"I don't think of the world as little separate boxes or pockets. I think of the Earth as being a whole planet that belongs to all of us. And I think each human being has the same right to grow, the same right to knowledge, everything.
"Until we are willing to work in such a way that we create a world of humans living, working and sharing together, and taking responsibility for the Earth that way, we're going to be locked into these little pockets of prejudice and hatred that will continue to destroy people."
- Sun Bear
Day 97 - Wednesday, September 27, 1995 - Awakening on a bright, sweet day, we set off for an early morning event: a brown-bag breakfast under the theme: "Sharing Unity: Perspectives on Healing Divisions among Humankind." The event was sponsored by the Mohandas K. Ghandi Institute for Nonviolence at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Memphis.
Grandfather Commanda spoke first. “Regardless of color," he said, "we are one people. We need all the people to clean the rivers, to clean the air, and all the rest. It's going to take all the people...My ancestors taught respect as the way of life. It is good to be among all the colors of people and to be here in respect...
"My heart is puffed up with tears when I see that you cannot drink the water, that you must reach in your pocket and pay $1.29 for a little bottle to drink. The time is short if we don't change the way we live."
Tom Dostou also spoke: "No matter how long your family has been here on this continent -- four, five, or six generations, you still have to give the native voice a chance. There's a lot that we native peoples can learn about philosophy and so forth from those who have come here, but there's also a lot we can share. People can learn from us, too.
"The teachings and prophecies our elders have kept for many hundreds, and in some cases thousands of years, carry understandings that can help in these times. But first they must be heard and understood."
"Why pack up everything and leave home to walk across the continent?” Tom asked. “At first blush, our quest could seem kind of stupid. But it's not. I am old enough to recall Martin Luther King, and Selma, Alabama, the beatings, the hosings, the march on Washington DC.
"Native people have watched the comings and goings of different colored peoples on this land for many hundreds of years. We have waited for the time when we could again speak about the things we know are important.
“We've seen a lot of things. We’ve heard a lot of things. As we walk now and as we meet people, they tell us of their hopes and their dreams for America the Beautiful. I stand here in humility, in the shadow of a man, Martin King, who gave all for that vision of America the beautiful. And as I stand here I ask, how can we continue the dream of Martin Luther King?
“We must, we absolutely must continue that dream if there is to be a future on this land," Tom said. "We must show the world, not by words but by our lives and our deeds, how harmony can be. If we cannot do it, how can we hope that it will happen in Bosnia, or Jerusalem, or in Northern Ireland?"
Kay MacKenzie, executive Director of the Gandhi Institute, told our gathering that there are 15 major Superfund environmental cleanup sites in the Memphis area -- terrible toxic sites with horrible poisons that make people, fish, animals, and plants sick. She said there was also terrible racial animosity and anger in Memphis.
“But," she added, "as if attracted by these very conditions, Memphis has many powerful coalitions of people working on racial and environmental healing. We must always remember that. We must always support that."
Ms. McKenzie reminded the walkers that they are not alone, that in fact there are thousands upon thousands of individuals and groups around the world working for similar goals.
She said she had been deeply touched by the teachings in Dostoevsky's book The Brothers Karamazov: “practice little acts of kindness everyday." Otherwise, she said, “when a time of crisis comes you won't be ready, you won't have the habit of peace, kindness or understanding."
Eventually our 97th day of walking gave way to a warm, starry evening. We assembled again at the National Civil Rights Museum to participate in a Gathering for Unity. Tables and chairs were set out for about 200 people, and a stage was erected just below the balcony where Martin Luther King was shot and bled to death nearly 30 years ago.
Mary Lou Awiakta, Cherokee Nation, came before us and with a good heart offered a welcoming prayer. She thanked our Sunbow 5 Walk for coming to Memphis to remind the people that there are five colors of human beings, not one color, and that we must somehow find a way to live together.
|Tom Dostou (L) holds a flag, as he prepares to introduce Cherokee poet Mary Lou Awiakta in Memphis. Author photo
She spoke about the complex relations among the races of human beings who live in this place by the Mississippi River. Then, in a Medicine manner, she read for us several of her award-winning poems.
Mother Nature Sends a Pink Slip
by Mary Lou Awiakta
To: Homo Sapiens
My business is producing life.
The bottom line is
you are not cost effective workers.
Over the millennia, I have repeatedly
clarified my management goals and objectives.
Your failure to comply is well documented.
It stems from your inability to be a team player:
* You interact badly with co-workers
* Contaminate the workplace
* Sabotage the machinery
* Hold up production
* Consume profits
In short, you are a disloyal species.
Within the last decade
I have given you three warnings:
* Made the workplace too hot for you
* Shaken up your home office
* Utilized plague to cut back personnel
Your failure to take appropriate action
has locked these warnings into
the phase-out mode,
which will result in termination.
Poem copyright 1993 by Marilou Awiakta, published in Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, CO.
Tomorrow I am leaving Memphis and flying to Washington, D.C. with Grandfather Commanda and Jacki. It is clear now that Tom will not sit with me to discuss the walk's finances. Our angry confrontation Tuesday is leading nowhere, and will apparently remain unresolved for the time being. I will have to report back to our treasurer, John Heyman, that Tom refused to meet with me, and refused in any way to discuss what has been going on with the walk's money.
Under the starlit Autumn nightsky, Warren Wapequah drummed and sang, showing us some Choctaw ways, then leading us in a round dance that brought us together. He showed us how to make prayer ties from tobacco, string, and five colors of cloth -- black, brown, red, white, and yellow -- representing the five colors of human beings.
As the evening came to a close, we focused our prayers for peace into the tobacco ties and then in a respectful manner offered them to a sacred fire
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 98 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire