A Visit to #TentCityATL

POETS FOR PEACE
Tour #2
Day 5 – Atlanta
photo by Heather Marie Laveau

On our last night of tour, as the Libra full moon rose over downtown Atlanta, Catherine Rush and I performed with the local leaders of #TentCityATL. It’s an occupation outside of the former Braves baseball stadium, which is being redeveloped by Georgia State University. The encampment is set up to protest the gentrification of the surrounding neighborhoods and make sure the Community Benefits Agreement agreed upon by thousands of members of the neighborhood is used for any future developments.

There was magic held in this moonlight to share words on the front lines in the urban center of a city, and call upon the bald eagles and many blessings I witnessed at Standing Rock to come here to this city of Atlantis. To hear the stories of neighbors and their experiences fighting the imperialistic war machine throughout their lives. To see community formed around a cause that will benefit the many, and take power away from the few.

This energy is rising. It has been for a while now. The floodgates have been released. In each city. In each neighborhood. In each residence. The people are coming together and fighting off the warmongers. Fighting off the profiteers. They’re fighting for the right to exist. They’re fighting for their identities. They’re fighting for PEACE.

One wisdom from the night shared by a sister activist and poet: “When we think of peace, we think of flowers. But, to get flowers you have to shake up the ground a little. You know, till the earth and such. To get peace, we’re going to have to shake things up a little. Overturn the ground. That’s how peace can grow.”

A Visit to #TentCityATL

“MAHWAH” MEANS “MEETING GROUND” IN LENNI LENAPE

A pleasant mist hangs in the trees. There are bright colored faces carved into the wood. Ancestors reaching through the bark to the present. Half asleep in their awakened stare.

We circle around the open fire as the Peace Walkers march in. Peace Walkers from Okinawa and elsewhere. Buddhist in Faith, but all of us connected in prayers for the Water.

We face the East and welcome the Sun. We face the West and watch it go. We face the North and welcome the Wind. As we turn South, Red-Tailed Hawk soars over us in a patch of sky between the trees.

I’m reminded of my time spent in Standing Rock, from the songs that are sung. From the drums that are played. Native flutes and sage smoke. Tobacco and prayer.

We stand near the water and hold it in our hand. Prayers of Love and Hope. We blow on these Prayers with our Breath and sprinkle them into the Ramapo River.

I watch as the Tobacco drifts downstream. It swirls with renewed energy. It feeds the Waters with Life. A Life to Protect.

“MAHWAH” MEANS “MEETING GROUND” IN LENNI LENAPE

March Forth, My Friends

​MARCH FORTH, MY FRIENDS
We assemble for a friend’s birthday party and it doesn’t take me long to realize all of these friends I’ve made over the years come from completely different backgrounds and schoolings with one main defining similarity. 

They are all farmers.

These friends I’ve connected with for all sorts of reasons, when it comes right down to it, enjoy nothing more than putting their hands in the dirt and making seeds come to life.

So here we are, sitting in a circle discussing a variety of tools from permaculture and the changing growing seasons, as well as what native seeds we got at the most recent seed trade and how owned land is hard to come by, so making due with squatting on abandoned land works just as well.
As the conversation moves into a reaction towards regressive politicians, the night begins to take on the look and feel of a general assembly. And as I look around me, I realize the free radicals around me are all regenerative agriculturalists. These guerilla warriors are planting corn where a rowhome burned down 20 years ago and garbage has been disposed of since.

They’re the people on the frontlines of every protest, dressed in all black, taking cracks from the policeman’s billy club. 

They’re the clowns in the background raising spirits.

In all of this, they’re the ones making moves when a lot of us feel frozen. Urban gardeners continuing to prepare for the apocalypse.
Their gardens are the next to be lost. In this city, like every city, that cares more about tax revenue than moderating development to make sure developers keep in tune with the identity of the neighborhood they rape and pillage, green space is running out.

These gardeners have already lawyered up, organized petitions, and cut locks to keep their gardens operating. Food For The People are words of revolution for them.

A day later, I’m in the streets of my old neighborhood. I’m playing trumpet in a New Orleans style death march for a cat that passed away only recently. We’re all dressed in shiny, psychedelic costumes from Mummers parades past. Some of us have drums, kazoos, fireworks and other noisemakers.

The march starts with somber notes. Slow and cold we fill the street, holding a walking vigil. I feel like I’m playing a melody that is for the death of my old home in East Kensington. We pass shoddily built condos. $450,000 4-story megahomes. They’re all ugly behemoths atop streets full of sinkholes and cracked concrete. I remember all the former lots, the former community gardens, the weird art sculptures, and the grounds we had pop up music shows in.

