From Italy with Love: The Folk Explosion of Kalàscima

Sometimes music can take you over in a feverish, festive dance. During this moment of sweaty abandon you feel inextricably connected with everyone around you, and the past bleeds with the present.

That’s the feeling you’ll get from the neofolk ensemble Kalàscima. The exuberant Southern Italian band performs tonight in Miami in the North Beach Bandshell in celebration of Italian heritage month, and then will fly to Canada to kick up a swirl of folk, rock and other styles with the sandy heel of The Boot. Tonight’s free show features renowned co-headliner Ermal Meta.

Kalàscima’s sound is informed heavily by the guys’ southern Italian birthplace and Greco-Eastern European influences. It features a mind-boggling array of instruments including Italian bagpipes (otherwise known as zampogna) plus traditional flutes, Italian organetto) an assortment of percussion from Southern Italy and other nations — such as the rick and darbouka. They combine it all with electronic and electric stand-bys such as bass guitar and  a loop machine.

The band is part of an intriguing folk/world music movement championed by their label, Ponderosa. HuffPost has a great article about the collective and Kalàscima here.

First, let me say that I’m a little heartbroken that I can’t be in SoFla tonight to see this feisty band from the same Italian region as my mother, Puglia (around two hours of south of her Provincia de Foggia hometown). I identify with their staunch pride in where they’re from (something they wax poetic about in their tune “Meridionale,” a term Italians use for Southern Italians).

If you see them, say “Ciao!” for me — their names are Luca Buccarella, brothers Federico and Riccardo Laganà, Massimiliano De Marco, Riccardo Basile, Aldo Iezza and Roberto Chiga, all of whom grew up together in rural Salento. They picked up the traditional Italian folk music from their grandparents and added current musical instruments and technology.

Their latest album, Psychedelic Trance Tarantella, conjures both a popular dance at Italian weddings on acid, but stems from the cathartic music and dance once thought to cure the delirium caused by tarantula bites.

I caught up with member Riccardo Laganà for quick Q&A before the ragazzi headed to our southern sunny region. We talked about where they’re form and what keeps them going at their frenetic pace.

When I hear “Meridionale” I think going back to all the stereotypes that I have heard from the North Italians. For example, they call the lazy southern and blaming them for the economic problems in Italy. Confession: I cannot understand all of your lyrics because of your rapid-fire deliver, but I think I understand — you are singing a song of pride and love for the region with some jokes … am I right? Could you tell us what inspired the song?

“Meridionale” speaks of our love for our land, full of sun, sea, good food and great people. We speak of a South united, no parochial divisions, to let the world know about Southern Italy and be known to the world. Although still someone speaks ill of southern and south, we invite you all to visit us and to visit our land, to discover the beauty that hides in its brightest corners.

I know that you come from Lecce, but could you explain something to us Americans: What does it mean to be Salentino?

Salento is on the last strip of land southeast of Italy, on ‘the heel of Italy. Being Salentino means to be born and raised in a land surrounded by the two seas where the sun warms the heart and beauty of the landscape is inspiring every day for all of us. Being Salentino means to be born and grow up in a land rich in traditions, culture and music. It means to feel a strong bond with the land, with his roots, with his family and his friends. It means having a strong sense of belonging. It means to love.

Who was born first? You or Federico? How does your fraternal dynamic influence the band, and how long have you all been friends?

I, Richard, was born first. Federico is the smallest but the most good. The group is born with us, and we from the first day, for more than 15 years. But we can say that the whole band is a family, and that we are all brothers, having grown up together and having lived together big part of our lives.

Your musicality really struck me — the instruments that you incorporate into your sound, their history and the harmony of your voices and arrangements. Do you arrive at the intersection of the past and present spontaneously or is it planned carefully? 

Kalàscima was created to express music in our feelings and our ideas. We grew up listening and playing the traditional pure music with the elderly and the singers. We have known, studied and learned the true traditional music, with no contamination. But we are men of 2000 and we live in an age that has taught us many things and gave us many stimuli. Writing popular music today, in our view, it means using the tools of the past, the styles and techniques of the past, but in a modern world. The merger between the old and the new, it is natural for us. And ‘the expression of which we and our music is our idea of new folk music.

