Goddess Mothers and True Heros

“All you need is a sense that there is no such thing as ‘no’ and everything is possible.” Moira Kelly

This shining face, this sweet spirit with reason to be bitter and yet he is not. He is a hero and pure inspiration. When Naomi Baltuck (Writing Between the Lines/Life from a Writer’s POV) posted this video on Facebook, I was as touched as anyone would be. I had to wonder though about his mom. What kind of hero is she, I thought, remembering the heroes of my childhood: Josephine Baker and my spiritual mother, Pearl Buck. Each of these women grew their families in unique – and extraordinarily unselfish – ways.

“All my life, I have maintained that the people of the world can learn to live together in peace if they are not brought up in prejudice.”  Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

Josephine_Baker_1950Josephine Baker was born in America but became a French citizen. She was a dancer, singer, actress and civil-rights activist.  As a child living in St. Louis, Missouri, she suffered from discrimination, abandonment, and poverty.  As an adult she had one miscarriage. She adopted twelve children, two girls and ten boys. They were from diverse races and cultures because, in addition to caring for them, she wanted to show that people can get along despite their different backgrounds. In the early ’80s two of her sons went into business together. They started Chez Josephine, which is on Theatre Row (42nd Street) in Manhattan. They dedicated the restaurant to their adoptive mom’s memory and decorated it with her memorabilia.

“. . .  the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” Pearl Buck (1892-1973)

220px-Pearl_Buck_(Nobel)Pearl Buck was an American novelist, writer, humanitarian and the first woman to be awarded the Noble Prize in Literature (1938).  She grew up in China and spent most of her life there until 1934. She had a deep affection for and knowledge of the countries of the East, not just China. She suffered through the Nanking Incident when the National Revolutionary Army captured Nanking (now Nanjing) in 1927.  Many Westerners were killed, their homes destroyed, and their property stolen.  Her only biological child, Carol, had phenylketonuria (PKU), which causes mental retardation and seizures.  She adopted seven children. At a time when mixed-race children were considered unadoptable, Pearl Buck founded Welcome House, Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency. Welcome House has placed some five thousand children since it was established 1949.

“The greatest act of kindness changes generations. Wherever there is the greatest evil, the greatest good can be achieved.” Moira Kelly (b. 1964)

emmanuel-kellyThis brings us to a contemporary hero: the mother of Emanuel Kelly, the young man in the video. Moira Kelly is an Australian humanitarian whose work has garnered her many awards and acknowledgements.  When she was eight years old, after seeing a movie about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (now Kolkata), Moira committed herself to working with disadvantaged children.  She is the legal guardian of twins from Bangladesh, Trisha and Krishna. They are surgically separated but originally cranially conjoined twins.  Moira Kelly also adopted the Iraqi-born Emmanuel and his brother Ahmet, both born with underdeveloped limbs. Among her efforts is Children First Foundation, formed to provide transportation and healthcare for children with urgent needs in developing countries.

These women are mothers in the best senses of that word. Their ideals are real and they stand by them. They have saved children from abandonment and loneliness, from poverty and hopelessness and, in some cases, from early death. They are goddess mothers and true heroes.

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved, Originally published on The Bardo Group blog
Video uploaded to YouTube by DrReaps
Photographs of Josephine Baker and Pearl Buck are in the U.S. Public Domain.
I don’t know the origin or copyright of the photograph of Moira Kelly and her sons. If it is yours, let me know and I’ll credit you or take it down as you wish.

the dust of their labors

800px-Triangle_Shirtwaist_coffinsits red tongue licked and ate the fabric of their dreams, the warp and weft of their immigrant hopes, it burned like greed, like it was the only one who counted, consuming even their breath and the dust of their labors, which yet lingers heavy in memory

MARCH 25, 1911: Until the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001 (9/11), the worst large-scale disaster in my home town, New York City, was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911. It is the fourth largest industrial accident in the history of my country. Its victims were mostly immigrant young women with an average age of seventeen years.

According to the essay Leap for Life, Leap of Death (many jumped from the building rather than burn to death), 146 girls were killed. This was the unmitigated result of corporate greed that kept workers earning their bread in an unsafe building, locked in workrooms from which they couldn’t escape, adding injury to the insult of long hours, rude supervisors, and poor compensation with no benefits.

The legacy of this disaster was a turning point in the American labor stuggle for fair wages and workplace dignity and safety.

800px-Dhaka_Savar_Building_CollapseAPRIL 24, 2013: An illegally constructed multi-story building in Bangladesh collapsed. 5,000 people were reportedly at work in the building, mostly women.

