Thursday, January 14, 2021

Birmingham, AL: Land Acknowledgement

I first heard the term "land acknowledgement" at a November 2020 seminar called The Role of ADR in Disputes Involving Gender-Based Violence, hosted by the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution. (I learned other new language at that event, too.)

I heard the term again in Northwestern University's first event in its Dream Week series of virtual events leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King's Day. 

Mariame Kaba presented the keynote for the first event. But before she spoke, Chantay Moore presented a land acknowledgement. Ms. Moore is a member of the Navajo Nation, and is also of African-American heritage.

What is land acknowledgement? 

From Northwestern University's land acknowledgement page, I've gleaned this definition: 

"A Land Acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories. ....

.... [A land acknowledgement] is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory you reside on, and a way of honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. It is important to understand the long standing history that has brought you to reside on the land, and to seek to understand your place within that history. Land acknowledgements do not exist in a past tense, or historical context: colonialism is a current ongoing process [emphasis added], and we need to build our mindfulness of our present participation."

The Native Governance Center offers a rich, reader-friendly, practical guide here for presenting a meaningful land acknowledgement.  Another good explanation is at Native Land Digital here.

Michael Redhead Champagne, author of North End MC, shares an interview he conducted in 2015 with Native Land Digital founder, Victor Temprano, about why it's important for all of us, "settlers" in particular, to educate ourselves about indigenous peoples who live(d) where we live: 

MC: Why is it important for non-indigenous people to involve themselves as respectful allies in the indigenous struggle in 2015 Canada?
Victor:  It’s important for settlers to engage with Indigenous history and nations on many levels – spiritual, physical, emotional, and more. It’s not to ‘help’ Indigenous people or cultures (at least not in the traditional sense of ‘charity’), but to help settlers get educated, to grow and to begin the hard process of decolonization. I don’t know what decolonization really looks like or feels like in our settler society, but I know it needs to happen, whether for moral, environmental, spiritual, legal, or historical reasons (or more). It is a inter-generational struggle to decolonize, and it’s already been going on, and now is a good time as any to find a way to engage one’s skills in a meaningful way.


The Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities offers a piss-poor, self-serving, so-called land acknowledgement here.


Before removal, enslavement, or extermination, what indigenous families and communities lived - and live - in what are now called Birmingham and Alabama? 


Here is an interactive map that shows us which indigenous peoples lived (live) in Birmingham and Alabama (and throughout the world).

From Encyclopedia of Alabama

Alabama's indigenous history can be traced back more than 10,000 years, to the Paleoindian Period. Cultural and technological developments brought changes to the societies that inhabited what is now Alabama, with the most visible evidence of those changes being the remarkable earthen mounds built by the Mississippian people throughout the Southeast, in Alabama most notably at Moundville. By the time European fortune hunters and colonialist explorers arrived in the sixteenth century, the Indian groups in the Southeast had coalesced into the cultural groups known from the historic period: the Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, and Chickasaws, and smaller groups such as the Alabama-Coushattas and the Yuchis. As more Europeans and then U.S. settlers flooded into the Southeast, these peoples were subjected to continual assaults on their land, warfare, the spread of non-native diseases, and exploitation of their resources. In the 1830s, the majority of the Native Americans in Alabama were forced from their land to make way for cotton plantations and European American expansion. Today, the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians maintain their traditions on portions of their tribal homelands in the state.


Trail of Tears

  A map depicting trails from southeast US to Oklahoma.


Alabama is not only the terminus of the Appalachian Trail, it has what some called "ends" of the Trail of Tears, for example, at Waterloo Landing.

In the article, Traveling the Trail of Tears in Alabama, Joe Cuhaj notes: "During the time of the Trail of Tears, Waterloo Landing, which is located in the town of Waterloo in the extreme northwest corner of Alabama, was situated on the banks of the Tennessee River. Since that time, the river was dammed to form Pickwick Lake, and the landing was flooded over. Because it was a final departure point for Indians from the South, Waterloo Landing was known as the "End of the Trail." Now, a historical marker denotes the location, and in September of each year a commemorative Pow-Wow is held here with traditional music and more.

Alabama has five "certified sites" that acknowledge the Trail of Tears. 

Cherokee Walking the Trail of Tears, by artist Sam Kitts. Source: NPS Trail of Tears Alabama
Cherokee Walking the Trail of Tears, by artist Sam Kitts. Source: NPS Trail of Tears Alabama

A grim précis of the Trail of Tears, and the motives that drove it, is on the History Channel's Trail of Tears page. 

