Reid Gómez

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Emancipation Proclamation

It's more than a year since I've blogged on the black blog—this work will be unlike the others.  Much has passed and I'm feeling a little Jennifer Holiday—I am changing.

I spent last night with Beckett's Stories and Texts For Nothing.  "I do not know where to begin nor where to end, that's the truth of the matter." 

I chose today to reinstate this blogspot for several reasons.  Today marks the 151st anniversary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. 

According to Webster emancipate means:  "to set free (a slave, etc.); release from bondage, servitude, or serfdom 2.  to free from restraint or influence, as of convention 3. Law to release (a child) from parental control and supervision —SYN. see FREE.

I planned to make some new and relevant comment about Joint Resolution 65, and the fact that Navajo slaves continued to be held in bondage for 5 years after Lincoln's 1863 proclamation.  If you're interested in that troll this blog, there are many such statements.

Lincoln looms large in this archive

As I've been writing through this long December I've been remembering the many ways Americans have celebrated the birth of Christ over the years:  the mass execution of the Dakota 38, and Wounded Knee among them.  Good Spanish Colonial subject that I am, I look forward to the Day of the Kings and to the Man To Send Rain Clouds.  For now I write.

Today is also the day I used to spend at Baba Ellegua's Bimbe in Oakland.  I look toward open roads, more than freedom—aware that total freedom is a pathological concept.  It's up to me, knowing I must continue to act as a person with relations.  Though the last few years have left me feeling like one of Harlow's monkeys—less an experimental subject of love at goon park than someone having to navigate the ilk of domestic violence, alcoholism and drug abuse; nonetheless someone with no home to go home to.

For some that type of homelessness is the defining characteristic of the slave, the genealogical isolate—the fragmented kinship structures that are lost to something (time, colonization, extermination, slavery) that is difficult to describe, especially as it shapes our narrative strength to escape the story of our birth (metaphysical, ancestral and physical) and our journey narratives.

I already celebrated the New Year, in October, but I ask myself to pursue new beginnings today, gearing up for the lunar year (the second New Year I personally celebrate with similar intention and reverence)—and in that I choose to allow this site to transform itself into something I'm not quite sure of.  I am changing—thinking of the promise of writing, that it may take you somewhere you may never return from.  In light and beauty. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Masters by Niki Lee

Welcoming the painting home. Checking for damages, upon Return.

The Masters

The Masters by Niki Lee

Lee completed this piece in 2000. It was first hung in a group show in Emeryville California. During the preview week she received a phone call telling her the painting had been removed. If she wanted to pick it up, she had an hour.

She found a transport vehicle, made her way across the Bay Bridge, and found the painting (an 8 foot door, with hinges), leaning face forward against the wall in the hall. Further down the corridor, she found another. She picked them up and drove away.

Eight years later she received an email from an interior designer who wanted to purchase some work and commission more. One of the pieces she wanted to purchase, outright, was the Masters. They were going to hang it in the poker room at a Casino. Lee thought it was strangely perfect. But was concerned, given the strong reaction to the piece in the past. She sent the designer a detailed explanation: "It's a rough painting, on a door, there are hinges on the side. I am making a strong statement." Then she sent additional detailed images (also available at her website, where the designer had seen the work and selected it for the project).

The designer confirmed. This was the one, along with House For Red Horses. The remaining paintings she would submit sketches for approval, before completing.

Lee sketched, submitted and completed the project. She had the paintings crated and sent off.

When they arrived she received a phone call from the designer. "How could she send that, that, thing. It's violent. There's a picture of a penis with blood coming out of it." The designer continued, telling her that the clients were disgusted and could not believe she would do that.

Lee told her, she (the designer) selected it herself. She reminded her (the designer) that she (Lee) even sent additional photos to confirm the selection.

Whatever. "They could never use this."

Lee told them to ship it back and she'd give them anything else they'd like that she already had made. This initiated an exchanged of images and a final selection. All she had to do was wait for the painting to return.

The accusations were devastating; weathering the shame and hate slung across the wire in the designer's tone of voice and the content of her words broke the artist. Those who create work will understand how profoundly disturbing this experience is, especially when, if, you face the next piece. How do you face it alone, without the echo?

The crate arrived days later.

Subsequently the painting hung in the back room of a large group show at SOMARTS (From the Four Directions).

Currently the painting sits in a crate, looking for a home. The fiscal challenges the artist has faced are well documented: loss of studio, loss of storage and now loss of home (apartment). She is hoping to save this piece.

The Masters is part of the artist's NIKIL work--defiantly claiming space for folks, for women and for the Gods of these homelands (and those that came over during Middle Passage). This work has inspired Urban Nizhóní.

If you are interested in this piece, or can help locate a home for it, soon. Please email me at this blog.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Spirit Horse

Spirit Horse by Niki Lee

This painting was shown at the Santa Barbara Native Arts Festival where it was damaged in the hanging, consequently it has not shown since. Everyone is well aware of the fiscal challenges faced by the artist, Niki Lee (shich'óoni).

I have always wanted to use Spirit Horse as the cover to my novel, A Woman's Body Was Found There. It reminds me of Olivia Red Sky's horse.

We are faced with another relocation and need to find a home for this piece, which is made difficult due to the needed (small) repair (it just needs framing). Everyone knows stories about paintings left at the goodwill, or given to Eshu; I don't want this painting to join those.

If you are interested in this work, or want to help find it a good home, please contact me, at this blog, or at my facebook author page. We cannot ship it without assistance, but we can ready it for pick up.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

And The Relevance of That Is?

On Wednesday August first, I launched a Kickstarter campaign to back a year-long collaborative project, Life or Honor: Life as Stranger. The project tackles the question of life after extermination. I will look at the legacy of southwest slavery, in particular, and the question: Do you choose life or honor? I will be working with visual and textile artist Niki Lee (Arikara/Caddo) and individual audience members via Kickstarter (Fund & Follow Creativity).

This project builds on and continues my work on K'é and the Legacy of Navajo Slaves.

Clearly slaves have a past, but a past is not a heritage. The loss of origins and origin stories is particularly salient for Native America. For Navajo, the question and answer of origin frames every introduction, and every interaction. The people claim a right to know their origins, and require that same knowledge from everyone they engage with. A loss of origins is a loss of K'éí, and a loss of place in the web of life undermines K'é.

Severing our access to ancestors' ways and knowledge, changes how we recognize, develop, maintain, nurture and understand our relationships to each other and to our homelands. These effects are seen in contemporary problems that reach beyond historical archives, and contemporary adoptions. They are evident in the Diné Marriage Act of 2005, and the current crises over the LCR settlement S2109 and Settlement Agreement 0422-10.

I believe we must begin to comprehend and investigate the colonial mechanisms in law and contemporary culture with a look at those women and children who were captured, stolen and sold. The question of these, our, peoples were at the forefront of every treaty negotiation, and remain relevant today. We have survived extermination. We face severed relations (within those known and among those sold and no longer recognizable). What does that mean for us now? How do we remain human, Diné, today?

Colonial powers work to destroy our ability to recognize, acknowledge, relate and respond according to our own beliefs. Colonial culture (rape and cannibalism) destroys K'éí and K'é and manifests itself in inter-generational poverty, domestic violence and addiction. If we allow those lost to slavery, during the formation of the Navajo Nation, to be forever cut away from us, then we run the risk of cutting off those, who today are lost to the relentless attacks on our languages, oral traditions and life ways.

This project speaks to the Navajo Wars, then and now. The shifting terrains: slavery, destruction of K'é (homophobia, domestic violence, adoption), land rights (the San Francisco Peaks, the Little Colorado), economics of traditional life ways (replaced by wage labor), language shifts and the state enforcement of biblical law.

The project needs to raise $33,000 to receive any funding. Individuals backing the project (at $25 and above) receive a copy of the book. Additional rewards include original art from the project, and correspondence with the author and artist. If the project does not meet its goal the project will receive nothing and will not take place. Even one dollar short will make the project unsuccessful. The final day to back, Life or Honor: Life as Stranger, is August 31, 2012.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

In Regard To Those Remaining Unclaimed

144 years ago today, John Ward, obedient servant and Special Indian Agent wrote a forty five page letter regarding "The Navajo Problem."

In beautiful handwriting, with certain s-s that give the impression of f-s, agent Ward outlined several suggestions for managing the Navajo after our return from Hwéeldi.

Bind them on all sides. Enclose them within military posts. Maintain a full company of well mounted militia and employ fifteen Pueblo or "well disposed Navajo Indians" as guides for itinerants and explorers. Pay them. Arm them with proper guns and two horses.

"At least at the commencement of the scheme."

He follows with details.

Details about the 1200 Wild Indians, largely Apache.

Details about Carson's attack on da'ak'eh, requiring three hundred men most of one day to destroy the fields of the Valley de Chelly.

Details about the likelihood of conversion, his recommendation: start with our children. Turn them over to the Catholics and their imposing ceremonies—their peculiar training, and ease at secluded living gives them a certain advantage over other denominations and temperaments.

On page 37 he reaches the question of orphans. "I would here suggest, that orphan children should have the first privilege."

What is the nature of this privilege?

"Many of the captives in question, particularly the grown ones, must now be Orphans, and are perhaps without even any near relatives to take care and provide for them properly. Whilst others are unwilling to go back to the tribe."

