Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Burning at the Crossroads: Indigenous Tradition Burning in the Fires of Roman Catholicism

It is with great regret, sorrow and abject anger that I present this photo to you today. It was taken at the Cultural Survival Bazaar at the Prudential Center mall in Boston on December 19, 2009.

Cultural Survival is an activist advocacy organization based in Cambridge, MA that provides multi-level support through numerous programs to and with indigenous people around the world. As stated in Cultural Survival’s materials:

“Through our programs and campaigns we help them get the knowledge, advocacy tools, and strategic partnerships they need to protect their rights. When their governments don’t respond, we partner with them to bring their cases to international commissions and courts, and we involve the public and policy makers in advocating for their rights.”

Cultural Survival is one of the few organizations, and seemingly one of the best, providing functional and substantial ways for indigenous people to maintain, sustain and grow their cultural practices, lifeways and traditions in a world growing more hostile to them and the environments they live in. The bazaars are important fundraising opportunities for the organization and the vendors, which include indigenous people and non-indigenous people who represent indigenous organizations, groups and cultures. The bazaars are powerful in bringing not only the material culture of indigenous people worldwide into modern society, but also the idea of indigeny and the issues that surround and often engulf these cultures and people in conflict and struggle.

“Before the day is over, an Indigenous person will be killed or displaced, simply because he or she has a different culture. Before the month is over, an Indigenous homeland will be clear-cut, strip-mined, or flooded by a dam. Before the year is over, dozens of Indigenous languages will disappear forever, taking with them unique worldviews and a priceless piece of human diversity.” (Cultural Survival document)

It is within my deep desire to validate and support and live the indigenous idea and cultural mandate that my renewed anger and sorrow finds foundation. It was at the table of a Congolese vendor and his son that I found the statue depicted in the accompanying photograph.

A note was stuck to the statue with tape, written in red magic marker and read:

“Congo, the last Sakata mask (original) 100 years old”

Keenly, palpably aware of the tenuous hold many indigenous people and indigenous traditions have on this physical earth, I inquired as to the veracity of the note’s message. Through our struggle through multiple levels of translation of meaning, mundane and esoteric, it was stated that this was in fact the last statue of it’s sort surviving in that particular Sakata village. A chief of the Sakata had given it to the vendor. The vendor’s report implied that the chief did so in some moment of desperation. I inquired more deeply as to how this could be and why. The vendor’s explanation, moistened with generous, seemingly nervous smiles, hit me hard in a place deeper than my heart was used to going, but somehow knew the way.

All of the other remaining statues had been thrown into a fire by the Sakata at the insistence of a roman catholic missionary priest. Though I didn’t ask him details on the timing of this crime, it came across as having been a recent atrocity. It might be more interesting and melodramatic to say my mind reeled with a montage of emotional cinematic images of white hunters and jungles and lions and village women clutching wide-eyed children and subservient African men dutifully acquiescing to the European “bwana”, watching their lands and lives shrink in the wake of inevitable colonial expansion. This would have been all-too-easy given the persistent Follywood depiction of the christian, capitalist Europeans vs. indigenous relationship. No tender, yet somber, bitter sugarplum visions danced in my head. This was much too sobering an occurrence for the license of culturally irresponsible film-making as this was no mere movie. It was all too real.

The vendor’s story bored a narrow, but deep hole into my being, full of a painful dual resignation. Not only had the long documented history of roman catholic and christian barbarism toward indigenous people played itself out on its bloody, cruel, rationalized stage, but a late show act was still being enacted just under our own modern-day noses, too close to relegate it into antiquated dead memoriam or for comfort.

My throat closed as my head spun down from a reflexive testosterone drive to summarily “fix it” to a back-bent and sullen realization that any response I could muster at that moment could be lost in pressured, but measured emotional translation. His desire to sell the statue, hopefully to a museum, was no consolation to the ages-old legacy of the cross and sword binary that built itself so effectively on the dead bodies and disintegrated cultures of people who had welcomed these armed and collared bandits into their homelands and homes. I asked him how much he would sell it for, hoping that his number would have something to do with what lay inside my wallet. maybe I could go as high as half my bank account. Math didn’t matter here. Maybe he was fishing, car dealer style, as he quoted $800, $200 less than what he finally, really wanted for this priceless item, lone harbinger of a legacy that no dollar amount should ever have been allowed to define.

