NOLA to Toronto Friday, Jul 29 2011 

Like with the G20 last summer, every once in awhile my eyes are drawn back to Toronto. Right now, at 330a, in Toronto there is a people’s filibuster going on. Hundreds of people are crowded into meeting rooms at Toronto City Hall to present deputations to the City’s Executive Committee.

As usual, Mayor Ford blusters. As he mispronounces everyone’s name, at least those that aren’t pure WASPy in nature, he apologizes. But his apology seems half-hearted. He cuts off speakers, even though he starts their time while they’re still pulling out their chair to sit at the mic. Councillors are given a minute; when applause continued after one speaker he told Councillor Joe Mihevc that since “they are your people” he didn’t get to ask his question, even though Joe clearly couldn’t speak overtop of the clamour.

I’m watching via the 680 news site, and reading the Twitter feeds at #TOCouncil and #TOpoli. People have been following this all day. Some people have been in the room all day. It is unprecedented; in my years of organizing around city budget’s I never saw this happen. People were cut off, council refused to sit etc. Of course, that was before there was a central committee that we were allowed to speak to. The city scattered us through the various committees which spread us out and pitted us against each other.

I’m so tired, they’re on speaker of 206 of 300. But I’m staying up to watch until everyone has had a chance to speak.

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August Reader’s Digest Thursday, Jul 21 2011 

Hey folks

For those of you in Canada please pick up a copy of the August Reader’s Digest — its the one with a green cover and Colm Feore on the front. There is a story I wrote about the St. Bernard Project, St. Bernard Parish and the course at Ryerson that I teach with Pascal. It includes a photo of some of this year’s students and quotes from students from all of the years so far.

Tanya

Southern Decadence Wednesday, Jul 13 2011 

I have an article published in Frontiers Magazine (based in Los Angeles) about Southern Decadence.

Southern Decadence

Some of the attractions in the Sunday parade

“Six years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Southern Decadence is celebrating its 40th anniversary this Labor Day. LGBTs from across the world will be flocking to the French Quarter for a weekend of drinking, partying, parades, bead tossing and fun.

In a town known for its parties and fun—after all, where else can you get a ‘to-go cup’ when you leave a bar and wander the streets—Southern Decadence takes the party to a whole new level.

Picture this: a street crowded with hundreds of bears, twinks, leathermen, drag queens, buff boys and a few dykes thrown in for good measure. Half-naked, leather-chaps-wearing, muscular, tanned men for blocks. Sandy Sachs, owner of the Bourbon Pub and Parade, says, “So many men, so little time.”

Billed as the “Gay Mardi Gras,” Southern Decadence’s theme for 2011 is “Viva New Orleans: What Happens in New Orleans Stays in New Orleans.” And while rainbows are prominent during Pride in June, the Southern Decadence colors this year are fuscia, black and silver.”

Read the rest of the article at:

http://www.frontiersla.com/Columns/Travel/Story.aspx?id=1454137

This too shall pass Tuesday, Jul 12 2011 

There are many versions of this story floating around the net. Mine is taken from my good friend Chris Cavanagh.

King Solomon once commanded his councillors to fashion him a ring and
inscribe on it something that when read would turn his mood of joy to sorrow,
and a mood of sorrow to joy. The councillors worried over this conundrum for
some time and after much thought and work presented Solomon with a ring. Solomon
took the ring and was pleased when he read the inscription: This Too Shall
Pass.

And with that in mind, I recently had the phrase tattooed on my arm. It is something to remind me of the transitory nature of life.

Blessed By Love <3 Saturday, Jul 9 2011 

I am truly blessed by the people in my life.

Several months ago a friend raised money for expenses for a family to travel with their loved one for surgery in another province. Another friend was the recipient of a fundraising campaign for orthothics that were delisted from their province’s health coverage. I had the funds to chip into one but not the other, but in the end both were successful. I’ve also heard of people getting sponsors for their wedding or other special events online.

It made me think — what about me? I set up a ChipIn account, but then was too embarrassed to do anything about it. I couldn’t actually go through with asking people for money.

But yesterday I did. I bit the bullet. I emailed out my chip-in page and asked people to contribute. And they did.

