My recent talks and reconnecting with old friends

I had two amazing events last week--one in Albuquerque where I did the morning keynote address to the New Mexico Conference for Boys and Young Men, and the other at the campus of California State University, San Marcos, as part of their Native American/Social Justice Month.

In New Mexico this work involved Native spiritual and traditional rites of passage and ceremonies. Many tribes were represented in the event from the US, but also Chicanos and people from Mexico and Central America (as well as European Americans, African Americans, and others). In attendance was my long-time friend and lifesaver Katrina Coker, a Muscogee Creek Native woman and activist (she helped in my last sobriety effort, which has now taken me to almost 16 years of being clean and sober). Her 15-year-old son also took part in the conference (she has another 3-year-old). It's been a while since I've seen them so I was very pleased this could happen--it's as if we never lost track of each other.

I also hanged around another old friend Albino Garcia, a Chicano (Chichimeca and Lipan Apache tribes) who has helped create La Plazita Institute that now has a cafe and a cultural center. His house has also been a Native sweat lodge and ceremonial center there in the middle of the barrio. I've known Albino for many years, including his son, Albino, Jr., who works at the Native American Cultural Academy (NACA), a charter school for Native children of all tribes that Katrina Coker also works at.

Albino, Sr. was also one of the organizers of the conference. Another organizer, Paul Golding, has taken part in the Men's Conferences I do every year in Mendocino, CA for the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation of Seattle, WA with storyteller Michael Meade, Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, and urban healer Orland Bishop.

It turned out to be an amazing time with a panel following my talk of young and older men that included a couple of Chicano and Native youth. I also got to visit NACA, which is doing a wonderful job providing Native cultural traditions and knowledge with modern technology and experience. I also met Keah, a Hawaiian native who works at NACA and has many years of work with gang intervention/prevention work.

The trip to San Marcos, CA (in the San Diego area) had the added blessing of my wife Trini joining me. It's rare and hard for Trini to get away from Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore work. But she needs to more often. I spoke to two classes about social justice, Native spirituality (including the Mayan prophecy linked to 2012), and the struggle now to be whole and fully human as we enter a new age, a new time, a new imagination. I also took part in talks with students and in a very cool poetry reading event that was packed (about 200 people). I got to read my poetry but more interesting was the amazing poetry of the young people who read as well. Poetry is alive and will in San Marcos, CA.

Trini was also being sought for her wisdom and stories--Trini is an old Mechista, Raza Unida pioneer, and long-time revolutionary and indigenous spiritual guide. Many of the women wanted to hear about her experiences as a Chicana leader and teacher, and current heart-and-soul of Tia Chucha's.

I also saw another old friend, one of my teachers from 35 years ago, Ed Carillo, who came to the poetry reading with his wife Blanca. His daughter Sonya just had a baby--congratulations to Sonya, her husband, and to Ed.

On stage, Ed read a poem during the Open Mic section, with maracas and a conga drummer from Brazil. He also related a story about when we first met and how I almost fought with my homeboys because I insisted I would one day write a book about my life and the barrio (I don't remember this incident). It was a funny story. I'm glad Ed is still out there helping war veterans (Ed is a Vietnam vet), the homeless, and others.

The last night, I delivered a talk for the Arts & Lectures series that centered around the present change we're seeing in the country and the world, and how we must choose to live in balance and respect of all life, all people, and the earth/cosmos. We've lived far too long with war, patriarchy, scarcity, and injustice. We now have the technology/imagination to build a foundation of a new world. Our awareness and actions now need to align to these immense possibilities.

This is the heart of the Mayan Prophecy, what most Native prophecies seem to be all about. For the Mayan's the concept is In'Lak-ech--you are the other me.

I thank Tim Bills and the other organizers for pulling this together. Tim was a most gracious host.

Eventually, Trini and I had to leave, but we made many new amazing friends in San Marcos--and we also got to drive to Carlsbad Beach and walk the shore a couple of mornings. I'm now hunkering down to finish writing my new book, due next spring, and catch up on tons of mail, emails, and Tia Chucha's fundraising and outreach.

Meantime, we wish you all a safe and wonderful holiday season.


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