Can we expect to see you in more US cities in 2018?

After this tour in the U.S. and Canada, we hope to return soon to play in North America. We are always received well when we fly to the USA and the Americans always bring us much joy.

In addition to the concerts, there are other projects that we can expect from Kalàscima next year?

For next year we have big news. The new album. We are working, even in these days, and we hope to come back to you to present it in 2018. For now, expect everyone to Miami Bandshell to dance and sing along. It will be a big party. See you soon!

Riccardo – Kalàscima

(Italian transcript below)

​​
Ciao, Riccardo!

Spero che state bene. Ho scritto qualche domande come introduzione per i fans dalla Florida. Vorrei scrivere una interviste unica, ma dato che sto imparando a conoscere il vostro band, le domande potrebbero essere un po ‘fondamentali — mi scusate, per favore! Sia casuale, fuori tema, tangenziale, filosofico o breve – qualunque cosa ti senti bene!

Quando sento “Meridionale” ritengo di tornare a tutti gli stereotipi che ho sentito dagli italiani del Nord. Per esempio, chiamano i meridionali pigri e li incolpano per i problemi economici in Italia. Confessione: non riesco a capire tutti i vostri testi rapidi, ma penso di capire — stai cantando una canzone di orgoglio con alcune battute … ho ragione? Potresti dirci cosa ha ispirato la canzone?

La canzone Meridionale parla del nostro amore per la nostra terra, piena di sole, mare, buon cibo e persone splendide. Parla di un sud unito, senza divisioni campanilistiche, che vuole conoscere il mondo e farsi conoscere al mondo. Anche se ancora qualcuno parla male del sud e dei meridionali, noi invitiamo tutti a venirci a trovare e a visitare la nostra terra, per scoprire la bellezza che nasconde nei suoi angoli più luminosi.

So che venite da Lecce, ma potreste spiegare qualcosa a noi Americani: Cosa significa di essere Salentino?

Il salento è l’ultimo lembo di terra a sud est d’Italia. E’ il tacco d’Italia. Essere salentini significa essere nati e cresciuti in una terra circondata dai due mari dove il sole scalda i cuori e la bellezza del paesaggio è fonte di ispirazione ogni giorno per tutti noi. Essere salentini significa nascere e crescere in una terra ricca di tradizioni, cultura e musica. Significa sentire un forte legame con la propria terra, con le proprie radici, con la propria famiglia ed i propri amici. Significa avere un forte senso di appartenenza. Significa amare.

Chi è nato prima? Tu, Riccardo o Federico ? Come influenza la vostra dinamica fraterna sulla banda? Da quanto tempo voi tutti siete stati amici?

Io, Riccardo, sono nato prima. Federico è il più piccolo ma il più bravo. Il gruppo è nato con noi, e ci siamo sin dal primo giorno, da più di 15 anni. Ma si può dire che tutta la band è una famiglia, e che tutti siamo fratelli, essendo cresciuti insieme ed avendo vissuto insieme grande parte delle nostre vite.

La vostra musicalità mi ha veramente colpito — i strumenti che si incorporano nel tuo suono, la loro storia e l’armonia delle tue voci e arrangiamenti. L’intersezione del passato e del presente avviene spontaneamente o è deliberata? O tutti e due?

Kalàscima nasce per esprimere in musica i nostri sentimenti e le nostre idee. Noi siamo cresciuti ascoltando e suonando la musica pura tradizionale con gli anziani ed i cantori. Abbiamo conosciuto, studiato ed appreso la vera musica tradizionale, senza nessuna contaminazione. Ma siamo uomini del 2000 e viviamo in un’epoca che ci ha insegnato tante altre cose e ci ha dato tanti stimoli. Scrivere musica popolare oggi, secondo noi, significa usare gli strumenti del passato, gli stili e le tecniche del passato, ma in un mondo moderno. La fusione tra l’antico ed il nuovo, per noi è naturale. E’ l’espressione di cui siamo e la nostra musica rappresenta la nostra idea di nuova musica popolare.

Possiamo aspettarci di vederti in più città degli Stati Uniti nel 2018?