According to a May 13, 2013 report by BBC news, 2,500 people were injured and 1,021 people were killed in what is considered to be the largest garment-factory accident in world history.

More than one-hundred years have passed since the Triangle Factory disaster and apparently we humans haven’t learned the lesson of people before things or money.

MAY 1, 2013: Pope Francis spoke out against the working conditions in the factory ~

“A headline that really struck me on the day of the tragedy in Bangladesh was ‘Living on 38 euros a month’. That is what the people who died were being paid. This is called slave labour. Today in the world this slavery is being committed against something beautiful that God has given us – the capacity to create, to work, to have dignity. How many brothers and sisters find themselves in this situation! Not paying fairly, not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking at how to make a profit.” Huffington Post article

OF NEW YORK AND BANGLADESH:

©2014, poem and narrative, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved Photo credits ~ Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, U.S. Public Domain; Dhaka Savar Building Collapse by rejans under CC A-SA 2.0 Generic License

Warm Hearts Make the Cold More Bearable

Jamie Dedes:

Kindness is action comparable to poetry in its beauty … this is Corina Ravenscraft’s post today on The Bardo Group … it’s worth your time and thought. Click through to read the entire piece including Corina’s suggestions for helping out.

Originally posted on THE BARDO GROUP:

The recent bitterly cold weather has gotten me thinking more lately about those stuck out in the elements, without a warm place to go. I wonder, as I am driving home from work at two o’clock in the morning, “How many of them will die tonight from the cold?”

I recently watched a documentary film called “Invisible Young“, which explores the homeless youth in Seattle, WA. I was surprised that some of the kids became homeless as young as age 13. :( The thing that struck me the most about everything else in the film is that when asked what was the hardest part of being homeless, so many of them replied, “Feeling invisible, like we don’t exist. No one meets your eyes when you’re homeless. You just feel like no one even sees you.”

Homelessness is a HUGE social problem that not many people want…

View original 663 more words

Selling the Shadow to Support the Substance: Ain’t I a Woman

373px-Carte_de_visiteOne of the many guises in which poetry presents itself:  Here American actress Alfrie Woodard delivers New Yorker Sojourner Truth‘s spontaneous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman.” Sojourner gave this speech at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio in May of 1851.

SOJOURNER TRUTH (1797-1883)

African-American Abolitionist and Women’s Right Activist

Thanks to Laurel D. for sharing the video.

Poets Against War, Poets for Peace

file000513414694Please unite with us on Into the Bardo next week for Poets Against War, which is really saying Poets for Peace. 

We will start with something special on Sunday (it may or may not include a poem, Terri Stewart will surprise us) and then each of the next six days we’ll host poems from six different poets.  Throughout the week, we’d like you to join us – not only as readers – but as writers by putting links to your own anti-war or pro-peace poems in the comment section on Into the Bardo. We’ll gather the links together in one post and put them up as a single special page. Please don’t worry about questions like whether you’ve been published or whether you think the work is good. These questions are irrelevant. It’s your heart in the work that counts. That’s where the power is.   So please unite with us in this one thing. Let’s put that energy out into the world. If you are so inclined, please also reblog this post and help us get the word out about our week of Poets Against War. Thank you!

Meanwhile, I will be back here on The Poet by Day, the journey in poem on Tuesday. Have a wonderful weekend.

Photo courtesy of morgueFile.

THE POETRY OF AFGHAN WOMEN: Landay, A Twenty-two Syllable Two-Line Poem

پاس په كمر ولاړه ګله!
 نصيب دچايي اوبه زه درخيژومه 
O Flower that you grow on the mountain side;
The duty to water you belongs to me, but to whom would you belong?

ستا به د ګلو دوران تير شۍ
زما به پاته شۍ دزړه سوۍ داغونه
The blooming season of your beauty will pass;
But the scorched patches on my heart will always remain fresh.

Zarmina's parents at her grave. She was an poet who died after setting herself on fire. Photo by Seasmus Murphy, 2012, Courtesy  of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Zarmina’s parents at her grave. She was a poet who died after setting herself on fire. Photo by Seasmus Murphy, 2012, Courtesy of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Last week The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, announced the publication of the June 2013 issue, Landays. The issue is dedicated entirely to poetry composed by and circulated among Afghan women.

