For fifteen years, I've taken part as a teacher/poet in the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation's annual men's conferences in the Redwood Forest near Mendocino. In that time I've also participated in youth conferences, "Voices of Youth, Voices of Community," "Poetics of Peace," "Walking With," and other Mosaic projects in collaboration with Michael Meade, Mosaic's founder, and teachers such as Jack Kornfield, Orland Bishop, and Malidoma Some. I can't express how valuable these have been for my life, my artistic work, and my community activism. This past week at the Woodlands Camp in Mendocino, I brought with me my almost 21-year-old son Ruben (he'll be 21 next month) to a week-long men's conference. I'm very close with my two youngest sons, Ruben and Luis. I didn't know that there was still room to get closer. Ruben and I had a great time joined by 100 other men (from all walks of life, economic backgrounds, races, sexual orientations, and spiritual paths) who were willing to delve deep, listen, and hold the ground for all the participants. Ruben played a strong role that week. And we learned to see each other in more meaningful and respectful ways. We're already talking about my 15-year-old son Luis taking part in a few years. Both Ruben and I love and care about Luis very much. A strong community of men will be much welcomed. I want to thank all the men who took part, made sure Ruben was attended to, and who assisted all of us who underwent some difficult but necessary struggles, including the teaching staff. In the past, I've had my oldest son Ramiro take part. We were much more estranged and embattled at the time, but I know these experiences have helped us over the years, even as Ramiro underwent twelve years of incarceration in the Illinois Department of Corrections. We've gotten closer in those years, and this kind of powerful teaching, learning, creativity, and imagining has been key. Ramiro is now 34 and should be released in two more years. This experience has also helped me with my daughter, Andrea, who is 32, a single mother, and a hero for me. She's now directing a preschool program and has raised a beautiful, intelligent and talented 13-year-old named Catalina. We've had hard times, Andrea and I, but I know we love each other and somehow manage to finds ways through any hardships. Two weekends ago, my granddaughter Anastasia underwent a Womanhood Ceremony in the Mexika and Lakota native traditions in Illinois. A community of women stepped up to help her with talking circles, sweat lodge ceremonies, and the preparation for her acknowledgment as a young woman. Anastasia is now fifteen. Others wrote letters of support while members of her family--from both her father and mother's side--took part. I thank everyone for being there for Anastasia, in particular the Blazquez Family (Frank, Lou, Tanee and Frankie). Also Camila Thompson, Anastasia's grandmother, and Andrea, who both worked hard to make sure this ceremony would happen. And, of course, special thanks to Anastasia's mother, Laura, and all her family who took part--I'm truly grateful. In addition, earlier this year my other granddaughter, Amanda May, graduated from middle school in Sterling, IL. She's a great student and writer, which I found out when I spoke at her school last year. My grandson, Ricardo, who turns 17 this year, came to the graduation ceremonies with his mother all the way from Orlando, Florida. I couldn't be there, but it was quite the family reunion. In the crush of trying to survive the hard economic and political realities, we have to keep finding healing paths for our families and ourselves. Although I'm personally guided in this by indigenous spiritual practices, I'm open to other cultures and spiritual paths. There's much to learn from connecting and sharing. Presently, my wife Trini and I (and our brother-in-law, Hector Herrera) are preparing to take part in a Vision Quest in the Pine Ridge Reservation this September. This involves the making of prayer ties and doing fasts. I see this as a vital step in our entering a new stage of eldership for our community. Again, I thank Frank and Lou Blazquez for their guidance, and Lakota elder Ed Featherman for his teachings. This is a time of change, but also of healing. c/s
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