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ABC NEWS Has Come Through For Pine Ridge

Over a year ago, I was contacted by a researcher/producer for ABC News.  She had found one of my blog entries (in which I was chastising ABC for not paying attention to the disasters in the west, especially on the reservations).  She told me they were working on a Diane Sawyer prime time special in her “A Hidden America” series.  The prior one had been on life in Appalachia.  This time they were planning to profile Pine Ridge Reservation.

Those of you who have been reading my blog will know that there is not much that fires up my hopefully righteous passion more than talking about life on Pine Ridge Reservation.  So talk we did, for almost an hour.  And we emailed – resources that they might find helpful.

I had heard that Diane Sawyer was out on the rez this past summer when I was there (no, we didn’t happen to cross paths traveling the approximately 2 million acres on the rez.  But I did here that she went up to KILI Radio one of the days I was there.  Try to keep that quiet when you’re talking to DJ’s.

I am giving you a link to the promo for the show.  Please, if you have ever enjoyed or been moved by anything I have written, I implore you to watch the 20/20 program on Friday at 10 PM.  See with your own eyes the good and the bad of Pine Ridge.  You may not find it possible but this place does exist.  I have been there and I suspect they will not tell you the worst story nor show you the poorest homes.  But it will still be worse than you expect.  After all, the living conditions on Pine Ridge rival those in Haiti and the life expectancy on Pine Ridge rivals that of Burundi.

I work for an organization that works to support self-sufficiency – not an easy thing to have on Pine Ridge.  Many of us work to keep the dam from breaking by trying to improve the life of one person at a time.  The big picture can be truly overwhelming.

If you can’t watch the show when it airs, record it or have a friend record it for you.

I will be honest.  I prayed for someone with greater reach than mine to focus attention on the needs of Pine Ridge.  I did not know (or care) who it would be.  I am grateful to ABC News because I know that if more people see the conditions, they will be moved to respond.  I believe in the American people and I know in my heart that things can improve.  I do not have the answers but I know it can be done.

Thank YOU for helping them to raise awareness.  You can do that by sharing this blog post with everyone you know.

Oh yes, here’s the link to the promo:  http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/hidden-america-children-plains-14708439#.TpOhj9LOE2E.facebook

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Before I got into my concert review, let me preface this post by admonishing you that you should not, if at all possible, buy concert tickets months ahead and then plan to fly across country unexpectedly at 6 AM the next morning.  I say this from experience because that is exactly what I am doing.  In fact, I’m writing this in O’Hare Airport in Chicago as I try to stay awake between legs of my flight from Hartford, CT to Rapid City, SD.  But more on the trip another time.  Suffice it to say that, if you are 59 years old, it isn’t as easy to stay up over 24 hours as you recall from your youth.

Now – to the concert.  It was good.  Not great, but good.  Actually, 2 of the 3 bands were great and the one that wasn’t might surprise you.

Night Ranger opened the night.  I had not heard of them before (I’ve led a sheltered life, I guess – kidding!) but I am open-minded when it comes to music.  They were actually quite good, with plenty of energy and enough personality to warm up the late arriving crowd.  I particularly enjoyed a song titled “When You Close Your Eyes.”  Their set was not long, as you would expect for an opening act and perhaps deserved to be longer.

Foreigner, a favorite of my husband’s, performed next.  They were fabulous.  Yes, I had heard of them.  Yes, I like their music.  But they were even better in live performance, in my humble and musically uneducated opinion.  The energy they had was nothing short of phenomenal.  They hit every cue.  They truly entertained as well as singing their hearts out!  I would definitely go to see them again.

I had seen Journey in concert last year, when they were touring with Heart.  It had been a fabulous concert.  I would rank it in the top concerts I’ve been to.  Arnel Pineda was astounding in that concert – sounding so much like Steven Perry that you had to pay attention to remember that it was not Perry singing.  So of course I had high expectations for Journey last night.

