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Ripple Effects Revisited

Curated by Brolly Arts & Art Access Gallery

Recently I looked for the art piece that helped me heal the hate I had for JPF.

I hung it in my art studio. But it seemed to always be looking down at the space where my grandchildren play, so I moved it.

I usually keep it in a drawer. I didn’t really like looking at it. It was too powerful and painful. Although the intention of healing was tremendous 4 years ago, I felt a heavy weight in my heart when I looked at it.

I searched everywhere and couldn’t find it.

I called my husband he said, “Honey, I think you threw it away.” I was stunned. I couldn’t conceive of throwing it away. How could I throw away this powerful symbol that transformed me and JPF so deeply? I was so disappointed in myself.

My fear and anxiety grew.

For days I was deeply concerned about my mental health. Why couldn’t I remember throwing it away? It didn’t seem like something I would do; throw away meaningful art. I wondered why I wouldn’t sell it rather than discard it? I had offers to purchase it. But I kept it to use in race and ethnicity classes at the community college.

Days of beating myself up and retracing my steps led me to remember what happened:

I had a strong urge to listen to the last of the recorded conversations I had with JPF, the day before his execution. In our conversation, he showered me with compliments, gratitude and love. He seemed genuinely sincere when he  told me how much it meant to him that I would forgive him. He asked that I call his friend Glen Miller, suggesting he would be good to me.

I never called his friend. I may have forgiven JPF but I’m not stupid. I felt strongly that if I visited him,  JPF would have someone waiting in the parking lot at the prison to finish what he started in 1980. That’s why I only spoke to him on the phone. I didn’t trust or like him. I pitied him.

I couldn’t listen to more than a few minutes of our conversation. It was too painful and traumatizing.

I looked up Glen Miller and found several articles including these:

Glenn Miller White Supremecist Murders 3

Glenn Miller’s Wikipedia Link

Miller’s murders were committed on JPF’s birthday, the year after his execution. This act of domestic terrorism was mostly ignored by mainstream media. I sincerely believe that ignoring these domestic terrorist’s crimes, helps white supremacy flourish in the shadows.

JPF and Miller’s stories sickened me to my core.

At that moment, I felt that no one, who can do anything about it, cares about healing racism or holding white supremacist domestic terrorists accountable in our country.

Something inside me broke. I walked straight to the garbage and got rid of it, along with the memory of throwing it away.

If only eradicating the ignorance of white supremacy were that easy.

 


Ripple Effects of Race

Curated by Brolly Arts & Art Access Gallery
Folio Editors Choice Non-Fiction

On a hot summer night, August 20, 1980, I was jogging with 3 friends in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Utah; two black men, Ted Fields, 20 and David Martin, 18 and Karma, my best friend. We were both 15 years old and considered “white”, although my mother is a first generation Mexican American.

On our way home from the park, we were shot in the crosswalk. At first I thought the shots were leftover firecrackers from Pioneer Day, July 24. I assumed someone was throwing them at us because we were “race mixing.” With the first shot, my arm, neck and legs were bleeding and felt like they were on fire. I couldn’t figure out where the firecrackers were coming from. There were no cars on the street. I couldn’t see anyone near us.

Dave said, “They got me.” We all laughed nervously and said “good one.” He fell. His blood was everywhere and the shots kept coming. We all tried to catch him and carry him to the end of the crosswalk. The blood was such a brilliant red color against the black pavement between the white lines of the crosswalk. In hindsight it is incredibly symbolic of the deadly aspects of racism and intolerance in America. Ted fell. Both of them were on the ground. I went into a state of shock. I was like a deer in the headlights. All I could hear was the echo of gunfire. All I could see was Ted’s face.

Ted kept telling me to run. I couldn’t hear him but I could see the words he was saying, when I looked at his contorted face. It took a second for me to absorb what was really happening. “I can’t leave you here!” I said. The shots kept coming. I had the strongest telepathic message from Ted at that moment. “If the situation were reversed you would want me to run. RUN!”

I ran as fast as I could, into the field of 4-5 foot tall grass facing the crosswalk. I thought I could hide from the sniper. But something made me come to an abrupt stop in the middle of the field. I didn’t know it at the time but I was running right to the killer. I felt like I ran into an invisible wall and I stopped. I couldn’t move. But I never saw him. Karma ran into the field and grabbed my arm. A brave woman came outside and ushered us into her basement apartment. I kept hoping I was having a nightmare. “This isn’t real” was played on a loop over and over in my head. But it WAS real.

By the end of the night, Ted and Dave were dead and I was covered in bullet fragments from bullets that passed through Dave and shattered on the pavement all over my tiny teenage body.

Curated By Brolly Arts and Art Access Gallery

We were shot by Joseph Paul Franklin, (JPF), a racist serial killer who killed at least 22 people in 12 different states. He also shot and paralyzed Larry Flint for printing pictures of a black man and white woman having sex in Hustler magazine. He was trying to start a race war all over the country.

He wasn’t captured until October that same year. So for a couple of months, as my sophomore year was about to begin, I was blamed for setting up the murders of my friends, by Utah local media and communities.

This part of my childhood was the PERFECT EXAMPLE of victim blaming. My father was the president of a local motorcycle club and I was still alive. The survivors were pretty “white women” (We were not women. We were 15 years old) and the murdered were college bound young “black boys who were a credit to their race.”

For several days the local newspapers printed articles denying any racial motivation for the murders along with my full name and address. They told my mother the public had a right to know. The other victim’s addresses weren’t given. The reporters made up stories when no one had any leads.

I was a responsible 15 year-old, volunteer tutor, head cheerleader and honor roll student back then. I was voted Miss Dream Girl at my school. But none of that was ever brought up to describe me in the misleading articles that painted me as white trash with no value, a race traitor. I upset the court of public opinion by “race mixing” and they made an example of me. They wanted to make sure other white girls knew the consequences of race mixing, especially with black boys. Even at the age of 15 years old I thought it was strange that I could be considered white in their eyes when it was convenient for casting a shadow over my family. Growing up with my single Mexican mother, the white Mormons made sure we were aware that we were not considered white in their eyes and we were not welcome in their social circles. There was more of them, than us and we knew it.

I wasn’t allowed to go to the funerals. The victim’s families blamed Karma and me. The victims were dead and black. We were alive and white. We weren’t considered victims. Even when the shooter was charged for his crimes our names weren’t on the paperwork as victims, just witnesses. “They lost the most. You’re still alive”, was the reason given by the lawyer.

When the killer was identified, the news never retracted the rumors they started. The rumors stuck to me like a scarlet letter. By October it was still too dangerous for me to live in Utah. There were cars full of people driving slowly by our house with guns pointed at our home. I called the police and asked for protection, but I was told, “Maybe you should have thought of that before you hung out with those niggers. We’re too busy. Call us if anything happens. “

I felt so guilty. I felt that I brought this hate to our home. It was like a bomb was thrown in my family and I believed it was my fault, (I am still overcoming the obstacle of survivors guilt at the age of 50). I had to move out of state and into hiding for our safety. Our lives and relationships would NEVER be the same.

Victim Vortex

I felt Ted and Dave with me on the 30 year anniversary of the murders, August 20, 2010. I held a private ceremony as I left a crystal, a candle and an unsigned note on the memorial plaque at Liberty Park. I was vulnerable that night. I came out on Facebook and told my friends what happened in 1980. Some “friends” chose to “unfriend” me. But I considered that a blessing of knowing my true friends.

The next day someone saw the offerings on the plaque and called a reporter. But when the reporter got there, the note was gone. She wrote an article in the Salt Lake Tribune the following day and pondered what the note said. A dear friend sent me the link to the article. It took several hours to get the courage to read the comments online. I felt fragile and didn’t know if it would be wise to expose my heart to be broken again.

