Archives for category: environment

Context: Nia Wilson of SpiritHouseNC has said: all well and good to have protests in Chicago and Oakland, but she needs white people here in Durham to be in the streets. This is the challenge.

We are poisoned by hatred. We are poisoned by industries which do not care about us, ourselves, our communities. Please bear with me.

A lung permeated with coal dust, or of a person with Black Lung Disease, is black like a lump of coal. As the extraneous coal dust infiltrates the living pink tissue of the lung, the tissue becomes stiff, unyielding, dead.

For a hundred years or so, the medical world denied the existence of this killing disease; for there to be such a disease did not “work” with the industry’s need for workers, all of whom had lungs. Following a massive peoples’ struggle, the disease now known as Coal Miners’ Pneumoconiosis or Black Lung was recognized and a federal compensation program was begun.

The lungs of long-time cigarette smokers can also look like this.

I grew up in a household of smoking adults. My mother smoked while I was in utero. I smoked for almost twenty years, from my late teens to my mid thirties. Unfiltered. One or two packs a day. Except when I was pregnant. Because of my children I quit, but I was so addicted that for seven years after quitting when I had a choice, in a meeting or elsewhere, I would sit next to a smoker, so I could suck in a little hit.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the emotions associated with the lungs, which bring pure air into the body and transform it, are grief and loss. In TCM my dry cough might be associated with fire accumulated inside the lungs.

There is a metaphoric pony in this pile of manure (what must we breathe in, to have fire in our lungs?), actually from top to bottom a herd of shaggy, wily, and wild metaphor ponies.

We survive these assaults on our bodies, but they take a toll. When I was young, I could afford to be more cavalier about this.

My lungs, my breathing apparatus, are my point of vulnerability. I have coughed through most of 2016, sometimes coughing enough that I can not speak. Sometimes missing people and gatherings because I was coughing.  I am being responsible. I hate this. I am not critically sick, but I am chronically so. I am working with conventional medicine and otherwise (while I have medicare. I still remember my mother’s elation when medicare was first passed).

Nia, I need to get a little more well to fight this fight. This fight is my first obligation, an obligation inherited from my chain-smoking mother. I am gonna be in the streets. Can not let the coughing deprive me of my voice.

ANN PAYNE lives with two Cairn Terriers and two cats on a steep and wooded hill on the edge of Morgantown WV. She has lived there under those trees for decades. Her house is full of books and odd things she has found outdoors. There is a shaded carp pond, visible from the living room window, through which the carp can be seen, gold gleaming in the dark water. She is visited here by adult children, grand children, friends.

[Ann’s words in purple. Faith’s in black.]

 

 

faith n ann payne copy Faith S. Holsaert (left), Ann Payne (right)

REFLECTIONS: HOMAGE TO DUNKARD CREEK

A friend who lived on Dunkard Creek called to say there had been a massive fish kill. Ann went to see for herself. Large numbers of green herons, who usually wade into the water to catch live fish, were feeding on the bodies of fish on the ground. There was a hand-made sign: “Who murdered our creek and who will save it?” Muskies and other fish floated dead in the water, The gills of fish were bleeding. Mud puppies which hide in the mud were frantically crawling, with their tiny fingers, trying to get to the air, but they were suffocating and dying. In the end, 90 species of plants and animals which had previously lived in the creek were gone.

Apprenticing in Biomedical Photography years ago, I discovered I am calm – even efficient – in the face of blood and guts.  It isn’t that. But there is something about helpless things suffering through no fault of their own that cuts very deep with me.  What got Reflections:  Homage to Dunkard Creek started wasn’t outrage first, but standing there in the creek and seeing all that suffering, those helpless being plunged into pain, misery, untimely death, and loving them and suffering helplessly with them. That was the heart of it. Then I got angry and frustrated, and then I had to do something.

    ann p rosy faced   Rosy Face Shiner, Sue Wyble

 

ann p crawdads   Crawdads, Jana Matusz

 

ann p toad   Fowler’s Toad, Ann Payne  

 

Dunkard wasn’t so much a protest as a way to introduce people to those amazing beings, their numbers, and how lucky we are to be blessed with such beauty, diversity and wonder.  And then to put it together, to see how awful that these beings were so disrespected, disregarded, and violated. It sounds corny but it’s that deep tenderness that I get to first and want to share.  It precedes the anger and action.  It is from there that I have to act .