Journey was a disappointment this time.  For all the running and jumping around that Arnel Pineda did, Journey lacked energy musically.  The songs they chose for their program were unfortunate.  They decided to include several new selections, which would have perhaps been okay had they not put them all consecutively.  The audience did not recognize them.  You could feel the energy that had been building in the audience dissipate like a rapidly deflating balloon,

The biggest disappointment was Arnel Pineda himself.  He was as bad last night as he had been great in the previous concert I saw.  He seemed to forget words, seemed to be singing at a different tempo than the rest of the band and seemed more interested in making contact with the ladies in the audience than in the music.  I mused about the possible reasons as they performed.  Fatigue?  But the rest of the band had been on the same tour.  Illness?  Possible.  I hoped so – because the third thing that came to mind, based on how he looked when they did close-ups of him on the video screens was that he was high on something that was not enhancing his performance.  Whatever the cause, the result was really bad music.

There were actually a couple of things that made an impression on me that were not related to the music.  One was the venue.  The concert took place at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA.  I had been there twice before, but not for quite some time.  It is an outdoor venue with a covered pavilion, additional uncovered seating and lawn seating, all in an amphitheater style.  I found that it was quite a climb uphill before heading back down to our seats in the covered area.  The seats were not very comfortable, which may be a good part of the reason many fans, who had paid for “seats,” chose to stand for almost the entire concert.  I had to switch seats with my husband after a short time because the man who was seated on the other side of me (with my fibromyalgia I cannot stand) was having a great time standing and dancing.  I, on the other hand, was not enjoying his butt in my face as he invaded my “seat space” with his dance.  I don’t begrudge anyone the right to dance and have fun at a concert, but I really didn’t enjoy his act.  There was a couple in the row in front of us who typified those who have no respect for others.  They stood for the entire show.  When people behind them asked them to sit, this couple told them they should stand too, if they wanted to see.  The fact is that many people like me have “invisible disabilities” that prevent them from doing that.  Exuberance is one thing.  Rudeness and disrespect is quite another.

There was some kind of fire that caused a foul odor and smoke.  No one was evacuated and I have no idea what was burning.  I do know that it was putrid.  The upper level rest rooms were abysmal.  The toilets would not flush due to weak water pressure.  After a while I’m sure they weren’t flushing for other reasons.  I didn’t go back to those rest rooms.  The lower level did not seem to have the same issue.

You may think me strange for saying this, but the thing that impressed me most through the night had nothing to do with musicians, fans or venue.  What impressed me most was the stage crew.

The sets for Night Ranger and Foreigner were different and required some changes but the changes were small – rearrange the stairs and instruments.  However, the set used by Journey was entirely different.  The crew removed every bit of the first set, right down to the mats on the stage, then replaced it with the video screens, signage and instruments that Journey required (I wished their music had been as well done as their set).  That doesn’t sound like a big deal for guys (and one gal) who do this for a living, I guess.  But the fact that it was all done in 15 minutes was amazing!!  That was it – 15 minutes and Journey could take the stage.  I wondered why the Commonwealth of Massachusetts cannot find road construction crews who work that quickly and that well!!

By the time we got home from the concert it was 12:30 AM today.  If I had gone to sleep, I’d have had to get up at 3 AM to get ready to leave for the airport.  I’d never have done it.  So I stayed up, finished packing and hoped to get some sleep on the planes.  Since I’m finishing this on the second leg of my trip to SD, you can see that “sleep on the plane” thing didn’t work.

I ought to sleep really well tonight!!  I think the concert was worth it . . . I think.

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I was talking to Davidica Little Spotted Horse a couple of days ago about the Independence Through Music project on Pine Ridge Reservation.  I’ve written about it a few times and won’t bore you with all the particulars this time.

The ITM project is progressing well.  The young people from the project are progressing well, too, from raw talent with little or no experience performing in front of others to knowledgeable musicians.  It will indeed be interesting to see the finished product when they eventually produce and promote their CD.