There were so many comments. When I finally looked, I was surprised to find that 95% of the comments were kind and gracious. I couldn’t believe it. I decided to respond and include the letter. I had to create a user name to respond. I used the name OneLove. I didn’t leave my name or number. But I was required to leave my email. I included my letter and thanked the commenters and reporter for their kind interest.

What unfolded after that comment was miraculous. Within 15 minutes of the post, the reporter called. She wrote another article based on that interview. My only stipulation was that she use my maiden name.

The victim’s families got in touch with the reporter and asked for my contact information and we spoke for the first time. All was forgiven. Every day the reporter wrote a new article to update the community about what was happening.

By the second or third article a woman from Utah Progressives said she would like to create a March In The Park for Ted and Dave, which coincided with the 48-year anniversary of Martin Luther King’s, “I Have A Dream” speech. She asked if I would speak in Liberty Park on August 28, 2010, eight days since I left the offerings on the plaque. I accepted with the exception of using my maiden name rather than my married name.

Ted’s family flew to Utah from several states on a moment’s notice. Dave’s mother was there as well. When my father and his brothers rolled up on their Harleys wearing their colors, everyone tensed up, noticeably.

My father got off his bike and walked up to Ted’s father with open arms. When they embraced he let out a sound that was primal. It startled me. I turned to see my father crying in Ted’s father’s arms. I will never forget it as long as I live. “It wasn’t me. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t even in town that night.” Dad explained. He brought his brothers there to protect the crowd from any racist antics from JPF’s admirers.

When the printed program of the “March In The Park” was passed out, my full legal married name was included. At that point the tv news reporters gave out my name and the paper asked if they could as well. I lost clients and business associates due to my “coming out.” I was worried about my children and their safety more than anything. I knew JPF said his greatest regret was leaving survivors. I was concerned someone would hurt my children to seek his approval.

Curated By Brolly Arts & Access Gallery

After the dust settled, I decided to go back to college hoping to understand and heal racism in my community. My first semester, I took a race and ethnicity class as well as a design class. I learned a lot about the world and myself. I learned that race is a social construct. It isn’t real. It was built to keep people of color and immigrants of “undesirable” countries from having access to democracy, wealth and education. Irish, Italian, Jewish, Germans people weren’t even considered white originally in America. Being white was a privilege then, just as it is now.

The first semester final project for my design class was to create a mask. I made a mask out of the newspaper articles mentioned above. I didn’t know it, but I would have to wear it and explain it to the students in the class on the last day of school. It was challenging to be that vulnerable in front of these people who thought they knew me. Trayvon Martin’s story was reaching a fever pitch at the time. I just happened to be wearing a hoodie that day. When I explained my story to the class, I had to put the mask on. I couldn’t wait to leave.

A student followed me in the hall and asked if I would be willing to consider doing an art exhibit. Another student asked if I would lead and speak at the Trayvon Hoodie March. I accepted both invitations. At the end of the semester the students in the Race and Ethnicity class were surprised to know my story and came to the Hoodie March. I found the more that I allowed myself to be vulnerable, the more I healed my PTSD. Migraines, memory lapses and nightmares were less frequent as I became educated and created art.

In June of 2013 my life changed again in a dramatic way. I created an art exhibit with art created from the newspaper articles in 1980, 1981 and 2010. I read the articles from 1980 and 1981 for the first time when I created the pieces for the exhibit.

I was shocked and grateful my parents didn’t allow me to read the articles at the time they were printed. I really don’t think I would be here if I’d seen them back then. Suicide or drug addiction would have been a very likely outcome.

Currated by Brolly Arts & Art Access Gallery

Perhaps you are searching in the petals for what can only be found in the roots. -Rumi

Many people attended the exhibit, including the Tribune’s editor and the former mayor from 1980. I met a man whose aunt gave Dave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation at the crosswalk. He said his aunt recently died and she was deeply affected by the crime. A friend of a woman who worked at the tennis shop in the park the night of the murders came to the exhibit and told me how the crime affected her. A woman, who survived Auschwitz as a child, attended and told me her story. She said that my art was very important and to keep telling my story so this never happens again. Many times I was humbled to tears, listening to the stories of ripple effects from JPF’s crimes in Salt Lake City. I finally realized that for 30 years I ignored how the murders affected me. But I also ignored how it affected others in my village.

I read an article about JPF’s childhood abuse and neglect. One of the statements from his aunt said that she knew of the severe abuse he had endured and regretted not helping him.  I thought of the ripple effect of his child abuse. What would his life be like if help had arrived when he was at the mercy of the merciless? How many lives would be different? I realized he lived a life of punishment, with all of its Karma, from the cradle to the grave. But it began before he had a choice.The child victim in me saw the child victim in him. I couldn’t hate him anymore. My heart felt full of grace and Light replaced the shadows. My heart was scarred but whole. Grace, kindness and compassion was shown to me at just the right moments along my journey.

JPF received two life sentences for murdering Ted and Dave, so did their loved ones. I received a life sentence along with my loved ones. It’s a ripple effect of loss that can’t be adequately defined. The child abuse JPF endured had a ripple effect that proves no one is immune to the effects of a village turning their backs on the suffering of others. We all pay the price one way or another. That’s why it’s so important to remember it takes a village to raise a child.

I created an art piece for JPF and placed it in the gallery on the last day of the exhibit. Then I immediately drove to Millcreek Canyon. I meditated that his suffering be eased. Three weeks later JPF was given his execution date for the murder of a Jewish man. He was never given a death sentence for killing black people. He chose solitary confinement for 33 years to avoid attempts on his life by other inmates.

Curated by Brolly Arts & Art Access Gallery

Child Abuse Casts The Long Shadow of a Lifetime

I believed execution was the only way he could be released from the suffering of this lifetime. I still do.

About a month before the execution I was looking at my Facebook feed and found an article from Southern Poverty Law Center. It said, “Joseph Paul Franklin Denounces Racism and Asks His Victims for Forgiveness.”

I lost time. My husband walked in the room and said “What happened? Why are you crying?” I didn’t even know I was crying. I literally couldn’t talk. I couldn’t find the words. I knew this was an answer to my meditation.

I included a comment to the writer along with a picture of the piece of art I created. I told him to tell JPF I forgave him and to go in peace. I commented that I always wondered why he didn’t kill me. Later an author, writing a book about JPF, commented on the same thread. He mentioned that JPF admitted he couldn’t get me in his scope because the light was in his eyes. Light? It was dark with deserted streets and there were no streetlights that would get in his eyes at that time.

I couldn’t help but think Light energy protected me. We are all energy. What happens when we die? Where does our energy go? Will his energy bind with more hate and make it stronger? I think of my higher power as Light. I had dreams of Light that helped me get through the worst of what happened to me after the murders and it helped me keep going without giving up. My baby book said “Light” was my first word.

I wanted to heal JPF. I wanted to ask him to choose Light when he died. I thought I could give him some of my Light before he died so that he would choose Light and it would tip the scales of healing for everyone who was affected by his murderous rampage. The village failed him as a child and the child took his rage out on the village. I wanted to be different than his village. I wanted to be the embodiment of compassion, kindness and love. It felt like the only solution.

Curated By Brolly Arts and Art Access Gallery

My family was understandably fearful of me talking to him and didn’t want me to do it. At one point my sister said, “What if you give him your Light and you have none left for you?” “It doesn’t work that way. A candle does not lose its flame by lighting another candle”, I said.