In September 2020, PBS premiered a movie, DIGADOHI: Lands, Cherokee, and the Trail of Tears



Monday, January 4, 2021

Birmingham, AL: The New Abolitionism: A Birmingham Connection


Angela Davis mural, Avondale neighborhood, Birmingham, Alabama. December 2020.
Angela Davis mural, by Tim Kerr, Avondale neighborhood, Birmingham, Alabama. December 2020.

In November I attended a dispute resolution workshop hosted by the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, which featured keynote speaker, Mariame Kabe

Ms. Kabe and others in the workshop spoke a language new to me:

After the workshop, I sought more information on abolition feminism .... 

.... which led me to Angela Davis, who, until I visited the Avondale neighborhood recently, and saw her image on a mural, I had no idea was from Birmingham. 

Sidebar: Or that the Girl Scouts had played a positive role in her life as an activist, oh, let's go ahead and say it - a revolutionary. An aside from this 2019 Washington Post article

 “[Angela Davis is] someone who, from a very young age, has provoked enormous controversy over whether her ideas were good or bad,” says Jane Kamensky, director of Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. “She cast herself as a revolutionary. And we have liked our civil rights activists firmly in the reform tradition, and we have liked our revolutionaries male.”

Abolition feminism

My current understanding of what it means to be feminist has expanded beyond my introduction in the 1970s and my membership in a Women's Political Caucus chapter in the 1990s. A sampling of new-to-me influences, learned since 2010, include:

1. Audre Lorde:

"I am a lesbian woman of Color whose children eat regularly because I work in a university. If their full bellies make me fail to recognize my commonality with a woman of Color whose children do not eat because she cannot find work, or who has no children because her insides are rotted from home abortions and sterilization; if I fail to recognize the lesbian who chooses not to have children, the woman who remains closeted because her homophobic community is her only life support, the woman who chooses silence instead of another death, the woman who is terrified lest my anger trigger the explosion of hers; if I fail to recognize them as other faces of myself, then I am contributing not only to each of their oppressions but also to my own, and the anger which stands between us then must be used for clarity and mutual empowerment, not for evasion by guilt or for further separation. I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is anyone of you."

Source: Black Past


2. Women's Revolutionary Law of the EZLN in Chiapas, Mexico: 

  • "First, women have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in the place and at the level that their capacity and will dictates without any discrimination based on race, creed, color, or political affiliation.
  • Second, women have the right to work and to receive a just salary.
  • Third, women have the right to decide on the number of children they have and take care of.
  • Fourth, women have the right to participate in community affairs and hold leadership positions if they are freely and democratically elected.
  • Fifth, women have the right to primary care in terms of their health and nutrition.
  • Sixth, women have the right to education.
  • Seventh, women have the right to choose who they are with (i.e. choose their romantic/sexual partners) and should not be obligated to marry by force.
  • Eighth, no woman should be beaten or physically mistreated by either family members or strangers. Rape and attempted rape should be severely punished.
  • Ninth, women can hold leadership positions in the organization and hold military rank in the revolutionary armed forces.
  • Ten, women have all the rights and obligations set out by the revolutionary laws and regulations."  
Source: Wikipedia


3.  Criticisms of the 2017 Women's March

"The expanding dialogue about rape culture, and the indictments of patriarchy are inspiring, but they don’t change my ambivalence about organizing with White women, or my discomfort with the assumption that when White women organize for their freedom, they are organizing for mine too. They are not, and cannot, until they unpack the ways in which they have been taught to ignore the oppression of Black and Brown women – and continue to benefit from our oppression. Within hours of the March, some attendees Tweeted about how there were no arrests made that day at the major marches. Clearly, they lacked analysis or sensitivity for why peaceful protests where attendees are majority Black or Brown would be targeted for arrest.

"Fifty-four percent of White women voted for Trump. “Protecting” our borders and emboldening White supremacy were more important to them than autonomy over their own bodies and families." 

Source: Katina Parker in A Charge to White Women


4. The 1950s Mine-Mill Strike in Grant County, New Mexico

OK. So what does holistic feminism have to do with PIC abolition? 

From Angela Davis: 

1. "When we look at women in prison, we learn about the system as a whole, the nature of punishment, the very apparatus of prison." 

Source: Angela Davis in Windy City Times article by Yasmin Nair.


2. "Davis influentially condemned feminist approaches which emphasized incarcerating perpetuators, or carceral feminism Instead she and other abolitionist feminists focused on how the state mirrored intimate partner violence and abuse as it punished survivors for self defense and forcibly sterilized hundreds of thousands of women."  