This week ITM was doing workshops on management, booking agents, and the like.  It’s one part of the project I like very much.  It’s fine to provide musicians with the opportunity to perform and to learn how to record.  But if they are not educated in the reality of being a recording artist, they will be open to being manipulated and used.  This project will help them avoid those pitfalls.  It will also train those who are interested in the recording industry but do not have the talent or interest in actually performing.  There is a need for producers, managers, agents, CD cover art designers and other related personnel.

I asked Davidica if there was anything in the way of equipment that was needed by the individuals in the project.  She told me about a laptop that was donated by an individual and a computer program that was donated by the folks at KILI radio.  She said that 2 of the guitar players were being hampered by the fact that they had to borrow guitars to practice and perform.  They could not afford their own.

So that’s where you come in.  If you have an electric guitar or know someone who has an electric guitar that is not being used and is sadly sitting in a closet communing with the dust bunnies, pass it along.  Give a young musician on Pine Ridge Reservation a chance to become a working musician and to make a living from what he or she loves.

You can arrange shipping by contacting Davidica at the contact page on her website:    http://davidica.com  You will be able to get a receipt for tax purposes if you need one.

Just think, you could be contributing to someone’s career

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Our last visit to Pine Ridge Reservation was very different from our previous visits.  One of the things we did this time was to spend a bit more time learning about the contemporary activities on the rez.  History is important but what’s happening today helps me to understand the youth needs better.

So with some trepidation, we decided to attend the Independence Through Music (ITM) free concert that was being held one of the days we were there.  I say with some trepidation because I have written about the ITM project before and knew that many of the musicians were hip hop or rap musicians.  No offense to anyone whose musical tastes run in those directions, but mine do not.  I can enjoy almost anything else, being the eclectic gal that I am, but rap generally would send me heading for the door.

In addition to being eclectic, however, I am also open-minded and like to learn about new people and things.  So we went.  I have a feeling that my husband, who shares my hip hop/rap feelings, was there only because I wanted to be.  I’m grateful, because he handled the video taping which allowed me to concentrate on listening, watching and, yes, enjoying the concert.

We arrived at Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge, the concert venue, a bit early.  I had a fairly good idea of what to expect, my husband did not.  What we found was basically a large gymnasium with bleachers that push back when not in use.  If you’re old enough, you may have had that kind of gym for your high school.  Obviously, the acoustics were going to leave a lot to be desired.

We watched the sound check, which included some of the artists we would see later.  Interesting.  There is a link to the sound check video clip below.  This is the memory of the concert, followed by some observations.

******

There was one more thing that struck me about the concert in general — and it had nothing to do with the musicians.  Picture this:

You are sitting on the bottom step of the bleachers in a large, open gymnasium.  People are getting their hands marked with a number as they enter — not for a count, but so they will be eligible for door prizes at intervals during the concert.  Your back is already telling you that your fibromyalgia is not going to be happy with the seating arrangements.  You ignore your back, knowing you may pay for that tomorrow.

The lighting leaves a little to be desired.  There are no spotlights or stage lights, of course; there are just the single bulb lights suspended from the gym ceiling.  Just the lights in front, where the performers are, are lit although at first the sunlight is also streaming through the high gym windows.

People trickle in.  You are surprised that there are not more people, since the concert is free.  But of course, communication on the rez is not great so it’s possible that many don’t even know about the concert.

You notice that while some people sit and watch the concert from one spot, others seem to need to wander about.  Some go in and out the doors – the smokers, of course.  Children run about freely, a bit distracting for you but they are not ill-mannered or wild.  You think how wonderfully accepting the community is of normal child behavior and how much love they demonstrate to their children.  Even the performers accept it easily, including the guy who performs half his act holding his son who is sleepy and wants his dad.