I sent him a couple of books to ease his fears while he was waiting in his cell next to the execution room, “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die” by Karol Truman and “The Great Divorce” by CS Lewis. But he didn’t read them.

JPF wanted to talk to me in person. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t feel safe doing it. I wanted to be close to my family. The week before and the day before the execution, we spoke for about 2 hours each time, over the phone.

I tried to be the embodiment of compassion while I spoke to him. He told me about his life in and out of prison. Listening to him talk, sometimes it felt like I was forever falling. I could smell the burning crosses when he described being inducted into the KKK. I could see and hear a thousand white hoods chanting their hate. There were moments of our conversation that I felt dizzy and nauseous from it and wanted to hang up, especially when he said he had pictures of me hanging in his cell.

He told me that he was changed by meditating, and reading about different religions. He even read the Quran and thought it was beautiful. He said he regretted his ignorance tremendously. I hoped he was being honest. But I wasn’t sure. I finally had to make peace with the fact that he was as regretful as he was capable of being.

I asked him for one favor. I asked him to choose Light when he died. I knew he believed in reincarnation, as I do. He said he would do anything for me. I told him, “If you choose Light, come to me as my grandson and I will love and protect you the way you should have been from the beginning of this lifetime. I come from a family of sisters, no brothers. I have daughters, no sons. I have granddaughters, no grandsons. I told him “every time I hold my grandchildren I will love them the way you should have been loved.” He knew I had biracial children and said he didn’t care. He kept thanking me and saying that no one was ever so kind to him. He said he loved me and thanked me over and over, many times. He was as happy as a child on Christmas morning.

Curated By Brolly Arts and Art Access Gallery

I dodged the press and stayed busy as much as possible the last time we spoke, the day before the execution. I told JPF to come to me in spirit if he chose Light, so that I could finally sleep all the way through the night. That day was challenging. He was given 2 stays of execution. But in the early morning of November 20, 2013, I awoke to the news that he was executed.

I withdrew from everyone close to me while dealing with school tests, flashbacks and migraines. I saw the interviews he gave on TV as the media had the execution on every channel. I was grateful I didn’t speak to him in person. He looked like a broken neglected animal that hadn’t been groomed in 33 years. It reduced me to tears all day. My greatest comfort came as I held my infant granddaughter close to my heart while she slept for hours and hours. She cried every time I put her down. I cried silently as I held her while she slept.

The following night, I told my husband, “I feel so light in my chest. Have I carried this heaviness in my heart since the night of the murders? I didn’t even realize the weight of it until it was gone. I don’t know if it’s gone because I forgave him or because he’s dead. I wonder if he chose Light?”

At that moment, a tsunami of what can only be described as intense love, joy and gratitude knocked me back into a chair behind me. It was a thousand times more powerful than the way it felt when my newborn children were handed to me at their birth. I didn’t think anything could compare to that feeling. But there are no words to describe that moment adequately. I sat and quietly wept with the deepest feelings I’ve ever encountered in my life. I sat with my face in my hands until I could stand again. I felt so humbled and honored to be a part of this journey. My husband stared at me in helpless silence. “I’m going to bed. I am tired to my bones”, I said when I finally stood up to go to the bedroom.

I fell asleep quickly. It felt like I was being watched. I could sense someone standing at the doorway watching me. I could feel him, like a parent looking at a sleeping child. He came towards me, traced my nose and cheek with a fingertip as I finally slept and said, “Don’t think of it as a death. Think of it as a birth. Thank you. Thank you.”

© Terry Jackson-Mitchell and http://www.idwellindreams.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terry Jackson -Mitchell and http://www.idwellindreams.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Values Exhibit Art Access Gallery Artist Mentor Exhibit

Value 

  • the lightness or darkness of a color
  • worth

Brown Paper Bag Test– Slave owners held brown paper bags to the skin of a slave. Those as light or lighter than the bag would be allowed to work in the house.Those of a darker skin hue were sent to the fields. These were two very different life sentences, life circumstances and life expectancies. The residual expectations of beauty from the brown paper bag test still affect society today.

Colorism is a reflection of unjust expectations, within ones own race, of acceptable standards of worth and beauty based on lightness or darkness of skin tone.

Its like starving for acceptance and being given a beautiful inedible piece of cake.

• How does colorism affect our capacity to understand, love and accept our multi-ethnic families, villages and ourselves?

• Can we heal the misunderstandings of the beauty of value and the value of beauty?

For me, ethnicity awareness brought an awakening. The challenge of racism isn’t one I chose. It chose me.

On August 20, 1980, Joseph Paul Franklin, a racist serial killer was trying to start a race war across America. He murdered Ted Fields and David Martin, who were African American. I was hit with bullet fragments as we jogged from Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was 15 years old at the time. I grew up in Utah. But this wasn’t my first or last taste of racism.

When I fill out a census report I never feel like I choose the right description. White not Hispanic, isn’t true for me. Hispanic doesn’t feel right either. I am multi-ethnic. I come from a long line of open-minded lovers. Many were lost in their need to be as worthy as the white people in their world. Some of my beautiful Mexican ancestors bleached their skin. My mother remembers hearing her Mexican grandmother tell her, ” We may be dark but we are just as good as the Okies.” She believed there was a rating system of worth and importance. She told her “we are better than white trash.”

If she really believed this, how did she feel about herself and her grandchildren who carried the less “favorable” traits of dark hues and ethnic physical characteristics or the children whose skin was lighter?

My ethnicity is tied to the culture of my sphere of influence; my friends and my family as well as their friends and families. Our lives touch each other to shape our experiences. It is a ripple effect.

At times I’ve been told I look like an exotic white woman but my ethnicity is more connected to the African American and the Hispanic culture. My father had blonde hair and grey eyes, my mother is first generation Mexican American, with dark hair and eyes.

Growing up in Utah, my family was often ostracized and called “spic”, “wetback”, half breed” by our white Mormon neighbors whose parents didn’t allow them to play with us. To them we had no worth, no redeeming value.

“Tell Me Who You’re With & I’ll Tell You What Your Worth”.

“One Day I Decided To Love Without Society’s Permission”.

To Look As Light As Possible: EVERY DAY Use Grandma Ceja's Skin Bleach Recipe: Lemon, Olive Oil and Baking Soda

Being a fair skinned, bright, shy, obedient, quiet and introverted child, I seemed invisible as I observed the grown ups around me. I quietly fell through the cracks and listened. I heard their unguarded conversations (as children often do) and learned about the toxic give and take of racism.

Those conversations treated me to the double-edged sword of white privilege at a distance. I still marvel at the poisonous mind-sets or sayings that imprison those who just want to fit in, to be valued and belong, to be seen as a person.


“Don’t be fooled by my beauty. The light of my face comes from the candle of my spirit”- Rumi

Tell Me Who You're With & I'll Tell You What Your Worth

Starving for acceptance and handed a

I believe in the law of three fold. You get what you give, times three. That’s why I don’t want to fight prejudice or declare war on racism or anything that offends or scares me. My intention is to heal racism with art and uncomfortable conversations. Healing begins within, exploring self imposed biases and prejudices.  Everything touches everything.

My art is a  hopeful prayer for the voiceless. It is an invitation into the void of uncomfortable conversations where the healing begins.

Values Exhibit Larry Fishing Values Exhibit Back Values Exhibit Art Access Gallery

STATEMENT ABOUT MY ARTIST MENTOR EXPERIENCE

I think the women at Art Access are really fairy godmother’s who grant wishes for art waiting to be born.

I’ll always be grateful Art Access granted my wish and gave me the opportunity to work with such a talented and giving artist, Liberty Blake. She’s is teaching me the fundamental, structural and artistic process of collage art. Her generosity of time and wisdom has been priceless.

