MEND Season 2 - Episode 41

Cultural Capital

with Lyla June Johnston

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Welcome to another episode of MEND.

As I sit here, recording these words, we’re just coming off a week of watching the daily news unfold around the horrendous proceedings around the border.  

Photographs and stories of children being ripped from their mother’s breast.

Taken, after an arduous journey from their own, war-torn countries, seeking a better life here - being told that their young child is being taken for a bath and then, instead, placed inside a cage or shuffled into the foster system somewhere.  

We are horrified and outraged at what is happening inside this country at this moment - and yet.

And yet.

We are reminded that this is nothing new.

That this is a country that was founded upon slavery.

Upon the systematic genocide and oppression of native peoples.

And while - to our privileged gaze - these atrocities seem like a great departure from our stated values of “justice and liberty for all”, to native people and people of color - they have known that this supposed liberty has only existed for a ruling and privileged few - and usually come at great cost to many.

For this episode, we are greatly honored to welcome Lyla June Johnston.

Lyla June is a poet, musician, human ecologist, public speaker and community organizer of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (tee-say-say-es-ta-hees) (Cheyenne) and European lineages. Her dynamic, multi-genre performance and speech style has invigorated and inspired audiences across the globe towards personal, collective and ecological healing. Her messages focus on Indigenous rights, supporting youth, inter-cultural healing, historical trauma and traditional land stewardship practices. She blends her undergraduate studies in human ecology at Stanford University, her graduate work in Native American Pedagogy at University of New Mexico, and the indigenous worldview she grew up with to inform her perspectives and solutions. Her internationally acclaimed performances and speeches are conveyed through the medium of prayer, hip-hop, poetry, acoustic music and speech. Her personal goal is to grow closer to Creator by learning how to love deeper.

We sat down to speak Culture - and the capital of culture-making, taking, and appropriation with Lyla.

As someone who can speak firsthand to the long-ranging effects of discrimination, oppression, cruelty and genocide… we were blown away by the way in which this amazing woman continued to steer the conversation back toward the themes of Love, Forgiveness, collective healing & Restorative Justice.

At a moment in time, where we may be feeling numbed by the sheer volume of abhorrent news coming at us.

At a moment where we may be feeling collectively overwhelmed and overtaken by feelings of rage or hatred, Lyla June issues forth a clarion call.

To not get stuck inside the hatred.

To not dwell inside the wound.

To not let ourselves go numb.

But rather, to rally ourselves and what capital and currency we carry - in song, prayer, ceremony, or protest - and to walk deeper into this fray.

Armed with our songs.

Armed with our love.

Armed with our vision and deep, abiding wish for a world that looks altogether different than the one we now currently inhabit.

We are honored to share this talk with you today.

The words and story of a woman who had every right to dwell inside the pain and inherited anguish of a colonized and brutalized people.

But who has chosen to live her life as a means of glorious, powerful & heartfelt protest.

May her words and vision inspire you.

And help us to move together toward a culture and a world that may exist only now as a dream or a song.

 

Thanks, as always, for being here.