You notice a young man who is very obviously disabled and by his physical appearance, you would guess he has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  He wanders across the gym, mingles with the musicians and dances when the mood strikes him.  Then surprisingly he is introduced as a community member who would like to perform.  He goes to the microphone, stands there clearly struggling to recall the song and to have the courage to sing it.  He cannot.  Suddenly, the audience breaks into loud applause and he beams.  He leaves the microphone and resumes his previous activities.  But it isn’t the young man who has impressed you — it is the community.  The support and love they showed this disabled young man spoke volumes about the kind of people they were.  Amazing!

The concert was supposed to run 6 – 10 pm.  It is now 9 pm.  You want to stay for the last hour, but you can see your husband has run out of enthusiasm.  More than that, which might be overlooked, your back has finally begun to issue you an ultimatum — move and do something else soon or you will pay a BIG price.  You know your back doesn’t kid about those things, so you look at your husband and give him a slight nod.  He packs up the camcorder and you both head out to the car.  You have almost an hour’s drive through the road construction to go the distance to your hotel at the casino.  Suddenly you are very tired and hope you can stay awake until you get to the room.

******

The show started more or less on time.  It was interesting to watch these aspiring musicians perform.  Some had performed locally before.  For others, this was the first time they were performing in front of a live audience.  It showed, to be sure, but it also a bit endearing to watch these young men who were performing for the first time confront their fears and insecurities.  I say young men, because there is only one young woman in the program so far.  That’s just a result of who showed interest, not where the talent lies.

I was struck by the fact that most of the hip hop/rap artists performed music which told a great deal about rez life from the perspective of young people.  So it was very interesting.  It gave another point of view to an already complex topic.  It was not all negative.  Many of the lyrics displayed their pride in their heritage and their anger at being judged.

There are links below to all of the performances.  If you notice that there is a clip missing (#10), that clip is of Davidica.  Since she is a professional and has recorded the song that she sang, I agreed not to publish it at this time.

I wanted to make note of the young lady who performed, Tiana Spotted Thunder.  I had noticed her videos on YouTube before my rez visit and before I knew she was a participant in ITM.  In person, even battling a cold, she sounds just as beautiful as she looks.  But she is shy and it unfortunately comes off as not believing in her own talent.  I hope she can overcome that because her talent is real and her voice will have power when her confidence can shine through it.

My bottom line on the concert?  I loved it!!!

And I learned something, which is always good.

I learned that, just as you shouldn’t judge people by any arbitrary factor (and I usually don’t), you shouldn’t judge art or music by arbitrary factors as well.  I typically don’t like the kind of music I heard that night.  But I did enjoy it at the concert.  Why?  It wasn’t exactly the same.  Perhaps it was the roughness, the unpolished, unpackaged manner in which it was performed.  I don’t know for sure.  But I am glad I was open-minded enough to try it.

******

Concert Sound Check                                 http://youtu.be/OLSRBKVXK3Q

Independence Through Music #1            http://youtu.be/J1q0rI01bfI

Independence Through Music #2            http://youtu.be/RQ0pWiG6qPE

Independence Through Music #3            http://youtu.be/HgyyXxQaT-w

Independence Through Music #4            http://youtu.be/lbEktnOGyvI

Independence Through Music #5            http://youtu.be/eqdRqCd9TDI

Independence Through Music #6            http://youtu.be/NFitcxqa3Fw

Independence Through Music #7            http://youtu.be/GlJ9fPdSJNY

Independence Through Music #8            http://youtu.be/Ins1pL2fkLY

Independence Through Music #9            http://youtu.be/OPxVGZTggso

Independence Through Music #11          http://youtu.be/etgyr74Gewk

 

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OK, I know I haven’t ranted in a bit, but it’s getting out of hand.

The current price of fresh green beans is averaging about $1.29, depending on where you live and what kind of market you shop in.  (Add about 20% if you live on Pine Ridge Reservation.)

