About Me

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I am a sweet, loving woman with a family. I am a musician, writer, and dreamer. I am also in the pursuit of happiness and healing, and talk much about that aspect of my life and my spiritual journey in order to help and inspire others. I am aggressive about what I'm passionate about. Consider yourself forewarned.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mothering

It is a sacred rite
It is a sacred right
It is a maddening career
It is a controversial choosing
It is an extension of your woman-hood
It is a teaching of the totality of Life in too few semesters
It is a heart-wrenching loss of control
It is a seething curse of protective urges
It is a withering of hope with age
It is a longing for timelessness
It is a longing for less time
It is unsettling
It is grounding
It is everything
It is separate
It is pain
It is grief
It is light
It is life
It is love
It is hurt
It is silent
It is deafening
It is hard
It is hardening
It is softening
It is soft
It is.
Mothering is mine.


-Moni Padula
copyright 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

Calling America: Ban Racial Mascotry and the R*skins Slur


                   (My proposal to a local school board near my town)

I am a woman who is a descendant of the Saginaw, Swan Creek, and Black River tribes of Ojibwe. I am a mother of five children, I have a college education, including a graduate degree. I work professionally in the community in a role that adds diversity to the institutions I occupy. I am a self-professed lover of urban culture, coffee, popular music, dancing, and an information and book-collecting nerd.

One thing I am not, however, is a mascot. I am also not a redskin. I belong to a racial and ethnic group who was admittedly, by the US government, an experiment for forced assimilation, which enabled Hitler to gain inspiration from America for the disgusting self-declared supremacy that resulted in the annihilation of innumerable Jewish people. I am a member of a group of racial and ethnic people who were forcibly removed from their lands, the lands that still bear indigenous names, the lands of Kalamazoo, Mattawan, and Paw Paw, especially noting that my own city has a majorly disrespectful statuesque fountain in the middle of downtown in Bronson Park, celebrating colonialist conquering of Natives in the local and surrounding areas.  I am a member of a racial and ethnic group that is the last group in America to have an inaccurate, inappropriate, and demoralizing racial images of themselves plastered across athletic billboards and donned on football helmets.
In my research, I've come across the "controversy" to ban racial and cultural images of native people, that are usually also accompanied by pejorative and discriminatory terminology and slurs (Braves, Indians, Chiefs, Redmen, Redettes, and the utterly detestable Redskins).I must personally see myself misrepresented by fans of athletic teams with mocking face paint, feathered headdresses, and blow-up tomahawks proudly exhibiting and flaunting their privilege by assuming my cultural identity for just a few hours; the cultural identity of an entire former nation of people that white American forefathers did everything to erase, including but not limited to the cardinal sin of tearing children away from their parents under the guise of providing them with education at boarding schools. While the children were under their care, white American forefathers assumed the right to colonize the natives, which meant they beat, raped and psychologically damaged them by forcing them to speak only English and forbidding them to speak their own language while forcing them to abide by the new religion of Christianity. They were exposed to contagious diseases spread by close contact in the schools (namely, tuberculosis) which wiped out numbers of the children. They were even murdered, many of them never returning home.

Natives have been repeatedly betrayed by white people, who took full advantage of the poor English spoken by the Natives, and stole their land out from under them while pretending to befriend them and be kind to them. After decades of intergenerational abuse and trauma, the native community to this day struggles to cope and to heal from the unimaginable abuses they endured and many succumbed to. Their culture, their language, their very existence was openly unwanted (search: Civilization Regulations),  looked down upon, and forbidden (No Injuns) in English-speaking environments before America federally agreed to cultural pluralism. By then, damage had been done and even now any smidgeon of trust between Native groups and white America is very shaky. This is a very small set of examples of how indigenous history with white people in America has shaped our present-day reality.

With the literal native blood on America’s hands, it is a further detriment to our healing, and literally a slap in the face as a people, to see the racist term redskins, which although perhaps centuries ago was intended as a matter of civil address of the natives (i.e. Redmen), eventually became a violent reminder of the intense hatred of the white man towards natives. Redskins became referred to as a racial slur that represented native genocide. The Governor of Massachusetts offered handsome rewards on a sliding scale for scalps of native men, women and children, and when that was not sufficient to differentiate whether the product was from a male or female, the practice turned into the full skinning of the Native people, including children, in order to determine the sex of the deceased. These skins were often turned to leather that could then be worn.