But this simple and enraging story had another twist, another level of destructive force to a culture already beset by arrogant religious charlatans. The vendor informed me, upon further inquiry, that this mask, these statues, held within them the energy, the power to support women in the birth process. The roman catholic christian tradition, “pro-lifers” by decree if not by definition, had convinced the Sakata to disempower this fundamental life process by taking away their spiritual technologies, their tools for focusing nurturance on this important moment in the development of the bond between mother and child, between the living and the newly alive. It seemed a fitting companion, though, to their legacy of rape of African women at the hands, loins and minds of men who claimed to be proudly, if not arrogantly, European and likewise christian, having long since largely submerged their own indigenous traditions under the philosophical contradiction of christian political and cultural structures. The council of Nicea was friend to no one.

After recovering initially from the shock of this man’s story, translated to me in a scarily matter-of-fact way, it became clear that I might be relegated to fighting this backward, inhuman practice far after the commission of the crime, far outpaced by the runaway train of missiological opportunism.

Taking a snapshot with a cheap camera barely felt like a fitting tribute to an icon of a powerful tradition of feminine spirit and healing, but it was what I had. The very thought of this spirocide brought me near tears in the following days and it was then that certain images started to rise in my consciousness. They were, again, simple and were instructive.

There was another bonfire, bigger, hotter, in the same place as the one that was set in that Sakata village to burn the hearts and souls and spirits of the Sakata to their core, deep in the bowels of a European-created hell. This fire, though, was heaped up with christian crosses, the kind that I and my sisters had on our walls above our beds above our own African heads for so many of our childhood years. They were the crosses that had the candles inside the with the little bottle to hold holy water so a priest could perform the last rites on you - on your death bed. I remembered they had cheap metal figures of Jesus, plated with some cheap yellowish metal to make it look nice. I remembered the ominous nature of these crosses as they hung over our beds, that they represented something threatening, foreshadowing an occurrence that I didn’t want to happen. The bonfire was heaped high with these crosses, hundreds of them, maybe more.

And I pondered the lesson of that image, that bonfire that would destroy as fire destroys, that bonfire that cleanses as fire cleanses, that bonfire that consumes as fire consumes, also pondering the blessing of fire, the baptism by it, the renewed, liberated life of a people destroying the process of their own destruction. I gazed into that fire and watched the piles of crosses, engulfed in the ancestral flame and felt the stark reprisal, the fear, the anger, the terror, the trauma of all those who would hold those crosses near to their heaving hearts. I could feel their indignant disdain trying - trying - to look down on me for the crime of having conjured up such an unconscionable scene.

And I pondered then, if it were even possible that these same christians, these same roman catholics, could imagine then even an iota of the psychic horror that the leaders and followers of their politico-religious tradition had meted out upon African people all over the continent, meted out upon Asian people from South Sea islands to inland deserts, had meted out upon the American people of Turtle Island and the continent to the south. I wondered if their bible held within it the gift of insight and clarity to be able to see inside, feel inside, be inside the hearts, minds and spirits of children, women and men that didn’t look or act like them, inside the lives, homes, villages, towns and cities that didn’t look like theirs. I wondered if they knew justice beyond the defense of the shaky foundations of systematic self-righteousness that seemed to be their legacy on this earth. I wondered if they could see this image of their beloved crosses burning, there on the ground in that same Sakata village, if they could also see that they were at an important crossroads of consciousness, of transformation, of cleansing, of the opportunity to empathize with the cultural terrorism of their own complicity in a political and ideological dominance that has burned across the globe with frightening speed and soaring temperatures, leaving whole cultures burnt, destroyed, traumatized, smoldering in the embers of their own flesh. I wondered if they would have the wisdom to be able to see through, burn through their own reactionism in the face of an idea that challenges their very presence on the earth - equally - as they have challenged - and then decimated - others.

And I couldn’t help but think of all the other crosses that have been burnt to terrorize African people released from chattel slavery’s bondage into subsequent social, mental and spiritual bondage all in the name of Jesus, in the name of their gods.

So I weep for the Sakata, forced, coerced, traumatized into destroying with their own hands their own sacred symbols and technologies. As they place their own statues in the fire, they carried with it their traditional, sustained reverence for the feminine divine that lived inside them all, as if they were sending Sakata womanhood to a hell not of their own making...and indeed, to my knowledge, African indigenous people were not in the practice of creating hell in their spiritual or physical lives.

Ponder, then, the image of christian churches full of roman catholics forced to carry their statues of their goddess, Miriam, placing those statues into the mounting flames.