I am writing about green beans because I wrote about them 3 years ago (have I been doing this that long?) and that post has more hits than any other single post I have written.  When I wrote, the price of green beans where I live was hovering around $3.49 due to bad weather in the areas where we typically grow them in this country.  To have them more than $2 over the price I recalled had been a shock.  But prices are not doing that now and still I am getting hits on that post!  People, the price of green beans (noted above) is where it should be right now.  It will go down a bit in a month or so as green beans become more plentiful in additional local areas.

You might ask why I am so annoyed about that post receiving more hits than anything else – and even if you don’t ask, I’m going to tell you because it’s MY soapbox.

I have written about many more important topics over the years than the price of fresh green beans.

I have written about the Third World conditions that exist in the USA on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

I have written about Independence Through Music, a wonderful program for youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

I’ve written about living and coping with fibromyalgia for 45 years and raising a son (now 29 years old) who has Asperger’s Syndrome.

I’ve written about crime, death, dying, family, health, housing, nature, travel, national news media, passion, depression, rape, values and laundry to name just a “few” more topics.

But what comes up most often?  The price of green beans.  I’m not sure why that cannot be checked when one does the marketing.  Is it that important to know before you get there?  Or are folks in this country getting that lazy that they have to let their fingers do their shopping before they even get to the market?  There can’t be that many kids getting the assignment to find out about the prices of produce – especially in the summer.

OK, I’ve just heaved a huge sigh.

Whatever got you to this post in the first place, I hope you’ll take the time to look up one other category before you leave.  My personal suggestion would be Pine Ridge Reservation because that way you’ll learn something really important and you’ll have a large selection of posts through which to learn it.

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A lot of people wait for me to write about the sadness and poverty that I find when I visit Pine Ridge Reservation.  But the truth is, while there is plenty of both to be found, there is also plenty that is positive about Pine Ridge.

The first thing that we saw positive this visit was the land itself.  All of our prior visits have been in the fall or winter.  This is the first time we have visited in the spring.  What a difference a few months can make!  It was green!  I know, it sounds rather simple, but the difference between a green reservation and a brown, dried up reservation is amazing.

The green vista was incredibly beautiful.  It breathed hope and new life.  After seeing the reservation green and blossoming, I understand on a new level why the people who live here would not want to leave.  The beauty may not be there on that level all the time, but when you are in tune with the land and the seasons, you know it will return.

The first two people we met with were as positive and refreshing as the new life that spring brought to the reservation.  They were two inspirational women who believe there is hope for the youth of the reservation and who are doing something to put that belief into action.

I encountered Davidica Little Spotted Horse the first time because she had heard of the ONE Spirit program and wanted to know more about it.  She cares very deeply about her people, the Lakota people, and wanted to find out if we really did help people on the rez or not.  Sadly, there are organizations that say they are helping (and may on some level mean it) but who turn out to be divisive in the community.

Davidica and her mother, both of whom we met on our visit to the rez,  consider themselves “traditional Lakota.”  They hold fast and practice the Lakota traditions and values.  They pass those ways to their children.  Talent and positivity runs through the family like the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon – strong and creative.

This is the bio that I found of Davidica on Facebook after I spoke with her the first time,

I am a singer/songwriter, artist, businesswoman and mother. Currently the opening act for The Women of the Four Winds featuring Martha Redbone, Tracy Bone, Wayquay, and Davidica-www.myspace.com/dlittlespottedhorse
For Booking info fourwindstour@hotmail.com

My name is Davidica Little Spotted Horse.
I am a singer/songwriter from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. If I had to describe my lyrics in three words it would be, “heartfelt, personal, and passionate.” My songs are about love, loss, hope, and happiness, I believe these are feelings all human beings deal with. My songs are my connection to my inner self. All of the songs I wrote are about my own life and the two I co-wrote with my brother Isnal-Wica Belt are about his struggles. The song “Aaron’s Song” my brother and I wrote together is for his best friend Aaron Lakota because we wanted to give him a gift for being such an important part of our family and to voice that we understand what he’s going through.
I am a singer/songwriter first and foremost I just happen to be native, but more than anything I am a human being. So I humbly give all my songs to humanity no matter what your race because we can all relate to the human condition… life. I’ve always had a dream I would leave something behind to make my mark in history for my future descendants. My music is my gift to them. My children are my biggest supporters and the reason I recorded this album. I cherish my children, my extended family and my friends everyday.

