Friday, September 7, 2007

Coming of Age: When Your Family Acts Up in Public... Laugh Clown Laugh

As I stated in an earlier blog, I’m a nationalist. With that philosophy comes a considerable sense of self-determination and self-sufficiency. Part of that is a sense of having your own stake in the game so to speak. In this case, it’s media. As I tell my students all the time, “those who document the present control the memory of the future.” It is normal for people who are of one social, cultural and ethnic set of norms to view others with a certain confusion, misunderstanding, and at times, even a fear. For example, I site Margaret Meade’s Coming of Age in Samoa, (first published in 1928), where her own Euro-American point of view seriously colored her assessment of what she observed about Samoan adolescents and sexuality. Her text is still widely regarded in academic circuits and is still the bane of many Samoan-born anthropologists and sociologists academic existence, as Meade’s ethnocentrisms, despite her unusually iconoclastic and liberal upbringing by academics, it was simply a matter of the fact that she didn’t understand what she was observing.

With this in mind, I have to thank Peter Kenney for inspiring me to start a blog on Cape Cod Today. Reading his accounts and twists of the Mashpee Wampanoag’s issues and problems, as well as the fact that he has decided to chose sides, made me revisit my own philosophy. Should the only outside voice and documentation of a people be the voice of an outsider? Particularly if it’s a hostile, sensationalists documentation? After years of watching him on public access and short, seemingly pleasant exchanges in the halls of the Yarmouth community television station, I have a fair sense that Mr. Kenney lacks Dr. Meade’s social advantages and educational background, it would stand to reason that there needs to be a flood of Wampanoag, native, and or people of color in general blogging, sharing ideas, points of view, and insight.

DISCLAIMER: I by no means am a spokesman for the tribe, nor do I purport to hold the opinion of the tribe in my hand. We are far from the monolithic group of people that writings and comments from readers would suggest. I’m simply one Wampanoag who happens to be a writer. I also happen to be one of the members of the tribe who chooses not to ignore my ethno-cultural heritage, hence I have always (much to the chagrin and disdain of some of my fellow tribal members) identified myself as a Black Wampanoag. Understanding that it’s the responsibility of everybody to support their community, I took on the roll of Chairman of Education. I happen to be a Peters, but my family has last names like Hicks, Hendricks, Oakley, Mills, Bearse, Helms, Tobey, Boardley, Haynes, Cash, Turner, Avant, Pocknett, Coombs, Frye, Sturgis, Harris, Green, and all derivatives there of. Amelia Bingham is my aunt, my late father’s eldest sister. Glenn Marshall is my cousin, as we have the same great-grandmother (Amelia Peters). So don’t expect me to always agree with my family and by the same token, don’t expect me to turn my back on or denounce my family, who’ve been there for me in times of difficulty. So on this disclosure, understand that my point of view is subjective, just like the opinion of an outsider. Removed does not mean objective as all people bring their baggage and critical thinking skills (or lack there of) to any situation.

When your family fights in public, it cab be very embarrassing. When your family humiliates themselves in public, that also can be humiliating. But worst of all is when your families dirty laundry ends up being aired by them through other people. Of course, there’s always the factor of what goes around comes around... karma... don’t do unto others... A while back, I fell upon a blog called Wamp Facts. However, it was a lengthy comment attached to the past posting by my cousin, Paula, that prompted me to think about this. I love my cousin Paula, as she is always well meaning and passionate about her convictions even though I don’t agree with them at all. But the passion of her last post reminded me of my father’s funeral, when she jumped up and delivered an impromptu Eulogy that was well intentioned, heart-felt, a little narcissistic (a family trait, I suppose) and at the same time wildly embarrassing (like when she referred to my son as my father’s great-grandson... unless she was subtly accusing my {then} wife of having an affair with one of my nephews...). This too shall pass.

It’s amazing what the media chooses to ignore. For example, we just had a very successful summer program, A Mashpee Wampanoag Summer Thing where we addressed the social, cultural and academic development of a group of youth from the tribe and launched the beginnings of a youth council... it get’s no ink or screen time. We had a Wamp Pride Day on September 1st, bringing together the tribe as a community for a wonderful outdoor event including an old fashion softball game, basket ball tournament, cookout, and subsequent dance at the Sons of Italy. No coverage. Not even a mention if the Barnstable County Report. The press was invited to both events, but I guess since it lacked the pageantry of the event of powwow, no fights took place, no law enforcement involved, it wasn’t news. Oh well, this too shall pass... or make a really funny story years from now.

There’s a West African proverb, of Ghana origins I believe, "When two brothers fight over the farm, strangers always reap the harvest." I think we need to catch a clue from this. It’s nation time. We need to come together behind Shawn Hendricks and ready him and ourselves for the things to come, good and bad. Holding our leadership accountable means being accountable, as I advised on a comment in Wamp Facts, become a part of the solution for the good of US and those we impact. Yeah, it's nation time. Renovating a house doesn't always mean tearing it down, sometimes it just means replacing boards, and walls, pillars and posts. Get me? It’s nation time.

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