Ponder, then , the utter arrogance, the audacity, the psychosis, the flagrant disrespect, physical and emotional violence of even the suggestion from the lips and life of a roman catholic christian man-priest that any people should sacrifice their own indigenous soul upon the fire of cultural hegemony and oppression. That priest, there in the Sakata village, knew not the meaning of the turning of the cheek or the true inheritance of the earth or the cleansing of his own temple unfamiliar.

The spirit made flesh, goddess made wood, of the Sakata burns on today, smoldering still, divine people drowning in tears pouring from ancestral eyes burnt by the smoke from the charred bodies of their own children.

A crime, upon countless crimes, has been committed. We all stand at our own crossroads, and at our collective human crossroads of cultural survival. I can still smell the smoke of our African mother burning, all of the masks, the statues that still lay burning in the villages. I try to wipe the tears of the one that remains.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Indigenous Wisdom: Healing a World in Crisis...A Video Gift from Family Estranged

From the Global Spirit web page of Link TV:
"In recent years, more have become aware of the unique wisdom in the cosmologies and spiritual practices of indigenous societies. While this native wisdom has always been part of human existence, its teachings have remained outside so-called “formal” religions, leading to zealous missionary campaigns seeking to stamp out this “paganism” from the face of the earth. But with the dramatic increase in global warming, a thinning ozone layer and social alienation, many, including the United Nations, are realizing that native peoples may possess some critical keys to the very survival of our species and fragile ecosystems of the planet."

"Earth Wisdom for a World in Crisis", in its own way, IS the message. As has been said before, for us to embrace this indigenous wisdom, that knowing that flows, often with great constraints, from our deepest heart, IS the challenge of our time. It is the container for all of the discourse, all of the challenges that we face at this moment. All of these challenges, from the personal to the social and spiritually universal, present us with the requirement that we come to a clarity, not only in our micro-life, but in our macro-life, the realm of global, human social development and of spiritual proportions.

"western", capitalist, modern thought and practice brings us to a temporo-centric consciousness...or maybe it should be called an UNconsciousness...that narrows our thought, shallows our vision and individuates our concerns and intentions. If we live and breathe and think and work from a constrained place, our ability to sense reality is greatly curtailed. Equally as troubling, our ability to share the unique gifts that we've been given from Spirit, from the Other World, in a world that needs them, in a world that needs those gifts very, very desperately...in a world in crisis.

Our ability, with courageous intent, to broaden and deepen our understandings then, in compulsory fashion, our actions, informed by the deepest wisdoms and knowings of our indigenous soul, personal and collective, which still lives on in the bodies, minds, spirits, actions and voices of the people and traditions highlighted in this video, is our main task at this point in human history. Unluckily, this transformation of mind, spirit and behavior cannot happen in the breath of 54 minutes and 48 seconds. There is a period of integration, rumination, resolution that must occur for us to fully embody and inspire (in-spirit) this indigenous wisdom, largely forgotten and fully marginalized by modern anti-thought and inaction. But this transformation must come if we are to redeem ourselves to ourselves, our Ancestors who wait for us to open our eyes and hearts...and our children who expect so, so very much from us at this moment.

We must deliver this legacy to our children...and to ourselves, yet in this urgent moment before we become one again with the Earth that we have have lived in conflict with instead of in harmony with. And how do we begin this path forward, carrying the wealth of our indigenous past into our present and future, away from the temporo-centric pathologies of our narcissistic existence?



Thought for the National Day of Mourning, 2009...

Gratitude, reciprocity to Tenbalu/Mother Earth and Wie/Nature....a 365 day a year necessity....we must learn to walk in that energy, conscious of the boundless generosity of Spirit, willing to tell the truth of our Ancestors and the genocidal conflicts out of which come the foundations of our unearned affluence.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"God Is Red" (Vine Deloria, Jr.) review for Alibris.com

Required reading.....

...for anyone studying indigeny, energetics, indigenous spirituality, christianity, European religious history, culture, philosophy. This is a fundamental work in understanding the relationship of Native American/indigenous spirituality and religious concepts and their relationship to european christianity and the peoples that carried these two traditions. Deloria makes a clear and concise case for the reevaluation of the efficacy and function of christianity outside of its cultural space and in all of the geographic and cultural spaces it has been forced into. Christianity, in Deloria's critique, clearly becomes a brickish template slammed down upon the more culturally congruent and functional spiritual and religious concepts and practices that were created and practiced by Native Americans on Turtle Island (north America) as opposed to the avenue of ultimate salvation that christians have characterized it as. Deloria shows this to not only be fraudulent, but impossible because of the very nature of spiritual/religious creation by humans in time and space. "God Is Red" is a valiant representation of spirituality /religion as a functional, organic cultural production and relationship with Spirit, not merely a dogmatic exercise and tool for socio-political, psycho-sexual and imperial control.