From a friend who gave me the last $6.15 he had in his PayPal account to someone who within minutes had sent me $500, my friends came through. It’s at about $1000 now and more is coming in.

Last night I had the first sleep in a long time without worrying about bills and money. I know that my aching tooth can get filled this week. Utilities (especially AC in 40+C heat will stay on). Today I registered for the Rising Tide Bloggers conference which is a key event for those of us who write about New Orleans.

The letter I emailed out was simple:

Hey folks

While normally I raise money for other causes, today I am writing to ask for your support for me. As you know doing a PhD is a great deal of work. The more time I spend on it, the less time I have to earn money through other sources. It is unusual — and quite hard — for me to ask for money from my friends and colleagues, but recent circumstances have made it necessary to take this step.

I’m asking each of you to think about this and consider making a small donation. Even $20 goes a long way these days.

 http://phd4tanya.chipin.com/tanyas-phd (or email money transfer or PayPal to falcngrl@gmail.com)

What do you get in return? My undying love and gratitude primarily. And a place to stay in New Orleans.  But overall, I believe I work hard for many communities. A PhD will enable me to continue to do that work. So your contribution is an investment in creating change.

 Thanks and love

Tanya

Tanya Gulliver
Blogs: toronto2nola.wordpress.com and love2nola.wordpress.com
Twitter: @TanyaMGulliver

I’ve always tried to be a good person and to put myself out there in the world. The feedback that has come in with the money, means as much as the money.

Someone said “You embody the principles of “paying it forward” through your generosity, community work and sheer energy. I learned a lot from you via PWAC and my short time on the board. Can’t wait to see where your PhD takes you… and the rest of us.”

Another wrote: “You’re the best cause I can think of.”

A third said “I know you are dedicated to your life passion and it’s one that I believe in. Your a blessing in this world T. I get paid on a regular basis into paypal, and while I still have very little funds to cover my own bills, I’ll contribute a bit whenever I can.  *you* are a worthwhile cause because you’re a primary example and friend in my life that truly knows how to pay it forward. Best of luck to you.”

I’ve been surprised by some of the people who have contributed. (Well, really, I’m surprised by all of them because I didn’t know that this would work!). They are people I have worked with or for, people I have served with on boards or in staff positions — even one person who I have never met face to face but have known in online communities for almost 15 years sent me $50.

I feel blessed beyond belief. My heart has been full of joy today and my eyes full of tears. I love my friends.

Maybe We All Are Friday, Jul 8 2011 

There’s a scene towards the end of Mississippi Burning when the FBI agents find that the Mayor has hung himself.

Agent Bird says to Agent Ward: I don’t understand why he did it. He wasn’t in on it. He wasn’t even Klan.
Ward: Mr. Bird, he was guilty. Anyone’s guilty who lets these things happens and pretends like it isn’t. No, he was guilty all right. Just as guilty as the fanatics who pulled the trigger. Maybe we all are.

Living in New Orleans, especially living in St. Bernard Parish presents me with lots of opportunities to reflect on issues of race. The parish I live in was a ‘white flight’ suburb; created in large part by whites fleeing the Lower Ninth ward as more African-Americans moved in and purchased homes. Pre-Katrina it was 93% white. It’s a community that post-Katrina tried to pass  ‘blood relative law’for housing so that rentals could only be made to blood relatives.

Today is the 16th anniversary of my brother’s murder; a racist killing. I told the story last year so I won’t repeat it but it’s here for anyone who didn’t read it then. Watching Mississippi Burning tonight and thinking about the anniversary of Tyler’s death made me realize that I hadn’t written my reflection of my Civil Rights trip to Alabama in May with my students. I know some of them did but here are a few thoughts, mostly in pictures, from me.

It was one of the most profound experiences of my life.

It was my third trip to the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama; a town that’s mostly known for being the centre of so many civil rights actions. My first trip was with Pascal Murphy, my co-instructor, as we drove to New Orleans. On my second, he and I and most of our students did a day trip (5+ hours each way, not recommended). This year I took 11 students for an overnight trip. We did the Civil Rights Memorial, the Greyhound Bus Station where they had just opened the Freedom Riders Museum, Martin Luther King parsonage and church, and then drove from Montgomery to Selma; the reverse of the famous Civil Rights March. In Selma, we walked over the Edmund Pettus Bridge; silently, two by two. 

