If I Can Help Somebody

November 01 Today I Begin Anew By Prophesying Over My Own Self

It’s “flying the coop” time for me. Flying away from being a turtle stuck in a mud pit.  Away from the plantation false pride that makes the black earth beneath my feet sticky with blood from stolen people on stolen land.  I’m “flying the coup” to the Otahpiaaki. I’m flying to a Life Event — a gathering of indigenous creatives changing the world. I’m flying out of my Momma’s house that’s falling down around me and my life packed up and put on hold.  I exist everyday in the isolation of depression from being the last living Toisnot Tuscarora. After me, the historic township is no longer living inside a person. My life represents a First Contact land and its people who survive inside of me.  I’m the last remnant of the historical eastern North Carolina Tuscarora Nation connected to the Contentnea waterway. But with Creator’s grace and mercy at least one of us is Still Here and I’m going to Otahpiaaki.

This is my second season participating in Otahpiaaki and I feel like I’m going home.  Otahpiaaki 2019 is a gathering of indigenous creatives who are connecting “links between indigenous language, lifeways, justice, balance, truth, and reconciliation.”  This event is the show place of the next “generation of community producers, creatives, educators, and Elders.” Traditional Blackfoot principles are uniting indigenous ways of transferring knowledge in North America.  I’m humbled and honored to be in “The Number!” as down home folks say. I privileged to witness first hand the healing miracle of mercy poured out on a long suffering people. I’m praising my way forward by prophesying over my own self with a song, “If I Can Help Somebody,” sung by Mahalia Jackson on Gospels, Spirituals & Hymns, 1991.

So, I lay hands on myself, and prophesy over my own person for the miracle that’s manifesting as a result of my being at Otahpiaaki. I thank you in advance Creator for including me in this event.  Thank you for my personal brokenness in this moment. I realize that my suffering is about you trusting me with the responsibility of being the last living Toisnot Tuscarora. I claim my blessing for being a descendant of the historical Tuscarora Nation in Eastern North Carolina who survived on the land after the sacking and burning of Fort Neyuheru’:ke on March 20-23, 1713.  The historical North Carolina Tuscarora Nation has a representative and Elder in attendance at Otahpiaaki 2019, who is standing on her dying mother’s prayers and her teaching that those who learn, teach!

My Podcast Journey

Well I had hoped to have created my first podcast by now, but I ran into an obstacle. I want to use the KISS method to podcast, “Keep It Simple Sweetie,” and I’m the Sweetie.  I plan to interview fashion designers, artists, musicians and performers showcasing and celebrating all form of intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual indigenous culture in the places where we gather.  These places include Othaphiaaki Fashion Week in Calgary, Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, tribal reserves, sacred lands and Pow Wows.  Traveling with a lot of gear to create a podcast isn’t an option for me.

My initial goal was to create a podcast with my smart phone and edit it using GarageBand.  Obstacle #1:  The GarageBand app requires iSO 13.0 or later. I have an iPhone 6S+ with an iOS of 12.4.1. The bottom line, I have to upgrade my phone to use the GarageBand app.

Anchor.fm

In the meantime, opportunity knocks! Thanks to my teachers Martin Brossman and Andres Quintana they informed me about a new platform called Anchor.fm, which describes itself as “The Easiest Way to Start a Podcast,” and it’s free.  They have a YouTube promotional video at this Web Link.  David Jackson from the School of Podcasting has a negative review of Anchor.fm, which was just purchased by Spotify.  See David’s Review Here. Since, this is my first podcasting experience, I’m a blank page with no history or attachment to any podcasting platform.  So, I’ll explore, experiment and we’ll see what happens.  I’ll share my experiences as I blog my journey.

