Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A Dignified Birthday In South Dakota!

2020 has altered a LOT of plans, and that's what happened to my birthday plans this year, like everyone else. As it's been an extra difficult year for me and mine (like everyone else), I really wanted to get away and do something special ... but that was not to be. Or was it? A closer, actually do-able plan took shape, as I've been dying to see the statue Dinity: Of Earth and Sky, located in Chamberlain, South Dakota.

I booked a room and put Mom in the car, and we set out to drive hours across the dusty, hot plains to look at a statue at a rest stop on the 90 freeway overlooking the Missouri River ... and it was totally worth it. I actually got a little emotional when we pulled up, as even just the word DIGNITY is so loaded to me right now. I thought it was funny to say "I'm aging with Dignity!", because I really want to (A lady doesn't share her age, but just know that I could legally be President. And probably should be.). But also the Dignity of our Native people, who have been so mistreated in this country, but are still so beautiful and resilient, and yes, DIGNIFIED, that it's very emotional for me. The racial unrest in this country also came to mind, as well as my Mom who has handled losing her leg with such dignity, and she was with me, and had me on this day, and we were together doing fun things in spite of it all  ... so yeah, loaded. 

 The 50 foot tall Native woman created from stainless steel by sculptor, Dale Lamphere, is one of the most stunning works of sculpture I've ever seen. 

Three different Native women served as the models for the Plains woman receiving the traditional Star quilt of the area tribes. The blues in the quilt are representing the water and sky that surrounds it. It's something else. I met a lot of people there taking pictures and generally standing around in awe as the sun set into the river. Many of them did not know this work of art was here and were just going to the rest stop where she resides. A few, like myself, were there as their final destination, like the female biker couple who had ridden 500 miles from Iowa just to see her. I understood. 

When the sun sets, Dignity lights up and becomes even more beautiful.  We visited the Akta Lakota Sioux Museum the next morning, and they told us that they are going to be adding fringe to Dignity's quilt, so they will move in the wind. And now I have to go back. 

The museum was awesome, with a ton of information about the Dakota, Lakota, and Sioux tribes of the Plains - as well as an awesome gift shop. It's located on the campus of the St. Joseph Indian School, a free boarding school for Native kids to learn and keep their traditions alive. Super cool. 

There is a beautiful medicine wheel outside, where my Mom offered up a prayer to all of the directions. I can't believe I had never been to South Dakota before, and am so happy to be able to check off another state on my list. I will say that not a single person seemed to care about Covid in South Dakota, so that made me a little bit nervous with Mom, but we took every possible precaution and stayed far away from others. No masks, everything was open (even pool and hot tubs!), and I overheard an old dude say "I turn down my hearing aids when anyone brings up Covid." Yeah. So, use your best judgement. 

I was tempted to keep on going to the Black Hills and The Badlands, but we only brought enough meds for the one night, so back we had to head. I think I'll wait to hit those more touristy spots until all of this mess dies down, but now I know that I'm really into it. I didn't get a chance to respond to any birthday messages or anything with all of the driving, so please don't feel bad if I haven't called you yet - I will! 

We headed back to Minneapolis in 100 degree heat, but we had the air on in the car so it was fully pleasant as we watched all of the gorgeous scenery fly past (80 is the legal speed in SD!). I had heard about a new mural in Mankato, Minnesota that covered huge silos, so that's where we headed next on the way home. 

WOW. The work by Guido van Helten is about the same height as Dignity (maybe taller), and depicts Native kids in what looks like a black and white photo but is in fact a painting. I had to climb down across some railroad tracks (and wait for a massive cargo train to go by) to see all of its angles, and it really is something else, there for everyone to see as they fly down Highway 169. 

 Birthday 2020 definitely had a Native theme, and I'm so happy that at least this part of the world shows them the absolute reverence (and apologies!) they deserve. This is truly THEIR America, and it's high time we all start acting like it. Thanks. 

Yesterday was also the picture wrap of our documentary film, 90291: VENICE UNZIPPED!! The crew had some pick-up shots to get yesterday, and when they were done they FaceTimed me and I talked to and thanked everyone for all of their passion and hard work from the side of the road in the 100 degree South Dakota sun ... and was once again emotional. We could never have imagined how much things would change in the world during the production of this film ... and make our topics of income inequality, gentrification, homelessness, and art in our BELOVED Venice even MORE timely. 

Everyone kept their heads down and continued to do the work, and now we will have a beautiful, important film to share with the world, and maybe help to make it a little better. I'm SO proud of the crew, and of this film, and of the wonderful hearts, minds, and souls that made it all happen. I'm bursting with love and just can't wait for it to be out in the world! 


So, Birthday 2020 is behind me and now I can kick off a new, cool year ... PHEW! Made it through another one! Gratefully, for sure. Please put beautiful Dignity on your list of must-sees, because it's just stunning (and I think a lot of people just fly by the hill if they don't need the rest stop, because the Missouri River lying ahead is so majestic you might now even notice the sculpture up above unless you know about it)!

