March 25, 2006

Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States tells the story of our country from the perspectives of people historically marginalized and oppressed.

Former Bloomington resident Anthony Arnove co-authored a companion volume, Voices of a People's History of the United States, comprising the letters, essays and speeches that served as Zinn's primary sources.

After Voices was published, Zinn and Arnove adapted many of the entries for use in a series of public readings, featuring actors such as Danny Glover, Wallace Shawn, Lily Taylor and Marisa Tomei.

Arnove returns to his old stomping grounds to host two performances of "Voices of a People's History" on Saturday, April 1, and Monday, April 3, at the Bloomington Playwrights Project, 107 W. Ninth St. The performances will benefit BPP, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary and a new location.

March 12, 2006

In Tibetan Buddhism there is a practice called "making an opportunity out of a disadvantage or disaster." Arjia Rinpoche, the new president of the Tibetan Cultural Center (TCC), laughs when a reporter mentions this.

"That's a profound teaching," he says. "When we have difficulties in life, how do we face them? We practice Tonglen, which means 'giving and taking.' So the center has problems, we can avoid them or just take them and dissolve them — it's a good chance to practice."

The renowned Tibetan Buddhist scholar and teacher, who left Tibet in 1998 to escape Chinese repression, will have plenty of opportunities to practice as he leads the Center to financial stability and undertakes an ambitious plan for expanded educational opportunities.

October 2, 2005

One of the more interesting aspects of American Indian culture is our ability to change our character, "shape shift," if you will.

As an example, until Christopher Columbus stumbled into our world, we were not Indians. There are many stories about how he came up with that name, but most Indians find the discussion irrelevant. I for one am content to be an American Indian to the outside world.

The politically correct "Native American" is misleading, and certainly does not carry the history of the brand-name, "Indian." And I admit there is some odd satisfaction using an appellation born out of Columbus' ignorance of the breadth of the world; welcome humor in an otherwise tragic lie.

October 2, 2005

I was driving through a parking lot the other day when I saw a bumper sticker that caught my eye. "Read Banned Books!" it shouted. After throwing up my hand in support that day, I now wonder about this message and its motivation.

Why is it promoting reading specifically those books that have been deemed obscene and/or unsuitable by certain elements of the establishment?

Could it be that a desire to read and promote banned books is born purely out of a determination to do what we are told we cannot, or could the very thing that leads some to ban a book be a quality others find important.

September 18, 2005

Resolving conflict and reducing stress. Creating peace and harmony, within oneself and with all sentient beings. We want it, but how to get there?

"The cause of violence is separation," Ingrid Skoog metaphorically shouts from the rooftops of Bloomington. "Separation from our hearts' compassion for ourselves and others. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) seeks to reconnect us with our innate humanity, our desire to contribute to one another. Connection is the essence of this practice."

"Nonviolent Communication is both a set of communication tools and a spiritual practice," Skoog said during a recent workshop at her east-side studio, Moving Compassion. "By examining the needs behind what we do and say, NVC helps reduce hostility, heal pain, and strengthen relationships, both professional and personal. The key is that human needs are universal."

September 18, 2005

We are the only so called "minority" with this problem.

Many white folks take on African-American popular music and styles, but they do not "become" Black. No one is clamoring to take on an Asian-American identity and declare their ancestors suffered through the internment camps used during World War II on Japanese Americans.

Yet, that is exactly what is happening all across America with non-Indians taking on American Indian identities. What is sad about all this is these "shake and bake" Indians often become the dominant societies' experts on Indian culture.

September 18, 2005

Lee Williams has been director of the Lotus Festival since it began in 1994. It's hard to get him to sit still in the weeks leading up to the festival, but WFHB Program Director Jim Manion successfully got him on the phone last week with tape recorder running. His interview gives readers insight into what it takes to put on Bloomington's favorite festival. Full details are available on the Lotus Festival Website: ...

JM: Tell me about the changes in how the outdoor part of Lotus Festival will be staged this year — what were some of the reasons for these changes?

LW: Lotus is shifting away from tents to street stages. There were many problems with tents. The actual tent experience for most people is not that positive if you think about it. The band is on the same level as the crowd. Unless you are up front you can't see, and if you are average to lower in height you can't see at all. The sound is not ideal in tents, either, and they're very small. They hold only about 250 people.

The only reason we ever went to tents is because we ran out of indoor venues. We added street tents, not necessarily to get music outdoors but because it was a physical space that we could put music and people in.

September 4, 2005

It's manna from heaven for the local tourism bureau. Four times in two years, free national publicity has fallen into the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention and Visitors Bureau's lap in connection with its gay tourism initiative.

First came a couple of references in national newspapers in December 2003. That set off a TV comedy-show feeding frenzy, culminating in Saturday Night Live's satirical take on the bureau's motto "Come Out and Play."

Second was the release of Bill Condon's award-winning biopic Kinsey last November. In an interview with Bay Windows Online, Rob DeCleene, the bureau's services manager, spoke of Kinsey as a turning point and potentially the single most galvanizing influence on gay tourism in Bloomington.

Most recent were an Out Traveler article and an OUT&ABOUT Travel Award, announced August 15 by online media company PlanetOut.

August 21, 2005

Since the NCAA issued its decision to ban the use of Indian mascots in the post-season, newspapers and the Internet have been on fire. In a shootout worthy of a match between the Blue Devils and the Fighting Illini, opposing sides have used public forums to state their positions.

Sorting it all out seems complicated until you realize that it is mostly Whiteskins who are advocating the use of mascots, based on their perceptions of who we are as Indian people. There appears to be only the Seminoles in Florida and Oklahoma who advocate the use of Chief Osceola as a mascot, and the Florida State Seminoles as a team name. More on that in a moment.

Indian people have been publicly fighting against racist mascots for more than 35 years. It was only when the Whiteskins got involved that the issue of Indian stereotypes as mascots got a thorough national discussion. It was then that the Whiteskins who support the "tradition" of these mascots stood up on their hind legs and howled.

August 7, 2005

In a press conference this past Monday, President Bush indicated that he thought creationism should be taught in public schools alongside the scientific theory of evolution. Using the doublespeak so characteristic of this administration, the new buzzword for the program to ram Christianity down the throats of public school students is "intelligent design."

Over the years of teaching everything from Life of Christ to Baptist students in the Bible Belt, to teaching Native American religions to American Indian students, I have encountered enough misinformation and ignorance to sometimes make me want to just sit down and weep.

Spoon feeding "intelligent design" to public school students is not a solution but will just add to the problems of our deteriorating educational system.

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