The Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards: Honoring a Handful of 2017's Local Heroes

The Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards: Honoring a Handful of 2017's Local Heroes

Welcome one and all to the first semi-annual, fully manual Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards. Thank you for being here, wherever that may be.

These awards were created by me as a way to recognize a handful of Washingtonians who deserve a few extra hand-claps for the way their work and their way of life contributed to positive change in 2017.

The judging process was stringent and unscientific. I created the categories to suit my fancies, and I’ve awarded fake awards to whatever number of people I please. By the end, I’ll have failed to mention just about everyone, so if you find you've been omitted, don’t despair. The pool of nominees was limited to people I know about and managed to think of while writing this, and as a periodic shut-in, that’s not as long a list of names as you might think. For instance, I only finally discovered a few months ago that Chance the Rapper is amazing, if that gives you some idea. So, if you or someone you know has been egregiously overlooked, please get in touch with me and I’m sure I’d be happy to make up some new awards in the near future.

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With largest #NoDAPL camps evacuated, Standing Rock picks up the pieces

I drove back to the #NoDAPL camps at Standing Rock this week.

The Army Corps of Engineers in conjunction with Morton County Law Enforcement issued a deadline of 2 pm Wednesday (Feb. 22) to clear the Oceti Oyate camp (formerly Oceti Sakowin), which sits on contested land, as well as Rosebud camp and part of Sacred Stone, both of which are (were?) on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation but below the flood plane.

I wanted to be present for the deadline, to do what I could to help, and right at 2 p.m. I found myself in the Oceti camp in a pickup truck trying to find two kids who we’d been told needed to get out (and they did).

Two water protectors look out over the evacuated Oceti Oyate camp (formerly Oceti Sakowin) as the 2 p.m. eviction deadline ticks past on Feb. 22, 2016. Photo by  Matt Halvorson .

Two water protectors look out over the evacuated Oceti Oyate camp (formerly Oceti Sakowin) as the 2 p.m. eviction deadline ticks past on Feb. 22, 2016. Photo by Matt Halvorson.

 

The strange thing, though, was that the police were not particularly aggressive in clearing out the camp. They arrested either nine or 10 people Wednesday, depending on which report you read, and I’m told that something like 50 more were arrested the next day when the police came back through and fully cleared the camps.

The police tried to intimidate and definitely inflicted some physical injury, but all in all, the eviction was surprisingly peaceful. It only takes one police officer responding with too much force too quickly, or one person reacting too strongly to seeing his grandmother being handled by the police for violence to erupt and turn a situation like this into a disaster.

Instead, it was peaceful-ish, as policing goes. Or if peaceful isn’t the right word, well, nobody died. The police were not startlingly violent toward the water protectors who chose to stay in camp and pray until the end, which is what I was afraid of. But then, the #NoDAPL movement has never been characterized by fatal violence.

Set aside for a moment the grotesque images of water cannons, rubber bullets and explosives used by police in riot gear in Standing Rock.

During the protests in Ferguson of the past few years, militarized police frequently shot real bullets at Black Lives Matter protesters and occasionally killed them. Even when the PR risk should have steadied their trigger fingers, fatalities were commonplace. On the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s murder, for example, St. Louis Police shot and killed another young black man during that night’s protest.

In Standing Rock, on the other hand, through more than 10 months of steady demonstrations and consistent police confrontation, not one water protector was killed. The police inflicted serious injuries and committed atrocities, but everyone survived.

This has been on my mind for months but hasn’t been something I’ve known how to talk about, partly because I was in Standing Rock bearing witness to much of the police violence that has made the news. And it was painful and traumatic and frightening. But I also made an appearance in Ferguson, and I know that the stakes were more immediate there, though no higher in the long run.

I don't know what it means. Our government and law enforcement certainly have a deep and storied history of killing indigenous people. They just haven't done that in Standing Rock yet, even as they're doing it elsewhere. Maybe it just means that our oppression of people of color has been tailored to each specific community.

Whatever the case, just as happened on Dec. 4 last year when the Army Corps under the Obama administration denied the easement needed for Energy Transfer Partners to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline, this is a time of change and transition for the #NoDAPL camps. Roughly 600 people remained in the camps from mid-December through mid-February, and only a handful of reinforcements arrived this week.

Now many of them are heading home. Many more are staying and continuing the fight on the ground in North Dakota, and a group of committed indigenous activists have promised to continue finding new sites for prayer camps to continue if needed. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, who owns the Sacred Stone land and founded the original camp last April, has vowed to maintain a community on her own land as well, come figurative hell or literal high water.

And everyone who is leaving is leaving profoundly changed, it seems, carrying with them a sense of invigorated spirituality and an empowered sense of capability and responsibility to stand up more fiercely than ever to injustice.