Some of us are weeping. A lot of us are feeling glad to feel this warmth of community. We bury the cat and our leader who is part Cherokee sings a song of returning the earth to its former glory. Encouraging the grass to grow where the burial mound now is.
A neighbor overhears one of us discussing how shitty her giant condo is. She yells, “Hey, I heard that. I heard you saying that about my house.” Drunk, the guy says he doesn’t care. He can’t wait till it falls down in three years.

There’s a lot of tension and I think to myself, “Welcome to Philly.”

Someone does eventually say, “Welcome to the neighborhood.”
At that we start marching again. This time the melodies are upbeat and raucous. “Oh when the saints…go marching in….oh when the saints go marching in.”
There are a lot of drum break downs and horn solos and the band starts singing as their followers join in dancing. 
Eventually we make it back to the house party for March Fourth.
“March Forth,” everyone yells.
A simple parade. Perhaps the beginning of new traditions.

March Forth, My Friends

The Pussy Grabs Back

THE PUSSY GRABS BACK

(photo from Earthcam on the National Mall in Washington DC)
A million women and their allies marched on Washington today. Millions more marched in cities around the world in solidarity. Even the organizers were surprised and maybe even a bit overwhelmed by the turn out. 

For those with any sort of connection to the feminine voice of our generation, we knew the numbers were going to be yuge. But being deep in it felt like finally this was the new world rising. 

A world in touch with its feminine side. A world with respect for its mothers, sisters, partners, and comrades. A world humbled by beauty, centered in love.

To be there one felt an end to the patriarchy. This system of self-destruction that has tied us all up in mountains of despair. In its stead the voices of matriarchs from far and wide came to magnify our joys, our communal struggles, and our ability to heal.

The movement on the National Mall was full of smiles between strangers, signs spouting slogans empowering pussies, and almost every issue one can think of that we face in this modern era from Climate Change to Anti-Pipelines to Black Lives Matter to Health Care As A Human Right being laid out categorically as a part of the fight.

There was a crude alchemy in the way this next wave feminism gathered its voice. Always simple and to the point with hashtag lines and meme-based illustrations. Sometimes tripping up the older generation who joined our ranks and asked questions like “What’s a Queef?” or “What is that green drawing that they’re calling Dope Kush?”

It went deeper too though. This surface jest gave way to the greatest demonstration of sisterhood that I think any of us have ever experienced. Even with a sister, as a cis male, my own personal experience of this type of sisterhood has only ever been looking in from the outside.

To be in the middle of it all, though, was absolutely humbling.

I saw women complimenting each other on their beauty. I watched as they assisted each other to have a better view or to get where they were going. The crowd made way for disabled marchers in wheelchairs and with walkers. Even with a million people amassed together in a small space, there was hardly anyone pushing up on anyone else. The few times I was bumped into, I was surprised to hear an apology.

These are still surface details.

What I’m talking about is a million non-male identified people and their allies stood on the street together and created a space that felt so safe, even the voices that might typically keep to themselves were made loud and clear. 

These are the mothers who have let the world of men throw their temper tantrums and still at the end of the day they offer warmth. The partners who have suffered abuse and emotional vampirism, and yet still find a way to forgive. Those that identify as queer or identify as trans or identify as uniquely themselves and are patient as the rest of us stumble over the simple request of stepping outside of the binary in our pronoun usage. Friends disenfranchised and attacked because of the color of their skin, being vocal on how we can stand beside them in their fight for their lives.

Sisters who give way too many hints that they’re not interested in the dudes hitting on them at bars, or catcalling them in the street, or in their homes, or work space, or wherever men are around, and yet still include men as victims of the patriarchy. Survivors of rape and sexual assault who rediscover their power and share it with the world. Drag queens and earthen goddesses. Nasty women and Black Bloc anarchists.

This safe space was their vehicle.

And as a fellow activist, it was exhilarating to see so many of these warriors standing up, some for the first time in a public forum. But we all know, they have been standing up for us for our entire lives. 

Since the moment we were born, our mothers have nurtured us. Doing this while secretly hoping the next generation would understand the love of its mother and not fall into the false egotism of its father. If for whatever reason not our biological mother, this mother planet which we stand on. To be more compassionate and caring. To take on the weight of the world and fight until it is brighter.

