Discovering America

By Ken Parks

Groundcover vendor No. 490

In 1891 Jose Marti was writing about Our America based on his experience as a Cuban who spent some years as a journalist in the United States of America. He observed how the giant of the north was concluding 300 years of Indian Wars that began with the Spanish discovery of Turtle Island. They called it the West Indies first but the New World gradually became known as America. As the United States of America developed from Monroe Doctrine to Manifest Destiny, what Marti called Our America began to refer to the USA as the “Other America.”

 If you saw The Godfather you may remember a small  mountain of steps in front of the University of Havana. At the bottom is a traffic circle and small park with a monument and plaque to Jose Antonio Mella. “Struggle for the social revolution in America. It is not a utopia for crazy fanatics. It is a struggle for the next step in the advance of history.” 

 The vision is profound. Most Cubans know these words and look forward to a day of solidarity with all the peoples of America. The Europeans and Africans mix with the many original people who carry the reality of Turtle Island and the knowledge of the Seventh Generation that the ancestors spoke of. You think you are killing us but we are seeds that bear fruit in seven generations.The water protectors of Standing Rock and now Line 3 in Minnesota are active in many states, including Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan.

 There is a growing awareness that America was born on Turtle Island. A good way to start any meeting or social gathering is to honor the caretakers of the land. Ann Arbor has a sign in West Park honoring the Native American Trail. Michigan is on the land of the Three Council Fires, the Anishinabe.

 Are you thinking of land restoration and reparations? How can we take our proper place among the peoples of America? We may begin with a local council fire and offerings of sage, sweet grass and tobacco. The air is still part of the commons we share. To share the land in a way that respects the earth is part of discovering who we really are. We are not who we think we are. We are interrelated in amazing ways yet to be discovered. If we open our curiosity our inner child will help us discover the America that harms no one. 

 It is our everyday life that is the context for great events. Labor Day is an opportunity for many kinds of council fires to celebrate our work lives. We learned a lot about essential workers in the age of COVID-19. Let us celebrate Labor Day by elevating unions to a new expression of participatory democracy. 

 International Day of Peace, officially September 21, will have several days of community events in Ann Arbor. The Commons that includes Library Lane and the space nearby will be a celebration of peace among ourselves and the struggle for freedom that benefits all beings, plant or animal. See the box below with information about the International Day of Peace. Take a breath and connect.

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