Preparing For My 3rd Indigenous Fashion Week

“The Aikido of Marketing: Go where your customer is and your competition is not willing to go!” Martin Brossman

Join me as I prepare to participate in my third Indigenous Fashion Week in three years.  It’s an honor and privilege that I don’t take lightly to represent the textiles cultural traditions of the dispersed and scattered historical North Carolina Tuscarora Confederacy.  I teach workshops demonstrating color transformation on cloth from plants, flowers, nuts and insects.  My Momma taught me that if we witness transformation before our eyes, it gives us hope that regardless of our present circumstances, we can transform our lives.  The lessons my mother, two grandmothers, a great-grandmother and the elder women in their circles taught me through creating color, stitching and cooking are life lessons that enable me to be strong and resilient.  It was my dying mother’s prayer that I share our survival stories through creative hands experiences associated with natural dyeing and stitching.

This season, I’m enlisting technology to help me share my journey to Indigenous Beauty, Fashion and Design Week at Otahpiaaki 2019 in Calgary, Canada.  The theme this year is Isstoiyitahsinni or Winter Count.  Indigenous Fashion is a gathering place that includes intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual connections to the patterns, designs and garments we choose to wear.

Dried Indigo

I will be broadcasting live on Facebook and Instagram showing what I’m doing and why I’m doing it with a weekly Fiber Fridays where you can ask me questions.  At long last, I’ve figured out how to make videos of my creative process to post on YouTube even though I’m working solo.  And, I will be podcasting once a week on my new channel Seed2Runway.  I will share educational information about events, creative processes and indigenous design elements and interview movers and shakers from the world of indigenous fashion who inspire and influence me.

So where do I begin. I took three workshops sponsored by my local Small Business Center at Wilson Community College:

I purchased the Seed2Runway domain from Google Domains for my podcasts, which in my opinion is better than Go Daddy.  Google is $12 a year and includes email@yourdomain and privacy protection is included.  I’m beginning my podcast endeavor with just my iPhone.  My thinking is to just jump in the podcasting waters and learn by doing. I am writing a script and planning my podcast episodes.  I’m going live one week from today, Friday, October 11th. In the meantime, I’m redesigning my Facebook business page to focus on my new creative direction. Will also be updating my Linkedin profile and taking a more active role in managing that SM platform, since teaching workshops seems to be part of my here and now.

“Life is an adventure which can take you to unknown and unexpected places!” Carola Jones

Anything Is Possible!

Truth Written On My Broken Heart After 3 Sun Rotations of 13 Moons Mourning My Late Mother | When It Can’t Be Done, Do It! | Indigenous Material Culture As A Healing Practice

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;” Psalm 91:11 NIV

Recently I applied for a regional emerging artist residency in Raleigh for which I received a rejection notice.  Since 1990, I have tried and failed to break into the art market in Raleigh, NC.  At some point while taking care of my dying mother and teaching at Chowan, I gave up trying.  I decided to try again this year, and was once again rejected.  I asked for feedback but received no response.

My work and I don’t fit in a neat box that can be ticked.  I’m a woman of color but I’m Toisnot Tuscarora and Florida Seminole.  When people see my current work, it’s dismissed as either tie-dye or batik.  I use indigo but I’m not using traditional Japanese Shibori or West African techniques.  For most of my professional art career I was a clay artist until the demands of being a working caregiver overwhelmed me.  Now that I’ve walked out the traditional Algonquin mourning period for my mother, I’m empowered to begin again.

Broken hearted with a body covered in scars, it doesn’t matter that I’ve been overlooked.  Because against all odds I’m still here shouting in a loud voice that I’m North Carolina Toisnot Tuscarora because my grandmother couldn’t say it.  Yes, I’m mixed blood but being indigenous is an ethnic cultural marker and not a skin color.  My ancestors escaped Fort Neyuheru:ke and made it to the next nearest Tuscarora township.  We hid out in swamps, river forests and out of the way places made sacred with our sweat, tears and blood.  We found comfort and support with West Africans brought to our land in chains.  I’m the black sandy soil of coastal North Carolina with veins of red clay nourished by the waters of Contentena, Neuse and Tar rivers.  I possess 500 years of knowing that anything is possible.