Deloria's calcuation of the culturally divergent conceptions and uses of space and time shine forth as academic genius from his pages. This is key to his thesis.

If "God Is Red" is not on your reading list, your understanding of indigenous spirituality and religion may not be complete. It should be read in every christian seminary, school and missionary headquarters. If christian missionaries and developers of missiology would understand (largely a matter of openness and choice, not intelligence, of course), embrace and live the truths of Deloria's work in this text, mission work and other forms of proselytizing would cease for the betterment of all those whose cultures have been and are still yet to be depowered and destroyed by the unGodly superimpositiion of christian concepts and practices upon people's for whom these displaced and contentious ideas and lifeways were never meant.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Knowings in my bones... (#1)

The validation of the indigenous soul in the modern human body is our most urgent project of social, personal and spiritual discovery and energetic redemption.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Indigenous Wisdom: Healing Individual Alienation and Communal Decay

Excerpt from "Healing Wisdom of Africa" by Malidoma Patrice Some'

"Purpose begins with the individual, and the sum total of all the individuals' purposes creates the community's purpose. The community thus takes upon itself the responsibility of nurturing and protecting the individual, because the individual, knowing her or his purpose, will then invest energy in sustaining the community. There is a certain reciprocity at work here, because the community recognizes that its own vitality is based in the support and protection of each of its individuals, especially in the constant support and reminding of each individual of his or her purpose. The individual, knowing this, in turn delivers to the community the gifts that the community has successfully awakened in him or her.

The presence of a community to awaken our gifts in us is necessary because the process of being born tends to erase our memory of why we came here. And the blindness that we have toward our purpose is progressive. Early in life you are still at that place where you feel that you might do something. Children's vitality and enthusiasm are reminiscent of the forces that motivated them to come here. Of course, the coldness of this world and the rather clear hostility that most of us encounter trying to survive discourage us from the ind of purpose that we were originally so enthused about. Even within the indigenous context, there is a need for ritual to make sure that the damage done to you by society, to the point where your enthusiasm is tampered with, is repaired, so that you can embrace your purpose fully. Being born into this world is a trying experience. Whatever enthusiasm you bring with you here can be toned down and radically edited simply as a result of being here. The time of physiological transformation when you are growing up is particularly trying, and in this process a toll is taken on your sense of purpose, including forgetting. All of these changes at the time of puberty have a deep influence on the dynamics of relationship, both with the unseen world and the world that can be seen.

Also, for most young people, the stark visibility of the seen world affects their perception of the unseen world. Discrimination begins when you say that you can touch this and that, and therefore the reality of the tangible. If you are not exposed to community ritual, you are vulnerable to growing away from Spirit, until you die. The physiological signs of puberty mark a time when a specific type of ritual is called for. one designed to reconnect the person with the world of spirits and their purpose, and this is what we call initiation. Later in the book we will speak more of rituals of initiation, but for now what is important is that rituals of all kinds help to reawaken the intensity that brought us here. Making ritual a part of daily life will help to rekindle the intensity that keeps us on the path of our purpose."

(pp. 34-35)


The above passage begins to illuminate the solutions that lie mostly dormant as we are challenged by the continual alienation of human from nature/spirit and human from human, especially with respect to youth alienation from the larger society, defined sharply and tragically in the continuing occurrence of teenage boys committing murder and other crimes in an attempt to "self-initiate" themselves, to create community for themselves seemingly at any cost. This dynamic is taking place in the "inner-country" and the "inner-city".

Some of the essential work in this regard that is necessary in this and many other societies and communities is being defined and developed by people like Malidoma Some' and other Dagara Elders, Martin Prechtel and Michael Meade. Organizations like East Coast Village, Rights of Passage Council and Sacred Fire, amongst others, are moving community, ritual, nature and Spirit into the forefront of human consciousness and life in ways that are challenging the problems that modern life presents at their core.

No community is safe from the neglect and ignorance of it's own hidden pain and self-made trauma.