I am also an artist. My beadwork is another way for me to share my creativity. I put my heart and soul into my work to create the best quality beadwork possible. My traditional beadwork is only Lakota style beadwork and I take tremendous pride in knowing how to make traditional pieces.
I also make contemporary beadwork which includes many different beading techniques and I make sure these are also excellent quality work.
You are welcome to purchase any of my beadwork that is put up for sale in my “Beadwork” Album in the photo section of my profile. I also accept orders for specific projects. Just message me and I’ll contact you with more details.
Much Respect.

I had wanted to meet Davidica after our first conversation.  She is thoughtful and open to everyone.  She is an incredibly giving woman.  She has nurtured those same values in her own children.

Davidica is a recording artist.  That is a remarkable thing for someone living on Pine Ridge Reservation.  But she is more than that.  She is a strong Lakota woman.  She puts those Lakota values into actions — they are not just words for her.  She treasures the children — her own and all those on the reservation.  It is Davidica who is responsible for the Independence Through Music project becoming a reality.

Independence Through Music is a project to identify talented young people on the reservation, to teach them about recording and performing, to teach them about the recording industry and to give them opportunities to become self-sufficient — not only by being performers, but also producers, managers, booking agents, web designers, art designers, etc..  This is not a “The Rez has Talent” contest where talented performers place themselves into the hands of strangers.  This is a comprehensive educational experience and an opportunity for young people to grow into careers and futures.

We were grateful that Davidica took time out of her day to meet us on a day that was a busy one for her prior to the ITM Concert the next evening.  We met at her mother’s home and except for the many calls she received regarding the details of the concert, their attention was on getting to know us.  We did not feel like we were being a distraction to their day.  We talked about the program, life on the rez, raising children and many other things.  It was a very pleasant time.

I have not written as much about Davidica’s mother yet because she was not the center of attention.  Yet I think she is very much the center of strength in the family.  Her deep spirituality and love of her people was very evident.  Some lead by the actions rather than many words.  This is the way Davidica’s mother leads.  I came away feeling it had been a privilege to meet her and wishing we had more time to chat one on one.

After leaving these two amazing women, we went to the home of another woman who strength is different.  She is not a community leader.  She is not even out of her home much.  She is not healthy yet she is raising two teenaged daughters.  She is raising them well in spite of poverty that almost crushed me when I entered her home.

I don’t say that lightly.  I have been in many poor homes before on the reservation.  But this home weighed on my heart and mind — perhaps even my soul — as none have before.  I don’t have pictures to share with you of this home because there was no way I was going to ask this woman if I could photograph her home to share with the world.  I was probably not meant to be a news photographer.

But I can try to paint it with my words.  As we drove up the dirt driveway, which was a hill, we had to avoid a large number of deep ruts that had been formed earlier in the week when the ground had been mud.  Straight ahead was a wooden building with a couple of small windows.  To our left was a single-stall garage sized building that was or had been used as a shop of some type.  A small trailer was behind the shop.

We were uncertain which building to go to when we saw someone peek out the window of the building in front of us (which I will refer to as the house).  Then a teenaged girl came out to greet us and lead us into the house.  Her mother, who was the person I had come to visit, was sitting in a rather worn recliner.