Source: UCLA's Rebel Archives article, Angela Davis and Abolitionist Feminism.


3. "Confronting and abolishing the power relations embodied in PIC required a Black feminist approach that addressed the interwoven nature of state violence and people’s struggles. 

"Davis’ Black feminist theory took shape in the everyday work of organizations like the Santa Cruz Women’s Prison Project and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, which helped the voices and experiences of incarcerated women break through prison walls. Rejecting the machismo that characterized earlier prison struggles, women and their allies revealed the gendered violence and trauma both led marginalized women to prison and was exacerbated by state violence. As Californian prisons became infamously overcrowded, incarcerated people faced medical neglect and abuse even more extreme than the conditions described at Soledad years earlier. All these circumstances and the will of incarcerated women to struggle for their own survival built a new inside outside movement that continues to this day." 

Source: UCLA's Rebel Archives, Introduction to series Sisters in Struggle: The California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Feminism, and Abolition

Women In Prison
Women in Prison, by Lydia Crumbley, 2009. Find it at Justseeds.

I have so much to learn. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 888: 2021 Travel Resolutions


A ship approaches on an afternoon in an Istanbul park. June 2012.
A ship approaches on an afternoon in an Istanbul park. June 2012.


Before COVID

Gosh, hard to believe that it was only last year that I wrote Travel Resolutions for 2020, with corona barely a blip on my radar. 

These were my 2020 travel plans: 

  1. Regular carV practice in Chez Prius before the big road trip to Alaska
  2. Road trip to Alaska
  3. Road trip with my mother
  4. Loose ends closure: New Mexico: A hike in the Bisti Wilderness
  5. Loose ends closure: Drive to the southern end of Highway 1 in Louisiana
  6. Indirectly related to travel: When I leave Tucson, I will have slashed my inventory of belongings to the point where I can carV in Chez Prius as I migrate on the way to whereversville
  7. A second trip to Nogales
  8. A trip to Yuma, forever riveted into my brain with The Devil's Highway
  9. A trip to San Luis Rio Colorado, MX, which is just south of Yuma
  10. A trip to Naco, Sonora, MX, which is south of Bisbee
  11. A trip to Agua Prieta, Sonora, MX, also south of Bisbee
  12. While still in Arizona, push out of my comfort zone by staying solo on public lands
  13. Push out of my comfort zone by hiking solo more often

 2020 held such promise! 

Dubai boats, United Arab Emirates. January 2012.
Dubai boats, United Arab Emirates. January 2012.

My 2021 travelutions

Assumption: COVID will still be an active agent among us for most of 2021, but solo travel, conducted with prudent precautions, will be relatively safe.

  1. Visit all of Alabama's state parks
  2. Camp solo on public lands at least once, i.e. dispersed camping, not in a campground
  3. Loose ends closure from 2020: Make that trip to Grand Isle, Louisiana, before it disappears
  4. Hike on the Appalachian Trail - distance unimportant
  5. Venture into Florida a bit, camp on a beach there 
  6. Fingers crossed that I can take one of my descendants on his first trip out of the US, maybe toward the end of 2021

A modest list, as you can see. 

There are travel plans that await the demise of COVID, but ....


Saturday, January 2, 2021

10 Years Ago: Slow Travel


Lake Martin in June. Near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. June 2015.
Lake Martin in June. Near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. June 2015.


Ten years ago, I published this post on slow travel.

When you finish reading it, I invite you to slump back, allow your limbs to go limp, release a deep sigh, and steep yourself in the song you'll find at the end, Mouneissa.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Slow Travel

According to Slow Movement,  "slow travel" is "the opportunity to become part of local life and to connect to a place and its people. Slow travel is also about connection to culture."

In the April 2010 Wall Street Journal Magazine article, Easy Rider, author Nancy Keates examines the term from several perspectives. "You settle in. You have to go to the grocery store. You get to know the people who run the cafe ... " says one interviewee.

Here is a slow traveler:

Phil in the ______.  Don't start reading Phil's blog if you have an appointment to keep. You're sure to miss it, as you'll be completely sucked into such stories as:

Before I leave Phil, below is one of the songs from Phil's Sonic Tour of Mali, by Malian singer, Rokia Traore:




Friday, January 1, 2021

Word of the Year 2021: Joy

My newborn. Some decades ago.
My newborn. Some decades ago.

Joy alights on us for an instant, an hour, maybe a day. 