Our greatest communal legacy may yet be that we will be able to look back and say we faced our deepest collective fears, together, with spiritual intent, with courage and compassion.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spirit, Indigeny and Modern Christian Missiology: A Short Ride on a Long Train

It was a weekday afternoon and I was going home from doing some unjoyous errands and came upon a somewhat familiar, but conceptually incongruous sight, four young men dressed in black pants and shoes, white shirts, ties and the compulsory backpack - Mormon missionaries. They were getting on the same train as I was, but I made sure to get into the same car as they boarded, feeling much like a security agent sent to make sure that they would do no immediate harm, like a wolf patrolling the perimeter of its own forest homelands, sniffing at bushes, trees for signs of interlopers, dangerous to life and limb, family, child and nature's balance itself. I got on that train car with them to observe, to see if there were any new behaviors, any new evidence of their utility in a world gone modern, a world gone mad, to see if they would engage the passengers or myself, as they have in the past, to see if they were prepared to do harm or good.

I have come into contact with these young men in numerous situations. As a person who regularly gives eye contact to people in my travels and work, I have often become privy to the stories of homeless people, veritable life stories of contact-hungry people whose emotional or mental state we often would characterize as unstable, stories from people carrying bibles in their hands, scripture cards in their "briefcases or their religious hearts on their sleeves. Not all of them were Mormons, not all of them were mentally unstable, but many of them seemed to be wandering, aimlessly or aimedly, in the Land of the Homeless.

As I think back to these four young men, I am reminded of a number of my path-crossings with them. A few of these experiences come into focus now as I ponder, contemplate and calculate the primary role of indigenous cultural concepts and lifeways in the world's development. I am reminded of my great and deep feelings of trepidation, quieted anger and historical resentment as I watched these young men, or boys, without words, enter the train car and distribute themselves at least a seat away from each other, not unlike most young men in this society seen traveling together, too homophobic, insecure to sit next to each other and risk touching each other, keeping intimacy and genuine brotherhood at bay.

In yet another crossing of public transportive proportions, a pair of young, European (the only sort I've ever seen) Mormon men boarded a bus headed into deepest, darkest Roxbury, the predominantly African, Black or people-of-colored section of Boston, a city well known for its parochial demography, cut up into it's neat, yet contested sections of well-controlled diversity, carved by capitalist economy, modern classism and cultural momentum. I remember wondering even then, why just men, why not women...why the uniform....why wouldn't they dress as they might as they would go to the movies, if they ever went to the movies or as the people they so vociferously and dedicatedly sought to influence. I gazed upon them with resentment, with controlled and, then, controlling anger, seeing them as lead runners for an occupying force, a cultural, spiritual and political distraction, preying and/or praying upon a people, a population who didn't actually need them and who, most likely, in my estimation, they didn't even truly understand. It smacked so directly and powerfully of the christian missionary process in Africa, the violently coercive force of the forward military troops of and for European colonialism, with its concomitant cultural, spiritual, emotional, social, sexual, "racial", political and intellectual oppression that still lives like a rotting, but living zombie, watching from it's Washington D.C., London, Paris, Luxembourg and Beijing sarcophagi, seeking to forestall all genuine and independent inclinations of African people everywhere, let alone on this Boston bus or the neighborhoods it would whisk these two young men into that sunny afternoon.

I wondered why then in that day and age, was it necessary for yet another christian faction to come into "Little Africa" for it's pounds of religious flesh, its span of ever-increasing spiritual surreal estate amongst people that had been so completely stripped of their original, powerful and empowered indigenous roots and spiritual nature, supplanted by violence, not by intellectual discourse, out of compassion and understanding or spiritual comraderie or ascendancy. These African people were probably some of the most christian and christinized people on the face of the earth. It is well known that even now the face of christianity is changing most dynamically in the areas of the world least populated by Europeans, though they may hold strongest neo-colonial sway there. In short Africans, Latinos and Asians are the fastest growing groupings of new christians around the world. These two young men, bedecked in their workplace attire, were living, walking, fare-paying overkill. Roxbury didn't need them, replete with numerous christian sects of all ilks and sizes and influences and flavors. But there they were, fresh-faced and recently-pressed, ready to save African people from themselves for a god not of their own creation, as often stated by historian John Henrik Clarke, cultural advisor to El Hajj Malik el Shabazz (Malcolm X), but of their own historical coerced adoption, at home and abroad.

