I returned last Sunday from a vibrant, difficult, painful at times, but in the end joyous event with more than a hundred men, including gang youth, ex-prisoners, and former addicts. It was the Mosaic Foundation’s men’s conference in the Redwood Forest outside Mendocino, CA. Called “Paths of Initiation,” for a week we dealt with the vital connections between the hearts of men and the soul of nature with song, dance, drumming, poetry, healing practices, martial arts, meditation, and stories. The main teachers were Mosaic founder and gifted storyteller Michael Meade as well as yours truly. We had additional help from Duncan Allard, who taught songs and dances from the musical traditions of the Shona people of Zimbabwe (he also drummed and played the mbira—a magical instrument if ever there was one). Also on hand was Kokou Soglo Katamani, who brought percussive Ewe music and tribal songs from his homeland of Ghana. In addition, Noel Amherd taught essential Aikido skills and the spiritual basis of martial arts that included insights from his writings on Ifa rites and rituals. And Hector Aristizabal, formerly of Colombia, worked with the “wisdom of the body” gleaned from extensive work with the Theater of the Oppressed and the Program for Torture Victims. On top of all this there was plenty of ideas, imaginations, teachings, and cultural interactions. I must say it was an amazing event all around. Participants included groups of young people from Homeboy Industries, Youth Mentoring Connection, Street Poets and others, including from Watts, Compton, Boyle Heights, East LA, and Pico-Union. We had ex-prisoners who did from 17 to 31 years behind bars—they’re now free, helping themselves and others, and becoming assets to our communities. The men were from all races, walks of life, professions, and income levels. The issues they dealt with ran the gamut of incest, war (one man just returned from duty in Iraq), home abuse, street violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and relationships. The common aspect they all had was trouble—in their lives, their psyches, their hearts, the surrounding realities. I’ve been taking part in Mosaic conferences, workshops, youth programs, poetry events, and more for sixteen years. While it appears I’m there to help heal, in particular through my poetry and Native traditional practices, I’m also there to be healed, to address my own rages, to find my own way. I have nothing but gratitude to Michael and all the men—I’m a fuller more congealed person because of these experiences. To find out more about Mosaic’s many events and projects, please go to www.mosaicvoices.org. c/s
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