Bundles for indigo dyeing today.

Momma always said don’t give up even if you fail 100 times don’t give up.  Try another 200 times and you’ll get it right!  And in the process you’re wear down your opposition.  For people who look like me, being an artist is about being viewed as half as good.  Well, that means I have to put forth four times the effort to be better.  Paul Arden, wrote a book entitled, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.  In it he states, “Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have.  The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.  Fail, fail again then fail better.  If you get stuck, draw with a different pen.”

As of today, I’m trying to do the things that I’m incapable of because I believe with God’s anointing and my dying mother’s prayers I can achieve the unachievable.  My strongest assets as an artist are designing, drawing, and creating color, while having persevering steadfast faith and unshakable hope.

Today I begin a new day, in a new week in the month of June.  After three years of mourning, it’s time to turn grief into action.  We all suffer in life, but at some point we have to decide to turn or pain into joy.  As Doris Jones would say, “We have to take the bitter with the sweet!”  So, I’m following what Doris, Minnie and Mat taught me, and I’ve bundled my pain and brokenness into bundles of cloth to be transformed in the indigo dye pot.

Healing Through Indigenous Textiles

“What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways.” Job 22:28 NIV

Both grandmothers, Minnie Haskins and Mat Randolph, taught me that there are 13 moons in a year. According to what they were taught by their grandmothers, we all can expect to experience trauma in our lives. The ways of our ancestors say that we have to walk out, walk on and walk in our trauma for three sun rotations of 13 moons. That’s the meaning of the ancient indigenous sun symbol passed down from one generation to the next as if it was coded deep inside our beings to help us survive 500 years of captivity. On this new day after walking out my three sun rotations of 13 moons, the lessons of these ancient teachings are written on my heart.

conoe_circleMy mother, Doris Jones, recognized the importance of textiles as a source of identity, cultural heritage and material culture before I did. She was a home economics teacher with a passion for sharing fabric dyeing, sewing and quilting. Mat Randolph’s passions were crochet, embroidery, weaving and indigo dyeing. Mat was Gullah from Georgetown, SC of Edisto, French and West African ancestry. Mat didn’t give birth to me, Doris did. But as a nurse Mat, pushed me out of Doris’ exhausted swollen belly. Her hands were the first to touch and hold me. I’ve often wondered if that’s when her spirit imprinted me. Because all my life I’ve been more like Mat Randolph than anyone else in my family. However, I have Doris’ intellect, curiosity, and desire for learning.

IMG_2545Minnie Haskins gave me the valuable lessons that come from bonding with the land that we walk on. She could read the signs from the forests, bogs and animals, inherited and taught to her by Howell Woodard. Howell was a Tuscarora tracker who took rich Anglos hunting and fishing on the Contentnea and Neuse Rivers, the Pamlico Sound all the way to the Outer Banks around Chicamacomico and Pea Island. I get my phenomenal sense of direction for Eastern and Coastal North Carolina from Howell Woodard. His father was one of the lifeguards on Pea Island. The last six months of his life, he lived with us on Atlantic Street and he stuffed my child’s brain with as much of his indigenous knowledge as he could. Every day was a story that he would make me tell back to him because he said I had to remember where we came from. Howell Woodard was the first ancestor to tell me that I was born to be the last of us and was destined to be a Seed Keeper. Before he died, he made my first medicine bundle and transferred the importance of keeping the old ways sacred.

The workbook for Indigo Blues was written and published last year. Now it’s time to finish writing the short stories associated with growing, harvesting, and creating color with indigo.  Today I begin anew blogging my journey as practice for writing memoir and binding up my sorrows into bundles of cloth to be transformed.

You Don’t Know What Love Is Until You Know The Meaning Of The Blues!