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO CARED AND MADE ME FEEL SPECIAL AND LOVED! I love you. I thank you. I hope I can actually party with you soon! I can't wait. Love, your Ceej

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

A Violin Vigil For Elijah McClain At The Minnesota State Capitol - HalleluElijah!

There was a violin vigil for Elijah McClain last Saturday at the Minnesota State Capitol, and it was beautiful. McClain is the young man who was murdered by Aurora, Colorado police in one of the very most disturbing police murders ever committed. Easily one of the most kind and gentle souls ever to live on this planet, McClain spent his free time playing his violin for shelter kittens. His last words to the police and EMTs that were busy murdering him were absolutely crushing ...

"I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here... My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don’t even kill flies. I don’t eat meat. But I don’t judge people, I don’t judge people who do eat meat. Forgive me. All I was trying to do was become better... I will do it... I will do anything. Sacrifice my identity, I’ll do it. I'll do it. You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful and I love you. Try to forgive me. I’m a mood Gemini. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Ow, that really hurt. You are all very strong. Teamwork makes the dream work."

Now, if you aren't destroyed by that, you don't have a soul or a heart yourself. So, there was no question that I HAD to be there for McClain last Saturday, since no one was at the time of his murder. The event had been re-scheduled from the previous Sunday due to weather, and it looked like rain on this day too, but there were still hundreds that showed up to pay their respects to a life taken far too soon.

I was startled to see a big crowd with no masks and giant U.S. flags yelling about whatever, and soon figured out that it was a group of MAGA fools there to protest about wearing masks. UGH. They're all so idiotic and heartless that I don't even want to mention it ... but they were there, trying to disrupt a gathering in honor of someone who was murdered for absolutely nothing by the people meant to protect and serve us. But these mouth-breathers thought they'd mar the proceedings by exposing themselves to the Corona virus. So free of them. It's sad when the sight of our country's flag now makes me sick to my stomach, because usually these days it's being held by someone who actually wants to destroy our country with their ignorance. I walked right through the middle of these fools with my BLACK LIVES MATTER shirt and my mask in full effect. No one said a word to me directly - but I almost wish they had.

I thought I was late to the proceedings, but there was just a big crowd (very socially distanced and masked, it's important to note - good hearts also seem to have smart minds) kind of sitting around waiting. Booths were set up to buy merch, register to vote, recall Mike Freeman (YES!), and sign a big banner to send to the family of Elijah McClain so they may know that people all over the world care about their Elijah very much.

There were a few speakers, from WeareoneMN.Com (the organizers), and we got to hear from Courteney Ross, the fiancée of George Floyd. What she said really stuck with me, as she said she'd been all fired up to go confront the Trump people across the street, and really get into it with them. Then she realized that we get nowhere with hostility (as they show us every day), and that if she were to go over there and find common ground, that would be the way to heal and go forward for us all. How full of grace to feel like that when the love of your life has been murdered by police, there has been worldwide outrage, and these people still come and try and add to her pain. I need to be more like her - and told her so afterward.

There were over 50 violinists and cellists there, and as rain started to sprinkle down, they gathered in front of the steps of the Capitol to play three selections for Elijah McClain. They began with "Hallelujah", and though I've heard it enough for many lifetimes, it was heartbreaking and gorgeous as these players did it for Elijah. Sniffles could be heard all across the lawn, as we were all thinking about this gentle young man, and how he didn't deserve to die, and MUST get the justice he deserves. In fact, just yesterday there was another incident in Aurora, CO, where their AWFUL police forced a Black family - including a little girl in a pink crown! - to lie on the hot pavement while they bungled about figuring out they had pulled over the wrong vehicle - an SUV vs. a motorcycle at that! This murdering department can obviously not be reformed, and MUST be dismantled - as well as have all of those brutes locked up FOR GOOD. My blood just boils thinking about it.

Back to the calming music for Elijah ... the musicians next gave us "Stand By Me", and then finished with "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", and it seemed at that moment that a rainbow would actually be likely, but not this time. It was incredibly touching, though brief, and I'm very glad I was there to show my support. I made a new friend at the Recall Freeman booth, a lovely woman who was wearing a shirt that said, "I can't keep calm, I have a Black son". Now, if that doesn't hit home with people, I don't know what will. The big thing missing for a LOT of people who want to hear only themselves talk is EMPATHY. People need to step out of their own biased brains for a moment and just think about what it would be like it this was YOUR son. If it was YOUR family. Once people can gain even a tiny bit of empathy for someone other than themselves, you start to have a working society for everyone, you get the justice that is deserved, and you fulfill the original intent of this country, which really was LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL - not just you.

When the music was over, there was a long line to sign the banner for the McClain family, and a lot of smaller groups breaking apart to talk, plan, organize, and hope - for a better future for us ALL.

Please PLEASE sign the petition that demands justice for this dear, sweet soul. PLEASE SIGN TODAY!

Thank you, thank you, thank you ... and I hope you know how much people care about you, dear Elijah.