At that time, I was not yet aware of the depth of spiritual and cultural displacement that had taken place for African people with the onset of Euro-christian warfare, the legacy of power that would be disengaged from their hearts and socio-political structures, leaving them...leaving us...deep in alien territory, struggling to maintain our legacy of Ancestral connection, our relationship with nature and our relationship to our own stories of love, compassion, strength and spiritual ethos. that bus rode into Roxbury during the 80's crack epidemic. I'm not sure if those young men, the same age as those that would so devastatingly turn inward on themselves, killing each other so often, so brutally, "Black on Black", if those young Mormon men knew what to do with that Euro-political criminal legacy anchoring itself now in the minds of Africans generations and centuries-removed from their indigenous home, if they knew and could offer any more than yet another version of the same religious legacy that had watched, zombie-like, as they descended into hell.

Years later, but not many years later, I would be walking down a main street in Waltham, Massachusetts. It was a cool evening, darkening and quieting as I made my way back to Boston with a friend, back to the culturally and economically diverse, but gentrifying section of Jamaica Plain. We were "getting out of Dodge", as it were, when a Mormon tract was thrust in our faces by a seemingly friendly, but decidedly over-driven young man in black pants and white shirt and tie. I engaged him and his partner in time reciprocally to fend off his assumptive advances. Terse pleasantries exchanged, it seemed neither of us had lost a step, no rhythm displaced, but I can still remember the feeling of intrusiveness that accompanied the interchange. My friend and I might have only shared a passing greeting with the two young men in black, but were indiscriminately marked in that moment as being in need by people who didn't know us, who hadn't seen us long enough to identify the brand of our over-priced sneakers, but maybe long enough to place our faces into longer term memory banks to be recalled someday in a deeper exchange of human connection and compassion.

All in all, it seemed as though these young men also had someplace important to go, in a rush, though not overly so, but enough to notice...and they thought they'd throw out some of their bait to a couple of geographically convenient fish to see if they'd reel anything in. They didn't, but the hook snapped of in my jaw, in my craw, waiting to rust and fall out much later as as I chawed on numerous interactions such as this. Many more of them came from the Boston Church of Christ, which was known for gigantic churchish, revival meetings held then in the Boston Garden, too large for the average chapel. Their numbers seemed interminable as I bumped into BCoC reps everywhere, everytime, everyway imaginable, my freely-given eye contact making me a glaring target for their highest hopes for their conversion numbers goals. The BCoCies were often much ruder and more abrupt than the Mormons, but their approaches blurred, though no Mormon ever said, upon hearing my ever-challenging-to-some African name, that they'd instead call me "Adam". The rudeness of that interchange blocked the righteous and right (correctly applied) indignation deep in my throat. The anger passed, but the learning remained.

My anger had been re-upped for active duty as I walked past the living room of my parents' home to see two of these modern missionaries and an older Mormon counterpart sitting there, listening with rapt attention as my father, a deacon in the Roman Catholic church, explained to them, as it would be explained to me later, the finer points of how to approach the African community in USAmerica. It was not so much that my father was the one telling these people how they might best be influential to the African population in and around New Jersey, a formidable number to say the least. My father was at the time a vocal and empowered teacher of the African presence in and source of Roman Catholic doctrine, ideology and philosophical underpinnings. He championed the African historical elements of the Roman Catholic experience like very few others at that time, a time when non-European populations and control mechanisms were beginning to make themselves apparent in the Archdiocese of Newark and all over the world, the entrenched cultural momentum of the church showing it's bigoted and racist tendencies clearly to him and many others who dared to remove the planks from their own eyes (seemingly a very few) or who had their planks forcibly removed by nature of their cultural place as Africans or Latinos by a religious corporate conglomerate that did not value nor respect their presence in the world save for their regular and often stellar contributions to the ever-present collection plate and regular relinquishment of real estate the world over. My father was also relatively highly versed and enlightened in the realities of African history around the world, especially in USAmerica, so if these or any Mormons where going to talk to anyone about the African community, my father was one of the best ones in the world of christianized Africanity to hear it from, especially from the standpoint of a desire to protect Africans in a still hostile cultural environment, a necessity that exists to this day even with a quasi-democratically-elected president who claims multi-racial heritage, but is popularly considered Black.

