HINDSIGHT IS 2020: OM NAMA SHIVAYA*: From the Archives
FIVE PRINCIPLES FOR GETTING THROUGH THE TRUMP YEARS
An offering to:
THE PEACE BALL, THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN MUSEUM, WASHINGTON, D.C.
JANUARY 19, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Alice Walker
1. Turn up the KINDNESS volume to everyone you know; and some you don’t know.
Kindness to each other is what keeps a people under siege from collapsing internally.
2. Maintain the closest possible connection with Nature.
It is Nature, after all, that is our Ground of Being, as far as most of us know. It has never failed to show up, no matter where we are, and to present Itself even when we are programmed to ignore its support.
3. Maintain Respectfor all three (or more) of our oldest biological and spiritual ancestors:
The Native Americans or Indians, who at Standing Rock demonstrate the power of remaining true to our highest ideals.
The Africans, who over hundreds of years have demonstrated a fierce physical defiance of dictatorship (otherwise known as slavery), as well as a sustaining spiritual genius.
The Europeans, often English-American, who demonstrated great courage and compassion when they have joined the struggle to make America just and whole and truly beautiful. Shout out to John Brown and William Lloyd Garrison!
4. Move your bodyas much and as often as you can. Hard Times Require Furious Dancing. Americans, and especially African Americans, have always offered Dance to the world. May the Trump years find us at our most creative.
5. But above all, Remember: We are people, those of us who celebrate our desire for Peace by having a Peace Ball, who will never forsake our Gratitude for this Human Life, no matter which “leaders” come and go. And they do come and go. Though it is undoubtedly true that there is a plan to drastically diminish our number, it is the people, not the leaders, who remain.
Remember Also: In the words and the energy of a song sung by one of our most beloved sinners and bad boys, the late Reverend James Cleveland: THIS TOO WILL PASS. (Find this song ASAP on your device of choice and drop everything and dance!) Don’t worry that black Christians will praise “God” and love Jesus. One day, if we’re lucky, we come to understand exactly what they’re talking about. Whatever we might be calling it!
Dear Sisters at the University of Michigan,
©2013 by Alice Walker
I accept your invitation to visit with you in the coming year: I believe we have all learned something from our efforts to reach out to one another, and I believe also that – if solar flares or deeply unintelligent wars haven’t carried us off – it will be a good time.
It so happened that during the period I was “disinvited”* from the University of Michigan, I was re-reading one of my favorite authors who, I noticed on the book jacket, studied at your school. The African shaman, Malidoma Patrice Somé. Somé ‘s work is crucial to understanding so much about life, and abounds with wisdom for all people, but especially for Indigenous people, whose roots have been so violently trampled by Colonialism. Of Water and the Spiritis an extraordinary book, the one I am re-reading now, but equally as profound as medicine for our time isThe Healing Wisdom of Africa. I wondered what life had been like for him, years ago, at your school: a young African man, alone, far from his home among his people, the Dagara, in Burkina Faso. I hope he was welcomed and appreciated. I have had the good fortune to meet and engage in rituals of healing designed and led by this man; his gifts to the West (his name, Malidoma, means “one who makes friends with the stranger/enemy”) are literally beyond compare.
And that I am to give the annual Zora Neale Hurston lecture, which has been celebrated at the University of Michigan for 16 years: what a lovely turn of events.
It has been my experience in this life that whenever, on my path of love and devotion to life, I have had cause to falter, an Ancestor has appeared, ready and willing to steady my step. Those of you who know the history that connects me with Zora Neale Hurston will understand why I stand now in my kitchen enjoying her warm chuckle of support for all of us. It is a magic of women to create celebration from sorrow.
Also: It is never wrong to engage in sincere diplomacy. It is perhaps worth modeling this for our political leaders whose belief that they can wring peace from making war upon innocent people (and even if they were guilty of something!) is not something the peoples of the world need to share.
P.S. I will soon be posting this letter on my blog, hopefully you will have received it by then! I have no idea why this print is underlined and in blue. With all the spying on us via our computers, one could become quite paranoid.
(*I was disinvited because a funder objected to my views on Palestine/Israel).
My Letter to the IRS
Copyright 2014 by Alice Walker
The Internal Revenue Service
Re: Withholding of partial payment of taxes in protest of Wars funded by American taxpayers
From: Alice Walker
April 15, 2014
Dear Persons of the Internal Revenue Service,
This letter is to inform you that I have decided to withhold $1.00 from my income tax payment as a token of my resistance to the wars the United States is engaged in, which are supported by the taxes paid to the government by ordinary Americans.
I am attaching a letter to other American taxpayers which explains more fully my reasons for doing this.