The evolution of this exhibit grew from exquisite conversations of vulnerability with Liberty. Her professional and personal advice allowed me to give a voice to the family secrets of colorism.

I look forward to working with Liberty in the future. This has been a challenging beautiful experience I will carry forward in my artistic career.

© Terry Jackson-Mitchell and http://www.idwellindreams.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terry Jackson -Mitchell and http://www.idwellindreams.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Carmen Watercolor Final

My assignment in figure painting could be anything I wanted to paint so I chose to paint my version of Dorothy Dandridge in “Carmen”. I like how it turned out. We normally use oil or acrylic but I wanted to try watercolor. Its my third time painting an assignment in water-color. I like working with it but I think I would do better if I took a water painting  class.

 

My  version of  Dorothy Dandridge in "Carmen"

My version of Dorothy Dandridge in “Carmen”

 


Art Marathon

I painted this picture of my sweet granddaughter. I didn’t use black or white paint to mix colors. She inspires me to understand the trauma imprint in our dna. I want to heal our family pathology of abuse, rape & poverty. I want to change the world for her and her sister, by healing the race wars within our ancestry.

Curated By Brolly Arts and Art Access Gallery

She is the essence of all the ancestors before her. As she is growing she heals THEM in her.


Buddha February Healing Art A Day Marathon

I painted a chrome statue of Buddha. It sits center stage in my home, keeping me mindful of being present & grateful for all the blessings in my life.

Oil wipe-out

Oil wipe-out


Image

Healing Dance- February Healing Art A Day Marathon

Curated By Brolly Arts and Art Access Gallery

I am healing the trauma of RACE WARS in my dna.

Spring semester 2013, I was asked to create paintings without using any black or white to mix the colors for paint.

I couldn’t help but think, “What would my life be like without black or white’s influence?” I often feel that I walk between the space of race.

I thought of all the races that are part of my DNA. I come from a long line of open-minded lovers, maybe some weren’t given a choice. Many ancestors were on opposite sides of race wars; French, Mexican, German, African American, Native American, Middle Eastern, English, Irish, Scottish, slaves & slave owners.

I thought of the imprint of pain & misunderstanding because of the black & white mentality that cripples my heart when I feel like I don’t fit in.

I wondered if I could heal my ancestor’s pain within me.

I visualized them all, speaking of their lives & their journeys. I wanted to hear them all. I wanted to heal them all. I saw them making peace with each other in another realm where no black or white was allowed, just the pure colors of their essence. They were my inspiration for these paintings.

I see them all dancing within me.

I see them in the face my grandchildren.

Changing the world begins within…. outside of black & white.


Image

Bob Marley Oil Painting, Inspire Healing Art A Day Marathon

Bob Marley Oil Painting, Inspire Healing Art A Day Marathon

I recently watched a couple of documentaries about Bob Marley. I am so glad I did.

For me reggae music has become an acquired taste. But I’m aligned with the energy and message of reggae.

I was in awe of Bob’s story. It’s ironic he died of skin cancer.

Bob was biracial. His mother Jamaican and mostly absent father was English. His fathers family denied him, even when he was at the height of his popularity. It is because of him that most people recognize his fathers last name.

A Jamaican woman he loved said he died of a white disease, skin cancer. Many healers believe if you don’t deal with your feelings they show up in your body as illnesses.

It made me think of the white oppression he experienced in his every day existence. I wish he could have been healed from that damage. He was such a powerhouse for love.

His songs and messages of ONE LOVE are eternal truths that still soothes those that reach towards equality and humanity.


February Art Healing A Day Marathon

For the month of February I’m painting people who healed my view of the world. It’s a project that matters to me because I truly believe we all have the power to heal the world. Every single one of us has that power. This is an opening to a creative conversation about healing the unresolved trauma imprints within my dna.

This is the beginning of my digital painting class. I am pretty shaky. This is all new to me. I’m using a computer that allows a pen to draw on the screen. I like this class a lot. I am learning about cartooning, story boarding, figure painting and social media. The classes all seem to work together. It’s fascinating and incredibly fun.

Healing the ancestors pain within me.

Healing the ancestors pain within me.


Link

Healing Begins Within

Article from Southern Poverty Law Center, By Don Terry

Curated by Brolly Arts & Art Access Gallery

Before he was a monster he was a child, who waited for help. No one came.

Four weeks from now he will be executed.

I truly believe that JPF should be relieved of his suffering. His energy has been nothing but dark, evil and murderous. I equate it to an abused animal that can’t be stopped from killing and harming at will.

I am not seeking revenge. If I sought revenge I would want him to die in prison in his 90’s. I am seeking the mercy for his suffering life.

I think about what happens to our energy when we die. Energy doesn’t die it transforms. His energy is a black hole of hate. How could that be healed? I think of Martin Luther Kings quote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only Light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only Love can do that.”

Some people think of God as Light and Love. I am one of them.

Maybe his dark energy could be transformed into light before he dies. I hate to think of his energy binding with more dark energy.

He never knew love. As a child he was brutalized, starved, beaten under the peripheral vision of family members who didn’t help him. “It wasn’t polite conversation. It was none of their business.”

He was a product of the village that turned their eyes to the suffering of an unprotected abused child.

I am not making excuses for him. I can only forgive when I truly hear his narrative.

But knowing how he was raised I understand how he grew up to murder the children in the village. Averting our eyes to the suffering of a child, doesn’t shield us from their pain.

I pray for him.

I pray he is sincere in his apology and renouncing of racism.

I pray for his healing before he dies.

I pray there is a God.

I pray for reincarnation.

I pray he is born to a loving nurturing family and is raised to value love and life.

I pray for the end of child abuse, racism and apathy of the village.

I pray for a TSUNAMI HEALING RIPPLE EFFECT in Humanity.


Link

Child Abuse Casts The Long Shadow Of A Lifetime.

Child Abuse Casts The Long Shadow Of A Lifetime.

Denouncing racism and asking for forgiveness of his victims, is not something I expected to see, even if he is on borrowed time. I am shocked.

Three months ago I went to the canyon and prayed for his sentence to be carried out.

Before then, I never thought about his execution. It seemed so far away. It didn’t seem a real possibility until he was old and gray, which is obviously the case.

An execution seems more humane than his life. I never thought I would pray for someones death. But when I learned more about his childhood I found that he has been in some sort of prison his whole life from cradle to grave.

I wasn’t praying to be vindicated so much as mercy, for who he could have been if he had a normal childhood and upbringing.

His life sentences were connected to the victims & family life sentences. We will all be doing time for the village turning a blind eye to his childhood suffering.

I am not trying to make excuses for him. I want to heal the wounds he left in my heart and the community. In order to do that I have to know his narrative. What I have learned allowed me to forgive him. I think that is why I prayed for his suffering to be eased. Death is the only way that can happen for him.

I created this art piece to remember why its important to be part of the village who watch over our children. I am willing to have uncomfortable conversations if it saves a child.

JPF’s childhood and life reminds me that ignoring someone’s pain doesn’t shield me from it.

© Terry Jackson-Mitchell and http://www.idwellindreams.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terry Jackson -Mitchell and http://www.idwellindreams.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Video

White Privilege

Eloquent explanation of white privilege from a white man. Macklemore is one of my favorites. Healing racism begins with facing this important truth.


Video

Dear White People: Can you please do something about the fundamentally violent white people?

You gotta watch this hilarious thought provoking segment on media and white on white crime.

Something to consider when you see this type of media representation from the other UNREPORTED side of the fence.


Link

My Interview With SLUG Magazine

My Interview With SLUG Magazine

Click on the link above to access the interview with SLUG (Salt Lake Under Ground) Magazine. I’m the second person they interviewed on this podcast.

I hope it spreads some healing where it’s needed.

Thanks to SLUG Writer Tim Kronenberg and SLUG Magazine for their time. I want to correct an error on my part in the interview. It will be the 50 year anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March in DC and “I Have A Dream Speech”, NOT 48 year anniversary.


Video

White Privilege Louis CK

I love it when a white man speaks the truth about race relations or white privilege!

Comedy can be an effective way to help people UNDERSTAND the truth.

This video is totally worth 3 minutes of your day:)


Link

Justice Toolkit For White Allies

Justice Toolkit For White Allies

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) has created an amazing tool kit for activists looking to heal racism ‪#‎JusticeForTrayvon‬ campaign. SURJ, thanks for the NAACP shout out.

Video

AMAZING EXAMPLE OF HEALING RACISM & POLICE BRUTALITY!

I have to share when I see healing in our world. EXCELLENT VIDEO!

This police chief was saying what should have been said a LONG time ago.

Right now there are so many examples of grace being displayed in our world if we pay attention.

Healing begins within and creates a ripple effect in our communities.


Speech at Justice For Trayvon Hoodie March

Martin Luther King once said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Hello my name is Terry. Most people don’t know my story. It isn’t one that I feel safe sharing. It isn’t a pretty story. I had hoped that I would not feel compelled to share it ever again. But today as I stand here with a heavy heart for Trayvon Martin and his loved ones, I will share a story about racism in Utah.

The last shreds of childhood innocence were stolen from me when I was 15 years old. In 1980 a racist serial killer came to Salt Lake City, Utah with the hopes of starting a race war. We were unaware as he stalked us that night. He shot and murdered my African American friends, Ted Fields and David Martin and shot me for race mixing.

Life was never the same after that day. The emotional and physical toll it took on the families of these incredible young men is immeasurable. That night, every ounce of innocence was drained from our lives. It’s been almost 32 years since that horrible crime.  I still remember every single detail. It’s part of my history. It is part of Utah’s history. I think of Ted, Dave and their loved ones every single day, as I will for Trayvon and his loved ones.

I’ve come to understand that racism is like cancer. You can’t put a band aid on cancer and expect it to disappear. If you ignore it and don’t address it immediately it will spread and grow until it kills.

We are in need of rational truthful dialogue to eradicate and heal it once and for all.
I believe the cure for racism’s curse are the conversations we are uncomfortable having.

American’s must FACE the past of our ancestors and the present norm in society regarding race relations. There is no other way. It won’t be a pretty picture, oppression never was. We must seek the truth and avoid the tendency to fight to be right. It is time to listen and truly hear the truth.

If we are to heal the cancer of racism, we must KNOW the stories of the oppressed to understand the effect it has on its victims and our society.

Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.

Education can cure the fear or hate passed on to our children. Knowledge is powerful. It transforms us into who we are meant to be. It makes us whole.

As  Brian Jones, a brilliant teacher and activist said, “Racism is product of believing that some people are not worthy of justice and those people are overwhelmingly young and black and male.  That the best place for them is prison or an invisible cage of post felony life. George Zimmerman saw what society has taught him to see. He saw someone who was already a criminal. The criminal justice system seems to be afraid of these cases, of creating real justice for these men. Because to deal with them we would have to reveal the depths of racism in our system.”

Trayvon’s murder has become an invitation to join the discussion of equality, racism and justice in America.

We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our world to learn our true history. We must hear the stories of the oppressed and honor their journey and love them.

Heal them.

Heal us.

There should not be an “us and them” any more.  Humanity is the color of water, not skin.

Isn’t it time for us to help humanity join the human race?

How can one person change this huge problem in our country? I can tell you what works for me.

When I lose hope and become overwhelmed with the complexities of healing from the racism in our world, I reflect on the NAACP Value statement. It is my compass.

* I believe all Americans have equal rights and equal value.

* I cherish the diverse cultures, beliefs, and values of America.

* I believe we can disagree without being disagreeable.

* I repudiate all acts of racism and hate, both in words and action.

* I have faith in the promise of America – a promise built on mutual respect,
common civility, and hope for a better tomorrow.

* I commit to building that better America by participating actively and
peacefully in the democratic process.

I think Dr King said it best in 1963

“Let us all hope the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away & the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities. In some not too distant tomorrow, the radiant stars of love & brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

For me, these are the timeless truths that fosters hope in humanity and continue to heal my broken heart. I am directed to pay attention to the Light, that Light that brought us here and will escort us on the way home.

Thank you for being a light. Thank you for standing up for Justice for Trayvon Martin and all the Trayvon Martins in our world.Image


Link

My Podcast Interview With Rod Arquette at 60:50

My Podcast Interview With Rod Arquette at 60:50

I spoke with a talk show host named Rod Arquette the other day, regarding healing my PTSD through my art exhibit and the story of my friends murders in Liberty Park.

Its ironic that the murders were so contrary to the name of the park. “Liberty” was literally  murdered on the street right in front of my eyes that night in 1980.

I never thought about it til today, but I had such a beautiful history with Liberty Park before the murders. It was a stable place where I felt safe.

I loved Liberty Park as a child. It was a place I visited often. My grandparents lived down the street.

When I was 5 I looked for the tooth fairy in the tree knot holes and performed on the Victorian stage that was torn down years later. In the summers I took swimming, tennis and art lessons there while my single mother worked. I was a member of the Liberty Belles, girls tennis team. My friends and family picnicked, played, roller-skated, sang and danced there before the murders.

As a child we moved alot. I went to 22 schools by the time I was in 10th grade. But Liberty Park was a safe zone for me until I was shot there at 15 years old.

When Ted and Dave were killed there, so was my affection for Liberty Park. It was such an ugly irony that the name is based on American values and the truth about American made terrorism was being displayed on the grounds that were so sacred to me.

I often get asked if things are better since the murders. It has been 33 years. In some ways its better.

But all you have to do is look at the trial of George Zimmerman and the comments from trolls on the internet that send hate behind the anonymity of a keyboard and screen.

The “Angry Trayvon” game that depicts the murder VICTIM as a thug and aggressor is VICTIM BLAMING plain and simple. Victim blaming has always been an effective and accepted tool to control the masses of the oppressed.

I think of Trayvon’s mother and all the mothers who know this trauma and I want to protect them from the hate.

I want to heal this cancer of us and them.

I think about whether JPF would still be in prison 33 years later, after convictions of 22 murders. They stopped bringing charges against him since he has 5 life terms and 2 death sentences. They thought it would be a waste of taxpayers money. I agree. But I question if he would still be tax burden to the citizens, with a death sentence hanging over his head, if he were a black Muslim killing white people because of their race.

Lee Malvo, a black serial killer that implicated a young black boy, killed 15 people was convicted in 2005 and executed in 2009. That’s 4 years of waiting. The impressionable young boy got life. Their killings were considered “terrorist” attacks. 

In my opinion JPF was an American, white, Christian terrorist.

Racism is still an issue.


Polite & Pretty (poem published in Folio Spring 2013)

I haven’t slept for several weeks more than a few hours here and there. I don’t want to dream. But I want to sleep. Impossible. This morning I woke from a horribly vivid nightmare. This serial haunting follows me, when I’m stressed or upset. Reminding me that I am a hostage unless I talk about it. But, if I do talk about it I risk every thing. It’s not polite or pretty. But polite and pretty keeps me in this nightmare. I am held hostage, holding my tongue so I don’t pollute the air for those who haven’t experienced random violence, child abuse, rape, poverty, incest, trauma, racism, PTSD and anything else.I know things like this have happened since the beginning of time. But what if they happen because nobody talks about it?

