Archive for November, 2010
To this day, I can hardly bear to think of that quintessentially American holiday — Thanksgiving.When I do, however, I do not dwell on pilgrims with wide black hats sitting to sup with red men, their long hair adorned with eagle feathers. I think not of turkeys, nor of cranberry, foods now traditional for the day of feast. Unlike millions, I don’t even think of the day’s football game; and not thinking of it, I don’t watch it. I think of the people we have habitually called ‘Indians” the indigenous people of the Americas. Those millions who are no more. I think of those precious few who remain, and wonder, what do they think of this day; this national myth of sweet brotherhood, that masks what can only be called genocide? Several years ago, I read a thin text that was pregnant with poignancy. It was a collection of Native remarks from the first tribes who encountered whites in New England, and down through several hundred years. Throughout it all, the same vibration could be felt, no matter what the clan or tribe. A profound sense of betrayal and wrong; from people who were treated like brethren when they first arrived. In New England, the name Powhatan (ca. 1547-1618) is still recalled (even if that wasn’t his name, but what the English called him). Known as Wahunsonacock by his people, he headed a confederacy of 32 tribes, and governed an area of hundreds of miles. He was the father of Pocahontas, the young Indian maiden who saved the life of Capt. James Smith. A year after sparing Smith’s life, the white captain threatened the great chief. This is some of his response given in 1609: “…Why should you take by force that from us which you can have by love? Why should you destroy us, who have provided you with food? We can hide our provisions, and fly into the woods; and then you must consequently famish by wronging your friends. What is the cause of your jealousy? You see us unarmed, and willing to supply your wants, if you come in a friendly manner, and not with swords and guns, as to invade an enemy. I am not so simple, as not to know it is better to eat good meat, lie well, and sleep quietly with my women and children; to laugh and be merry with the English; and, being their friend, to have copper, hatchets, and whatever else I want, than to fly from all, to lie cold in the woods, feed upon acorns, roots, and such trash, and to be so hunted, that I cannot rest, eat, or sleep. In such circumstances, my men must watch, and if a twig should but break, all would cry out, “Here comes Capt. Smith“; and in this miserable manner, to end my miserable life; and, Capt. Smith, this might be soon your fate too, through your rashness and unadvisedness. I therefore, exhort you to peaceable councils; and, above all, I insist that the guns and swords, the cause of all our jealousy and uneasiness, be removed and sent away.” [Blaisdell, Bob, ed., Great Speeches by Native Americans (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Press, 2000), p.4.] That great chief’s sentiments would be echoed for over hundreds of years, but injustice would just be piled on injustice. Genocide would be the white answer to red life. Centuries later, what can Thanksgiving Day mean to Native peoples? Thank you for stealing our land? Thank you for wiping out our people? Thank you for placing a remnant of our once great numbers on rural ghettoes called ‘reservations?’ Thank you for abolishing most of the ancient traditions? Thank you for poisoning what little Indian lands remain with uranium? Thank you for poisoning the lands now inhabited by the whites? Thank you for letting Indians fight in American wars against other people? Thanks. The real tragedy is that millions of Americans don’t know, and don’t want to know about Indian history and traditions. Today, the names of rivers, lakes, and landmarks bear indigenous markers of another age. The people, except for an occasional movie, are mostly forgotten; out of mind. The easier to replace with false images of happy meals, and turkey dinners. Happy Thanksgiving.
in fact no brotherman here, have two
Two dollars means a snack for me,
but it means a big deal to you
Be strong, serve God only,
know that if you do, beautiful heaven awaits
That’s the poem I wrote for the first time
I saw a man with no clothes, no money, no plate
Mr.Wendal, that’s his name,
no one ever knew his name cause he’s a no-one
Never thought twice about spending on a ol’ bum,
until I had the chance to really get to know one
Now that I know him, to give him money isn’t charity
He gives me some knowledge, I buy him some shoes
And to think blacks spend all that money on big colleges,
still most of y’all come out confused [CHORUS:] Go ahead, Mr.Wendal (2x) Mr.Wendal has freedom,
a free that you and I think is dumb
Free to be without the worries of a quick to diss society
for Mr.Wendal’s a bum
His only worries are sickness
and an occasional harassment by the police and their chase
Uncivilized we call him,
but I just saw him eat off the food we waste
Civilization, are we really civilized, yes or no ?
Who are we to judge ?
When thousands of innocent men could be brutally enslaved
and killed over a racist grudge
Mr.Wendal has tried to warn us about our ways
but we don’t hear him talk
Is it his fault when we’ve gone too far,
and we got too far, cause on him we walk
Mr.Wendal, a man, a human in flesh,
but not by law
I feed you dignity to stand with pride,
realize that all in all you stand tall Mr.Wendal, yeah yeah yeah, Lord, Mr.Wendal
Here is a poem I wrote more than 10 years ago. It was inspired from my conversations with my homeless friends.
REMEMBERING ME ON THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS
You see sometimes I don’t need money.
You see me sleeping on the streets.
You give me money instead of something to eat.
I ask myself if you gave me the money to help me
or because it makes you feel good.
Whatever your intention was, I don’t know.
I just want someone to talk to me.
But I know it’s easy for you to give me money
than to shake my hand. I also know that you only feed me on two occasions:
Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Why can’t you feed me on any other day?
I am hungry everyday just like you
unlike you most of these days I don’t eat. I will admit that my best meal
comes when you feed me on these two occasions.
I wish it could happen more often,
but I know that you only remember me on these two days. Now that I have shared with you what’s on my mind
I hope you will look at me in a different way.
Maybe now you won’t be scared to talk to me
Maybe you will be kind enough to feed me on a day
that is not Thanksgiving or Christmas.