Ann talking about the fishkill and the exhibit she curated with work by 90 artists, honoring the 90 species: Reflections: Homage to Dunkard CreeK

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRJwrsykUGA

A slide show catalogue of the work:

http://www.homage-to-dunkard-creek.com/Homage_to_Dunkard_Creek/Gallery.html

 

MORGANTOWN YEAR OF THE TREE

 ann p big tree

A few years ago some people from Connecticut moved in up the hill and behind Ann’s house. The newcomers wanted a Connecticut sort of lawn. They cut down the numerous old trees which had been giving shade, offering habitat, and holding the soil in place.

 The trees…  Hearing their bodies crash to the ground day after day, the sound of the grinding up of their bodies, the crying of the animals and birds who had dwelt in them – again, suffering for them, with them, helpless. Then I got REALLY MAD and Year of the Tree was born.  YOTT 2013 also featured SHADY:  Our Neighbors the Trees, an exhibit of 27 artists from three states who answered, artistically, the question, “What do you see when you look at a tree?”  Where my ‘neighbor’ (who soon lost her job and retreated to Connecticut) saw only her own ego to which the trees were mere obstacles, pastel artist Susan Poffenbarger sees ancient beauty, Nik Botkin recreates their architectural wonder in giant metal sculptures, etc.  These artists see, love, and respect the trees, and through their work, invite others to do so.  

Morgantown’s Year of the Tree: There were hikes, and lectures, and trips to City Council, and contests, like the one for The Biggest Baddest Tree in Morgantown and a weekend of art: Carol Hummel guided people in yarning a big beauty on the arts campus.

 

 

ann p yarned tree

 

PASSENGER PIGEONS

ann p stuio

 

The Passenger Pigeon Project, of which my friend Ann Rosenthal is one of the organizers, asked one artist from every U.S. state in which those birds had lived to create a piece in honor of the now-extinct bird.  

Passenger Pigeons, distinct from the familiar rock pigeons many call “flying rats,”once existed in such large numbers that when a mass of them passed overhead the sound was deafening and it took hours for the group to pass. Unlike rock pigeons, the Passenger Pigeons were a species native to North America.  A new book about the birds, A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction (Bloomsbury), by  Joel Greenberg is reviewed in a recent New Yorker. Sadly, among other things, these birds who were so numerous they could be called a feathered river across the sky, were not only numerous but delicious. The hunting and eating of them contributed to their extinction

I ended up with (imo a kind of weird) vision, a wounded bird with a mountain-top removal site in the background.  I had to use all kinds of source photos and try to blend them together, but the point is that again – these beautiful creations were disregarded, destroyed, in fact mined, the hills for coal, the birds for meat.  Forever lost.  Then and now.

 

 

ann p c pigeon

url to New Yorker review, which contains a lot of information about Passenger Pigeons:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2014/01/06/140106crbo_books_rosen?currentPage=all

 

 

SHH… LISTEN! My current project  with Betsy Jaeger, Steve Lawson and Nik Botkin, is a 20-artist collaboration called Shhh . . . Listen!  an installation to premier at the Allegheny Highlands Climate Conference at Blackwater Falls State Park in early June 2014.  This project highlights 20 regionally common plant and animal species whose populations are dropping rapidly, but who are not yet ‘listed’ as threatened and endangered. The point is to alert the public to common species suffering and vanishing right under our noses (from climate change, habitat destruction, pollution).  In other words, let’s quickly start to pay attention.  We have a pending disaster we can prevent here and now.