Subconsciously, I believed that the victims on the news must have done something to deserve the tragedy that befell them. It insulated me from the thought that it could ever happen to me or anyone I love. I felt safe in my bubble of naiveté, “As long I do everything right, nothing bad will happen to me. I’m a good person.”

So, I became polite and pretty. But I can’t wear that title anymore. My nightmares are forcing me to jump out of the burning building of my past. And it is neither polite nor pretty. I descend knowing that I’m landing with truth.

My past is like a knife. I can use it to serve or harm. I can’t change the past. But I can follow hope as I navigate through this moment. Hope in humanity. The future is changed with one person’s thought, any person involved in the holograms of my life. I can’t control what they think. I can’t control the future.

I worry about offending everyone with my truth. But is it less offensive to deny it, to avoid the shattering of an illusion?

My dream last night was so vivid. I was trapped in a house with people who were suffering from different abnormalities. All were muttering to themselves, lost and paranoid. All were angry, sad and insane in their own unfortunate way, representing different aspects of my psyche. Long, shiny, silver, sewing shears were everywhere. I knew I had to use them to kill, for a chance at survival. But I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I just wanted to go, to get out of this madness.

I grabbed a heavy cold pair of scissors as I looked for the door, planning the fastest path of least resistance. A nude, disfigured, blind woman slowly walked by me. Touching the walls feeling her way through the room.

Her heart was under her skin but above the rib cage. I could see the outline of it. Pumping and exposed as though it was calling me to kill her first. She would be easiest to eliminate. Her heart was asking for it, by being so exposed.

I planned my route for the escape and raised my cold weapon to plunge into her beating heart. I saw that she was me and I awoke in a cold sweat.

It shook me. Forgotten pieces of the dream came to me throughout the day. As I interpreted the dream, I realized there are things in my past that must be cut from my psyche and my life. Like a surgeon addressing cancer, I am the surgeon and I am the patient. I am the victim and I am the victor. I am the destroyer and I am the healer. I am a wanderer alone in a sea of people of the chaotic city and I am the butterfly floating gracefully in the forest.

I am so much more than polite and pretty.


Quote

“On the Pulse of Morning” by Maya Angelou

A friend sent me a beautiful quote today regarding my artwork.

“We cannot undo the past, but we can recognize what has happened and why. To ignore past misdeeds is to condone them, if only by silence; to acknowledge past misdeeds is to educate, and to educate is to prepare the way for a better tomorrow. Historical tragedies must not be forgotten but kept alive in our individual and collective historical memories as tangible reminders of what can never be allowed to happen again.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.”


Justice For Some? Art Exhibit At Art Access Gallery

Justice for Some?

To honor  my murdered friends, Ted Fields and David Martin, I hope to do my part to heal racism. I joined Brolly Arts  and Art Access Gallery for an art exhibition called Justice For Some? Amy McDonald, Brolly Arts, and Sheryl Gillilan, Art Access Gallery, both executive directors respectively, were so supportive of public acts of creative healing.

This exhibit opened with the most talented brave dancers who performed every 30 minutes for 3 hours. They sought to bring awareness to human rights issues that plague our society. The performers spoke about their personal journeys. It was so moving and powerful. Everyone involved in this project was a light of beauty.

Justice For Some? is the evolution of many Justice For Some? pilot projects that have included workshops, community outreach and performance. 2013
Justice For Some? offers a model that is replicable in other settings for populations and issues.

The components of Justice For Some? included choreography by Sofia Gorder and performance by dancers and Westminster College students, the Drum Bus whose focus is on bullying, and an installation by the authors of “What I Thought I Saw”. Carla Kelley of the Human Rights Education of Utah
workshopped with cast members prior to the event.

Justice For Some? is the evolution of many Justice For Some pilot projects that have included workshops, community outreach and performance. 2013
Justice For Some? offers a model that is replicable in other settings for populations and issues. This valuable model can be used to help bring the
awareness and information to a wide array of people, locations, and situations.  The content of the program, workshops, discussions, and movement can be tailored to suit the needs and interests o the communities being served.

I dream of my beloved Granny when I create this art. I know that she and many of my ancestors walk with me as I descend into hell to retrieve my voice.

I used the newspaper articles that broke me at the time of the murders. I always avoided reading them. While I was creating my art I read many news articles for the first time. My parents shielded me from them when I was a child. I heard about them but didn’t read them. If I am honest with myself I chose not to read them because I knew it would be too painful. It took a long time to read them and process what I feel about them. I feel broken sometimes by them.

My PTSD has been hitting me hard lately. I have literally lost my memory FOR WORDS in mid sentence as I am talking to people. It usually only lasts for as long as it takes to breathe one breath. But it scares the hell out of me when it happens. I wondered if I was having a stroke. My migraines, loss of appetite or relentless vomiting and night terrors were amped up substantially.

But I have to keep moving towards the finish line. This is a very challenging journey to explain to people in words. It seems that my art communicates more clearly if I use the words of the news print at the freshest time of the murders.

As I created these pieces, I thought about my favorite Goddess story. It is eerily accurate in describing my world right now. It was written thousands of years before the bible.

“Inanna was the beautiful goddess of heaven and earth. She blessed people and their crops. She introduced the moon and the sun every day. She was loved and revered by all. One day she decided that she would go to the underworld to visit the ruler, her sister Ereshkigal.

She dressed in her finest jewels and gold, things of sentimental importance. As she descended into the earth she would come upon a gate. At each gate she was asked to give an offering to proceed. She entered the 7th gate naked. When she tried to embrace her sister she was killed by her.

Inanna was hung on a hook for three days while her sister joyously celebrated her death. For it wasn’t only the death of Inanna, it was the death of the earth and the heavens.

On the third day Inanna awoke. She emerged from the underworld that could not contain her. She was stronger and more powerful from the lessons she learned at each gate.”

I am at the 7th gate and there is no turning back.

See the links below for  info for Brolly Arts, Art Access Gallery and articles from the media.

http://www.brollyarts.org/

http://www.accessart.org/news-a-publications/press-coverage/item/218-terry-jackson-mitchell-salt-lake-tribune-july-7-2013

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56549960-78/jackson-mitchell-art-black.html.csp

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2358140/White-survivor-Joseph-Paul-Franklin-tells-guilt-murdered-attack-took-lives-black-friends.html

http://www.globeslcc.com/2013/07/03/sorting-a-race-war-with-molecules-from-the-stars/

http://bringbalancetomylife.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/that-which-was-evil-was-made-good/


Writing and Justice Conference

I joined the wonderful group of people who created this conference partly because of  Charlotte Howe’s commitment and enthusiasm for the project. But after meeting Katie and the students I was even more happy to be a part of it. I have a special place in my heart for social justice because of my experience of racism and violence as a child.

The weekly classes were great brainstorming sessions. The students were so bright and engaged. I would leave thinking about something new and thought provoking. The concept of public collective joy building a sense of community is so simple and important. I think deep down we know this but we talk ourselves out of it because of feeling foolish or too busy for such frivolity. But being around people who just wanted to share joy and positive energy was such a boost to my level of happiness. It was contagious and it is reinvigorated in me every time I think about the crowd dance  or Ashley and Nathen’s performance. By the way, I felt a tsunami of joy that brought tears to my eyes when I watched Ashley and Nathen perform their lovely tender dance of humanity at the conference. This was a moment of healing light and grace that I will never ever forget. Truly it is beyond words. Nathen is an 18 year old young man with down syndrome. He takes dance classes with the key note speaker Ashley Anderson. His story is amazing. He embodies dance, like a dancer at Ballet West. He takes it very seriously. I wish you could see him and Ashley warm up. See Ashley Anderson & Nathens Performance

As I started this class  I was also in Foundation II Painting class. One of the assignments was to create a painting using only pure color. No black or white for mixing shades and tints. I couldn’t help thinking about how my life would be without black or white. It struck a few nerves. I always explain the diversity in my family by saying, “I come from a long line of open-minded lovers”.  Which may or may not be true. Maybe some of my ancestors weren’t given a choice when they created the child who was within my ancestry.