Students celebrate as we pass into Mississippi.

Martin Luther King quote outside Civil Rights Memorial

The Memorial is designed so that you put your hand in the water and look to see your reflection as you trace the names of civil rights heroes and martyrs. The space, shown here, is left to represent all those battles and people not inscribed. The motto is "The March Continues..."

Words to live by. I often question "what would I have done" if I had been a teenager/young adult in the 1960s, especially if I was born in the United States.

Joining into the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March...

Students crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge, 2 by 2, silently. Only tears, no words, were shed.

After our check-in at the foot of the bridge, we all put our hands together - black, white and asian - and pledged to "Keep on Walking Forward, Never Turning Back"

There is a scene in a movie we watched at the Selma to Montgomery Trail Interpretative Centre where one of the marchers talks about standing on a rock. The camera zooms in and shows a small pebble. Each of us took a pebble for ourselves, and a pebble for all the students who hadn’t come on the trip. Mine sits on top of my TV where I see it as I pass by everyday. It’s a vivid reminder of all that we experienced.

As I told my students these battles are not far over. The US Civil Rights Act was signed only a few years before I was born. As a queer woman – and indeed even as a woman – I have been harassed and discriminated against. My brother’s killing was only 16 years ago. Battles continue to be fought.

We need to figure out what our role is in the civil rights battle. If we do nothing, then indeed “maybe we all are”.

(Wild) Life in New Orleans Thursday, Jul 7 2011 

…and no, I’m not talking about Bourbon Street 🙂

When I first came to New Orleans a few years ago, I was struck by the silence. You didn’t hear much traffic, no kids played, no dogs barked, no birds chirped. It has changed, there is more traffic for sure…some people have dogs. Kids are slowly coming back although it is very slow. And occasionally, you hear a bird. Or an insect.

But overall, it continues to be incredibly quiet, especially when compared to the Don Valley where I lived last before moving here. In Toronto, birds woke me every morning, racoons battled for garbage at night, foxes regularly crossed the street as I drove home, I saw deer occasionally, and every day there were hundreds of squirrels.

This is one of my bedroom windows (fragile obviously, I touched it and half a window pane fell out the other night).  The vine that grows on the screen, combined with wind I assume, has peeled the screen back in several spots.

bedroom window

Recently, I found a bird making a nest in the sill, between the screen and the window itself.  She’s a Mourning Dove, a fairly common bird. From my reading, I understand that both the male and female incubate the eggs but I haven’t seen them switch (although Mama does fly away sometimes) so I am going to refer to her always as Mama Bird.

momma bird

The other day, when she was gone for awhile I looked in the nest and found the eggs she is hatching.

And then this morning, before I had raised the blinds, I saw what looked like a leaf shaking and jumping on the vine. But I knew there were no leaves there. When I lifted it I saw one of the Green Anoles that are everywhere here. I took a picture, and left the room. When I came back in, the anole was in the same spot but was now green instead of brown (they do change colours). When I looked closer though, I realized it was two anoles mating. The male, very green, and the female, light brown.

Front view of anoles - note the two tails, multiple arms...

The distinct colours are more visible from the side…and I love the male anole’s expression 😉

Side view of mating anoles

These two signs of life outside my window give me hope. They are signs of new life being brought into this area. A sign of rebirth and change.

Mourning in New Orleans Saturday, Jul 2 2011 

Set your speakers on 10 and click play while you read the rest of the blog.

Watching Treme this season has really pulled at my heartstrings and got me thinking about death and mourning in NOLA. There have been several funerals, wakes and memorials for members of the community. There were a few last year as well; death and NOLA seem to go hand in hand at times, especially post-K.

While I knew about the tradition of a jazz funeral and the procession and second line that followed, I was unaware of the tradition at Mardi Gras of scattering ashes in the Mississippi River during the Sainte Anne’s parade. I need to make sure to go to that next Fat Tuesday.