To the Native american, Redskins is a pejorative term that holds no respect, and has no place in our current day institution of American education. To encourage the privilege institutionalized racism affords of claiming “ownership” over the rights of others is unacceptable and inexcusable in a nation that has grown to this present-day. The use of racial mascotry and racial slurs inhibits the basic civil rights of native children and their cultural communities to feel safe, respected, and recognized literally, not figuratively or objectively as a racial group. To use a racial group as mascotry when you are not a member of that group is illogical at least, and most of all, unethical. It uses grandiose ego to insist that it has a right to use the imagery of a racial group and to tell that group what it is doing to it and require them to view the actions as honorable. It is a typical form of psychological abuse to brainwash (or "whitewash", which is a term that describes the replacing of colored people or their associations with whiteness and  supreme ownership) and attempt to replace the history Natives already know and have experienced to be true through cognitive distortion. To use racial mascotry and racial slurs against Natives asks them to overlook past “discomforts” and accept the “honorable” act of attempting to desensitize overt racism, a heart condition which is deplorable in and of itself. Today I am asking you, as the school board and representative of the city of Paw Paw, MI, to follow the lead of California in banning the use of racial mascotry and racial slurs towards the Native American group, and find a more honorable representation for the traits you wish to attribute to your school’s population, as many other schools have done for decades. Names that arouse valiant imagery could be the Titans, the Spartans, the Panthers, the Jaguars, and more representations of powerful and mighty mythical or representative ancient groups and animal species. Natives are not a mythical group or a wild animal species.


Below is a list of questions to ask when embodying the importance of having an anti-racist initiative in your school towards any ambivalence of having the right to use Native mascotry and racial slurs:

1.Is this mascot best representing a people, when one considers the trauma they have endured and are enduring?

2. Is the use of the mascot representing the racial demographic  of the education offered? (Are Native American children and adults involved as students and teachers at your school, where native traditions, customs, spiritual beliefs, and language are actively taught?)

3. Is this mascot an insult to the rich, long-standing traditions of the people? (Does your mascot embody who native americans are as a whole, not what has been seen of them on old Westerns or in textbooks, depicted in the middle of battle?)

4. Would you yourself be comfortable with using another racial and ethnic group of people or their cultural symbolism, (African/African-Americans, Asian/Asian-Americans, Mexican/Mexican-Americans, Middle-Eastern/Middle-Eastern Americans, Latino/Latinas) along with the racial slurs describing them as your mascot and representative of your school? If not, why is it appropriate to use the Native American racial and ethnic group? Would you be comfortable seeing an image representing your own race along with a defining racial slur in a school in a city you live in or near, and would you send your child there proudly?

5.  How is using this mascot empowering the native people and encouraging native+non-native relations ? (Are native people asking to come and visit your school and become involved with your educational efforts?)



6. Does the school teach the documented and oral history of the native people's traumatic experience in America, including the history of the removal of natives in this area? Where are the native tribes of this territory today that are represented by the mascot? Is an “Indian” just an “Indian” with no tribal name, location, unique customs and traditions as opposed to being one tribe out of many other tribes, still in living and breathing existence? What does your school teach about the relevance of native americans to current-day society?



7. What are the positive contributions both of the natives in this area to the school, and the school’s contributions to the natives in this area, besides using their imagery as a mascot and presuming their honored feelings as a whole?


It will be hard to come up with affirmative, ethical answers to these questions if the school board is honest, because America has no schools using the native mascot that is providing this type of positive exchange with the local native communities their school is established in.  The truth is, native lives are relevant in present-day.  Native lives matter. They are not invisible, nor are they ignorant to how they are portrayed by non-native America.  They are still in existence, they are still as valuable as they always were, and they are not so unintelligent that they don’t know what is and isn’t representative of honor to themselves. The decision of honor lies with those it is offered to. We, as a whole, refuse.

 The question becomes then, will the school of Paw Paw do the right thing for racial and social justice, and make a turn in the tide of allowing natives to be used inappropriately, against their will, and in a way that is damaging to the safe emotional and psychological development of cultural identity for both native youth and their tribal communities in Michigan? Racial mascotry and racial slurs are offensive because we are people, not symbols. We are the only group of racial peoples being used as mascots here in America and asked to accept the “honor” of seeing historically-impactful racial slurs for us, but yet against us. This will not go away until we do no longer see these appropriated images, until they are done away with and the racism erased from our own former native lands.