To the American Taxpayers
Giving money to our government each year that maims and kills thousands, even hundreds of thousands of children, their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, their grandparents, is part of why we suffer, in all the ways we do suffer, in the United States. Each year I feel the nausea of complicity, the sorrow in my heart, that sending money to buy bullets and bombs brings to me, or to anyone who believes it is wrong to harm, to injure, to kill another human being, who is, in truth, a part of ourselves. The reality that we are killing our own selves- our conscience perhaps the first part of us to atrophy – is why we feel so sick. What to do about it?
In 2003 along with two dozen other women I was arrested in front of the White House for protesting the imminent start of the war against the people of Iraq. Earlier I had marched with hundreds of thousands of people around the world against this pending war. Everyone understood what it was about, from the beginning. In fact, in the San Francisco march a young woman’s satirical banner read: What is my oil doing under your sand? Which certainly captured the attitude of our “leaders.”
Leaders who completely ignored us.
Later I would go to Palestine and see huge spent shells whose rockets had demolished homes and schools, hospitals and yes, hundreds of grownups and children, and there was the imprint MADE IN USA on them. I sat in the rubble of The American School in Palestine that had been completely demolished.
Then there was the attempt to take food and medicine to people who were starving in Gaza and the fact of being turned back, though my companions and I were begging to be of service to humans who desperately needed us.
Where was our country? Did it say, as it might have done, Let them, and the food and medicine they are bringing, through? No. We were seen as the troublemakers, not those causing the disaster.
Another effort to reach Gaza had us appealing to our government to protect our small boat as we attempted to sail in and deliver hope in the form of letters, mainly to the children who, by now, must think all grown-ups outside of Gaza are deaf. Our Secretary of State informed us we were the threat, not the people who waited with guns to stop us.
And so on.
When my Civil Rights lawyer husband and I lived in Mississippi in the Sixties we were audited by the IRS. A few years later (in San Francisco) I was audited again. Nothing was amiss, and it seemed to me the IRS was used, perhaps by COINTELPRO, a project of the FBI, to harass all of us who were active in the black liberation movement. What I remember about the audits was how insulting it felt that we, who had amassed nothing beyond what was required to one day own a modest home, were considered people who would cheat. It was a definite stress to our already strained lives, living under apartheid laws in Mississippi, working to dismantle them, and in an “illegal” interracial marriage to boot. We also knew my husband might be drafted to fight in a criminal war against the people of Vietnam at any time.
Which is to say, I thought very carefully about what more I could do to show my horror and disgust at the slaughter of people around the globe that a greedy American Empire appears to require. Grandmothers pulverized in their okra fields, children bombed in their beds, wedding parties obliterated in the road. Roaming the internet for help, I found The War Resister’s League website and there learned some of the ways the IRS can make your life miserable if you refuse to be a war criminal and withhold all the taxes you would like to withhold. I am sorry to say I don’t wish to go through the tension of IRS harassment again. I learned, though, that I can withhold a single dollar, as a token of my resistance to the murder of innocents. (I don’t even believe in the murder of the guilty. I think all prisons should be turned into secular monasteries with the teaching of meditation a mainstay.) Though I will be taxed on this one dollar into infinity, I should be able, if forced, to pay.
What, in an endless war that spends trillions each year can a single dollar buy? (Two first class stamps?) I asked myself, gloomily. But then, lucky for me, I was inspired by one of my favorite people-helping organizations: Heifer International. Each year I receive one of their catalogs and am able to choose an animal, or several animals, to be sent to needy families sometimes in the US, sometimes worlds away. Realizing that not everyone can afford a water buffalo, for instance, or a goat, or a cow, this catalog allows one to purchase a part of one. So that, joining one’s donation of 1/4 of a water buffalo to three other people’s 1/4 of a water buffalo permits a whole water buffalo to be delivered to (for instance) Southeast Asia, where the water buffalo is revered for its work in sustaining the life of a family; the same for a goat, or a cow that might be sent to other parts of the world.
My single dollar is almost nothing, but what if millions of people, ten million people, also withhold one dollar? What might we prevent the government from buying? Half of a drone? The propellers of a helicopter? A whole drone? A tank? The wheels of many tanks? A rocket? Those goggles that let you see at night? Part of a computer system that allows anonymous Americans, while chatting or eating their lunch, to murder children and their families sitting far away in their living rooms?
We must not let frustration at our smallness unnerve us. Perhaps it is time to learn not only from Heifer International, but to remember the ants. They too are small, yet they are persistent in everything they do; they never stop.
There are brave women and men standing, and have always stood, against the wars our country wages, wars that intensify climate change, destroy histories, cultures and identities, animals, trees, water and land; mutilate, main and kill some of the most astonishingpeople on earth. Young women and men we would love to know. Elders who could teach and guide us. Farmers who could show us how to cultivate the soil. Musicians, poets, writers, doctors, scientists, who could inspire us to dream. Children who could remind us of youth with their unrestrained affection for skateboards and bicycles. We are impoverished, weakened, fatally disoriented by this loss. Shot through the heart is what it feels like. Together we must find a way to keep them, our other selves, safe. And make the step, whether large or small, we are able to make. In my experience, Life frequently reveals the footpath before we are permitted a glimpse at the road.
