornicating a demonic twisted lie
as his ungodly member violated her dodom insides?
Shhhh…Please don’t cry; please to the Sisters don’t tell.
Or u shall end up burning in the firey pits of hell.
She was already in hell and she was already burned;
the scalding showers that teased and taunted that a dirty indian can b cleansed
from red savage to snow white civility
She was already in hell and she was already burned; the siphilitus inferno from too many saints;
who were truly sinners
had begun to spread
She was already in hell and she was already burned;
like a brush fire too close
to a wooded glen
her language was ash;
her ties to her tradish cinder
Her memories of Haudenonsaunee
like her once thick braided hair becoming whispy…thinner.
When they chop down ur dodom
they cut u off at the knees
…it would be less tortorous if they
just left u to bleed…to death…
but what amusement would quick and easy hold
for those who seek perverse pleasures in others torment.
They would rather watch her slowly rot…whither, and die…
With all the strength/wisdom/and luv
of ur clan buried deep inside..
.suffocatig beneath the decay
…dodom dodom dodom fade away
Yes her body survived the residential school otrosities
and yes she passed before
the late apology
So young her dodom frayed and splintered
and so on each and every winter
the women tie a sweet grass braid on a single birch tree
so that her daughter’s daughter daughter
and me
will
Remember her Owena
when she did say
ur body is not a temple but a totem
ur Dodom each and everyday

Mahlikah 2010

It’s 2012 We Are Not Chief Wahoo!!

When I was a teacher candidate @ York U I had a placement at a suburban elementary school in the affluent Lawrence and Yonge area. The school lacked the visual diversity I was accustomed to during my middle school and HS years in Scar-Town. The minority group in this school were Jewish students. The majority group were Anglo-Saxon students. I was placed in a grade 5 class of 20 students, only two were of colour. With few teachers of colour on staff it was clear non-white cultural and historical identities were not being showcased or learned about. I soon changed that. One of the curricular focuses my classroom teacher asked me to examine with the kids was Media English. She knew I already had a BA from Ryerson in Radio & Television Arts. The first thing I taught the kids was how to write for radio. And specifically how to create editorials. I don’t think however the school administration was quite ready for the subject matter nor the method of delivery. I spent several sessions on exploring contemporary issues affecting First People’s. One of great interest to the students, especially the boys was the use of Native imaging in American sports teams. Yea those white kids woke up…they created an editorial segment on the use of these images and why it is inappropriate by reading their pieces during the morning announcements. This was the first time student voices were heard on the morning announcements at this school.

Fast forward ahead I’m starting Living Through the Arts Workshops for the RCM at Food Share. The focus is Anti-Oppression through Spoken Word. I was specifically brought in because youth in a summer internship program were regularly exchanging racial slurs and stereotyping each other to the point where things were escalating to physical violence and youth were starting to drop out.

In one of the first sessions we examined the top 10 most oppressive visual symbols in history. Amongst that top 10 were images such as the burning cross, confederate flag and the swastika. Also making this list was Chief Wahoo….I asked the youth participants to give me the first words that came to mind when they saw that image. Some of the words included:
Stupid, red skinned, foolish, disrespect to Native Americans….nobody said, “That’s an honorable Native Chief”….

Nevertheless the youth who was sporting the cap the first class didn’t want to sport it after that.

As a member of the Hip Hop community I see Chief Wahoo often on caps, jerseys and T’s. Everyone has a reason for wearing an “Indian Sambo”…whether their white, black, brown, yellow or red….

I’m still not down with Wahoo and maybe after reading this you’ll know why: Four Decades of Chief Wahoo!!

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