A sweet ambush of fragrance from a flowering tree

A vista that grabs your breath

A communal dance, thrumming with a primordial beat

A companionable walk with a loved one, arms entwined 

The slow-motion grace of a heron gliding over a long ribbon of water

A narcotic rush of soaring energy that arcs from your spirit to another's - that first time you lock eyes with your newborn - or that first moment you discover - surprise! - you are in love with a partner

No matter what else might be happening - to me, to the people in my circles, or around the world - I can watch out for moments of joy. 

 I can gobble them up guilt-free, for otherwise, they will go to waste, and that would be a sin. 


I like these quotes that touch on joy

Attention! Here and now, boys, here and now.  From Island, by Aldous Huxley

Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy. By William Butler Yeats

Make a joyful noise upon the Lord ... From the Old Testament of the Bible, which I apply enthusiastically to the joys of dance and music

We have been speaking to you of serious, sometimes tragic things. We have been dealing with alcohol in its worst  aspect.  But  we  aren’t  a  glum  lot.  If  newcomers  could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn’t want  it.  We  absolutely  insist  on  enjoying  life. From the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book

This, too, shall pass. A 12-step slogan that applies not only to bad things that are happening, but to good things that are happening, too. So when something joyful appears, I need to savor it like a stunning sunset, as it is transitory. 

Music that gives me joy

Spring, in Vivaldi's Four Seasons, does something to my brain chemistry. It induces joy. 

Here is a performance produced by Voices of Music, featuring Alana Youssefian.






Thursday, December 31, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 13: My Rootless Goals

  On Build thus far

  1. Word of the Year 2020: Build 1: After the Floods
  2. Word of the Year 2020: Build 2: Fronterista
  3. Word of the Year 2020: Build 3: "House"
  4. Word of the Year 2020: Build 4: Chosens
  5. Word of the Year 2020: Build 5: It Takes a Village
  6. Word of the Year 2020: Build 6: Elevation
  7. Word of the Year 2020: Build 7: Trail Building
  8. Word of the Year 2020: Build 8: Money
  9. Word of the Year 2020: Build 9: Health 
  10. Word of the Year 2020: Build 10: Service and Activism
  11. Word of the Year 2020: Build 11: Relationships
  12. Word of the Year 2020: Build 12: Creative Life


This end-of-the-year Build post is about rootless goals I want to achieve. 

The thing about being rootless is that .... I'm rootless, so maybe having a rootless goal is an oxymoron? 

During this COVID time, I've been tutoring one of my descendants - let's call her Sparkle - in some of her schoolwork. We've been reading a book together for her reading class. We encountered a simile, "like a burr clings to wool," and I asked Sparkle if she knew what a burr was. No, but as we talked about its characteristics, she said, "Oh, a stick-tight!" Yeah!

My rootlessness is a bit like being a stick-tight or a burr in that where I end up isn't a sure thing at all. I'm on a ride and maybe I'll sprout roots where I fall off my travel host, and maybe I'll re-attach to another moving host, to be carried off to some other destination. 

This reminds me of the mysterious cup o' roaches in Bernalillo, New Mexico, some years back. 


 Cup o' roaches, Bernalillo, New Mexico.

Whose Invisible Hand put the roaches in that cup? Did I see the critters in their original plunking-down spot or did I see them in their second, ninth, or 100th spot? When a random boy ran past me, scooped up the cup, and carried it away with him, where did he plunk it down? What happened to the roaches after that? Did I witness the explanation of the universe?

Seriously, though:


My rootless goals for today, maybe not tomorrow, or even an hour from now 

  1. Be alert for the place I will root when I'm 70ish  >>>>  AND be open to rooting at any time, because I am not under contract to my current rootlessness
  2. Push hard against Goddess Inertia, even in isolationist COVID-19 times. It is not enough to move to a new geographic location each year - it is mission critical to embed myself in the new geography, new people, new traditions - else why am I rootless at all? 
  3. Try out new experiments in living arrangements, portability, and minimalism, such as my current auditioning of cardboard boxes as furniture
  4. Stay curious



Saturday, December 19, 2020

Birmingham, AL: "... Such Beautiful Scenery. We Didn't Have a Sense of Fear."

USPS stamp, Alabama.
USPS stamp, Alabama.

Before I moved to Alabama, if I were on a shrink's couch and she ran me through an associations exercise, and she said, "black," I'd say "white," and if she said "Alabama," I'd say "racism."

One day, I went to the post office in Tucson to buy stamps. They didn't have many artistic choices that day, but they did have one - just one - of the state stamps from its series of state stamps. It was Alabama. My hand practically recoiled from the proffered page of stamps. An Alabama stamp?! On my mail?! Never!