“Walk together, children, don’t you get weary,” is from one of many medicine songs from my own black Southern tradition of endless struggle, a necessary counterpart to the endless war against black people. I understand it better now than when I was a child. Now I know, from experience, that one of the hardest things to do is walk together; and that in fact we can get weary enough – forget about walking – to crawl. But in a way the ancestors were seeing life, and the overcoming of obstacles – brutal enslavement and other abuse in their case- with the comprehension and steadfastness of ants: togetherness is essential, being tired is not an excuse.
If not stopped, the makers of war will continue to kill the planet until it is dead. There is no separation between it and us.
Please feel free to Google “Pictures of Children in War: Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Etc.” in order to meditate on this human tragedy in which all American taxpayers are playing a crucial if unwilling part.
This Will Take All Of Your Strength
©2014 by Alice Walker
Instead of disappearing your enemies,
who are by now
quite frightened and poor,
this will take all of your strength.
Instead of believing
those who oppose you
with your true
from your violence.
This will take all
of your strength.
Rather than wishing
were other than they are;
to the wicked
batch of DNA
you fear they came;
This will take all
of your strength.
Melanin History Month (An Offering)
©2014 by Alice Walker
One of the easiest ways to control oppressed, suffering people is by making them fear each other. My parents understood this very well. We lived in a tiny rural community in the South, and when I was a child, prisoners on the chain-gang wore black and white striped uniforms and were chained to each other at the ankle. They were all black men and some of them my parents knew. Though a white man stood over them carrying a shot-gun, as the men labored with pick and shovel to clear land enough to make a road, my parents unfailingly sent one of their small children with a pail of fresh water for them. I suppose we were sent because we were non-threatening and of course we were instructed to offer the water first to the heavily perspiring “boss man” himself. But we were also sent to learn not to be afraid of people, whatever their condition, who looked like us. It wasn’t until later, when I lived in the North, that I realized there were black people who lacked this training.
I think of this now, during Black History Month, which I am renaming, in honor of Frances Cress Welsing, Melanin History Month, as I share thoughts on a few people whose views have caused them, at times, to be feared by other black people. I myself find them fascinating, brave, fiercely loving of our people, and incredible in their ability to bring both water and light to a people once consigned to a darkness from which we were never meant to escape. Do I agree with every word they say or every belief they profess? Of course not. But do I believe hearing them will make us more thoughtful, discerning and curious about ourselves, and others, and life in general? Absolutely.
All of these kindred below can be found on Youtube. Photos are not sticking for some reason and will be added later.
There are many photos of Cynthia McKinney designed to make her look crazy. I love this one because, as in all photos of her, she looks awake and alive. Of course to be awake and alive is the very definition of craziness to people who prefer to remain asleep.
Cynthia McKinney is simply extraordinary. At a 2011 Russell Tribunal on Palestine event in New York City I was able to tell her, from the stage, that if there is to be a One World Government and a New World Order I nominate her to be at the head of it. (We got a chuckle out of this; if you wonder why this struck us funny, look up New World Order on the Internet, and listen to how George H. W. Bush envisions it). McKinney credits her father with instilling in her the courage to confront demons of all sorts, without backing down or losing her open-minded manner of investigating the unsavory. McKinney is a contemporary, but to my mind her courageous consciousness places her as close to the purity of ancestral wisdom and activism, as we are likely to get.
It is instructive to learn what happened when McKinney, a member of Congress at the time, requested a full investigation of 9/11.
Louis Farrakhan is a challenge for many because he holds beliefs that are strange to us. In Islam, for instance. I have been challenged a lot. I think of organized religion as spirit control (with spirit forts- churches, mosques, synagogues etc.- on every corner) and thank the nature with which I was born that I could not submit to another’s notion of what “God” is. Farrakhan also, according to one of my sisters, hated my novel The Color Purple, perhaps because he, like so many others, failed to value the story of Celie’s biological father, a progressive black man who was lynched when she was an infant, but focused solely on the behavior of her abusive stepfather, who is a pedophile and sociopath. Or perhaps there were religious reservations, since The Color Purple is at heart a work of Nature based theology intent on freeing black people, and anyone else, from inherited theological enslavement.
There was, as well, the question of Malcolm X, whom I admired, though again, I did not feel a need to follow his religious faith. Did Farrakhan cause his death? Well, maybe not, according to Dick Gregory, who says he saw the autopsy report. Apparently all the shots that killed Malcolm came from above him, from a hole cut into the ceiling, not from the guns of two black Muslim men in the audience, as we were lead to believe. Is Farrakhan an anti-Semite for speaking his mind about Israel, about specific Jews? Are any of us? Since by now there has been an attempt to tar many of us with that unsavory brush.