Dopo questa tourneè in USA e Canada, speriamo di tornare presto a suonare in Nord America. Ci troviamo sempre bene quando voliamo in USA ed il pubblico statunitense ci regala sempre tante gioie.

Oltre ai concerti, ci sono altri progetti di Kalàscima che ci potrebbe anticipare per l’anno prossimo?

Per il prossimo anno abbiamo una grande novità. Il nuovo album. Stiamo lavorando, anche in questi giorni, e speriamo di tornare da voi per presentarlo nel 2018. Per adesso aspettiamo tutti al Bandshell di Miami per ballare e cantare insieme. Sarà una grande festa. A presto!

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Our Collective Responsibility in Ending Mass Violence

 

America’s misguided attachment to guns, the industry’s lack of regulation must be addressed in the wake of these mass shootings, but there are other societal factors at play.

American culture fetishizes dominance, violence and fear. Take our action movies, for instance — they are vastly unlike the ones I grew up with — they include a scene of horrific, cruel and graphic violence but no nudity or lovemaking. That’s seriously effed-up. We chafe at intimacy but glorify cruelty.

Add to that, we are experiencing an epidemic of social isolation thanks in large part to to our device-dependent culture. Creating a culture of stranger paranoia — just shutting out those we deem “crazy” — could possibly makes things worse in the end, leading to more copycats.

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He is a terrorist and human. What next?

Think about it: Devon Kelly lashed out at a church, a refuge for love, peace and comfort. Somewhere in his brain he did not connect with this common perception and detached from the innocent, well-meaning children, parents and elderly people inside. We need to ask why. We need to start by examining our own behavior toward one another when we are not in fellowship or in the company of others.

“It is undeniable that persons who have shown violent tendencies should not have access to weapons that could be used to harm themselves or others,” writes Jonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhDcorresponding author and Kenneth T. MacLeish, PhD in “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms.” “Notions that mental illness caused any particular shooting, or that advance psychiatric attention might prevent these crimes, are more complicated than they often seem. Evidence strongly suggests that mass shooters are often mentally ill and socially marginalized. Enhanced psychiatric attention may well prevent particular crimes. … By addressing gun discord as symptomatic of deeper concerns, psychiatry could, ideally, promote more meaningful public conversations on the impact of guns on civic life.”

We must strive toward becoming a better society — stat. Make eye contact. Offer a benevolent gesture when you can. I’m not recommending you let random people crash on your couch, but consider this for a moment: Lashing out violently is rooted in paranoia of “the other.” Ask yourself, “What can I do to set an example of compassion, a sense of community?”

We need to educate, understand history, become more enlightened. The more we learn about world history and science, the more we understand how much we are alike as humans. Prevalent misconceptions about race, ability and personality call attention to the fact that we have to raise the bar higher for civilization. We can’t just continue worshiping at the altar of consumerism. Money doesn’t measure human value.

This isn’t about being politically correct. This is about survival.

Don’t chalk up violence to “human nature.”  People are as wired toward compassion and altruism as aggression and cruelty. Science backs this.

Casting off people with major problems presents numerous ramifications. These aren’t personality issues or simply “evil deeds.” No one should be left to his or her own devices to plot and acquire an arsenal without attention. There are faulty misfires in the brain that can be examined with a brain scan that many insurance policies — certainly Medicaid and Medicare — do not cover. These individuals hole up in their rooms or homes in an alternate reality. This should not be happening.

Lack of care on an individual and societal level coupled with an epidemic “other” anxiety and, the biggest factor of all, the U.S.’s gun romance and lack of arms-purchasing regulation are going to create a domino effect of more alienated souls lashing out and committing copycat crimes; that is, if we don’t start making major changes to how we approach and care for one another now.

Some recommended reading and resources:

Directions for Living provides services ranging from counseling to workshops. Here’s a training program titled “Act Against Violence for Parents.

“Things You Can Do Today to End Social Isolation” — Sandy Hook Promise

“Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts” Scientific American

“Social Death Penalty — Why Being Ostracized Hurts Even More Than Bullying” — Alternet

“Buiding a Culture of Inclusion” — Diversity Journal

“Mental Health Care Access Care Data” — Mental Health America

“Mental Health Reform” — National Alliance on Mental Illness

“Mass Shooting Analysis” — Everytown for Gun Safety

 

 

 

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Conceptiams: neologisms that define our times, ed. 1

We all have shared observations that we sometimes don’t even know we have.