My problem, again, with the presence of these particular Mormons in my parents' house was that they were indeed gaining intelligence on how to move "against" a population that didn't need them, already removed from the cultural container of their indigenous origins by a so-called-christian set of European nations before, during and after chattel enslavement in castles and ships named after their namesake, Jesus, himself. These particular, thoroughly-modern missionaries had a historical legacy that was playing itself out, continuing materially and ideologically on my parents' fine furniture. The horrid history of christian violence, murder, rape, abuse, cultural domination and degradation had not only knocked on the front door, but it had been invited in and offered a plate of vanilla creme sandwich cookies and orange soda (a stereotypical, but persistent memory I have from just about every Roman Catholic or christian fellowship apres-worship snack table).

Fast-forward years later to a very cold, wintery night in Lynn, Massachusetts. I was, yet again in proximity to public transportation, leaving the commuter rail station after a long and hard day at work. Lo and behold, as I am crossing the street and, I might add, in the middle of the street, a card gets thrust in my general direction. At the end of my energy and patience rope, I firmly said, "No, thank you!". Trying to move on, I realize two key things: 1) this man's hand is moving again toward me on a dark, cold, "tough city" street after I rebuked his advances the first time and, 2) this is the same man that thrust a Mormon tract at me in Waltham years ago. It was as if deja vu had been scientifically proven an empirical surety. I continued to move past him, not needing nor desiring to nor owing him a look in the eyes. My body/mind/spirit knew it was him from his voice and body language and mannerisms alone. I walked briskly home that night in a sort of reeling vertigo, anger and disdain and a bit of confusion raised clear and sharp as the single-digit temperature that cut through my bared skin and sensibilities.

My feelings rose, pushed hard by the legacy of cumulative history and personal experience, but crystallized by the realization that not only had the spectre of christian missionary intrusion found me on this dark and frigid city street near where I tentatively called home, but that, somehow, amazingly and maddeningly, this same Mormon man had gotten, yet more completely rudely and disrespectfully - another shot at me. I was non-plussed. I was mortified and pissed-off and turned inside out all at once, but not so completely as when my warming brain began to realize that there was a defensible case for having hauled off and clocked him right there in the middle of the street - and that I had missed my historical opportunity.

It was a structurally perfect case. A man, alone, gets off a train at eleven o'clock at night. It's cold. It's dark. It's a city with a reputation of crime and bad elements. "Lynn, Lynn, city of sin...you never come out the way you go in!" was the belabored mantra. An unidentified (at that moment) man, so an attacker, thrusts a hand at this man-alone with no one to assist him in this moment of violent, unwanted approach. The man dodges, but strikes his attacker, clear and sharp - and hard - in self-defense...self-defense!... then stands over his unconscious attacker and waits for the police to arrive as he holds the criminal, vanquished, righteously defeated. My Ancestors would be collecting around me, nodding in tacit approval, calling forward the legacy of missionary attacks to this night hundreds of years later, executed courageously by one of their now glorified sons, a modern tribal warrior, still clenching his fist in case the perpetrator flinched a finger or parted a lip to speak.

Though I knew in my heart that this oppressor-approved fantasy was not the finest outcome for this brief, inopportune encounter with yet another christian missionary in the African midst, nor was it indicative of any personal response pattern that existed or would ever exist as part of my own heart, mind and body, I wrangled with the idea of the historical catharsis that would have been enacted by one functionally justifiable - and hard - punch to a christian missionary chin. I was livid as I told my friends the story, sure, as I did, that they probably did not share my zeal at the idea of dropping a man to the ground, missionary or not. I actually can't even remember their reactions, so caught up in my own instant, feel-good replay as I was. And as good as that punch might have felt, however fleeting, it wouldn't clear away the negative and continuing legacy of the christian missionary relationship with Africans or other indigenous people. Africans, on the continent and in the diaspora, still hold dearly to christian concepts and disempowered cultural concepts of themselves, so many displaced from their physical, spiritual and cultural home. Even on the Motherland, Africans flock to christian congregations in astronomical numbers. It is in Africa that the largest Roman Catholic basilica outside of Rome, Italy was erected in one of the most impoverished countries on the contintent. The contradictions are interminable. And on Turtle Island, Native Americans still live in the shadow of christian boarding schools that stripped children from their families, cultures, from their security, self-esteem and ultimately from themselves, contributing to the deep social pathologies that are the scourge of the reservation system. The works of Winona LaDuke, Oren Lyons, Vine Deloria, Jr., Wilma Mankiller and Alfred Taiaiake are but some of the many who so clearly recount the history of violence and devastation at the hands of those that would call themselves "Christians". We have but to look at John Henrik Clarke, C.L.R. James, Kwame Nkrumah, Seku Ture, Eric Williams, Lerone Bennett, Assata Shakur, Marcus and Amy Garvey and Malcolm X for that christian legacy as applied to Africa.