I have Mexican, German, African-American, English, Irish, Scottish, French, Middle Eastern, Native American, slaves and slave owners within my family dna. At one time or another these races were at war over prejudice, land or money. I wondered if they still fight within me. Is that the fear or rage that comes through and stops me from “fitting in”? Maybe feeling at odds or out of balance is them telling me to sit and hear their stories of collective oppression, fear and sadness, so that I can truly have justice within me.

Once I spoke with Karol Truman author of “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die”. She and many other healers believe that trauma leaves an imprint in our dna and is passed down from generation to generation attracting more trauma in our lives. The only hope for healing it is to acknowledge the journey or the story of the trauma and come to understand its influence.

I thought of the imprint of pain and misunderstanding because of the black and white mentality that cripples humanity. I thought about how I could create justice for them within me. I felt them say, “you must know our story before you can understand how to heal it”.

I visualized them all, speaking of their lives and their journeys, asking to be heard, forgiven or accepted. I wanted to hear them all. I wanted to heal them all. I saw them making peace with each other in another realm where no black or white was allowed, just the pure colors of their essence.  They were my inspiration for these paintings.

I see them all dancing within me.

I see them in the face my grandchild.

Changing the world begins within, outside of black and white.

At the conference I explained why I care about justice. I spoke about the 1980 murders of my friends who were with me as we jogged in Liberty Park. We were shot for “race mixing” by a racist serial killer who was  suspected of 39 murders and convicted of 22 murders in 12 states. I am 1 of 4 survivors from his violent rage. It was a life changing moment in our lives and the lives of our families.

I saw a man come closer as I spoke to the first people who asked about my paintings and why I care about social justice. He turned pale. I asked if he was all right. He said, “I was a little boy in the store across the street when you were shot. My aunt gave the boys cpr on the street. We have worried and wondered about you all these years. How are you?” This was somewhat shocking for both of us. We spoke at length and when he left, he mentioned that his aunt recently passed away. He seemed glad for the closure of meeting me. I felt humbled at the thought that there were so many affected by that horrible night but by some extraordinary coincidence we met at this event a few weeks after his selfless aunt passed away.

I have a hard time getting to comfortable with people and exposing my vulnerable heart when it comes to healing racism. But as I kept telling my story to those who asked why I was there, it became less painful to speak about it. I felt safe and supported and less broken.

I am in my late 40’s now and I am a grandmother to 2 wonderful little girls. They give me the courage to keep trying to make this world a better place than when I arrived. They come with our

family to my “social justice” rally’s, marches and speeches. I hope that they feel the connection of collective joy and conscious that I feel when we participate in the journey to justice, with other like-minded people in my community.

10 years from now I will look back on this experience with reverence and appreciation for the kind wonderful people who participated and believed that the journey to justice is not for one, but for all. We are all the change we wish to see in the world and I am grateful I was a part of it.


Womens Congress For Future Generations

I have been home 9 days and I still wake up and wish I was l in Moab. I can’t believe how many wonderfully weird this 3 days turned out and every day since. For 6 months before I was aware of this event, I dreamed of red cliffs and sand.

I was guided to consider the Women’s Congress For Future Generations, WCFFG,  by a facebook friend who has been one of my guides and helpers from a distance since I was 27 years old.

Below is the copied info from the website and reason I chose to attend the Womens Congress For Future Generations, http://www.wcffg.org/

About

Why have a Women’s Congress for Future Generations?

The environmental problems facing Earth challenge our concepts of time and how we think about future generations. Most laws are appropriate for 25 years or less, essentially one generation. But climate change, mountain top removal, fracking, mining and drilling, and species extinction are no longer our legacy to the 7th generation but to the 10,000th generation and beyond. Radioactive waste sites, for example, are hazardous for 250,000 years or longer, essentially 10,000 generations.

Over the past year, women of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds have been quietly working on these issues. Conversations have been held in the kitchens of long time environmental activists. They have been held on the frontlines of civil disobedience by young activists resisting fracking, nuclear power, and mountain top removal. They have been held in the halls of academia, in the dream world, and in political arenas. It is time for a larger conversation and to transform conversation into action on behalf of the future. It is time for women to speak from our authority as the first environment for future generations. It is time to rise up and claim this authority so we can sing lullabies, not requiems, to future generations.

Who we are
We are a group of women who have come together to plan this Congress and dream. Our central organizing team and affinity support groups include writers, dreamers, public speakers, organizers, lawyers, academics, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, filmmakers, and artists. All are committed to issues of women, health, justice, and the environment. Our elder circle includes luminaries such as Joanna Macy and Mona Polacca, one of the thirteen Indigenous grandmothers. Our fiscal agent is the Science & Environmental Health Network.

Why hold this in Moab Utah?
We have chosen Moab because this beautiful land, the Colorado River, and ancient sacred sites are threatened with fracking and a proposed nuclear power plant. We believe our presence in Moab can stop these threats to our common, treasured heritage. In addition, we had dreamers who dreamed that Moab called us to hold it there.

What are the goals of the Congress?

  • To convene and create together the future we desire.
  • To craft a living Declaration of the Rights of Future Generations and the Responsibilities of Present Generations through word, art, song, and performance.
  • To transform public dialogue about our collective future.
  • To begin an inquiry about what tools and skills an emerging civil right movements for future generations might need to move forward.
  • To define how women can honor, embody and translate the sacred feminine spirit into the realm of direct political and social action.
  • To empower women’s voices and leadership to address the challenges before us.
  • To embrace all women, and to address barriers that might otherwise diminish the fullest and most diverse gathering of women.
  • To carry forward this work in ways that draw strength and wisdom from parallel and kindred gatherings, and from an ever-widening circle of women.

Being short on funds, I sent in an application for a scholarship to attend the WCFFG in Moab. I received the scholarship and was given food, workshops and a camping ground to stay in. We arrived on Thursday night and slept beneath the most beautiful iconic red rock cliffs next to the Colorado River.

The next morning I checked in, wearing my granny’s charm bracelet with my sisters and my charms she had with our name and birthdays. I have been dreaming of my ancestors in vivid beautiful colors. Colorful symbolism and creative energy offers answers and questions that speak to healing the trauma from the past and concern for the future of my children and grandchildren.

The first workshop was the Theater of Oppression. It was an exercise that had 6 groups of people who created a living sculpture or scene of oppression. We chose the one we wished to explore further.  This scene was one of a young teen mother who had a father with his arms crossed and his back to her, a mother with a worried look on her face and her hands on her daughters shoulders, a woman pointing a finger in accusatory judgement and two people that hoped to adopt her baby. As the scene progressed any one could say stop and and take over the role of someone in the play. They could change the direction by offering a different point of view or way of interacting. I couldn’t believe no one asked the woman playing the pregnant teen, what she wanted to do with her baby. NOT ONCE!

At one point an elderly man and woman were jumping in and trying to interact but they weren’t being respectful to each other and were quickly reminded to be civil. Eventually two women said they would be part of the community to help raise the baby and support the mother. Which seemed like a good idea at that moment.