To honor the native is to honor their wish to be left peaceably with sovereignty to their own racial images and sacred traditions, including using the headdress and face painting for special ceremonial purposes that pertain to our race and culture, not to stand on the sidelines and helplessly accept an empty honor while we grieve the cultural stripping our imaging has been subjective to. To honor the native is to restore them to a place of cultural pluralism, where we work alongside one another together, and where the indigenous language of the area is welcomed, taught in the schools, and listed along with English, like English/Spanish/French translations. To honor the native is to invite them to your assemblies to give their historical accounts of occupation in the lands your school sits on. To honor the native is to refuse to celebrate in any way, shape or form, Columbus Day, and to ask Congress to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, and spend that day with your school attending a pow-wow and observing actual native traditions rather than using a westernized, romanticized depiction of what it means to be an Indian. To honor the native is to respect the trauma they have endured that is not representative of your historical reality in America, and to vow not to participate in any institutionalized forms of racism, that objectifies living groups of natives or formerly-living groups. To honor the native is to invite them to tell you what is honoring to them so that you may do it.

My vision is to live in a country where I don’t have to explain to my children why our country still tolerates blatant forms of racism and racial stereotypes. My vision is to live in a country where I don’t have to watch my aging native elders weep about or share their pain from an abusive relationship with white America and where they can smile about anti-racist initiatives that care about honoring their stories and experiences, not causing them further relive and mourn traumatic events because of a basic lack of humanitarian care. Dr. King said that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and that “We are not wrong in what we are doing… If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning.”

My suggestion is for the school boards and school staff of the USA, including my home state of Michigan, to attend anti-racism training and offer as extra credit for receipt of certificates for their high schoolers, the attending of racial healing services in the community to offer a proper education on how to deconstruct a society built on ingrained racist perspectives and stereotypes of other racial groups, and to learn how to take the steps to construct a more healthy, diverse, and inclusive one that this and the next generation’s children and grandchildren will occupy. It’s time to re-build the social construct of America to phase out the racism it has entertained and supported since its conception, to be a society that is respectfully inclusive of all people and acknowledges their rightful existence and assists in keeping the integrity of their cultural sovereignty intact. Today's children are our future leaders, and they will grow on what we feed them. Let's demand that institutionalized racism start to die the death to which it is overly due.

Miigwetch (thank you)

To view more helpful links about native mascotry and the national initiative towards removal, visit www.changethemascot.org
To view a link by the American Psychology Association urging the removal of native mascotry and identifying racial slurs, visit http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/indian-mascots.aspx
To view a link of a historical written account of the forced removal of natives from the current area I live in, please visit http://www.migenweb.org/kalamazoo/history/history3.htm#INDIAN%20TREATIES%20AND%20%20REMOVAL


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Celebrating the Beauty of Breastfeeding in Pictures

Last year, I asked a photographer friend of mine to take some photos of my son and I, who was still breastfeeding to celebrate a year of breastfeeding and also to follow up after having a picture of my pregnancy with that same son entered into an  art exhibit by an artist friend who had painted a portrait of me after giving her a picture my husband had taken. I find in this society the beauty of how the woman's body was created to grow a child, give birth, and nurture and nourish the baby is vastly underplayed. I wanted to capture that beauty and celebrate it.

This year, to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7, I contacted that same photographer who agreed to do another shoot for me, with the same son and my infant. My son Kendrick is tandem nursing, meaning nursing at the same time as or together with his baby brother. I never knew about tandem nursing before seeing it on Instagram and reading about it on Facebook breastfeeding support group forums. So I will be sharing many of my favorite shots from my recent nursing shoot. May we celebrate what nursing looks like in daily life and celebrate it's beauty.



Mother is grateful to see both her babies reaping benefits from her breastmilk.Benefits don't stop once a baby reaches one year old. The World Health Organization suggest nursing for at least two years, and continuing after the addition of foods in the first year.









Grateful and joyful




One of my favorites!



Gazing at his mother with trust and appreciation


Baby sometimes take a break from the breast and looks around
Very sweet eye contact between mother and baby



Mother still cares for self

 Taking time for you will be frustrating at times, as you must stop often to comfort baby. Take heart. This time will pass.



Nursing in front of church

Nursing is a sacred and joyful practice

Breastfeeding is a gift of love

Even after unlatched, Mother may not be done nursing altogether. 
She may still need the warmth of her breasts to be ready to comfort her baby. This is why it is so convenient to be topless in other cultures.
When the pic was being taken, I did not notice my breast was almost bared when baby was unlatched. However, I did not mind because I planned to use it yet again pretty soon. I wasn't ashamed of my near nakedness. I wasn't even aware.
Shooting in the sun was very hot, so hats were a must!
When will this type of image be common editorial material?
This used to be normal; it should be reinstated as such.
Looks of love
Celebrate your nursing journey, no matter how it starts or ends. If you tried and quit, or if you're still going, you experienced the blessed gift of being one with your baby.

Mother is grateful to be able to provide for her baby