We are all one

We are all one
Jennifer Varenchik

Sunday, December 14, 2003

High Prophecy for Low Times

Hey you all! Today it’s raining in LA. It’s not that cold, I’m sitting with my balcony door open. I think I’m savoring my last few days here. I’m going to permanently moving in with my grandmother soon. She isn’t doing so well anymore. It’s really hard. But the hardest part is my family and their reaction to watching our matriarch fade. No one wants to take the necessary time to actually do something about the problem; instead they throw money at it. Wow, that’s really harsh, but sometimes the truth hurts.

I wasn’t at the Thanksgiving dinner this year, but I guess they were asking the younger ones to move in with her, like saying “Hey, what are you doing now, why don’t you move in with her?”. I was talking to my brother about it, we were joking saying “Why don’t YOU do something about it, instead of asking us to”.

Which leads me to my blog entry….

I’m in the middle of writing a screenplay, my first. It’s going pretty good. I mean, I’ve always had these things in my head, like swirling around. They are now at the point that I have to commit to getting them on paper.

It takes discipline, which I am slowly gathering. I’m finding I am willing do anything but sit down and write. Like today I had all day to write, but somehow I needed to do laundry, do the dishes, make jell-o (I have no idea why) and the worst… I made an incense burner out of a diet coke bottle. I actually did a whole arts and crafts project, I thought about decorating it, but then said enough is enough!

If it wasn’t for this book that I read, “The Artist’s Way”, I wouldn’t have recognized that I am not psycho, I’m just used to being a “shadow artist”. Basically, that’s someone who surrounds themself with other artists, lives vicariously through them, rather than getting the balls to be one themselves. Well, the book doesn’t say balls, but in my case specifically, I think I need some…that’s what’s holding me back. That, and discipline. So when I almost got out my paints, and started contemplating the color schemes for my incense burner, I basically yelled out (in my head) “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” I even felt like I was Peter Finch, from the 1976 classic “Network”. So after recognizing my distractions, I sat down and started typing.

Oh, but before I actually opened my screenplay, I typed this blog entry and this poem. I rationalized that the poem is going to be used in a scene in my film…It really is! Check it out, it’s in spoken word style. One of the characters will recite it in his workshop that all the main characters go to, like at youth conference…

Warriors in the Wings

We’re coming to get ya
Our minds preparin’
Tired of the starin’
Thinking of comparin’
This tragedy
that you call
our – poor - lives
Were gonna rise
You’ll feel our plight
Goin’ to school
Gettin’ ready for fight
Not with our fists
Ain’t that way no more
It’s a battle of the minds
Leading to bigger doors
Each door we open
Shines some light
Scarin’ away the weak ones
For only the strong
will survive
this fight!
Today it’s about what you know
Know your history! Know your language! Know your laws!
And don’t depend on the casino
Greed's a lost cause
Find other ways to line your nest
For giving back and sharing the message
Is the only way to pass this test
Land? Yeah, we got that!
Heroes, yeah, we got that, too!
The rest of the country doesn’t even have a clue
Add stories, music, history and so much more to the list
Things that you wouldn’t understand, so you’ll dis’
It’s ok, you don’t have to fear
Come sit over here, listen to your peer
Remember you said, “In God We Trust”
Check please!
Excuse me, I’ll be taking this land back for us
Don’t get all mad now, now that we found our mission
The truth and honesty would have avoided this position
Our fighting ring is the courtroom
The once mystery place for us
We raised the bar, knowledge is now a must
We got our education, we learned the law
And we are preparing our young
So they won’t fall
All our pride restored
From rez to city to village to rancheria
Throwin’ out the old history books,
And goodbye welfare, we don’t need ya!
Our culture no longer ignored
We’re in the books, the TV and on the radio
We are getting’ healthy, we’re getting’ smart
Scoot over, we’re gonna be in control.
We’ve learned our lessons
It’s time for us to drive
Fasten your seatbelts
It’s gonna be a beautiful ride!

Comments, questions, clarifications:

Monday, December 01, 2003

To Albuquerque and Back Again

I've been back in Los Angeles now for over a week, and I'm still having trouble writing about the events that happened while I was in Albuquerque, NM. I'm having difficulty with describing what I experienced because I want my account to be accurate and honest. So here I go....

While in NM I caught a glimpse into the future of our people. Our people meaning Native Americans, First Nations, what ever you call yourself as an indigenous person....all of us, not tribally specific. I have seen our future leadership and I'm happy.

On Wednesday November 19th, two young women stood up at the NCAI (National Congress of American Indians) general assembly and pointed out that alcohol was served at a fundraiser and youth were present. I know from talking with these women that they were truly upset seeing some of our tribal leaders drinking AND more importantly, having youth around to witness it. One of them said that she wouldn't want to find her leader in an "environment like this", and she would question their leadership skills if they were there.

Hmmmm, she gave me something to think about....

There I was, having a great time (not drinking). I was so impressed with Native Threads and there efforts to raise money for NCAI. The set design was awesome, I mean it was really professional! They had an awesome line up, Drew Lacapa, The Sneezy Boys, Casper and music by DJ Able.