The only positive whisper I had about Alabama was the comment of a friend who'd gone to Birmingham on a business trip some years ago. I asked him what he thought of Birmingham. He replied: "It's pretty and the people are friendly."

I share all of this backstory to build up to this point: When I drove into Alabama in July, I thought: Wow! It is so pretty here!

On a subsequent weekend trip to Oxford and Anniston, I thought: Wow! It is so pretty here!

Every time I move through Birmingham's forested neighborhoods, up hills, across ridges, over the mountain, I think: Gosh almighty, it's so pretty here. 

And then I think: If it weren't for Alabama's racism brand, the state could be a paradise!

Which leads me to the documentary I just watched,  PBS American Experience: Freedom Riders [the link takes you to the entire documentary].

Here is the trailer to the documentary:



Before the virgin voyage of the Freedom Rider campaign, Dr. Martin Luther King counseled the students: "... and if I were you, I probably wouldn't go into Alabama."

But this is the quote that grabs me, from one of the first wave of Freedom Riders, Mae F. Moultrie Howard: 

"It was such a beautiful day. It was such a quiet feeling that day ... it was bright and sunny. The sky was blue. And it was such beautiful scenery. We didn't have a sense of fear."

How can such horrible acts occur in such a beautiful land?

Julian Bond: "The people on the Trailways bus going to Birmingham don't know that the Greyhound bus in Anniston has been burned, ..... now the [people on the Trailways bus are] going to a city which is the worst city for race in the whole United States. It literally is a police state, ruled by one of the worst figures in American history, Bull Connor, who must have been some kind of psychopath, just rabid on the subject of race."

Unknown: "I think when they learn that when they go somewhere to create a riot, that there's not going to be somebody there to stand between them and the other crowd, they'll stay home."

John Siegenthaler, recounting the phone conversation he had with Freedom Rider leader, student Diane Nash: "'I understand there are more Freedom Riders coming down from Nashville. You must stop them if you can. Do you understand you're going to get somebody killed?' Her response was: 'They're not going to turn back. They're on their way to Birmingham.' .... soon I was shouting, 'Young woman, do you understand what you're doing? ... Do you understand you're going to get somebody killed!?' And there's a pause and she said, 'Sir, you should know, we all signed our last wills and testaments last night before they left. We know someone will be killed. But we cannot let violence overcome nonviolence.'"

Governor Patterson: "... these [freedom riders] are rabble rousers and we can't protect them."

Governor Patterson: "We don't need the federal marshals here in [Montgomery]. The situation here is well in hand, and if the outside agitators who came here and deliberately stirred up this controversy, would go home, and the marshals go home, it'd be best for everybody and the situation would return to normal very quickly."

Right after I finished watching Freedom Riders, I watched a short documentary that centered on James Armstrong, The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement.

Perhaps the most moving quote in this documentary came from Faya Rose Touré, a civil rights activist and litigation attorney: 

"The only way to freedom land, is on the backs of unknown people whose bodies are stacked so high that you eventually can walk to freedom land. And it's those foot soldiers who really make change. We always remember the Dr. Kings and the Rosa Parks, but we have to remember our foot soldiers."

On the foot soldiers, Ms. Touré added later: "The foot soldiers are some of the most important people in the Civil Rights Movement. These are people who will never be known by name. 'Cause they're people, who left their jobs, who risked their lives, may have been fired from their jobs. Who went out to march, not just one day, but every day. They weren't there just on Bloody Sunday, but they were there on Bloody Monday, fire me Tuesday, can't find a job Wednesday."

".... Such beautiful scenery. We didn't have a sense of fear."


I've been other places where the placid beauty of a surface hides the monsters - some still alive, some not - beneath. 

Example 1: The Trinity Site in New Mexico, the site of atomic bomb testing before Hiroshima and Nagasaki

I wrote then: 

... I do experience some cognitive dissonance in the low levels of radiation that exist there today (apparently) versus what we've had pounded into our psyches about how many eons it takes for radiation from an atomic bomb to go to "safe" levels. Does this mean I take away a sense that atomic weapons are "not that bad"? No. The take-away is my inability to reconcile two alleged realities.

Example 2: Bayou Corne the Sinkhole, Part 2

I wrote then: 

Once the immediate shock of the Bayou Corne's suck was over, could I believe what my eyes told me about the apparent return to [a] heretofore idyllic paradise, with the fish still biting, the birds still swooping gracefully, the water still rippling peacefully, the sky still blue, the trees still shading and sheltering?

I couldn't see what was - and wasn't - below my feet. Couldn't feel what was - or wasn't - there. Who could I trust to tell me the truth?


 ... such beautiful scenery.