Out of nowhere, a woman in her 60’s was shouting and crying that there is no community to help single teenage mothers. She spoke of her pregnancy and how she was abandoned and left to figure it out on her own as a college student. Everyone was stunned and shocked to the point of not knowing what to do or say. Then another woman in her 50’s stood up and spoke of a pregnancy at the age of 17 years old. She was forced to marry the 15 year old father of her baby. She said her mother made all the dresses for the wedding and cried with every stitch sewed.

A woman in her 30’s came forward crying. She said that she was pregnant at the age of 15 and her mother supported her decision to have an abortion and now she lives happily without having any children. She said she was grateful for the opportunity to have a choice in her future and she chose to not have children.

Initially, I thought this doesn’t apply to me, thank goodness. But I learned by speaking to others that this story applied to all women. My mother was 17 and married when she had me. She married at 16 and a year later gave birth to me. My daughter was a teen mother at 18. I was astounded at the level of judgment, shame and exclusion directed at her and me for raising her “that way”.

Over the course of the next few days I went to each woman who spoke and thanked them for sharing their story. I learned more details of their story that all seemed to be very familiar and common in the themes of the life of a woman in this world. The things that stood out most to me where the facts that females are directed through shame, fear, loss and judgment as soon as they can communicate. We are guided through incredibly challenging circumstances by those 4 oppressive energies.  Often we do it to other women. But sometimes we don’t realize, while we are silenced into continuing the cycle of oppression, we do it to ourselves.

After lunch we each chose a group of elements or living beings where we felt an affinity. I had to chose within seconds of learning where everyone was going. So I chose the air animal group. I met with 8 other women and we each chose an animal or insect and use 3 descriptions of what them. I had originally wanted to select honey bee, then dragonfly, then owl, then bat. But every time someone stood up to choose what they had in mind, my selection would be taken. Finally, my turn came. I chose a hawk with the description of hawk attributes; seeing from above, protection of chicks, independent. We discussed what they would say if they could speak, what they needed us to know and our responsibilities to them. We created a proclamation and bill of rights for them.
At the end of the workshop each group presented these well considered ideas and said the Congress was charged with creating a legal document to present to our political leaders that would be a step towards addressing the challenges faced by our planet and her children.
That night I met a teacher of one of the workshops when we found that she was sharing our campsite. We were too exhausted to talk and turned in early. She left the next morning at first light.

The following morning we were given several choices for the next 2 days of workshops. It was hard to choose. They were all so fascinating to consider.  While we were deciding which workshops to choose, we heard a celebration outside the building. We all went outside and watched as the LGBT marched in solidarity for equal rights. We cheered them on and as the flag is paraded in front of us, I notice that one of the several people holding up the flag is my nephew. I called to him and he and I embraced. Many of the parade members hugged the women from the congress. It was a beautiful moment.

After we went back in the building, I chose a workshop that was led by one of the women in the air animal group. It was also selected by 2 other women which made it easier to interact and connect. This workshop was about our maternal grandmothers birth and the environment where they were born and grew up. How environmental factors affected her life and her daughters and mine.

The leader of the workshop came from a grandmother who was VERY financially privileged her whole life. She was born in San Francisco  at the time of the gold rush. Her water was exposed to mercury flushed into main water sources. It used to filter the gold from impurities. She slept in a beautiful bassinet that had been passed down to all her children and grandchildren. It was painted with lead based paint. She had the finest of everything but those things were toxic and the illnesses related to those toxins were passed down to her descendants.

I didn’t want to discuss my mothers mother. We never got along and I didn’t know much about her birth and environment except that she was poor and lived on the land. Which sounds better than drinking mercury laced with toxins. In our sharing I realized that the environmental factors were more complex than the water, food and air. While my grandmother was most likely not exposed to those toxins, she was exposed to different toxins; racism, pedophiles and a life of things she couldn’t do because of her lack of education. Which ironically was passed down to all of her descendants.

All of the women, but me, were born through a mother who was drugged and bore her children through a cesarean section or forceps. If delivering in a hospital there was a procedure to follow;  make a delivery appointment that was convenient to the doctor’s schedule, drug the mother,  tie her arms down with lambs wool covered straps (they didn’t want to upset the HUSBANDS by showing bruises on the women) and they would force forceps inside her and pull the baby out or cut it out of her. That sounded pretty painful, unnatural and violent for the mother and child. As though, the schedules and feelings of the men, doctor or husband, were more important than the mother or child. I walked away grateful my family didn’t have the money to have babies in hospitals back then. Maybe that is why there is an abundance of good health and long lives in our family.

Later, we listened and voted on the draft of the language for the bill of rights and proclamations for the elements and animals represented. We each had the opportunity to critique it and vote on how we wanted it to be reflected in the bill.

That evening, under a full moon we all gathered at the bridge close to our campsite. We joined in prayer for the healing of our polluted waters while two people played the drums on huge Japanese Taiko drums. As the prayer was finished, someone read a piece by Alice Walker (one of my favorite writers of all time. She published a piece of work that was very similar to our bill, within minutes of the end of our prayer.

It was all very humbling an heart expanding.

Susan and I both chose a hike that was actually in the area of our campsite. Neither of us knew it, but we were camping on sacred grounds. We explored the feminine rock art symbols of Basketmaker society 2000-3000 years ago.  To see this sacred symbolic artwork see:     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxAtWbpK9oo

At one point, we stared at the vast canyon as women chanted and sang a beautiful Native American song about women awakening to their new day. No one was left without a tear. It was inspiring beyond words. I felt the presences of all my grandmothers. Even those from hundreds of years ago. I had dreams of messages from them.

That night when I arrived at home, I stood in the shower and thought about the experience. I heard a voice of a young woman. I could see her when I closed my eyes. She said, “You think your survivors guilt for your sisters is because of YOUR past. But you don’t understand that also came from me.” I said, ” who are you and why would it affect me?” She said,”I am your grandmother. My sister and I were kidnapped by Indians when I was a young girl. I escaped without my sister. We were never reunited.” Then she turned as if looking behind her and said, “You’ll get your turn! It’s my turn now!”. “You forgave your maternal grandmother. Can you forgive me?” Then she was gone.

I was shaking with the thought of trauma, survivors guilt, rape and kidnapping in our lineage. I called my aunt and asked if we had a grandmother kidnapped by Indians. She said that we did. She met her when she was a child. This grandmother was cruel and vicious. She was abusive to everyone including her handicapped son. When she died at the age of 104, my great grandfather refused to attend the funeral.

The next morning, I was staring at the window deep in meditative thoughts of healing my sisters and myself. Out of the blue I see what appeared to be young girl running to my back door. She was see through. Like a ghost. Then it looked like she hit the door, BANG!, and  ran away as she quickly became invisible from her feet to her head.  I ran and opened the door. Ran outside and there was a HAWK, my totem air animal,  flopping on the grass in the back yard. Her feathers were strewn all over my porch. She flew away as soon as I got close to her. I live in the CITY. In my 48 years of life, I haven’t ever seen one in my yard. EVER.

I went to my class a few minutes later. Somehow I chatted with a young woman I haven’t ever spoken to before. We started talking about the white women who were kidnapped by the Comanche Indians. She turned white and said, “I am reading about that very thing right now.” I was stunned again. When we saw each other again she brought the book for me to read. I opened it and randomly read about Daniel Boone’s granddaughter who was kidnapped. Then I remembered that Daniel Boone is one of my ancestors.

Every day one beautiful new piece of insight comes to me from this experience. I believe it is divine grace that I was allowed to be a part of this journey. I want to carry it forward in my village and help further the healing in myself, my family and my fellow living beings. This is just the beginning.