But before I introduce you to her, let me describe entering this house.  As we entered, there was the smell of animal urine — not extremely strong but definitely there.  The interior was dark.  The two small windows were partially covered by blankets to help with insulation and privacy.  We entered through the kitchen.  There was a refrigerator and cook stove.  The lack of cabinets meant that the non-perishables they had were stacked on the counter and other available spaces.  The kitchen table was a metal table that certainly was made prior to the 1950’s.  The kitchen and living room were actually one space, perhaps 10’x20′, separated only by the arrangement of furniture.  In the living room were the small recliner, an orange plastic chair and a television.  In the corner was a pile of several blankets and it made us wonder if this woman slept in the recliner.  Her daughter brought the single metal kitchen chair into the living area so we could all sit.

In the center of the space was a small wood stove.  My parents used wood to supplement their heat and this stove was probably only half the size of my parents.  The wood would have to be cut small to fit and the stove would need to be filled often.  I recalled that, the first time I had called this woman, she had told me they had a stove but no pipes to vent it.  I could see there were pipes now.  The stove was so old that I imagined it might have been in use since the 1800’s.

Off this main kitchen/living room, there was one bedroom, which had a door with a padlock on it.  It was the room her daughters shared and was padlocked when they were gone so none of their things would be stolen.  I cannot say how big the room was, but based on the size of the building, it was probably not much bigger than a queen sized mattress.  There was an indoor bathroom.

This woman was pleasant but had a difficult time talking because she was on oxygen full time.  She had been to the doctor’s just the day before for breathing issues.  She was due to have a lung scan soon.  She also had a difficult time moving around and I will have to assume that the two teenaged daughters must do much of the cooking and cleaning in that home.

We did not visit there long because it was such a physical strain on this woman to have company.  Personally, I’m not sure I could have stayed much longer because of my own reaction to the poverty that weighed down on me like a ton of bricks.

We left Oglala and drove to Pine Ridge to meet a woman who works with ONE Spirit for dinner at Subway.  Of course, there is only one road to get there and it is clogged with road construction.  You have to wait for a pilot car to follow through the construction and that wait can be 15 to 20 minutes if your timing is bad.

The meeting at Subway, however, was wonderful.  We spent much longer than expected there discussing rez life, various programs and individuals and much more.

After we ate, we returned to our room for a good night’s sleep.  It amazes me how tired you can get just driving around the reservation and talking to people.

 

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Let me say this right up front, while I’m dusting off my soapbox . . .

I AM NOT A PRUDE!!

And while I’m at it, although I’m 58+ years old, I am not old – my mind has settled in at about 25 years old.  So I am not an “old fogey.”  If you’ve read any of my posts before, you know that I am eclectic in interests and liberal in my approach to social justice.

I have attended R-rated movies and comedy shows.  I’ve even seen an X-rated movie. I’ve seen some recent music videos.

I do, however, occasionally comment on the clothing that young children wear these days and how adult many parents are allowing/assisting their young children to look.  I was horrified that a mother would allegedly inject her grade school aged daughter with Botox.

But NOTHING prepared me for the opening number of the Billboard Awards Show last evening.  I hadn’t planned to watch it.  But the movie I wanted to watch was not on until 9 EDT, so I decided to check out the music awards.  I try to keep current.

The opening number, “S & M“,  featured Rhianna in a white patent leather leotard fashioned in dominatrix style.  By the end of the first phrasing, “I feel so good being bad,” we were being treated to a full, straight-on shot of Rhianna’s crotch as she sat on a bench and moaned her lyrics.  She slinked and slithered around the stage, dancing on a raised platform from which male arms were extended — reaching, of course, for her crotch no matter what position she was in.  She gyrated with a pole, as did Britney Spears, who joined her for the second half of the song.  Britney was clad in a similar black get-up.  Both women were sporting “hand-cuffs” and chains binding their wrists.

Ken Jeong, who was in a popular but tasteless movie recently, was the emcee for the night.  He was raunchy and not particularly amusing.  The song he “sang” with Nicki Minaj tauting the greatness of the show included lyrics such as “This show won’t suck!” and “This show won’t blow!”.  Jeong made suggestive tongue gestures toward Minaj and ended the scene by cupping and shaking his genitals.