Even when our thoughts and opinions of a person, place or thing seem especially weird or nuanced, almost invariably, someone else has made the very same observation.

The need to define phenomena of our times has also inspired this ostensibly  handy reference guide to help coin occurrences, conditions and other ephemera that are “becoming a thing.”

Neologisms are ever-present   — from Sniglets to Douglas Coupland’s Generation X to Urban Dictionary — and continues to be done, but like birdwatching, some hobbies provide contentment and transcendence despite increased participation.

Emotionary has already accomplished a good chunk of what I had hoped to by coining phenomena that occur in human verbal and non-verbal interactions. Come to think of it, there should be a word for that feeling you get when you’ve come up with a good idea and realize you not only the first to come up with it, but someone has already capitalized on it.

How about this: conceptiam — concept + iam, the Latin word for already.

In the future, I’d like to see a full-blown. instantaneous Internet search engine that you helps you find new words for ideas. It could be powered by by neologists across the nation and around the world.

For now, may this little pocket reference strike a chord, call out ridiculous rituals, demystify trends and, hopefully, help us all share a laugh.

Look out for new phrases each week updated in this blog.

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Expresidentia when a U.S. president, no matter how loved or loathed, becomes more liked overall after his tenure as Commander and Chief.
Continue reading “Conceptiams: neologisms that define our times, ed. 1”

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3 reasons to see Opera Tampa’s Tosca at the Straz Center this weekend

Tosca

Straz Center of the Performing Arts’ Carol Morsani Hall

Tickets start at $66.50
Performances Saturday, April 8, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 9, at 2 p.m.
Visit strazcenter.org for more details.

 

This weekend, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to see a first-rate production of Tosca by Giacomo Puccini (La Boheme, Madama Butterfly and Turandot).

The distinctive emotional melodic sweep of Puccini’s score is interpreted on point by the highly accomplished Maestro Daniel Lipton, who leads the Opera Tampa Orchestra and Chorus with Jeffrey Buchman directing the production.

Principals include Lisa Houben as the titular diva Floria Tosca, Cesar Antonio Sanchez (Mario Cavaradossi) and Mark Walters (Scarpia). The company also includes Kevin Thompson (Angelotti), Peter Strummer (Sacistan), Peter Joshua Burroughs (Spoletta), Christopher Holloway (Sciarrone), Franco Rios-Castro (the Jailer) and Louisa Ramirez-Flynn (the Shepard).  Presented in Italian with English translations projected above the stage, the production is sponsored in part by Dr. Zena Lansky and Mr. Warren Rodgers.

Whether you’re already an opera aficionado or are willing to experience the classic performing arts genre for the first time, there are at least three compelling reasons you should experience Opera Tampa’s production:

Of course, the musical and vocal talent.

Houben and Sanchez fill the room with their pitch-perfect belt-outs. Coupled with the Maestro Lipton’s expert timing and his impeccable orchestra’s gut-socking crescendos, the climaxes of favorite arias like E lucevan le stelle leave the viewer almost literally shaken and stirred.

The production value: From the elegant gowns and historically accurate uniforms to moody lighting replete with fog for mood-setting affect and its clever backdrops, there is nothing cheap or amateurish about the look of Opera Tampa’s production.

Its timeless sociopolitical relevance — especially resonant today as we fear shifting political regimes and the impending oppression of art and free speech, and other civil liberties.

Tosca and her beloved Mario aren’t the only Puccini principals to deal with oppression. The composer became legendary for his characters struggling against oppressive forces — whether it’s Madama Butterfly’s concubine Cio-Cio San or the struggling poet Rodolfo in La Boheme, we’re entreated into the world of artists and fringe dwellers in turbulent times. They live out allegories to power struggles on the world stage.