Kai Lumumba Barrow

Gallery of the Streets installation. Because of the art, Kai is being evicted. Because of who she is — insurgent, intransigent, irreverent, principled, warrior — her art has become her house, filling every room with a shifting floor of mulch and sand and pebbles, making each doorway a difficult gateway, lowering the ceilings with ropes and wires from which images hang by clothes pins (“I don’t want my art stuck ON THE WALL”), propping books against the walls in stacks, placing books strategically, bringing in pansies (yes) and other growing plants, banners and scrolls of quotations. Even the closets have not escaped.

All quotes are from Kai Barrow, Swan Song Manifesto http://www.organizingupgrade.com/index.php/modules-menu/community-organizing/item/57-kai-barrow

 

1. kai in magnolia

3B. kai lumumba

3A. kai outdoors smile

Picture it: A multiracial, multi-gendered, intergenerational group of about 250 people are marching down the middle of the street in a neighborhood of North Philadelphia. The people are a loud bunch, carrying signs that read “Free Mumia Now!” and “Stop the Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal.”  Community members come out on their porch to wave at the group or raise a fist in solidarity.  There is a pick-up truck with a loud speaker rigged to a megaphone. People are reciting chants that rhyme and have each phrase and pause dedicated to memory. This performance has become ritualized.

There is a lull.  The speaker/chant leader is tired and needs a break.  He hands the megaphone to me. I am known for my energy. I hold the dubious title of “Cheerleader for the Movement.” Holding the megaphone, I wanted to see if we could transform our ritual. Could we inspire spontaneity and surprise within ourselves and each other? Could we share with this Black, working-class community whose neighborhood we entered, an expansive vision—one where Mumia’s freedom was tied in with their own liberation? I placed the megaphone to my lips and faced the crowd.

 Me: What do we want?

Chanters: Free Mumia!

Me: When do we want it?

Chanters: Now!

[reprise.]

Me: What else do we want?

Chanters: [silence.]

Me: No really. What else do we want? Shout it out. It doesn’t have to rhyme. It doesn’t have to be scripted. Let’s make a cacophony of sound, shouting out our visions of what we want. [pleading] We don’t even have to do it for more than 60 seconds.

Chanters: [silence.]

Actually, there wasn’t complete silence. 

 

 

6. kai I would rediscover

 

5. kai hanging red lavender

 

4. kai waiting room

 

7. kai yellow african

 

 

A culture of resistance, protest politics and institution-building by people of color, feminists, queer people, and poor people in the 1960s and ’70s filled me with pleasure and purpose.  It was a period of design and imagination—a period where people re-envisioned and re-structured their lives. Even as a kid, I knew that things were changing. I saw and felt the electricity of change. Nothing was static.  It seemed to me that everything was in question: from diet to living arrangements; interpersonal relationships to altered identities, from the ways that people asserted and responded to power to a new articulation of labor and production.  During this period, people reached beyond national boundaries and re-defined themselves as members of a global community (and in some cases, interplanetary community—see Sun Ra). And though these shifts were taking place on different scales and at a different pace, corresponding to class, race, gender, age, geographic location and sexual orientation, everyone was influenced by this cultural, social, political and economic re-imagining. This was a transformative moment, one that unleashed our imaginations and spurred our actions. We saw what we could be….

 

 

8. kai asylum surgery

 

9. kai black white alter

 

10. kai alley

11. kai sassafras

 

 

We were unprepared for the brutality of the State. As beautiful as this period was, we were also powerful enough to pose a threat so significant to the functioning of the State, that it systematically set out to squash our burgeoning revolution. Individual leaders were discredited, driven into exile, imprisoned, and murdered. Intra-and inter-organizational conflict resulted in a weakened movement that we are still recovering.  Culture was depoliticized and exploited….