This is why I march. My mother. My sister. My planet. My earthly sisters. We together will overthrow this toxic masculinity. We will rally together around justice and peace. It will be the end of the patriarchy. A better world lies in the female heart of tomorrow. I see it on the horizon. It wears pink lipstick and shouts “The Pussy Grabs Back!”

The Pussy Grabs Back

2017: The Year of The Clown

I’m calling it now. 2017 is set to be the Year of The Clown. 

Day 1 and you already have some junior tricksters turning the whole state of California and part of the internet upside down with a simple prank of turning “Hollywood” into “Hollyweed”.

More importantly you have two brave Water Protectors climbing into the rafters of the US Bank Stadium in Minnesota, a thousand feet above the audience, in order to drop a huge banner saying “DIVEST / #NoDAPL” calling on the city and state to pull their money out of US Bank who is invested hugely in the DAPL pipeline. My favorite part is these brave warriors don’t pull out after the banner drop. They begin twirling around upside down and smiling for pictures like a bunch of circus clown acrobats. Adding extra drama to entertain the audience with something more empowering than the game of football happening on the field below.

Then there’s this class clown bully who a bunch of people elected to be king, and who has got together a whole insane clown posse to fill his cabinet with chaos and destruction. These clowns remind us not all clowning is fun and games. Sometimes The Clown can be the court’s worst enemy. Sometimes he can throw the whole world into a state of anarchy. But only if we give power to his antics and let him get away with his insanity. 

Clown tyrants are easily tamed and put back in their place. It requires the people sticking together and healing his tirades with hearts full of love. It requires unity.

In all of these cases, it’s important to see The Clown as merely a reflection to our own state of being. Their comedy often reveals the underlayers of our own humanity and brings light to all those traumas that may not otherwise be brought to attention. They do this through tactics that often go outside the box or approach an idea completely backwards. 

Their arguments are poignant and yet sometimes so simple. The Clown gives us a good laugh where maybe we really need to cry. Both emotions tug at our hearts and both can be incredibly healing, but only one is still full of light as the spirit goes through a cathartic shift, leaving the mind even more ready for action. 

This is the gift of The Clown.

Everyone needs a little motivation in their life. The Clown is the first step towards taking that Fool’s leap into a higher realm of consciousness. 

No looking back now. It’s 2017. The Year of The Clown. The only place to go is forward. 

Take that leap and learn to fly like a Golden Eagle.

2017: The Year of The Clown

Where The Wild People Live

The full moon rises. Another night of song and prayer. Howls echo into the night as mother moon reaches her maxim. Drums are the driving force. Fireworks burst in the night time sky.

All day there are chainsaws resounding across the camps. Groups of people chopping large woodpiles for their neighbors in preparation for the coming snows. Yurts and teepees going up filling every open space. 

Daily actions drive out in caravans to disrupt DAPL’s construction. Those that return tell stories of great strength and peaceful resolve through extreme conflict. Armed DAPL workers that pull out their guns and threaten the Water Protectors. National guard lined up in riot gear. Water Protectors being jailed in dog kennels. Twenty hours spent imprisoned by a police force that is utterly disorganized in their attempt to control the will of the people.

At sunset, my uncles strip down and dive into the freezing waters of Cannonball River. They shout, “In the spirit of Crazy Horse! In the spirit of Sitting Bull!” as they resurface. The river reflects the purple-orange of northern heavens.

A somber note is in the Hayukka Camp. Clowns feel as much sadness as everyone else, if not more. They feel it all, whatever it is. 

News that the pipeline is almost 100% complete in North Dakota has reached the front page of the Bismark Times. Everyone holds their breath that there will be a continued halt to construction as the Army Corps continues to not approve a permit for construction underneath the Missouri River.

The Bismark Times says the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners is going to go ahead with construction anyway. They can afford to pay the fines. They even offer to pay the $10 million in expenses that Morton County has incurred arresting everyone.

This is where this country is these days. The only penalties banks and corporations face are monetary, and they have so much amassed wealth no fine is too much to stop them.

Where are the People to hold these tyrants accountable? You think politicians have any control of these bullies? When are the People going to rise up and demand change?

Iceland is a small island. And yet after the financial collapse they had millions in the streets. Within weeks the bankers that caused the collapse were in jail. A new government was in place. Now they are one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, with the Pirate Party making gains each election in Parliament.

It doesn’t take much for social change. It takes the people trusting their own power. It takes getting rid of cynicism and despair. It takes warriors investing in their hearts.

Standing Rock is where these warriors are born. It is where the wild people live. The last people willing to take risks to save the water where all life comes from. It is a native movement that has encouraged others wanting to find their roots to dig in deep.

Communication is key here. The white way of talking has ruled this country for far too long. Man comes up and tells Other Man what to do. Other Man responds by arguing a better way of action. Both Men spend more time arguing than doing anything.

Here that doesn’t happen. Nightly, the conversation over the fire is about letting go of this old way of talking. Letting go of this toxic masculinity. Listening and showing respect.

Grandfather walks up to the Sacred Fire. The fire goes quiet to listen. Grandfather taps the fire with his staff and says, “This fire. These rocks. This river. These have been here. A long time. These people. We come here to learn the old ways. The ways of our relatives. The ways of this earth. This ground. These stars. The people come to the earth. They ask for her lessons. This is the way it was told. This is what we find here.”

The youth lead the charge. The elders are there with them. The clowns provide distractions to disrupt the Black Snake, so that the rest can continue to take action. The rest learn how to live without the Black Snake’s influence.

Two nights ago, I dreamt of the Black Snake. He had all my relatives entangled in his long winding scales. But he was not invincible. He was not indestructible. In the dream, I was close to defeating him. Another swipe of my sword and he would have fallen.

Life, unfortunately, is destructible. And we must protect it or fail ourselves.

Where The Wild People Live

Heart Warriors

Perhaps what I miss the most is being referred to as “Warrior”: 

“Warriors protect your sisters. Protect your aunts and grandmothers. Form a line to surround them in prayer. Hold the line, warriors!”

“Warriors form up. We’ll build a fire for the women’s sweat. A big fire. Be in prayer as you build this fire. Think of the women in your life. Think of the women you love. Hold them in your heart as you gather wood. Hold them there as you chop it. This whole ceremony is a prayer. After the fire is built, you’ll stand guard over your sisters. Make sure no one comes in to disrupt the ceremony. Make sure no one is gawking or taking photos. Make sure the women feel safe, so they can be in prayer. Make sure the fire is healing.”

“Warriors! Don’t leave anyone behind. You need to watch out for your elders. Make sure you offer them a hand to get back to safety. Your duty is to protect your elders. To protect your sisters. To protect the future generations. Warriors! Be strong! Protect life!”

My inner Aries, God of War, already feeling greatly encouraged with an ax in my hand, swinging at the logs, building camp fires, and living a rugged simple life, smiling to be referred to in this way, empowered by a culture of strength.

Though, one day, an elder revealed “The Warrior” in Lakota culture is not so much a person who goes out onto the battlefield, ensnared by a cycle of bloodshed, but instead is a person who is heavy with heart, feeling all things, and following the flow of life through their veins, protecting those around them, recognizing the sacredness of life and how the heart’s ability to love is the only way to restore balance, when darkness has overtaken the light.

It is this second definition of Warrior that I felt the strongest while camped out with fellow Water Protectors in North Dakota, defending the Sacred Waters of over 32 million people downstream, living off the land in a community strengthened by Love. There are plenty of days where the weight of my heart caused tears in my eyes. I would weep by the river I stood near to defend. Other days, I was overwhelmed by so much hope and love, my whole body glowed from the embrace of this inner warmth. Inside myself, I felt a peace of action. Doing right by my being.

Daily, I felt my Celtic origins coming to the surface. My Irish ancestry mystified by the land on which I lived to protect. Earth which lived to give a foundation to my community. A balance of Mother and Steward. My Pagan heart warming me through Grandmother Winter’s onset of cold, a lesson of humility, while Grandfather River flowed by increasingly charged by our prayers, to which an elder said: 

“We drink this water, DAPL drinks this water, the police drink this water. We are all drinking this water that we’ve put so much prayer into. Eventually, these waters will be so full of prayer, they will be unable to resist. The conflict will resolve itself. The people of this land will be healed. The scars on the Mother will be replaced by a harvest shared by all. A coming together of all people will be celebrated. Water is Life will be the refrain.” 

I met some of the bravest, most creative, inspiring, strong people during my time at Standing Rock. They came from all generations and backgrounds. Something pulled at their hearts and brought them there. Some traveling thousands of miles and across vast landscapes  and even oceans. Over 500 flags from over 500 indigenous nations displayed in the wind, proudly. These Water Protectors each from a long line of warriors, using their hearts to defend the sacredness of life.

This battle is ongoing. 

It will spread to each of our communities. 

Everywhere it spreads, be sure there will be Warriors there to carry Love in their Hearts. 

Enough Love to Protect Life.

No Spiritual Surrender.

Heart Warriors