I had just finished watching Drew Lacapa perform his stand-up comedy and I was on my way to the restroom when it all started. I walked out and found one of the young women standing by the exit waiting for one of our major leaders to come out so she could get his advice on the alcohol situation...should they write an emergency resolution? complain to the executive council? say nothing? Since I was there as a trainer for the youth commission, I called it quits for the evening and helped gather the youth that were concerned about the event. The respected leader came out and he advised the group to let him handle it, that it was a tricky situation. They seemed ok with that, and went up to one of the girl's rooms and ordered pizza.

Now since we had arrived at NCAI, the training team had been meeting late at night to review the day and change any plans for the next day. That night our team also ordered pizza and talked about what had happened earlier. I had mentioned to one of the trainers that it had never crossed my mind that the youth would get upset about the alcohol. I was out there having a great time, it caught me by surprise to see the young woman standing by the exit. But that was because I am so used to seeing alcohol at these events, unfortunately it's the norm. One of them said that if a candidate was running for office and DIDN'T serve alcohol at their reception, then no one would go. And you know what, it's probably true. Is it? I can only imagine....

The next day, the youth commission met as usual, we were just getting started with our agenda when a man from Albuquerque came knocking at the door. He said that he had heard that some of the youth were upset about the alcohol being present and he wanted volunteers to testify at general assembly (in front of an audience of about 300 or more Native people). The two young women left with him to get ready to speak. Then the advance group followed to witness and offer their support. The rest of the youth commission wanted to go, so before you know it, we were all on our way to the convention center.

When it was time for them to address the executive council, I was off to the side with the youth commission coordinator, Jeri Brunoe Samson. I don't remember what or who we were talking to, but we were caught off guard that it was their time. Jeri quickly dashed over to where a majority of the youth were sitting and told them to go stand behind the 2 speakers. In less than 10 seconds, about seventy five kids stood up and made their way to support the 2 women speaking. It was in those 10 seconds that I caught a glimpse into the future. The whole room gasped as the youth took their place in the aisle and stood facing the executive council. It was amazing, it was so powerful. Tears filled my eyes and my throat tightened. I looked at Jeri and she had the same look on her face. I closed my eyes and thought how these kids may not realize it, but they were making a difference at the moment. They were telling the leaders that when it comes time for them to be in charge, they will run things differently.

When they were done speaking, the youth all filed out and we went back to the youth commission. I stayed in general assembly for about 10 additional minutes and watched in amazement as tribal leader after leader got up and supported the youth's statements. Leaders were getting up right and left agreeing with the 2 young women. It was great! I walked back to the youth commission feeling secure about the future of our Native nations.

Some of you may think that when it's their time, that these young leaders may have all the intentions to run things differently, but they won't. Or that most young leaders start out wanting to make positive change, but grow tired of defeat and eventually give in. But I have faith. What I witnessed that day gave me hope for our people and our future. I think on their watch, they will raise the bar and raise the standards. I pray for that.

And speaking of raising the bar....

I'm not trying to put on a front about being an angel. That's the last thing I want to do. I drink, I have smoked pot, I have taken a lot unhealthy risks with my life. I'm not proud of that, but I want to be honest. I can understand the youth and their concerns about seeing their leaders in that type of environment, that makes sense. But I also know that as I've grown, I have learned to make wiser choices.

I have been sober driver at a few events...make that at a few conferences. One in particular in Phoenix, I remember dragging my water bottle around with me and everyone making fun of me for NOT drinking. And yes, there have been those times where I have joined the crowd and ordered a drink. However, being present in that convention center when those 2 young women stood up, that has changed something inside me. I'm not sure what exactly it has changed, but something different.

I talked to Jeri about it afterwards and told her that I think it's time for me to move to the next level, I'm going to be sober. She said that since I don't have a problem, that shouldn't really be an issue. I agreed, but I think that it's now time for me to just step up to the plate and just do it. Shoot, I've finished a marathon, I moved to LA without having any friends, I've started my own business....I think I can release this habit without problems.

Well, let me qualify that.

I've already had problems. And now I know why those in recovery need a new batch of friends. I think that is going to be the most challenging part, getting my friends to support my intentions. When I was still in NM, I was invited to go out bar hopping on the last night. On the plane ride from LA, I was really looking forward to going out at least one night while in NM. However, I told my friend that as much as I wanted to go, I didn't think I should. Not only that, but my absolute need to see the nightlife faded away....how strange. I was actually looking forward to just spending time with my friend, but I knew that if I was to go out, we really wouldn't get to talk. We would be in some smoky, loud bar yelling sentences at each other. So I went with my training team instead and we ordered room service.

That was a great night, just sitting around, joking and working. I miss that feeling of being around other Native people, and also being in a safe environment where we could talk without having to put on a front.

But here I am, back home.
I need new friends.
I need my current friends to be ok with my intentions.
Or maybe I just need more strength, I need some of what those 2 young women have. They have true NDN power, they have balls, they are our future.

I don't have the answers, I just know that I'm raising the bar. How can I expect them to lead us if I can't live by the same standards?

Thanks for reading,

comments, questions or clarifications.....