Only a return to, an advancement on behalf of and with a renewed embrace of the indigenous cultural and spiritual reality that has dominated the development of human history over our past three million years would be recompense enough for the tragedy of misplaced materials and intentions that has marked the adoption of foreign and culturally-ineffective spiritual and/or religious systems, structures and ideologies. The intrusion of christianity has predominantly come along with the oppressive colonial and global capitalist systems of economy, ideology and sociology. Winona LaDuke, in her excellently written book, "Recovering the Sacred", recounts in no uncertain terms the dangerous lifeways that have been adopted and sustained in and by this modern world of capital above human potentiality and indigenously grounded spirituality. Poverty, disease and violence have become hallmarks of daily life for so many First Nations, Native American and indigenous people, not only here on Turtle Island, but around the world. And though there have been many instances of genuine support coming from people and organizations purporting to be of the Christian faith, the overriding relationship of christianity and the missionaries that carry it around the world, into villages and neighborhoods and cities, to indigenous cultures has been predominantly negative and culturally damaging. In addition, Vine Deloria, Jr. in his trademark work, "God Is Red", details clearly how Christianity is ultimately devoid of its original functional dynamics having been pulled out of its cultural and historical timeframe and geographical setting to be transported about the earth in its current form. His book explains the necessity for indigenous peoples, particularly Native Americans, to hold onto and utilize the spiritual frameworks that come from their own cultural experience and the dangers that arise from giving those indigenous systems away for foreign systems that come from other cultural frameworks. Brenda Norrell's "Censored News" (http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com) highlights many of the realities of Native Americans in the modern world and many of the challenges that have arisen for these people in a world that forcibly projects foreign systems of thinking and being upon them. The contradictions become clear and unquestionable.

Enter then these four young Mormon men on a train. I'm not sure if their training for missionary work prepares them to have a deep understanding of the people they attempt to win over to their way of thinking. I am not sure if their teachers gave them a fundamental background in the reality of chattel slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and cultural imperialism. I'm not sure if their education included compassion, caring, love and sensitivity. History clearly shows us that these virtues are not compulsory additions to christian life and work, though they seem to be major tenets of the faith in general, how and if they get implemented is another issue. The larger issue is that these missionaries and christian missionaries in general seem to have no concern for indigenous people's spiritual and cultural independence, displaying an arrogance and ignorance that are stellar in scope. The adoption of christianity by indigenous peoples has actually moved them further away from their most genuine historical relationships with Spirit, with the earth, with water, wind and all the elemental and nature spirits. This has been tremendously damaging to the naturo-spiritual human dynamic, to indigeny in general. Historical and modern missiology is, again, largely ineffective, if not dangerous to indigenous life and those, like Africans, who have been forcibly ripped from their indigenous roots, that which sustains and defines them. Missionaries have more important and more fundamental work to do amongst themselves, reconciling the contradictions that are the hallmark of modern christianity at large.

These particular four young Mormon men said little if anything to each other during their short trip. Maybe my energetic attention toward them gave them pause (not overstating my influence, but realizing the possibility of their intuitive abilities) or they were deep in thought of their duties ahead, just as I was that day as I considered my own upcoming initiation into Dagara Eldership....yet there watching these young men, officially called "elders" in their religious construct. This time, there was no anger, only concern for those young men and the work that they engage in, the effects of their missionary work in the world. Before they left the train, one of them looked up at me and began to put on that smile that I've seen so many other times before, but he backed off of what I suspected was going to be an amateurish attempt at small talk leading to religious proselytizing. He backed off nicely before he could display the arrogance that comes with some forms of ignorance, such as I have seen in similar situations, once begun by asking me about a book I was reading, then swerving conversationally like a drunk driver toward biblical allusions.

It was apparent that modern christian missiology was alive, structurally supported, but probably not well in that moment. This missionary process was and is problematic and dangerous to healthy human development. Humanity is still in need of a major transformation in its relationship to Spirit. Indigeny, indigenous culture and spirituality is the fundamental path back to that renewed, healthy human-Spirit relationship and the essential ideological shift that so many people world-wide, whether they are indigenous or not yet aware of their indigenous soul, are correctly and currently calling for and working toward.