By page 39 he's mulling over these circumstances and the fate of these children. What is to be done with them? Turn them over to the first Navajo that claims them? What if these claims are short in coming? What if the Navajo just claim random youth for their own profit and domestic needs—and turn around and enslave them?

Clearly Ward is speaking of mores and motivations he's familiar with, and to a great extent, endorses: "Besides, it is not reasonably to be expected, that any family in the country having any such captives, will be willing to give them up, upon the mere representation of a Navajo Indian; Humanity itself would prevent it."

What is reasonably to be expected?

What is the character of mere representation? By what manipulations does one leave such low and insignificant impressions upon another? Mere representations?

By what means would humanity itself prevent it? Whose humanity is he addressing?

Even if these concerns could be adequately addressed to the satisfaction of this agent, the Peace commission and the Peace commissioner Ward expresses additional concerns, for the safety of the settlers, a sort of question of homeland security. The captives, in their position as slave, would necessarily know a great deal about the families they were owned by, among this knowledge would be intimate details about the people, their style and habit of life, their herds, their preferred grazing practices and locations. This knowledge would make the captives, if returned, a great asset to the Navajo should there be another war, another war for land, or for free movement on the land. These facts, considerable as they are, needed to be addressed by the agent and by the colonial governments (state and federal).

"This question will be a troublesome one until duly settled. The Navajoes will continue to claim their people, and on the other hand, the citizens to refuse to give them up."

Ward's letter is rich and concludes with the promise to deliver the souls of "those remaining unclaimed, in possession of the agent, or unwilling to remain with their people" [if they can even be identified] to "such Christian persons as would be willing to take charge and provide for them properly."

In reading this letter today I cannot help but consider the relevance of reach and Ward's concern that the Navajo would continue to claim their people. It is clear and indisputable that "the citizens" (of New Mexico and the United States) would refuse to give those remaining unclaimed, in possession of the government, or such Christian persons taking charge of them, up for any reason or ransom. But what could alter a person, and disfigure them so completely, that they would become beyond (our) reach, beyond (our) ability to recognize them, and allow us to cut them lose, and surrender their souls to their owners.

This is one question that all natal isolates must answer. It is the same question those who retain possession of their lines must answer also. It is a question of origins. It is a question of relations, bought and sold.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Life As Stranger

In 1992 I read Silko's Almanac of the Dead. While reading I threw the book across the room. I hated it. I hated the vile necromancers. I hated the destroyers. I hated the medical industry for abusing the dead, the homeless, and those beings who fail to meet their qualifications of a person.

In 2002 I nearly died, several times, from a perforated appendix that went undiagnosed for two weeks. I thought, "give me a monkey heart, I don't care. I want to live. I can't believe I never finished my novel" (I actually thought that as I was going under.)

During the years in between then and now, I've rehabilitated, some, and located a new normal. I also finished that novel, and a third, and started a fourth.

In 2010 I got a funky result from my monthly blood work. I was put on the wait list for several specialty clinics, and an ultrasound. 2011 brought: shingles, two ultrasounds, one CT, two MRIs, hundreds of blood tests, five specialty clinics, three radiologists, nine surgeons (explaining why my death was imminent, that if I did not let them do what they wanted to do to me I would die, maybe over the weekend, and that the surgery I needed would kill me), two same day surgical procedures, one stay over procedure, one ER visit, three primary care physicians (one wonderful) and organ failure. I knew my boat was sinking. All I could say was, if I'm going to die today, I don't want to die like this.

We lost our apartment. I left the city, where I've lived for 43 years, and hit the road, out of the system.

Dehumanization experienced in the clinic.

"The burlesque situation conceals a question that is actually quite profound. Will an adult systematically treated as an adolescent eventually lose the sense of his true age? More generally will man become what others see and treat him as, or will he muster the strength, despite everything and everyone, to salvage his identity?" (Kundera on Gombrowicz's Ferdydurke)

Being the object of ridicule and contempt produces a profound fatigue.

Take this for what it is, a brave attempt to emerge from nightmares from which I cannot awake.

To hear the secret, barely audible voice of the soul of things and to get inside it.

Writing a novel takes up a whole era in a writer's life, and when the labor is done she no longer is the person she was at the start.

The most basic level of respect you can give another individual is to allow them to be an individual. Saying, not only am I not going to kill you, but I am going to support you.

Everyone has their own purpose, this is mine.

This process extends to the world that exists beyond national language. How do we relate? What do we share? All of us who have lost family, all of us who have experienced the time when everything became enemy. Those who lost all kin and all claim to kin through slavery or extermination. We face the question: How do we live now?

About Me

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I believe we can be more beautiful than broken. Devotion to language and literature, stories and storytelling, writing and reading will restore humanity and heal severed relations. There is no alibi in being.