The show contained many, many bleeps.  And it contained many words that would have been bleeped in the days of my youth (think of George Carlin’s routine about the 7 words you can’t say on television).  Some of them would not offend me personally today.

HOWEVER, I am ranting about things that don’t necessarily offend me personally because they were aired by ABC (yeah, not FOX) between 8 PM & 8:30 PM EDT on a LIVE show from Las Vegas.  That means it was even earlier in the remainder of the country.

So what??!  So kids — young kids — were watching this raunch.  I saw kids in the 8 to 10 year old range in the live audience in Vegas.  Imagine how many were watching on TV – either with parents who wanted to watch and didn’t think how their kids might be effected or alone in front of their TV, which may have been acting as a baby sitter.  Woe to the kids whose “babysitter” presents them with Rhianna’s crotch.  What lessons were they learning?

It was already my belief that this society brings “sexiness” into children’s lives far earlier than is healthy for them.  The low-cut, skimpy clothes available for little girls are ridiculous.  The raunchy gyrations that 5 year old “cheerleaders” and “dancers” are taught should be illegal.  If you and I made some of those motions on the street or bus, we’d be arrested for lewd and lascivious conduct in public.  But it’s okay to teach them to our young ones.

It astounds me that we allow our kids to wear sexy clothes and make sexy moves in kindergarten, but we refuse to allow them to show genuine loving actions like holding hands or hugging without risk of being accused of sexual harassment.  It’s ludicrous!

So what — I hear some of you saying that.  So what if kids act sexy too early in life.  What difference does that make?

Before I answer, let me ask you one more thing.  If you watched the show last night, how many of the men did you see prancing around in clothing that consisted of little more than fringe over underwear?  Even the ones who were sexy didn’t show everything they owned.  They left something to the imagination.  Boys are not treated the same way.  The are not dressed in skimpy outfits in grade school.  T-shirts and jeans or shorts.  Oh, not those short-shorts the girls wear.  Old fashioned shorts that cover their butts.  They are encouraged to do things, not focus on looking good.

This difference is not new.  Neither are the differences that girls and boys experience as the grow into men and women.

  • Who makes more money to do the same job?
  • Who suffers from more eating disorders from trying to look good?
  • Who suffers from more domestic violence?
  • Who experiences more sexual assaults?
  • Who is expected to contribute to the family income as well as raise the children and maintain the home.

These are just some of the more important inequities that women face.

Why do these inequities still exist after SO many years of trying to right them?!

I would suggest that showing raunchy, relatively explicit sexual moves by scantily clad young women that are idolized as celebrities by children in our society, as occurred in this show, is one of the causes of the difficulty  women still find in their lives as adults.

Do I think this is the only cause?  Of course not; I realize the world is not that simplistic.  However, we need to start thinking about it seriously.  There’s an old saying that children “learn what they live.”  Pretty scary if you think about what some children are obviously living.

Ranting on the soapbox is great for me.  It helps get the steam out of my head.  But just ranting or reading the rant is not going to change a things.  You need to tell the people responsible that you are not amused; that you are “mad as hell and not going to take it any more.”

You know I am nothing if not helpful!  So here are some links to help you express your feelings to the responsible parties.  . . . . . You’re welcome!

Billboard.com Editor, Jessica Letkemann, Jessica.Letkemann@billboard.com

ABC TV:  http://abc.go.com/site/contact-us

Federal Communications Commission commissioners:                      

Chairman Julius Genachowski: Julius.Genachowski@fcc.gov
Commissioner Michael J. Copps: Michael.Copps@fcc.gov
Commissioner Robert McDowell: Robert.McDowell@fcc.gov
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn: Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov        Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker: Meredith.Baker@fcc.gov
Go to it people!  I will!!

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