Writer Lisa Kramer Reichel reminds us that Tosca to be the only grand opera tied to a precise time and setting. Puccini’s  historical opera takes place during a critical time in the military campaigns of the French general (and later Emperor) Napoleon Bonaparte. During the final years of the 1700s, Napoleon’s invasion of Italy by and his French armies resulted in the expulsion of the old dynastic rulers, including the Papacy.  Radical French republics or states set up in northern Italy and in Naples. The city of Rome became the Roman Republic, of which, in Tosca, the political prisoner/fugitive Angelotti was a former consul.

While Napoleon was far away in Egypt in 1799, another movement was brewing. Queen Maria Carolina of Austria — wife of the defeated King of Naples, Ferdinando IV, and sister of Marie Antoinette — began a regal coup to bring back dominance to wealthy imperials. Her forces took out anyone in opposition — which included thousands of republicans and free-thinking liberals and anyone who had supported French rule. Meanwhile in Floria Tosca’s Rome, Napoleon’s army regained ground with the help of General Desaix who, in real life, lost his life in the effort. During the second act of the opera, news arrives of the defeat of the monarchy. Mario belts out “Victory” in front of  monarchy police chief Scarpia, who orders Mario to be dragged off to prison.

Also during the second act, we witness the attempted rape of Tosca.  Amid the melodrama, we can relate to the urgency of Tosca fighting off the advances of Scarpia and Mario risking his own life to help his fugitive friend.

Flash forward to today. PBS, which helped many of us first fall in love with opera with its televised programming from the Met, is at risk of running out of federal funding as our President grants favor to friends with both new and old money. Women are losing their medical rights and are protesting for equal pay. Organizations like Opera Tampa themselves are struggling to stay funded to maintain a standard of excellence.

The ongoing struggle against stubbornly cyclical socio-political movements initiated by old money are ingeniously and artfully crystallized in the struggles of Puccini’s tormented tenors and sopranos.  This couldn’t be truer in Tosca.

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Strange Corners, Surprising Detours: Grindhaus Brew Lab & The Clearwater Record Shop

1650 N Hercules Ave, Unit I
Clearwater, FL 33765

Robb Larson and Lisa Colburn, owners of HiFi Homebrew and BBQ Supply, love where they work — so much so that they’ve tacked on a fun, cozy pub to hobnob with fellow craft beer enthusiasts and like-minded lovers of offbeat cinema.

Larson and Colburn’s micro tavern Grindhaus Brew Lab offers a comfy unpretentious hang with refined sensibilities and a sense of humor. Raimi and Tarantino movie posters decorate the walls and a vintage jukebox adds distinctive charm.

Sadly, the jukebox isn’t functional —  yet — but you can count on a cool mix of indie music and classic rock and R&B to provide a soundtrack to your Grind Haus drinking experience.

Along with refined brew recipes, Grindhaus guests can enjoy classic, cult and B-movies screened every Friday and Saturday night.

To find the pub, use your phone’s GPS (Google Maps works) or look for the railroad tracks on Hercules and an office/warehouse complex just northwest of them. Not visible from the main road, Hi-Fi/Grindhaus can be found tucked inside the nondescript  Hercules Space Center Complex.

Well worth the trip to Clearwater’s industrial boonies, Grindhaus distinguishes itself as a small batch brewery serving brews made with select quality ingredients and no extract. Double Taps, a Grindhaus original concept, uses one beer divided by two plus one variable.
 Don’t go expecting to take a six-pack home. The small-batch brewery doesn’t make enough for leftover takeout. According to Colburn, bigger is definitely not better. She says she’s just fine with keeping the operation small (for now).

   “With small batches I can hand pick ingredients and improve the recipe when I feel like it,” she shared. “When you have a big operation you’re stuck with the same formula for weeks whether you like it or not.”

 Classes on beer styles, brewing, ingredients, off-flavors, and the history of beer are held every month. Visitors can also partake of brew tours and tastings that include  flights of 4-by-8-ounce tasters. Click here to see what they have on tap today.

Before heading out, stroll a few storefronts down to Suite G, where you can browse an impressive selection vintage vinyl. The Clearwater Record Shop kicks it old school with vinyl, CDs and collectibles.

