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Dinner with friends at a tiny restaurant in Tribeca on my birthday in 1996. It was before peak hours, so the restaurant was nearly empty. My bestie Kenya Unique Massey gave me The Complete Collected Poems (Maya Angelou). It had been on my birthday/Christmas/Kwanzaa wish list for a while, so I was surprised (thrilled) to receive it. A few moments later Kenya gasps and goes eerily silent. Conversation at our table stops. What? “Oh my God, Maya Angelou just walked in.” The restaurant owner, during routine checks on her patrons’ dining experiences, overhears our conversation and the uncanny synchronicity (as well as the friendly frustration and disbelief at my hesitance to bother the icon while she’s enjoying her downtime), then comes over and says “Daughter come. Maya is waiting for you.” Kenya and I walk over to her table together and exchange a few humble words in hushed tones with our legend. Booked signed, “Simone Barnes, Joy! From Kenya Massey and Maya Angelou.”

Joy is a girl who hated social studies until she realized she could learn history through literature thanks to “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Joy is a girl who put her hands on her hips and smiled in delighted disbelief after mastering frying fish (after years of failing to do so) because she tried dipping it in cornmeal like they do in Stamps, Arkansas.

Laurita’s Cafe Soul has long closed, and now Maya Angelou is among the ancestors, but the food of yesteryear continues to nourish. #RIPMayaAngelou

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Cultural Appropriation Photo Scavenger Hunt

The Kahnawa:ke Youth Forum is hosting a scavenger hunt.

Although I can’t officially participate in the actual scavenger hunt contest, I do see a pinterest board in my future…

#KYFdecolonize

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The Washington Redskins change the name debate continues.

Letter To Everyone in our Washington Redskins Nation” from Dan Snyder,  Owner and Chairman of the Board, Washington Redskins. Excerpt:

Several months ago I wrote you about my personal reflections on our team name and on our shared Washington Redskins heritage. I wrote then – and believe even more firmly now – that our team name captures the best of who we are and who we can be, by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents.

So over the past four months, my staff and I travelled to 26 Tribal reservations [Editor’s math: 26 tribes = less than 5% of native nations*] across twenty states to listen and learn first-hand about the views, attitudes, and experiences of the Tribes. We were invited into their homes, their Tribal Councils and their communities to learn more about the extraordinary daily challenges in their lives.

I’ve listened. I’ve learned. And frankly, its heart wrenching. It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.

As loyal fans of the Washington Redskins, I want you to know that tomorrow I will announce the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.

*[Editor’s note: there are more than 500 federal recognized native nations, not including state recognized nations, nor tribal communities without official US government recognition. See 500Nations.com and Bureau of Indian Affairs.]

 

Meanwhile in Indian Country, discourse continues.

Gyasi Ross’s “Hush Money and Ransom: An Open Letter to Dan Snyder, the Idiot” on Indian Country Today. Excerpt:

Here’s the thing: I, like a lot of other Natives, don’t give a damn about the Washington Redskins or mascots or any of that. There are absolutely MORE IMPORTANT things to worry about that MOST of the Natives who constantly complain about the Redskins and mascots (yet don’t live amongst other Native people or work in our communities) don’t see. That’s because MOST of those adamantly anti-mascot Natives don’t live within our communities (of course there are SOME who do live in our communities, but in our home territories, there are plenty of Native-themed mascots that a lot of us Natives love very, very much. We are proud of them and those folks who want to get rid of all Native mascots definitely don’t speak for us).

Adrienne K. (Native Appropriations) response to Gyasi Ross’ article. Excerpt:

…I don’t understand why we have to create the divide between “real Indians” who don’t care about mascots and those of us who do. The reason why many of us off-reservations (which is over 60% of Indian Country) care deeply about representations is because we are forced to deal with them everyday. Because we aren’t in our communities we can’t turn and see hundreds of counter-narratives and counter-representations in our aunties, cousins, our community events, or our ceremonies. What we see instead are the majority of Americans who think we’re fantasy creatures or extinct. They don’t know that our communities are full of joy and strength, because they don’t think we’re real.

Additionally, mascot issues, halloween costumes, and themed frat parties are things that happen on college campuses, so it’s often our Native students who are forced to confront them–and telling them that they’re somehow “less Indian” or “less connected” for caring about how their peoples are represented is the last thing they need as they already struggle far from home.

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