(A poem story has elements of both prose, poetry, and may include other different genres; it tells a story but does its best to do so in some lyrical form, but in the end, it doesn’t matter-it is what it is)
In the effort of outreaching to diverse cultures, the Tuesday Night Racial Justice Dialogue, sponsored by the Green Acres Bahai International School, was honored this past Tuesday, April 16, 2018, to hear from noted, Native American storyteller, Willow Green. Willow has shared her stories all over New England, Canada, and ‘parts beyond.’
Willow Green, an elder from the the Abenaki Tribe in Maine, seemed to me to match her name; as I listened to her speak and tell her stories (the one she told was very deep, showing the callousness & hate of humans, and the pain they bring that may especially impact children of color and other marginalized persons. It’s the story of the “people of the land.” No, it’s the traumatic memory of the indigenous peoples who’ve been “genocided” since whites arrived.
Willow grew up in New England, and lived in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Basically, she grew up as a white person, and lived in a small town in the same house for five generations.
She told her stories, talking about herself, her family and her community, her mannerisms and communication-both verbal and non-verbal aspects, all seemed congruent. In my heart, I felt an easy and natural emergence of love & compassion exuded by Willow’s spirit.
The other part of her name, her last name, is Green; for me, the color green represents the earth and all life that is. Most Native American spiritualities that I’ve studied have understood the nature of oneness that all humans have with the Beloved-green, brown, red, black earth; we’ve got all the same cells & energies, so it makes sense. It all goes back to the Primeval Fireball.
As Willow Green grew older, she came to identify with her Native American people. She came to see that most whites in New England saw Native Americans as a “non-people” because no one really could see them-they were dead stories in history books. They didn’t exist. Her story elucidates the unseen aspect of culture, the indignities of living as “other” in white society. The story goes on to highlight the seen part of her culture-her indigenous, native roots and the struggle for human equality, her own creative identity, and the freedom to be who she was created to be.
Willow’s story tonight was about her grandson, Tyrus; he was twelve when the problems he was having reached their greatest intensity and stress-laden-point-what the good people of this world have suffered at the hands of oppression, bias, and discrimination throughout herstory. Bullies at school would call him a woman because he had long hair as many other Native American boys did; they called him “squaw” and tried to also call him “Pochohantas” too.
People of color receive daily “micro-aggressions” such as racist remarks, euphemisms, put-downs, off-color jokes and stories, bully & violent-wrapped tactics, etc. These occurred each day in school for Tyrus. I personally find it inconceivable to understand how Tyrus took all this venom thrown at him everyday, and kept going with his own childhood.
With these school problems, Willow began to inform all of her Native friends, Native organizations, and others, so a lot of people knew what was going on with her grandson.
Additionally, she filed a complaint against the School Board, the District and its Superintendent, regarding bullying policies, and the need for corrective action. Willow’s letter to all of them also contained her thoughts, to improve the learning environment, so that stress and trauma wouldn’t find it so easy to disrupt and objectify in the school atmosphere, because all of us whites understand that they’re “noble savages, don’t we?” and were thought by many whites to have a spirituality that gave them peace & virtue.
However, if they had really thought about this ‘noble savage’ idea, why did whites allow their own fears and biases to be a motivator to interr Native Peoples on reservations? What were they afraid of, and what was it they wanted to control? Probably they wanted to do their “white creation” job only with “civilized” Indians. “Just follow our lead-we’ll get it done!”
Eventually, Willow’s activism got the City Council and School Board to bend a little,so ordinances were initiated to stop the bullying. As usual, people’s minds were focused on bullying, and over time, they forgot the new policies. Out of sight, out of mind. So, long story short, the bullying continued, and Tyrus experienced it all the way through high school.
If you like dramatic endings, think of this one as being 100% real and genuine! Remember, that I’d mentioned that there were two main bullies, in Tyrus’s life; well, in high school one was no longer in the picture, so, in the one remaining dude’s life, there came a time when Tyrus had the other dude over a barrel, and he cleaned his clock. He nailed the dude with a punch!
I feel somewhat guilty & conflicted over this as a white. Over the years, his family told him not to use violence, and to turn the other cheek. When he turned about eighteen, this was no longer going to get it, and he got the guy back. I don’t believe in violence, as any kind of general rule, but in instances such as this, to defend oneself usually gets the bullies to stop; so, like any other “judgment call” this one isn’t easy, but you have to make a definite decision to use it or not. I would respect anyone’s choices considering what methods they choose to use. I may not always agree with them, but I’ll support your need to empower yoself and do what you think you got to do.
copyright:christopherbearbeam April 17, 2018