 On our visit we found a staggering variety of genres, including some rare imports, bossa nova and foreign albums. If you’re into vintage movie posters and collectibles, you can find plenty of those too.
 Some may especially love the Peaches and Record Bar display crates. They’ll take you back to at time when record shopping was a less obscure hobby (and might give you a flashback or two about the days you worked in a record store).

Continue reading “Strange Corners, Surprising Detours: Grindhaus Brew Lab & The Clearwater Record Shop”

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Help Clearwater-Largo Road get some artistic love

Clearwater-Largo Road used to be one of the most depressed thoroughfares in Pinellas County.

Though the long, curvy road borders one of Tampa Bay’s most affluent areas — Belleair — the road itself used to represent an extreme example of wealth disparity.

No more. The past decade has seen encouraging growth in growth and retail in the area. The City of Largo invested $4-million into making over the area (here’s a piece I wrote recently for the Tampa Bay Times about the surge of independent retail along the once-infamous corridor).

One ambitious artist, Mickey Krause,  is doing her part to boost Clearwater-Largo’s cultural presence by establishing an art studio nonprofit and community gathering place in an area that used to be the  considered the other side of the tracks.

She is creating a little Pink House for you and me, as John Mellencamp would say.

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The above video shows the transformation of a condemned property to potential community asset.

Krause, who turns 65 today, rescued the building at 1300 Clearwater-Largo Road, Largo, to convert it to a working artist’s studio, gallery and gathering spot for painting classes and outdoor parties.

Photos by Daniel Veintimilla

The studio is open to working painters, who will be vetted by Krause, for $150 a month. Members to Art Lovers Place get full access, their own working and wall space. Krause says she’s hoping to get around 10-12 artists in the space. Projected opening is Spring 2016. Amenities are ADA-compliant, and the grounds will be spruced up with landscaping.
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Mickey Krause

Krause attended Ringling and grew up near Louisville, KY. Her mother didn’t become an artist until she went back to college at age 56 and obtaining her BFA from Webster University in St. Louis, MO at age 62. She had a studio away from her home for about 15 years but now has one in her home and she painted it pink “Lotus Flower” last year when she was 84 — the inspiration behind Krause painting Art Lovers Place the same color.

A painter of impressionistic and photo-realistic nature scenes, familiar Florida creatures and fauna, Krause says watercolor is her primary medium. 

Her works were featured in a group show at the Francis Wilson Playhouse in May 2016.

Krause left her career in the restaurant business to devote her all of her time and resources to a non-profit facility she founded. Art Lovers Place Inc. will serve as a co-op and space for working artists who don’t have room to paint at home.

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Watercolor of purple coral by Mickey Krause

She says she hopes the project will provide a cultural infusion to the Clearwater-Largo corridor, an area in transition. She painted the building pink in tribute to her artist mother, who worked in a pink studio when Mickey was growing up.

Persevering with the project despite a difficult chronic illness — pulmonary hypertension — Krause has raised some funds through a GoFundme page, but needs more help. She’s been working hard on the many improvements needed to the facility but can use more help.
Wish Mickey Krause a Happy Birthday by donating to the Art Lovers Place.

14711048_10209558339268139_7413847918833211156_oKrause  met Bill Murray in 2006 at a golf tournament/Kevin Costner Band (in which her brother-in-law was the fiddle player).

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From South America to Standing Rock II — the spirit lives at the camp

Photos by Daniel Veintimilla

This installment is a follow-up to last Tuesday’s Tampastica blog on Clearwater resident and photo/videographer Daniel Veintimilla’s visit to the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota. He visited  the mid-northwest assisting the Weaving Ties organization escort Amazonian tribal leaders to the Standing Rock camp and is helping document the delivery of a ceremonial drum signed by 12 nations representatives in support of the Dakota Pipeline protest.

 

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Candido Mezua of the Embera nation in Panama looks across the Cannonball River in North Dakota, pondering what’s at stake if the pipeline project comes to completion.

 

 

Traumatized by irrevocable harm to the Amazon jungle and rainforest by Chevron and other oil companies, visiting tribe leaders representing Meso- and South American nations voiced their protest in solidarity with North Dakota Sioux tribes to prevent an additional and even more massive environmental catastrophe.

