Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Starting at the Beginning

By: Reagan Jackson
Azeb, Eyerusalem, and Zion

Today was the official first day of the pre-departure orientation for Many Voices One Tribe's Inaugural Program, Explorations in Veracruz!!!

After a year of continuous fundraising, recruiting, coaching youth through their internships, and meeting community partners it's incredible to think this day has finally come. I recruited a cohort of ten awesome young writers of color. Our first meeting was in December, but throughout the year many participants fell off either for personal reasons like having to move or realizing they have conflicting summer plans with family. There were also some who weren't able to commit to an internship and since many of these youth do not have families that are able to pay their program fees, sweat equity has been essential.

Some lessons learned:
  • Inspiring people initially doesn't mean they will stay inspired- you have to stoke the fire continuously.
  • Not everyone has the same work ethic, this is also something to be cultivated.
  • Repetition is necessary when you want someone to really understand your vision.
  • Having a supportive community can be vital on those days when you feel disheartened (shoutout to my friends and colleagues at the Seattle Globalist and the Amor Spiritual Center)
  • Self care is essential. (This is whole separate post!) 
The three young people who remain have been working since December to take this adventure. They are Eyerusalem, Azeb, and Zion and you will be hearing from them soon. We have each committed to share the job of being the Tribe Scribe. You will also be hearing from my co-facilitator Jordan who is joining us from TriCities.

While initially I was sad at the rate of attrition and also at the obstacles we faced in terms of fundraising and finding time when we could all get together, I also understand that sometimes when you try something new you don't get it right.

What we did get right is that this specific group is a collection of incredible minds and hearts. I am already blown away by our intentions for this trip.

Drawing upon a practice adapted from Powerful Voices, we created a community intentions board. This is a really cool process that I recommend for the start of any group. First we talked about our fears and set goals for what we want to accomplish and what we would like to experience. Then we wrote down our intentions for the trip. We traced our hands on construction paper and cut them out. On each finger we named one of our strengths, and on the thumb we selected the strength we will lead with during this trip. On the palm we wrote our names and our personal goals and used them to sign our intentions.

During the afternoon we were joined by Arturo and Teresita from Seattle Fandango. The tradition of Fandango can be loosely translated as a community party, a time consisting first and foremost of community, but with the other important components of singing, dancing, music, food, and drink. They introduced us to several kinds of ukuele and taught us to strum, stomp, and sing. The rhythm was deceptively simple. We all had a good time trying it out.

Arturo and Teresita from Seattle Fandango
As Arturo spoke of Mexico, he talked about the blend of cultures through the example of music. If you have ever watched traditional foklorico dance you've seen the lacey skirts swishing and heard the distinctive stomp I always thought was borrowed from Spanish flamenco. Arturo gave an alternate explanation attributing the stomping to the drumming tradition of Yoruba cultures that arrived in Mexico through the slave trade. Since it was seen as a spiritual practice, drumming was outlawed by the Catholic church, but the music would not be suppressed. Africans created wooden floors and used their feet to sound out the beat. The guitars and other string instruments came from the Spaniards who arrived in the 1500s and the singing and flutes come from the Mayans and other indigenous groups already occupying the land.

While the people themselves may not have always blended harmoniously, the music is beautiful and a perfect example of how each of us have something to contribute to the broader creation of community. Eyerusalem turned to me and whispered its like Many Voice One Tribe. That's when I knew without a doubt that no matter where we go from here we are on the right path. It was a perfect start to our explorations of identity and Mexican culture. And we had fun.

Another tradition of the Fandango is sharing. Teresita invited us to freestyle some of our poetry. I read/ sang a poem from my second book: Love and Guatemala, an ode to my home stay mom in San Miguel Escobar and her enduring kindness.

Teresita, Jordan, and Zion


In the meantime, fundraising continues. If you believe in the heart work we are doing and want to support, you know what to do: . Thanks!

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