Live on Wednesday night 08/06/08 @ 8:30 PM , We will be talking with Artist Redwing Thomas,
Artist Redwing Thomas, is a true artist; An artist that basis their own expression on their own unique experience creating an inspirational sustainability that will last for many generations. Through spoken word and musical rhymes and beats he expresses his heart and vision to the people.
REDRedwing ThomasArtistic Statement – “Revolution must commence from within the hearts and minds of each person in a community; only then will our voices be heard without discord, as a harmonious expression of solidarity in our humanity.”Bio – Redwing Thomas – RED – lives in the Village of Santee, an indigenous community located along the southern banks of the Missouri River on the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska reservation. Descended from the Dakota people forced into exile after the so-called Sioux Uprising of 1862 in Mankato, MN, Red understands that culture – particularly language – not only forms the basis of personal identities, but also more importantly reflects the shared experiences that make solidarity possible. As he notes in the lyrics of the song Still Alive, “language is so vital to our survival…21st century still on track / and guess what?!?!? / WE ARE STILL ALIVE, I SAID WE ARE STILL ALIVE! / Everybody sing!”A teacher at Santee Community School, Red teaches Dakota language and culture to students in kindergarten through twelfth-grade. As a result of his work with the youth of his tribe, he has great confidence in the potential of future generations. This hope, however, is relatively new for native people; indeed, an unfortunate reality of “life on the rez” is the pervasiveness of despair. Red describes this shared sense of hopelessness in the song Home of the Damned – “The children have no place to go / so they choose to kill themselves slow.” Yet in response to such conditions – and in response to his own painful experiences with such dire circumstances and tragic events – he reaches out to his native brothers and sisters, encouraging them to stand strong, to resist the deceptive allure of drugs and alcohol: “Indigenous people / we deserve better / but if we allow the stormy weather / to carry us however / like a weightless feather / then our situation will never / change.” Not that he “pretends to have all the answers / to all the questions” that must be answered before change can occur. Rather, in Winds of Time, Red simply expresses his faith in the “strength of believin’ / somethin’ other than others’ / expectations of us,” suggesting that change will come “from within / rather than living without / any type of emotion.” Still, while contemplating the “intrusion of insecurity / creating false reality,” he recognizes that “we drive ourselves crazy / worrying and having difficulty / letting go” of the negative thoughts and destructive habits that prevent change from happening.Perhaps this recognition stems from the kind of introspection that Red expresses in Ghost. In this song, he indicates his own personal struggle to remember “the fundamentals of survival” as he “tries to write / tries to fight / tries to right / the wrong / with true song.” In the effort, he discovers that “revolution must commence from within,” that freedom from “mental incarceration” requires a thoroughgoing transformation in both individual minds and the collective consciousness. The process of transformation, however, is not easy; to the contrary, Red acknowledges that “pressure [to conform] is heavy and the outlook [for change] is scary.” Accordingly, he points to “revolutionaries who will carry the load.” Who are these “revolutionaries”? Red not only believes that he can carry the load, but that he must do so: Not because he is special; not because he wants to be the leader; but because he wants his family, his friends, his community, his people to live better, more fulfilling lives. In one of his newest songs, Together, he willingly accepts this responsibility: “Your problem is my problem / and your war is my war.” Much more than an abstract statement of idealism, however, Red breaks his acceptance of responsibility down into pragmatic, concrete terms: “You have to know / you’re always welcome / at my front door / And when I run out of bedrooms / I will put my blankets / on the floor / ‘Cause we’re all together now.”His willingness to address the problems of his people should not be construed as an act of charity. Instead, he suggests that his efforts are – at least partially – an attempt to repay past debts. Under the influence of American consumer-culture propaganda, he once lied, cheated, and stole to “get his,” Red regretfully admits that he has hurt many people in his life, especially the ones he loves: “it’s about the family / women and the children / and I, too, have hurt / my share of them.” In the end, Red hopes that his music will be understood as an expression of the revolution that has occurred in his consciousness: “My music will show / the reflection in my soul / and my light shows / how I have grown / I know, I know / I took some time / but I’m slow …. We can speak of solidarity / but actually all reality / begins with the family / From there it progresses to community / and from community who knows? / Maybe we’ll see / a true movement of the masses / that reflects humanity….’Cause we’re all together now.”
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