The Krewe’s website explains: “Before dying, friends asked to participate posthumously in one last Ste. Anne celebration, and so, after Rex passed on Canal Street, the Ste. Anne parade-goers would make a turn and carry their ashes to the river. On the banks of the Mississippi, Schindler, Poché and others would first dip the ribboned hula-hoops in the water and sweep them back over the people gathered behind, sprinkling droplets over the crowd in a kind of baptism. Then they would set the ashes of their friends upon the water.”

This scene was captured beautifully this season when Toni took Creighton’s ashes to be scattered (if you don’t watch Treme, two main characters). There was something so sacred and beautiful about the ribboned hula hoops sprinkling the water…very similar to a baptism ritual in Christianity, or a blessing in many churches. But to me scattering of ashes…dust to dust…is so poetic.

The show also re-enacted the funeral of Dinerral Shavers, a member of the Hot 8 Brass Band who was killed at the end of 2006. They seem to have done it right as they do with so much of the show. Not only is it based on the descriptions of those that were there, but Glen David Andrews who was one of the last to see Dinerral, and Dinerral’s own sister who gave her eulogy again, played roles in the show, as did members of the Hot 8 Brass Band. There is a moment during the funeral when the musicians all lift their instruments above their heads; completely chilling and spine-tingling.

On the latest episode of Treme a wake of sorts is held for one of the musicians who died at the end of the previous episode. A few songs really stood out for me in this episode…One is Jon Cleary’s Frenchman Street Blues. It’s a song he wrote for a friend’s funeral and he revives it for a tribute to Harley.

Sprinkle my tears on Frenchmen Street. Don’t be upset at the news. Don’t cut me loose with a soulful song. And don’t play no Frenchmen Street Blues. It’s been a ride on the river breeze. With leaves and fields so green. I join the spirits lookin’ down on the smilin’. On the back streets of old New Orleans.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken was the other one that stood out. It reminded me of this scene towards the end of Boys on the Side…one that never fails to make me cry. It also builds on the theme of death and mourning.

Down by The Bayou Friday, Jul 1 2011 

As I sit here surrounded by the four walls that keep me safe
I am reminded that nothing could ever escape
The catastrophe that I might never feel.
 
Ignorance kept me in the dark from that which I did not want to see
From that which I did not want to bear the pain or participate in the reliving of.
 
The knowledge gained through written words was nothing
Compared to the enlightenment I have experienced
Still having a lot to learn.
 
Little did I know that the eerie sugar plantation down by the levee
Would bombard my dreams with anonymous laughter – willing me to return.
 
Observing in silence the aftermath of an indirect genocide –
A graveyard of cypress in high tide.
 
Flooding me with the incessant sounds of the lives lost
The undeniable helplessness of  too many naked souls
And the unexplainable capacity of immorality
Who is held responsible and what punishments will be doled out?
 
All my senses have been assaulted with raw emotion
From the most wretched of feelings of loss and destruction
To the happiest hope of  salvation
And the simple human connection between perfect strangers.
 
It matters not of what I have known prior to this
Nor does it matter what will await after
It is the here and now, safe and sound.
Yet utterly vulnerable.
 
The guilt that harbours within the cage of my body
Feeling unworthy to help rebuild something that I am so blessed to have, is painful.
It worsens when I am treated with so much kindness.
 
But I shall soon discover being stripped away from preconceived notions
Away from judgmental stares
And away from all that I have ever known
I am who I am and am accepted for what little I bring forth.
 
Never have I felt to this extent feeling of such contradiction –
It kills me and yet brings me back to life.
It digs agonizingly deep into the most hidden crevices of my psyche
Then inspires my heart to burst into a million pieces from blissful joy.
 
I much rather feel the latter at all times
But the ups would not be well appreciated without the downs
And the motivation would lessen without history.
 
I can see the Spanish moss from an overhang
The faint aromatic scent of tall grasses and swampy water fills my being
And I am temporarily transported to where I left a piece of myself.
 
Anonymous Laughter
 
 
 
 

Happy Canada Day Friday, Jul 1 2011 

For the American followers of this blog, and those two or three Canadians who have yet to see “Canadian, Please” – Happy Canada Day!!

Step 1) Lose the gun

Step 2) Buy a canoe

Step 3) Live multiculturally

Step 4) You’re ready, there is no more.

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