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Protestors face off against armed guards and law enforcement.

Along with the desecration of sacred lands, burial grounds and artifacts, the proposed pipeline could wreak harm by way of a burst or leak. Damage would be far-reaching since it is being planned to cross under the Missouri River, a vital artery that feeds into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. Eight-million lives could be affected, adding urgency to the #waterislife hashtag and Tuesday’s Presidential election. (Candidate Donald Trump has voiced his support for dredging oil and fracking at all costs.)

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Candido Mezua offers a gesture of prayer for Standing Rock.
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Wicahpi Ksapa aka Lewis Grassrope, a camp leader, embraces Mezua. 

Last week, Daniel Veintimilla traveled to North Dakota to assist the Weaving Ties organization by picking up tribal leaders from the airport, interpreting English and Spanish at meetings, interviewing people, filming videos and shooting photos of life on the campsite, and editing into the wee hours. He is working on footage for the project as I type.

He was too busy to provide info over the phone. I caught up with him late at night once while he was en route back to his room at a Bismarck Radisson. He was excited to have just seen a white deer cross the road and seemed quite taken with the rolling hills and expansive countryside of the North Dakota prairie.

There’s another side to Standing Rock we’re not seeing, he told me.

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Native Americans and people from around the world have united in protest.

The camp has become a gathering of love, a community unto itself that’s become a refuge for people finding a sense of a purpose.

He said he could feel the spirit there.

Flags line the entrance of Sacred Stone campsite and tipis dot the countryside with a number of Native American and non-Native American groups represented. Even the National League of POW/MIA Families has set up camp there, too. Native American visitors to the campsite are telling their own stories of human rights abuses as well as trauma and discrimination within their own tribal subcultures.

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Volunteers are distributing winter clothing and helping to construct tipis.

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The camp has become an umbrella for hundreds of lower-profile but significant conflicts endured by Native Americans. It’s become an Occupy America gathering of sorts, and the motivation is understandable — discrimination against and conflicts within American indigenous tribal communities have continued into the 21st century.

Daniel interviewed a tribe member whose family came under attack by mercenaries during the protest. He also interviewed Ladonna Brave Bull Allard, a female Sioux tribal leader (pictured below) who gave a moving account of her plight with the pipeline. She talked about a prophecy in which a black snake devours the world and she wept as she as shared that her son was buried on the land that had been taken over by pipeline project.

She also said she received death threats.

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The South American tribal leaders voiced their support for her and her community with Daniel’s assistance in translations. They grabbed hands with her and gave her comfort.

Fortunately for Daniel, no violent incursions took place during his visit but he witnessed firsthand the patrolling of thug-like mercenaries and law enforcement officers who have pepper sprayed and roughed-up protestors as if they were unhinged criminals. Ominous unmarked helicopters still circle above the camp.

Momentum, however, is building on the side of the protestors and more people are setting up camp. The feds have called off the mercenaries’ unlicensed attack dogs and two area police officers turned in their badges over the weekend because they didn’t want to participate in the lopsided effort.

Daniel related stories that both inspired him and chilled him to the core. An elderly female Sioux tribe member died from wounds resulting from an onslaught of rubber bullets by mercenaries. Shortly after he left, his colleagues at Weaving Ties shared that another female protestor died at the frontline.

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One startling discovery: The suicide rate is high for Native American adolescents. Yesterday, Daniel witnessed the moving account of Jasilyn Charger,  a 20-year-old Cheyenne River tribe member (pictured above), who gave a moving account of physical abuse and pressure from tribal leaders attempting to force her into an arranged marriage. She fled to join the protest at Standing Rock only to be roughed-up and maced during last the recent campground arrests.

Despite upheavals, Charger is persevering. She founded a support group for Native American youths that now has a camp at Standing Rock.

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Embera leader Candido Mezua and Adolfo Chavez, leader of the Takana Nation in Bolivia show off the signed tribal drum at the Cannonball River.

Another tent offers psychological counseling.

There’s also the more business-formal side of the protest community — the recent summit of leaders on the American continents has created an opportunity for members to sound their grievances and voice support for one another.