Perhaps my greatest takeaway has been the interconnectedness of movements that had remained, until now, disparate. The issues being raised by #NoDAPL water protectors, indigenous rights advocates, environmental activists, Black Lives Matter protesters, immigrant rights groups, education advocates, workers' rights groups and countless others are all symptoms of the same disease, branches of a tree whose trunk contains the sickness of capitalist greed, colonial entitlement and systemic inequity.

I see the possibility for enormous breakthroughs as our passions are shown more clearly to have a common enemy, and as it becomes harder to ignore that our own liberation is dependent on our neighbor’s.

We’re all in this together — even the police officers and DAPL employees who are following orders in order to maintain an income they’re afraid to lose. Even Trump and everyone who voted for him. We are protecting this water for everyone. We are shouting for everyone’s sake that Black Lives Matter -- not just for the Black men and women who face the greatest immediate risk -- because no life is truly valued by a society that declares some expendable. We are demanding equitable access to high-quality public education because its absence leaves a cavity in our country and our communities.

No matter what you hear in the mainstream media, the #NoDAPL movement isn’t ending. It’s just shifting, dispersing, expanding. Water falls from the sky as millions of individual drops, but those beads of water don’t remain separate. They can’t help but combine, to join together as they touch, and in doing so, to become a roaring, powerful body of water.

We, too, seem like millions of individuals, but we come from the same source, whatever that is. We are intrinsically connected. And when we act out those connections, they deepen, and we awaken the potential of our unified power to overwhelm the hate and division that plagues us now.

As Trump tries to get DAPL finished, Standing Rock responds: "We are just now beginning this fight"

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Donald Trump has signed executive memoranda to authorize the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines.

I spent a month at Standing Rock near the end of last year. The violence visited by militarized police on peaceful everyday people was shocking to see up close.

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As intense and vivid as the encounters were with armored police, the more surreal aspects have been even more jarring to me in the long run. What does it mean that they were there, enforcing a corporation’s desire for profit against a peaceful assembly of real-life citizens? What does it mean that the government never fully intervened, even under Obama?

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and she owns the land on the reservation that borders the much-discussed land controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers. The original camp of water protectors, Sacred Stone, from which the entire #NoDAPL resistance grew, continues to sit on LaDonna’s private land. She has essentially been hosting everyone who has come to Standing Rock and stayed at the camps.

She posted a video on Facebook today addressing the many conflicting reports and the unrest that has grown out of Trump’s DAPL memo. Here is the full transcript:

Good evening, everybody.
I wanted to tell you, it has been a long day. A lot of things have happened.
We started this day with the United Nations listening to testimony on the water protectors and all of the events that happened to our water protectors. Today was hard, listening to the people who were hurt, the damage they received from Morton County Sheriffs and Army National Guard as they stood up for the water. 
But while we were hearing the testimony, we heard the decision from president trump on signing the executive memoranda — they are not executive orders yet, they are executive memoranda — for Dakota Access and XL Pipeline. 
We knew this day was coming.
We are asking everybody to say prayers today to give the people who are standing strength — wherever you are, to pray.
We have started something that we must complete, and that is the healing of our nations. That is the healing of our people.
And how do we do that? We stand up for the water. We continue to stand up for the water. And so I’m asking you to continue to stand with me. Continue to stand for the beautiful rivers, for the beautiful lakes, for the beautiful creeks. Everywhere our water flows, please stand.
We are just now beginning this fight.
My heart hurts for all those that are hurt, all those that have suffered. But I see something in each one of them. I see this strength and this pride. I see a building of a new nation, and so even as we start this new journey, this new fight — because that’s what it is — we must all stand together.
And we will continue to stand, because I will continue to stand.
I will not back down.
I will not back down. We must stand for the water. We have no other choice. When we stand for the water, we stand for the people. We stand for the people, we stand for healing of our nations. It is time for all the nations to be healed.
So, I wanted to let you know that we continue to stand. I know there’s a lot of confusion out there with the proposed closing of the camps — or not closing of the camps — who has jurisdiction? — all of these things.
Sacred Stone is not closing. We’ll be standing. And we ask you to continue to stand with us. All of you are welcome in my home and on my land. You are welcome to come back and you are welcome to stand with us, because we will continue to stand.
Be safe, everyone. Pray hard, because the journey has just begun.

 

Donald Trump is doing so many dangerous, awful things so quickly that we can't afford to spend any time wondering what to do.

However bad things have been, however unfair, however inequitable, however racist, however sexist, however dangerous Amurrica already was… it’s worse. Trump has his foot on the accelerator of the DeLorean and we are screaming at 88 mph toward the alternate timeline where Biff has the almanac and everything is disgusting and awful. (In fact, Trump might be Biff with the Almanac. I’ll look into that more soon.)

