Vera Manuel devoted her life to encouraging others to free ourselves through the use of our personal voices. Telling the truth is disarming, speaking your truth is a generous and healing gift.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

poetry activism

Director, Doreen Manuel
Soundscape by Sandy Scofield
Poem by Vera Manuel

A video poem about historical trauma and genocide of Indigenous people
in Canada

Survivor Screening - March 8, 2008
3rd Annual Women In Film Festival
Vancity Theatre, Vancouver BC

Through our meeting and brainstorming projects for the new Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast to take on, Vera made a request that we work with Ariadne Sawyer and World Poetry volunteers to organize events specifically focused on the poetry of First Nations people. She had found a positive community with WP poets, and was frequently called upon to share an opening prayer at WP events. Vera introduced me to Ariadne, and more people came on board to organize and deliver the first two events, both occurring in June 2009. 

"World Poetry Celebrates First Nations in Vancouver" was co-organized by Russell Wallace and held at Native Education College, bringing students and poets together for a morning of poetry on June 11th.

June 11 2009 Native Education College

"World Poetry Celebrates First Nations in Richmond" was held in Richmond City Hall Council Chambers, June 25th, and featured a number of indigenous poets including Godwin Barton, Stephen Lytton, Gunargie O'Sullivan, Wanda John Kehewin, and the outstanding videopoem, "Survivor." I was assigned the role of mc, a task I was not much experienced with. 

This was an important moment in the social landscape of Richmond, bringing together a number of people, like poet and social planner Alan Hill, Diane Jubinville and others associated with the development of the Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement for the district, Richmond Writers Group and World Poetry volunteers, with artists and poets well-known in the indigenous community.

There is a time for integration, and there is a time for standing your ground, and saying how it is from a specific perspective.  The evening was a very powerful teaching about history as a vibrant and unfolding, flowing stream: for any long time activists or indigenous residents of Richmond in the room, it was a much needed corrective. Colonization was very vividly portrayed and condemned-- the reality of, the cascading effects of, the context for grief, the powerful need for resistance. Without a doubt, the polite veneer was pulled away, and for a restful moment, we all sat in the reality together, shared reality unveiled.   

Vera attended with her sister Doreen and composer Sandy Scofield. World Poetry honoured Vera with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in poetry.
The following year, AWCWC collaborated with World Poetry to host a Tribute to Vera, in Vancouver, and this year, we collaborated to present The Life Celebration of E. Pauline Johnson, in Richmond. 

Sources: Running Wolf Productions + my archives