In a system that condemns our people to ignorance and kills their creativity with idiotic TV, movies, ballgames and the like, there is a Farrakhan video about the connection between international banking and war that demonstrates the power of teaching in our communities. That it is holistic, and cares not only about our learning of science and vocabulary but about our investments, whether in mysterious money markets nobody really understands, or in the wars our children are produced to fight. (One of the real reasons congressmen and generals don’t like birth control).
Farrakhan becomes quite emotional toward the end of this long talk – that centers on the Rothschild family and the Warburgs – which means a crack in what often seems an impeccable, even studied, even chilling (especially when he’s smiling) control. I welcome this, as I believe we are right to feel, and to feel deeply, our people’s suffering, confusion, disappointment and pain. The horrific truth of black people’s journey in America these past five hundred years, which includes the mass incarceration this very moment of so many of our young, readily elicits the bravery of shedding tears.
Frances Cress Welsing is that strange, strong, ruthlessly brilliant soul that, thank genetics, we throw up time and again in our history. A visionary possessed of a mind that does not flinch. Life is dull without people like Welsing, who is completely unafraid of uncurbed thought!
In my own Walker clan our colors ranged from light copper to dark chocolate. All deeply attractive. But did the darkest in the family ever know this? No, because society had infected the family with its disease of racism and colorism. Personally I thought the blackest members of the family the most attractive: my father, my brothers Fred and Robert. It was shocking to realize there was even a debate. Now here is Welsing saying that melanin – the more of it you have the better – is what connects us to Nature, to The Universe. That when George Washington Carver said he talked to plants and they told him what to ask of them, it was his melanin that made the conversation possible. Having talked to a few trees myself, I understand this.
Dick Gregory is eighty-odd years old now, blacker than ever, and with the most beautiful white hair! Not just his skin is black, but his humor and physical expressions as well. He is precious and rare. And simply mesmerizing to observe! He is always on the verge of subversive thought: will he say something to make us laugh, cry, or scream? What a healing it is to see and hear him. Still teaching us, not only about healthy food, clean water, fasting, and exercise, but about taking care of our personal and communal integrity.
Gregory knew Malcolm, and Martin, and Coretta, and Betty Shabazz, the Kennedys, Bobby and John, and so many others who have paid a high price for exhibiting empathy. It was a surprise to find him addressing this mosque (Mosque #7) in Harlem, but signals who he is: wherever black people gather in the name of Peace, desiring above all to hear Real News, and something of true liberation about themselves, there will be Dick Gregory reminding them that it’s ok.
New Mantra (January28)
©2016 by Alice Walker
For Bill de Blascio, human being.
When the lovers of hatred say:
I cannot stand those Mexicans.
You say, in the privacy and center of your heart
and with fervor:
I love me some Mexican people!
When the prisoners of envy and bad conscience say:
I hope those Africans and African Americans fall off the face of the earth.
You say, in the privacy and center of your heart
and with fervor:
I love me some Africans and African Americans.
When the sexually unexplored say:
Those gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders are loathsome and should be oppressed.
You say, in the privacy and center of your heart
and with fervor:
I love me some folks courageous enough to live their truth.
When the uninitiated into Life’s mysteries
say: there is no reality beyond the one in which I
can imprison you.
You say in the privacy and center of your heart
with both fervor and joy: I love me some reality
you don’t seem to know about!
When the lovers of division say: It is the Russians, it is the Chinese, it is the Cubans, it is the Syrians, the Libyans, the Albanians, the Iranians, the Iraqis, the Egyptians, the Palestinians, the Green Party, the Progressives, the Republicans and the Democrats. And by all means, The refugees.
You say, from the privacy and center of your heart
with assurance tested by experience:
We are the same humans everywhere, except the few that are obviously not.
And I love me some human beings being human.
PRAYER TO THE GREAT AWARENESS
Copyright 2017 by Alice Walker
January 21, 2017
(For the awakening.)
I do not doubt that you are there
and that I am also, in some future
and that together
we are enjoying it all.
And so I thank you,
in which I also live,
for Calla Lillies
and the aroma
of a good posole
and the fit of a new dress.
There are then the stars
that I love
and the rivers
and the single leaves
of trees in which I can
lose my temporary
this moment self in.
The sheer wonder
of it all.
And women marching
And being the most
wondrous of the human lot
with their amazing capacity
to recreate the human universe.
Oh, Great and Everlasting Awareness
I have been with you
while looking for you
all my long life!
And here you turn up
as you do everyday
all the awakened women,
in the world,
and Everything else.
*Om Nama Shivaya: I bow to our inner light.