With recent visits from European representatives and UN acknowledgement, the Standing Rock convergence is growing too large to be ignored (even amid cable and network news preferring to devote more airtime to a Starbucks cup controversy and the circus-like Presidential election).

Representatives of the pipeline received an anonymous $4-million dollar donation this week just as the feds are upping the amount of bail to six digits to trespassers arrested on the territory that the government turned over to Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), a Fortune 500 oil and natural gas company based in Dallas. According to the Washington Post, ETP is the main owner of the pipeline, along with Sunoco Logistics Partners and Phillips 66. Accounts of aggressive treatment of journalists continue, too.

As of this writing, an injunction agains the pipeline is still pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals. In September, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington declined the tribe’s request.

The takeaway from Daniel’s visit is that early Americans cultures provide historic perspective and enlightenment, and their lands should be respected. Their tribal culture should be supported and celebrated, and their rights as both indigenous peoples and U.S. citizens should be valued. Their heritage is a vital thread in our American tapestry, and they represent our own identity as Americans.

If we allow the oil industry to build that pipeline through their sacred lands, our agricultural heartland and a vital waterway, we’re mainlining poison into our own future.

For what — an antiquated technology?

If not compassion and intelligence, some common sense and perspective are seriously needed in North Dakota.

Video footage to come …

 

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From South America to Standing Rock — Daniel’s arrival to North Dakota

My life partner and frequent work companion, Daniel Veintimilla, landed a special gig this week assisting representatives of Amazonian tribes visiting North Dakota.

An Ecuadorian friend referred him to Weaving Ties, a South America-based network of social organizations dedicated to the management of forest territories in Asia, America and Africa.

(Daniel, for those of you who don’t know us intimately, was born/grew up in Ecuador and became a U.S. citizen in August.)

According Michel LaForge, a spokesperson for Weaving Ties, flags from all the different nations will line the entrance to the Sacred Stone camp with tents and tipis everywhere, adding that the Indigenous Environmental Network and Sacred Stone Camp were notified of the leaders’ arrival.

Arriving from  Lima, Peru, leaders from Amazonia and Central America will meet at the third Amazon Summit. Two representatives  — Candido Mezua, from the Embera nation, from Panama, and Adolfo Chavez, from the Takana nation,  from Bolivia — are delivering a message of solidarity from Latin American indigenous groups to people in Standing Rock.

They come in the name of the Mesoamerican Alliance of  Peoples and Forests (AMPB), which represents 10 organizations from five Central American countries, and the   Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA), which represents indigenous organizations from nine countries.

This resistance campaign, many say, has emerged as part of a greater global crisis—a united struggle in which indigenous lands, resources, and people are perpetually threatened by corporations and governments often using military force. Integral to this shared narrative is the routine ignoring of treaties. —White Wolf Pack

In a symbolic gesture of solidarity, the tribes leaders are bringing a traditional drum signed by all indigenous leaders present, from 12 countries, from Guatemala to Bolivia. “The drum is calling to the voices of indigenous people to be heard,” Michel says.

Daniel, he instructed, will help with translation and in charge of production of media content (and driving).

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JUST ARRIVED TO ND: Daniel Veintimilla salutes Candido Mezua from the Embera Nation, who’s holding a drum signed by tribal leaders representing 12 Latin American nations.

Here’s a primer on the Standing Rock protest from TheAntiMedia.org:

“The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is leading the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have been joined by the largest tribal coalition in more than 100 years in their stand against the pipeline.

The coalition comprises activists, allies, and environmentalists, collectively known as ‘water protectors,’ at the Sacred Stone Camp, an encampment close to the location where the pipeline is planned to cross the Missouri River in North Dakota.

According to the Sacred Stone camp website, they are opposing the pipeline because ‘the Dakota Access threatens everything from farming and drinking water to entire ecosystems, wildlife and food sources surrounding the Missouri.’”

The Standing Rock Sioux also say the pipeline is violating treaty land, Sioux territory that was established many years ago by the federal government.

“We will not allow Dakota Access to trespass on our treaty territory and destroy our medicines and our culture,” they say.

More news from Daniel on the South American tribesmen’s visit to come …

Teaser image courtesy of whitewolfpack.com.

 

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