After learning the story of a teenage girl, Zarmina, who was forbidden to write poems and burned herself in protest, poet and journalist Eliza Griswold and photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy journeyed to Afghanistan to investigate the impact of the girl’s death, as well as the role that poetry plays in the lives of contemporary Pashtuns. A year later, Griswold and Murphy returned to Afghanistan to study the effects of more than a decade of U.S. military involvement on the culture and lives of Afghan women. In the course of this work, Griswold collected a selection of landays, or two-line poems. These poems are accompanied by Murphy’s photographs from the same period and are presented in the June 2013 issue of Poetry.

My pains grow as my life dwindles,
I will die with a heart full of hope.

A report on death and love by Eliza Grizwold and Seamus Murphy, a project of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Griswold describes the characteristics of a landay in her introduction:

“Twenty-two syllables: nine in the first line, thirteen in the second. The poem ends with the sound “ma” or “na.” Sometimes they rhyme, but more often not. In Pashto, they lilt internally from word to word in a kind of two-line lullaby that belies the sharpness of their content, which is distinctive not only for its beauty, bawdiness, and wit, but also for the piercing ability to articulate a common truth about war, separation, homeland, grief, or love.

Landays are centuries-old custom among Afghans, traditionally passed along in the oral tradition, and passed down through generations. The topics of the landays included in the June 2013 issue run the gamut—love, marriage, war, the status of women, drones, politics, courage, nature, and the Internet. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, these captivating two-line poems offer unique insight into the contemporary life of the more than twenty million Pashtun women who span the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

*****

About Poetry
Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. Monroe’s “Open Door” policy, set forth in Volume 1 of the magazine, remains the most succinct statement of Poetry’s mission: to print the best poetry written today, in whatever style, genre, or approach. The magazine established its reputation early by publishing the first important poems of T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, and other now-classic authors. In succeeding decades it has presented—often for the first time—works by virtually every major contemporary poet.

The entire June 2013 issue will be available online as of June 3 at http://www.poetrymagazine.org.Digital copies of the June issue of Poetry magazine, as well as a digital subscription, are also available.

The June 2013 issue of Poetry is accompanied by an exhibition at the Poetry Foundation gallery in Chicago, Shame Every Rose: Images of Afghanistan, which will feature a selection of Seamus Murphy’s photographs. The exhibition will run from June through August 2013 and is free and open to the public.

About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit http://www.poetryfoundation.org.

About Everything Afghanistan
“Afghanistan’s recent history is a story of war and civil unrest. A country once prosperous now suffers from enormous poverty, a lack of skilled and educated workers, a crumbling infrastructure, and widespread land mines. It’s being heard about in the news every day but the media approaches this country from its dark side only. Here at Everything Afghanistan we try to show the world the other side of this war torn country. Despite years of bloodshed and destruction, there is still so much beauty that remains unseen.

Here we post about Afghan related things, from politics and events to its culture and traditions. This blog is against the US invasion of Afghanistan.” Amina jalalzei, a.k.a. Vicoden

About Mirman Baheer, the Ladies Literary Society
“Over 300 members of Mirman Baheer, the Ladies Literary Society, stretch across the provinces of Afghanistan. Women write and recite landai, two-line folk poems that can be funny, sexy, raging or tragic and have traditionally dealt with love and grief. For many women, these poems allow them to express themselves free of social constraints and obligations. 5 out of 100 women in Afghanistan graduate from high school, and most are married by the age of 16. This kind of expression is looked down upon in society, forcing the women writing to keep their craft a secret.” The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Meetings of the poetry society are held in Kabul, but with 8 out of 10 Afghanistan women residing in rural areas, many women call in to the meetings. Zarmina Shehadi was one of those callers. She lit herself on fire two years ago. Her family denies her suicide, claiming that she lit herself on fire to get warm after a bath. “She was a good girl, an uneducated girl. Our girls don’t want to go to school,” her mother said. Zarmina is the most recent of Afghanistan’s poet-martyrs.

About the Pultizer Center on Crisis Reporting
The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is an innovative award-winning non-profit journalism organization dedicated to supporting the independent international journalism that U.S. media organizations are increasingly less able to undertake. The Center focuses on under-reported topics, promoting high-quality international reporting and creating platforms that reach broad and diverse audiences. MORE

The Pulitzer Center will present I Am the Begger of the World, a reading and film screening event, on July 30, 2013, at Culture Project in New York City and on Wednesday, July 31, 2013, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Farrar, Straus and Giroux will release I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan in spring 2014.

The primary narrative content for this post is courtesy of The Poetry Foundation.
Examples of Pashto Landay, A form of Afghan poetry courtesy of Everything Afghanistan
“I will die …” Landay courtesy of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
Photo credit ~ Seamus Murphy for The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
Video by Seamus Murphy for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting