Hello Pittsburgh. Good morning. It means the world to me that you have traveled from far and near to be with me today. By plane, bus, train, bike and boat. By taxi cab and car. I acknowledge and value the time, effort and resources it took you to rise and be here. Thank you.
Can we give it up for my parents. Who gave birth and raised me. Mom – Steward of the plants . Your relationship with plants and the earth is sacred. You are so thoughtful of others. Every gift I give is an extension of how you have taught me to to give. And your laughter is contagious – and you were probably laughing at Dad!
Dad – You are so funny. Thank you for your late night philosophical shufflings around the kitchen. Your commitment to clean water community participation. Dad – you love people so much. And me too. Thank you both for never giving up on me and not only supporting me but encouraging me when I’m sure you didn’t always understand what I was doing. I love you.
We are gathered here today in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
Well Holy matrimoly – that was the preamble to constitution of this very land this so called country of the united states. Sounds pretty good. A more perfect union. Justice. Peace and promoting the general welfare, defending and protecting the people. Then why does my heart hurt when I see the American flag. It actually pisses me off and fills me with rage. We are gathered here today to support me, etta cetera, in reconstructing this rage. Reconstructing the rage i feel towards the American flag, a symbol of government, colonialism, slavery and genocide –a violent history hidden in the beautiful language of justice and democracy. We are gathered here today to bear witness as I challenge the separation and disconnect I feel to the land. No matter how settled I may seem to be, this truth has has me deeply unsettled. And so we are gathered here today to reconstruct the rage within and begin to rebuild a healthy relationship with the land on which I walk, live and love. We are gathered here today to acknowledge the delicate webs of relationships the city of Pittsburgh has gifted me. The precious connections that are you whether you reside in the city or not. We are gathered here today to let down the borders and walls inside our chests – here At This confluence where three rivers meet and the secret fourth river flows deep. We are gathered here today in ceremony to join this land and this women in holy matrimoly.
Nothing like a little morning constitution to start the day. It just dawned on me. Should there be anyone who has cause why this land and this women should not be united in marriage, they must speak now or forever hold their peace?
Aren’t you already married to Justice and Kindness? says tENTATIVELY a, cONVENIENCE – the person who brought etta to Pittsburgh.
etta replies– There is enough love to go around. And here were are flanked by the polyallegheny…
Invitation to People in prison
The Braid of Solidarity: Atheneo – At this time we would like to expand our gathering and invite all of our friends and loved ones who are currently incarcerated to join us. Would the candle lighters please make your way to us.
Candle Lighters and who the candles were lit in honor of:
Atheneo – Aaron and Mik
KAJ – TR and all the artists behind bars
Saundra Cole Mckamey– Family members of people in prison
Terrell Johnson– For all the people who are wrongly convicted
Donna Pfender– Charmaine and all the people who are incarcerated for self defense and for my husband.
Amanda Johnson– for Avis and all women, sisters, mothers and daughters in prison
Bret Grote– Saleem and the community activists behind walls
Shandre Delaney – For Carrington Keys and the Dallas 6
Brenda Emerick– For my son, Heath and all people serving life sentences
Joe Zabick –For all the people locked up that never get visits, who die in unmarked graves, For all the people that no one knows there names.
Joy KMT– For all the queer and trans people in prisons
Teresa Shoatz– For my dad Maroon Shoatz and Jo Jo Bowen and for me because i have been in prison the whole time my dad has.
Etta – Mumia Abu –Jamal – Stop Drop Mumia didn’t kill no cop. Let our brother go! Happy 60th Mumia. Your struggle sparked my liberation process.
If anyone gathered here would like to bring other people into the space who can not be here today please shout there name out now.
The Braid of Co-Resistance Bekezela Mguni offers this prayer for the Ancestors
We give praise for our all-knowing creator
The Braid of Resilience, Ruth Martial speaks about the importance of place and the land we are on:
One of the intentions of this ceremony is to examine our relationship to place. This place where we are standing is a very special one. It is a place of enormous historical, political, and spiritual significance to several indigenous peoples, including the Ondondowaga of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, of whom I am a descendant. Since the beginning of time, this was a place to gather, commune, and trade, not just for goods and medicines but knowledge, skills, stories. Not only for the region but for peoples throughout the continent and hemisphere. There are northern peoples who still have the feathers of tropical birds in their bundles, passed down through the generations from before the first Europeans ever stepped foot here. It was a place of incomparable beauty. The point was not fixed and entombed in concrete the way it is now. Its precise location was ever changing, ebbing, subject to seasonal and cyclical flooding, waxing and waning, overflowing, enriching the fertile soil.
And then, Predator came. The sacred site was taken by force and forts built on top of it. It became a strategic launching point to wage genocidal war against the people of the region. The first documented use of biological warfare occurred here, with the intentional and premeditated distribution of smallpox infected blankets. And they chose this place not just for its logistical and strategic value, but because it had such cultural and spiritual significance to the people, because of their love for it, in order to demoralize the populations they sought to eradicate. As you walked in this morning, you may have noticed that you passed by the monument to the fort. Carefully preserved, some of the original foundation stones are still here. This is what the infrastructure of genocide looks like. This is what some people continue to choose to celebrate.
But not us. We are here to celebrate a different history, and a different possibility. The land, like the people displaced from it are resilience incarnate. We are still here, and we will still be here when those stone walls have crumbled into dust, and empire exists only in our descendants’ memory as a fading nightmare. It is up to us to honor the original power of this place and work towards its restoration. To know with certainty what it was, and what it can be again. This is part of the process of decolonization that takes a lifetime and more. My hope is that every one of us gathered here together this morning will be strengthened in our resolve, through love, to decolonize our minds, our relationship to place, and our understanding of the land under our feet.
***A note about why the point doesn’t flood anymore: In the late 1950s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its intention to construct a dam along the Allegheny River in Warren, Pennsylvania, to help prevent flooding in Pittsburgh. The building of the Kinzua Dam flooded one-third of the Allegany Reservation of the Seneca Nation of Indians. Nearly six hundred Senecas were forced to abandon their homes and relocate, despite a 1794 treaty that had guaranteed them those lands in perpetuity. Johnny Cash even wrote a song about it. To learn more check out: The Allegany Senecas and Kinzua Dam: Forced Relocation through Two Generations by Joy A. Bilharz.
We would know like to invite you to the edge of the river. For a ritual in grieving and letting go. Please split yourselves in half and follow the braid of possibility and the braid of wildness to the edge of the fountain.
Ritual for Grieving and Letting Go – (written by Suzy and etta)
Suzy — There are two parts what we are going to do here at the water. Water is a symbol of emotional life, the heart.
You’ve been carrying your grief with you. This stone in your hand is ancient. So is our grief and loss Of the people who were here. The people who are here. Each of us. Leave some of your grief here.
We place our stones here in the Jewish tradition of visiting a grave. This is where you can leave it. In this circle. Flowers, though beautiful, will eventually die. A stone will not die, and can symbolize the permanence of memory and legacy.
Once you leave your grief here. You will walk thru the passage of braids of honor. They are there to support you and guide you.
The second part of this ritual is letting go.
etta – Cecelia Firethunder says “I don’t believe in forgiveness. I believe in letting go”
Zora Neale Hurston writes, “Love is like the sea. It takes it shape from the shores it meets and it’s different with every shore.”
Maybe you brought flowers to symbolize letting go or you can let go of a tiny paper ship that you will find at the edge of the river. In the letting go of these flowers and paper ships Let us remember that relationships between people are fluid. They are like the sea. They have great capacity to shift. Broken hearts break open. And a heart that can bend cannot break. I believe in Relationshifts. If we live long enough relationships may come around again. Forever can happen if we let go of wanting our relationships to take the same form always. Can we celebrate and respect the shift as we do the first kiss? Can we heal from the loss of our friends? In the words of Ruth and Charque –get more solid with the fluid. Get more solid with the ever lasting truth of change. With these tiny ships I am letting go. Allow the Relation shifts to move as they may and not dwell too long on what they once were or what they could have been.
I would like to invite you to also let go. (The music of Lungs Face Feet plays while people move through this ritual)
While participants have placed stone and let go – The leading braids of wildness and possibility – will lead people around the fountain. The fountain should be off at this point. Once people have surrounded the fountain. Everyone is gathered around the fountain.
Realignment of the Compass Ritual
(influenced by Joy kmt and Reina Gosset. Co-written with lizzie and suzy with input from the braids)
Let us realign our compass so that we can stand in our truth. Know where we are have been know where we are coming from and know were we are going.
Let us Turn to the south –
South – (Where have we been – History – Prevention)
So think again of an ancestor on whose shoulders you stand. An ancestor who without them you would not be here today. Take a moment to think on whose shoulders do you stand.
I am going to say a chant and when you see the south flag rise. Shout out the names of your ancestors to the south. Chant – In the blood of our veins liberation runs. We are standing on the shoulders of the ancient ones. –from Climbing Poetree song.
Let us Turn to the west
West – (Where we are – The Struggle is before us – Intervention – Resistance)
Sometimes it feels like we are alone in our struggles, our lives, our love. There are people all over the world right now fighting for us. Our freedom. We are all connected. At this time we would like remember that we are not alone and shout the names of those contemporary freedom fighters, movements, healers, artists, mathematicians – yes bob moses – I am saying your name! any justice seekers who persevere. People who right now are making history fighting for love and justice.
I am going to ask you to sync hearts with me. Im gonna find my pulse and please join me in the rhythm and when you see the flag raise of the cardinal west Shout out the names of the current freedom fighters to the west.
Let us Turn to the East
East – Challenges that lie before us – Reparations and Healing – love – voice a fear.
We are at a very scary point in time. Our precious earth is at risk. Our mountains are being defiled. Our water continually poisoned. All of our life forces commodified polluted and resold. Wars are raging globally. There is droughts, famines, poverty. Racism prevails in this still segregated city of Pittsburgh. Gentrification and perpetual displacement abound. Fear is the root cause. I ask you. What are you afraid of?
Moment of silence to think about what you are afraid. pause
On the count of 3 I would like you to puke your fears in the center of the fountain. Yes! Throw up your fears!
Let us turn to the north
North –Where you want to go to – Transformation and Liberation – relationships
Our world is scary. In order to transform our society. We ask How can we support ourselves and one another to take risks that we need to take to transform our world? What risks are you willing to take? Please take a moment to think about what risks you are willing to take.
I ask you to Make eye contact with someone across from you. And on the count of north. We will declare to each other– Your leadership is needed. Repeat after me – your leadership is needed.
Ready? So the cardinal braids will count off. And when it gets to North – lock eyes and declare “your leadership is needed” on the count of North – EAST, SOUTH, WEST NORTH. (that didn’t happen)
The Vows and Braids of Honor Hand Fasting to the Fist Ceremony — influenced by Janet Kent and the pagan and celtic traditions of handfasting in marriage ceremony’s. After each vow was spoken a ribbon was tied to my hand. Participants were invited to also vow if they felt connected. All vows written by the Braid and with collaboration from the bride
Braid of Resilience
Do you promise to live lightly on the Earth with gratitude in your heart, remembering that all living beings, animals and plants, are your relatives not your resources?
To respect the integrity of the stories of survivors of violence and oppression? To continue to raise your awareness of the issues surrounding trauma, and to be mindful of the ways trauma plays out in the behavior and actions of the people you encounter throughout your life? Do you promise to commit yourself fully to your own self-care, and to love yourself unconditionally, strengthening and building up your own wellspring of resilience?
The Braid of Creativity
In the words of the late, great Gilda Radner:
“I can always be distracted by love, but eventually I get horny for my creativity.”
Do you hereby rambunctiously swear to nurture and practice your creativity;
to trust that the creative flow from the human spirit is unlimited;
to acknowledge that creativity is where everything begins, but that to use it takes courage, for it is an experience fraught with uncertainty like love or trust, and it is an experience that challenges power;
to know your creativity is an expansive gift felt by all around you, in the spaces, moments and opportunities that you make;
to go where your creativity takes you;
and lastly, to live creatively, for that is the realizing of yourself…
Aya de Chellis
The Braid of Healing & Radical Nurturing
Do you promise to remember that you are healer of self on the lifelong journey.
That when we heal ourselves, we heal 7 generations that came
before us and the next 7 generations coming. Will you remember to
nourish yourself with the myriad stuff of stars and soul? Do you believe that radical nurturing is in your heart and in your hands.
i invite everyone to rub their hands together to make some heat and press their hands to their heart.then kiss your hands and offer your kiss up to the stars.
Braid of Solidarity
“Solidarity comes from the recognition that, like it or not, our liberation is bound up with that of every other being on the planet, and that politically, spiritually, in our heart of hearts we know anything else is unaffordable.”- Aurora Levins Morales
Vow – In the quest for your own liberation will you stand along side the earth and all living beings?
Braid of Persistence
All that you touch
All that you change
The only lasting truth
-Octavia E. Butler
Do you promise to persist with love and clarity through confusion and struggle? Will you stay connected to your changing surroundings and relationships through this cyclic journey? Will you remember the sea?
Braid of Intuition
Do you vow to be true to your self? To stand in the power that is you? To listen to the confluence of heart, mind and spirit to trust your intuition? … and the people say hells yeah!
Braid of Care and Affection
The institution of Marriage has for too long served to legitimize hetero normative culture and patriarchal oppression. For too long women have been expected to be the caregivers and seen as beings who don’t need care. People of all genders need care and affection and emotional labor should be shared work. It is in this moment as we are here together. To have the strength to subvert these systems each of us has the right to receive care and affection.
In the words of Eugene Debbs “we are gong to destroy all enslaving and degrading capitalist institutions and recreate them as free and humanizing institutions.” Do you agree?
Turn to your neighbor and say “may care and affection be with you” and reply “and also with you”
Braid of Co-Resistance
If you’ve come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
― Australian Aboriginal Elder Lilla Watson
Do you promise to unapologetically declare your right to resist all forms of oppression, to remain uncomfortable with the desecration of the earth and our humanity?
Will you receive the fierce tenderness necessary to heal from the inherited and internalized trauma of white supremacy?
To remember that it is with grace and commitment that we build all relationships in life, upon a foundation of healing and resistance in world that consistently tries to dehumanize and diminish efforts to affirm the beauty in all people.
To honor hope and listen to rage
To use your voice to speak boldly into the silence, which seeks to suppress the truth of joyful song?
Do you promise to always sing a freedom song, to chant loudly and share your vision?
Do you promise to dance, to make liberation beautiful and irresistible with hands, letters, art and sweetness?
Will you bring your brilliance into the world without fear and stand firm knowing that at the core of oppression is fear and that love is the antidote? (quote from Erica Huggins)
braid of possibility and curiosity
Will you engage gently and boldly,
flirt with the chances that are swarming.
believe another way and world are possible?
for what awaits us in the future but hope and possibilities?
not just for some of us, but all of us.
and to arrive, we must dwell in the intimacy of curiosity.
for in the ask, the invitation, there is a gift.
Will you sincerely ask and joyously receive with honor?
Will you explore like ants on a peony, and sidewalk flora through the cracks, like hands finding other hands, and hearts igniting to passion.
Will you romance the unknown and with inquisitiveness on your breath?
Will you embrace the complexity, dwell in contradiction and hold on to multiple truths?
all: please take a moment to think of a possibility you are curious about delving into.
Are you devoted to the beauty of you and your twisted twine of possibility and curiosity?
Braid of Communication
Communication is the bridge we build so that we can know each other.
We must know ourselves in order for our bridges to stand strong and uphold the complexities of our relationships.
Will you respect conflict and accept that conflict is an opportunity for change?
Do you promise to listen and speak in the words of bell hooks – with Care, Affection, Responsibility, Respect, Commitment and Trust?
Braid of Prosperity
Wealth – material and spiritual, may it abound in your life through generosity, energy, and social successes. Let us balance the work we do to live and have that energy not take everything from us. Money doesn’t have to ruin relationships. Our partnership is living proof.
We inherit powers and good fortune from the ancestors. We must remember our ability to manifest. Let us receive gifts worked for with thanks and humility.
Will you promise to remember the true value of your labor paid and unpaid?
Braid of Public
In this vow we start by recognizing the link between the public and the private. We understand that there is no private pain which is not, on some level, felt publicly and politically. We acknowledge that all public and political pain ripples out in its effect into all of our private lives.
In this light, on this basis of understanding, we know that the political pain of all prisoners has lasting and resounding affect on all of our private lives, we know that none of that pain is actually hidden behind walls. We believe that all of our lives are interconnected, and we believe in the strength of us all to remain public, no matter how private our struggles or our shames may feel. We need a healthy public in which to thrive, we naturally shape ourselves off of the form of our communities, it takes a village to love, to be, even.
Do you, Etta, vow to remain public, to remain dedicated to a healthy and sustainable balance between your private joys and pains and your public joys and pains? Do you, Etta, vow to allow yourself to both give and receive publicly, to keep paving a courageous path that helps us to maintain a healthy public, to keep striving towards the kind of healthy intimacy that allows you to make a constant connection between your public and political and private lives?
Braid of Wildness
like the forest in the city
like weeds through concrete
your sure footed, wildfire-strong love.
the part of you that can not be taught or trained or changed.
the part of you that is always free.
the oceans are your hands. the moons of every planet are your family.
the earth. the animals. the expanding wild born galaxy -know this with you.
do you promise to remember? do you vow to trust that you are a wild seed, sacred and free?
The Brides Final Vow
Today I promise, in order to form a more loving union, I will fight for justice, I will work towards peace, I will mobilize in defense of the commons, I will promote the general welfare of all life, and weave the braids of liberation to my movement for the future generations.
The Brides Last Words:
So what does this mean that I have married Pittsburgh? My small friend Hailea asked me – What you gonna do? you gonna kiss a tree? This does not mean I will live in Pittsburgh forever. And it doesn’t mean I won’t. What this means is that whereever I go Pittsburgh will forever live inside of me. From this day forward I am not only from Pittsburgh but I am of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh that stands before me. The Pittsburgh that lives in the sweet smell of summer perched in an overgrown stairwells. The Pittsburgh that freezes their buts off for fair wages in the ice cold streets of winter. The Pittsburgh that gathers on industrial ruins at the rivers edge to share music and stories. The Pittsburgh who spends the night in the hallway of the Mayors office because he refused to look us in the eye when we had something to say. The Pittsburgh whose hawks greet me good morning and train whistles rock me to sleep. I love you Pittsburgh. Thank you for meeting me where I am at. I will forever know where I am coming from.
And now for the ring.
At this time I would like to ask you all to gather around me and form rings. You are my rings. Precious jewels that will remind me of my commitment.
We belong to.
We belong to each other.
Lungs Face Feet plays! Hooray! You may kiss the bride!!