This is what it's like to use a port-a-potty during a blizzard in North Dakota. Photo by Lindsay Hill. 

This is what it's like to use a port-a-potty during a blizzard in North Dakota. Photo by Lindsay Hill. 

My friend Nic Cochran has been in Standing Rock throughout this brutal winter. He would love to go home and be warm indoors back home in West Virginia. He's tired. He acknowledges this. And he called Trump's memorandum "an executive order to stay."

The time is now for all of us everywhere. It’s like every movie. Goodness is under assault, truly. Find a way to stand up against it. Be brave. Be safe if you can, but be brave no matter what. Safety isn’t an option for everyone.

Here's an easy place to start. Join Seattle's visionary leader, Kshama Sawant, who has helped organize an action on Feb. 11 to demand that the Seattle City Council boycott Wells Fargo until it withdraws its DAPL funding: Stop Trump! Boycott Wells Fargo, NoDAPL!

Day 7 at Standing Rock: Judgement Day

About the Music: “Judgement Day”

From the musician, Cee Goods:

The energy feels like it's coming soon. People are going to have to make conscious decisions of how they want our future to look. Are you with good? Or are you with greed?

An old Lakota prophecy says that a black snake will tear through the continent, ravaging the Earth and endangering all life on the planet if it is allowed to take hold. Similar prophecies exist across many different tribes, as do foretellings of the importance of the Seventh Generation in defeating the serpent and preserving life on Earth.

Many believe that the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is the fabled black snake.

I have gotten to know a number of strong, proud, brilliant young Lakota men and women during my time here. They're a little younger than me, which makes them part of the seventh generation of their people to be born since their first contact with white European invaders. I'm not alone in sensing the power that flows through them from their ancestors. If you met them, I think you, too, would believe that we have all been called here to fight for Mother Earth as brothers and sisters.

We are the Black Snake Killers.

From Chief Arvol Looking Horse of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nation:

"A "disease of the mind" has set in world leaders and many members of our global community, with their belief that a solution of retaliation and destruction of peoples will bring Peace.

In our Prophecies it is told that we are now at the crossroads: Either unite spiritually as a Global Nation, or be faced with chaos, disasters, diseases, and tears from our relatives' eyes.

We are the only species that is destroying the Source of Life, meaning Mother Earth, in the name of power, mineral resources, and ownership of land, using chemicals and methods of warfare that are doing irreversible damage, as Mother Earth is becoming tired and cannot sustain any more impacts of war.

I ask you to join me on this endeavour. Our vision is for the Peoples of all continents, regardless of their beliefs in the Creator, to come together as one at their Sacred Sites to pray and meditate and commune with one another, thus promoting an energy shift to heal our Mother Earth and achieve a universal consciousness toward attaining Peace.

As each day passes, I ask all Nations to begin a global effort, and remember to give thanks for the Sacred Food that has been gifted to us by our Mother Earth, so the nutritional energy of medicine can be guided to heal our minds and spirits.

This new millennium will usher in an age of harmony or it will bring the end of life as we know it. Starvation, war, and toxic waste have been the hallmark of the Great Myth of Progress and Development that ruled the last millennium.

To us, as caretakers of the heart of Mother Earth, falls the responsibility of turning back the powers of destruction. You yourself are the one who must decide.

You alone - and only you - can make this crucial choice, to walk in honour or to dishonour your relatives. On your decision depends the fate of the entire World.

Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind.

Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger?

Know that you yourself are essential to this World. Believe that! Understand both the blessing and the burden of that. You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this World. Did you think you were put here for something less? In a Sacred Hoop of Life, there is no beginning and no ending!"

Day 6 at Standing Rock: Life is Sweet

About the Music: “Life is Sweet”

(co-produced by Old Gold; vocals by @frankstickemz - aka Flowzavelt)

From the musician, Cee Goods:
Life is sweet. We value our lives. They can try and attack with any means of weaponry, but it does not match the level of commitment to stopping this pipeline. Our lives are worth too much.

(The following are actual text messages I sent to Spencer (aka Cee Goods) on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. It was too hectic to write anything coherent.)

"Please share, protest, donate - do whatever you can do. What is happening at Standing Rock is happening to all of us... whether we realize it or not."

"I fell asleep sitting up in my car from about 430 to 630. Woke up and something was going down off in the main camp in the distance. Police cars, and a call for all the protectors to come to the bridge [on Highway 1804, which has been blockaded and closed for several weeks]."

"Police are definitely here, but it's not clear if they are the perpetrators or if it's DAPL."