Reflections On Death, Dying & Living With Purpose

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NIV

Today around 12 Noon is the 3-year anniversary of my mother’s death and my journey as a motherless child. As women, we can bury a child, a spouse, a father, and siblings but when we bury our mother’s the umbilical cord connecting us to another human being is severed. As I reflect on the death of my mother, I am faced with the reality that I’m walking towards my own death. I have more time behind me than I have in front of me. Each day and every breath is precious. So, what lessons am I learning as I visit the Motherless Child Earth Walk?

screen shot 2013-10-03 at 1.42.02 pmLesson #1: You’ve Got To Take The Bitter With The Sweet: I could say that the past three years have been the worst of my life on one hand, but also the most rewarding. Do I mourn what I’ve lost? Or do I celebrate all that I’ve received? It’s the age-old question of seeing the glass half full or half empty. I’m struggling with mourning the loss of Doris, Minnie, Mat, and Grand-Mère, but I realize that the seeds of creativity that they planted in me are yielding abundant amounts of fruit.

In the three years since my mother’s crossing over, I’ve attended Penland School of Crafts three times for improvisational quilting with Luke Haynes, impressionistic hand embroidery with Katherine Diuguid, and a natural dye studio with Charllotte and Sophena Kwon from Maiwa. Standing on my dying mother’s prayers for me to share creating color with plants and stitching I’ve taught workshops at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, Otahpiaaki Fashion Week in Calgary, the Kainai Blackfoot Nation and the Nottoway Tribe of Virginia. I’ve received an art residency at Material Institute Fashion School in New Orleans.

drawingLesson #2: People Are Going to Criticize & Find Fault, So Don’t Take It Personal: Some looking at my situation especially my house would say that I’m failure instead of success. The house needs painting, the roof leaks and the inside looks like I’m a hoarder because I’m trying to sort through treasures and trash belonging to Doris and Minnie. They nick pick and criticize what I do, how I do it and what I don’t do. They judge me without knowing or considering all the facts. In the last three years, criticism has reached the point of becoming vicious and vindictive.

I’m learning how to walk away, even if it hurts, as it did with being an auction volunteer at Penland or participating with my high school graduating class. If I can’t be part of the solution, then I refuse to be part of the problem. Life is short and fragile for all of us, and I make a conscious effort every day not to participate in another person’s drama. I don’t want to talk about people behind their backs, find fault and criticize others. I believe with all my heart that if I put energy into finding fault in someone else, then I’m missing those that I can see in the mirror. Negative energy makes more negative energy because it feeds on itself. It destroys creativity!

quilt01aLesson #3: Art Heals! Creativity Helps Us Turn Life Into A Smile: We all have setbacks, we all have failures and disappointments, it’s part of life. How we choose to deal with our brokenness is on us. A song shared by women in my family says, “You Don’t Know What Love Is Until You Know The Meaning Of The Blues.” It’s a hard fact of life that every human being will experience. However, when we stop creating something from nothing with our hands, our hearts become hardened and our tongues become sharp. Every day we have a choice on what we want to create. Do I want to create hope, joy, unity, love, and peace? Or do I want to create mayhem, confusion, conflict, violence, and resentment? The choice is ours and what we create in our mind manifests in our hands and in our lives.

So, on this 3rd anniversary of my mother’s final journey, I celebrate her life by honoring the life lessons her crossing over is teaching me. I acknowledge my tears, my broken heart, my feelings of being alone, my loss of connection to people in my mother’s family who choose not to associate with me. I can’t change another person, but I can dig deep and change myself.

Witnessing Transformation On Indigenous First Contact Land

The teachings that “fashion is a language” are being transferred to me by Sage Paul Cardinal. It’s dynamic and fluid teaching that is shared and expands with every connection to an indigenous fashion designer. On Saturday, May 4, 2019, I witnessed the power of the transformation with the rebirth of robes created by the hands of indigenous women with color from a traditional Algonquin medicine plant. The historical place chosen by Creator and 500 years of ancestor’s bones is the homeland of the “Official Nottoway Tribe of Virginia in Capron.

blanket_denise

Plant-based indigo dyed on 100% natural wool created by Denise Lowe Waters

Before European influenced piano shawls with fringe became part of women’s Native American Regalia, Algonquin Eastern Woodlands people wore robes made from animal hides and woven plant fibers. Contemporary Pow Wow includes the Eastern Blanket Dance, which is typically danced with a purchased “native inspired” Pendleton wool blanket. However, as of May 4th on Nottoway land, indigenous women created their own wool blankets with powerful spiritual examples of how we can heal our selves, our communities, and our land.

blanket_sheila
Plant-based indigo dyed on 100% natural wool created by Sheila Elliott

Special thanks to Chief Lynette Alston, for her creative cultural vision of inclusion, who encouraged us to have a plant dye workshop. To Allard Alston for his organizational and planning skills. Denise Lowe Waters, who has worked with me over the past year to plan, organize and facilitate a spiritual healing retreat based on traditional indigenous ways of knowing. And to the workshop participants, who are now sisters, Sue Brickhouse, Mary Hoggard, Beth Roach, Sheila Elliott, and Celeste.

 

 

Gratitude Report No. 2 for 2018

2018 was one of the best years of my life. I participated in art escapades that changed my life. I’ve been creative all my life, but didn’t know I was an artist until 1980. Someone, who saw one of my early paintings told me I was just wasting paint because a woman who looked like me from Wilson, NC could never be an artist, much less an Indian. Well, here I am today as an indigenous teaching artist, after facilitating natural dye workshops at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, Otahpiaaki Fashion Week in Calgary and at The Material Institute Fashion School in New Orleans. What wonderful experiences!

So, what life lessons have I learned from Toronto, Calgary and New Orleans?

  • First, I have finally learned that haters and negative people are drawn to those of us who are actively making a positive difference. It’s like moths to a flame. Our light and our energy attract them because they are in desperate need of it to feed their despair. It’s not my place to judge them. But, neither can I afford to let someone steal my joy, my happiness, my time or my energy. My life has purpose, so I need to exercise wise discernment in what I choose to do, and whom I choose to interact with each day.
  • Second and for me revolutionary to my art making, I’m learning that fashion can be a form resistance for indigenous people. What we choose to wear can empower us and help us heal from the trauma of being made unwanted strangers on our own land. I received my first Kokum scarf, discovered the sisterhood of the Kokum Scarf Campaign, and the creative beauty of contemporary indigenous fashion. I discovered missing parts of myself in the lives and my connectedness to other indigenous women. Other people have missing puzzle pieces to our lives and we have theirs. It’s so we know beyond a shadow of doubt that we are connected, we are all related, and we’re not alone.
  • And third, I’m learning that you never know what’s around the next bend on the road of life. Just when you think you know where you going, life gives you unexpected surprises. It takes you to places and you have experiences that you didn’t know to dream about. If you share with the world, the world will share with you! I encounter many different people with different ways of knowing and doing. The circumstances of life leave all of us heart broken, disappointed, falsely accused, discouraged and confused. It’s part of being human. But, each of us has a choice every day as to what we want to make. Do we want to make chaos by lashing out in anger, frustration and resentment blaming others for our failures and shortcomings? Or, do we want to make peaceful calm by accepting responsibility for our actions, digging deep to change ourselves and discovering that the power to transform is inside of us?

Gratitude Report No.1 For 2018: Revisiting High School

Creator of all beings and things in the Universe, Nya:Weh. When this year began I was blind from cataracts on both eyes. My vision had deteriorated so that I could no longer see well enough to drive at night. But, with the anointing of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit I’ve had one of the most wonderful years of my life. Studying the most important letter ever written, Paul’s letter to the Roman Church, is profoundly transforming my spiritual growth.

With difficulty I got through the task of helping with my 50th Darden High School Reunion. Amid criticism, negative gossip and being labeled as unreliable my blind eyes completed the task set before me. And, yes I can become unreliable when someone dictates to me what to do, when to do it, and how to do it in a high drama manner. I don’t do drama! It just makes me become a rebel with a cause! I now know that withdrawing inside myself and taking no action is an unhealthy response.  Confronting drama in love and complete honesty is a wiser way of living.  Even though, for me the overall experience was a negative one, I learned many valuable life lessons. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn these lessons when I was a teenager, so fate brought me back to revisit high school fifty years later to help teach me how to become a better human being.

  • First life lesson is don’t participate in gossiping about people behind their backs. Gossiping opens the door to negative energy in my mind and clouds my view of the gifts of others.
  • Second life lesson is don’t participate in criticizing and judging others. I’m a sinner and I don’t have the right to judge anyone. Jesus is the judge of mankind not me. As my grandmother would say, until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s moccasins you don’t know their pain.
  • Third life lesson is to be gentle, kind and humble with other people. Many people are suffering with low self-esteem, broken hearts, unfulfilled dreams, childhood trauma, financial hardships, health complications and difficult day-to-day circumstances. Give others the benefit of doubt that they are doing the best they can with what they’ve got. When encountering negative energy in people, just walk away. Don’t let someone else’s negativity attach itself to me.
  • Forth life lesson is that we all are going to experience negative people and circumstances. These events are meant to teach us lessons that build our character. It’s how we respond to challenging circumstances that reveals our true hearts. In the past, I have withdrawn as a defense but now I realize that’s an unhealthy choice that just makes the situation worse. As an indigenous woman, I have to be strong and resilient.

I struggled with difficult family circumstances resulting from abuse by my grandmother’s husband that left me wounded when I was in high school. In the 11th and 12th grades, I kept a one-way bus ticket in my purse to run away to my father’s people on the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation in Florida. My years of attending Sam Vick and Darden were the worst in my life. Contrasted to going to Nash Central in grades one through five, where my mother taught Home Economics, I felt safe and included. The majority of students and teachers at Nash Central were indigenous or mixed blood, like me. But by God’s grace and mercy combined with the prayers of Minnie, Mat, Grand-Mère, childhood friends Angela and Cynthia, I graduated from high school.

As painful as the Darden High School Class Reunion of 1968 has been, I’m thankful for the opportunity to revisit high school because it provided me opportunities to grown into a better human being. The only person I can change is myself. But by changing myself I can gain the knowledge necessary to be an effective Elder to the Algonquin Nation. It’s not all about me but the Seven Generations behind me. It’s about Native Pride, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls and indigenous fashion as a way of healing our collective brokenness through Poo’miikapi (teach, learn, share, heal) Textiles.

Are You Ready To Dye Some Fabric For Sewing? Basic Materials You’ll Need For Indigo Dyeing

Found a 5-gallon stainless steel pot on Amazon for $21.20 that I’ll use as a new indigo dye vat. Web Link to Amazon

Checklist for Indigo Dyeing for Indigenous Fashion & Quilting

  • Must Have Supplies: 2 stainless steel pots, 2 single burner hot plates, measuring cups, outdoor clothesline and/or folding clothes drying rack, long handle stainless spoon & large wooden stirring stick.
  • Must Have Materials: Natural plant based indigo powder (Maiwa), an indigo recipe, dye auxiliaries described in your recipe and either collected rainwater or purchased distilled water.  *See links in previous blog post.
  • Fabric for Dyeing:  NOTE: My process is for dyeing cotton, linen, hemp and rayon cloth for quilting and making ribbon skirts. Wool for Eastern Woodland Blanket Dance and crochet/weaving is a separate tutorial.  *See information in previous blog post.
  • Materials to Scour Fabric: Either washing soda or soda ash and blue Dawn detergent.  *See instructions in previous blog post.
  • Materials to Make Resist Patterns: Twine, clothespins, scissors, C-clamp, embedded objects (sea shells, canning lids, small river rocks), PVC pipe, matching wooden blocks, embroidery needle & upholstery thread, plastic clamps.
  • Must Have Supplies for Opening Bundles:  Heavy mil plastic to cover work space and plenty of P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E.