 

 

13. kai wolverine hanging

14. kai jade alter

15. zogi indoors 2

My fifth grade school year was also the time of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. As is the tradition, many young people from throughout the country arrived in Chicago to protest the War and other repressive policies and my family and other residents of the co-op apartment we lived in, agreed to house several of these protestors, among them David Dellinger.  After Mayor Richard J. Daley gave the order for the Chicago Police Department to “shoot first, ask questions later,” my new out of town “friends” arrived back at our house broken, bloodied, and angry at the police, the mayor, and a system that shoots and kills its children.  I was heartbroken to see people in pain and I too became angry. Later that night, I was awakened by gunshots as the police surrounded our apartment and forced Dellinger out of the building. That day I experienced grief, anger and terror—all directly linked to the violence and abuse of power by the State….

 

 

16. zogi outdoors

 

17. kai libertad

18. kai bricktop

19. kai ayanna red

20. kai femm cave quilt

22. kai hoop in tree

21. kai malcolm x

 

This contradiction creates a “raw opposition” that is explosive.  It can change the terms of a space.  As organizers, our challenge is to identify the nature of our raw opposition and build/create within the space between oppression and freedom. We are charged with entering the space of raw opposition with clarity, precision, and analysis, passion, energy, and generosity. In Black tradition, this is known as the “Cool.” Think Miles Davis.

 

23A. kai shirlette

 

23B. kai pam kagele?

 

24. kai erin

 

25. kai erin cath

 

 

 

 

26. kai Jess

 

23C. kai Nia painted

Video trailer by film-maker and organizer Jazz Franklin, a preview of Kai Barrow’s “visual opera,” entitled “Gallery of the Streets,” installed in Durham, NC April 3-6, 2014.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA0CKj2cncg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people think there is such a thing as safety.

respectability          safety           illusion

 

IMG-20111125-00047

 

 

The Mission, San Francisco
To walk these streets is to walk the faultline between wealth and poverty.

I walk Valencia Street from 24th street to 16th. In some blocks I do not recognize where I am from a year ago. Rectangular glass, metal,and concrete buildings have usurped the places where old buildings stood. On Sunday, working through the Brunch Swarm is a piece of work. Stores sell organic cotton clothing, … and old furniture and clothing sold as retro with an ironic wink to hipster insiders. The old places are here, too, some of them. La Cumbre for burritos, Fritz for crepes, New York pizza where you can buy dinner for a couple of bucks, in contrast to the new places with their chrome and glass, their dead-stylish neutral grays and browns, khaki, black. Women in tights, big shiny shoes and skinny jackets race past, pushing their babies in aluminum buggies.

Walk up Mission, one block parallel to Valencia. Start at the 16th Street BART plaza, never empty, always thronging with men and women and children, shopping carts, chihuahuas, chihuahuas in shopping carts, wheelchairs, people reeling with substances, people asking for money, people yelling. Between 16th and 24th, the stores include Thrift Town, holes in the wall selling everything from luggage to skinny skinny jeans; outside some stores stacks of mangos, baby fist red bananas, pads of cactus, sometimes the smell over-ripe, water thrown over the pavement to wash away the night before. Families marshall their children to school or appointments.

It is not that one of these is better, but one is squeezing out the other to make The Mission “safe” for the new settlers. It boils down to the illusion of safety. On one side of the faultline, people can afford to think they can create safe lives behind their gates, that because they can they will buy safety for themselves and their children. On the other side, that illusion would be dangerous: there is no safety.

 

THEY BLAME EVE

They blame Eve who
answered desire,
knew better than god

the fruit of
her loins condemned:

Switch.

Mountain schoolhouse
potatoes and onions in the side lot
children walk out of the hills from hand built houses
some don’t know faucets.

Switch.

Chain link fences off
Cougar Mountain Coal.
Outside in Cougar bottom
eleven trailers shelter brain cancer.

Switch.

I heard a man groped a little girl.

Switch.

The earth movers
throw up dust the color of army.
It chalks over the poplar leaves
and ashes the laundry on the line.
It comes between the sick and tired lovers.
It slinks a cur dog, impounded:
PROPERTY OF COUGAR MOUNTAIN COAL.

[Faith S. Holsaert, appeared in Prairie Wolf Review 10/12]