"Can't get through on twitter or Facebook right now. Two planes and a helicopter circling constantly right now. Lots of people shot with both gas and rubber bullets in face and chest. People have gotten tear-gassed, they're using a water cannon to soak people and things."

"Concussion grenades and rubber bullets. Shit is going down. Someone has already left in an ambulance. There are no reporters or news outlets here."

Day 5 at Standing Rock: The Stand-Off

About the Music: “The Stand-Off”

From the musician, Cee Goods:
How much can we take? Something has to give. We pursue with positivity, but has it reached a limit? Do we retaliate with the same energy that is received? Energy is shifting. Something is on the horizon.

We are here as protectors, not protesters. This young man threw himself down onto the tracks separating militarized police from peaceful demonstrators, a visible act of prayer.

As we eventually tried to leave the scene, however, police advanced. People were sprayed at point-blank range with OC gas -- a riot-caliber tear gas used in prisons. Women and Native elders were accosted and thrown to the ground. Many were arrested, many were injured.

It is said that capitalism becomes fascism when the government begins protecting the interests of corporations over people. We have long-since crossed that threshold. Please stand with Standing Rock to take back the power from the corrupt, morally bankrupt oil barons and give it to the people.

Our country was founded on a genocide of the indigenous people, and our legacy of "freedom" has been built on oppression and lies.

Will you stand by as our government attempts to quietly break another treaty? Will you stand by as our president-elect promises to abuse his power and double down on racist division and oppression?
Or will you stand with all people, with the Earth itself, by standing with Standing Rock?

Let's make America great again, just like it was when we found it.

Gwen Frost is a student in Bellingham, Wash. She grew up in Portland, Ore. She was sprayed in the eyes at point-blank range with OC gas by police in Mandan, ND. Why? Because she is peacefully standing up for what she believes is right, and that goes against the interests of the biggest pile of money.

Day 4 at Standing Rock: DreamsVille

About the Music: “DreamsVille”

From the musician, Cee Goods:
What foundation is this country built on? What values do we hold true for the land? Is it all but a dream? Do we as Americans live in a fantasy world? The harsh reality is nothing is ever what it seems.

The American flag is supposed to be hung upside down only in times of dire distress. I took this photo in Camp Oceti Sakowin at Standing Rock the morning after Trump's election, but every American flag in the community had been signaling distress for months.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL (pronounced dapple), is the source of this distress, the source of the evil that is being confronted.

DAPL is spraying the camps with chemicals from low-flying planes at night. They have donated poisoned food. They are surveilling and infiltrating the camp.

They have herded up most of the wild buffalo in the region and are keeping them in pens without food or water. Sixteen had already died as of a couple days ago. I'm sure many more have already been lost.

The protest action that makes the news is real, but it is a distraction. The police are just a pawn in this game, and the fate of Mother Earth is at stake. The real atrocities are being generated and perpetrated by DAPL, the vastly monied corporation the police are protecting at the expense of the people.

We need your help. We are under constant attack. We are in dire distress, and so is our nation. Please stand with Standing Rock today by turning your flag upside down.

Day 3 at Standing Rock: End of Trump

About the Music: “End of Trump”

From the musician, Cee Goods:
High intensity, ready for anything. Will reach what you seek by any means necessary.

I took the above photo while wearing ear protection, eye protection and a surgical mask, standing across the railroad tracks from a row of militarized police assembled in a line to face off with peaceful demonstrators. Armed with tanks, sound cannons, tear gas, tasers, batons and guns, they flex their muscle against the people they are sworn to protect, instead defending the interests of a corporation.

They stand against the people as a symbol of capitalist greed and fear, misguided stormtroopers defending a dark empire.

Even more powerful than their terrible might and aggression is the power of love and prayer being reflected back at them. We are protecting this water for those officers, too, and for their children. And we've told them so. And then they've attacked.

We pray that love will replace the fear and that our connection to the earth and each other can overcome the divisiveness that stands in our path.

10 Days, 10 Photos, 10 Songs: An Awareness Campaign for Standing Rock

For the next 10 days, I am collaborating on a Standing Rock awareness campaign with Cee Goods (who also happens to be my brother-in-law). He will be creating one instrumental track each day, each based on a photo I have taken at Standing Rock. This will end on Thanksgiving, because the way of life and respect for the land that the Native Americans have always fought for and tried to preserve still rings true today.

Day 1: "Dark Love"
Day 2: "K.I.N.G.S."
Day 3: "End of Trump"
Day 4: "DreamsVille"
Day 5: "The Stand Off"
Day 6: "Life is Sweet"
Day 7: "Judgement Day"
Day 8: "Diamond"
Day 9: "Major Keys"
Day 10: "Kings Return"