Take a few minutes and ruminate on this beautiful reminder… And read it to someone you love. Talk about it for a few minutes…Spread love to those you don’t know as you walk down the street. You never know how much they might need your kindness. I met these kids on the street in Seattle, bought them some hot chocolate and we talked for a while. We’re all living with what life deals us. But if we can we can make it better for someone else, just by paying attention and listening.
We have so much good news for you — stay tuned for information on our 26th year and our rebirth of TTC, with new staff, new trainings, workshops, retreats, and most importantly circles. May this year be a better year for everyone, for all your loved ones, for you, for the planet, for our country and the world. Compassion for self and others, and service to something greater, and acceptance and being here now…. being present with what is, and taking positive taking action where we can – these are the truly satisfying ways to live.
So, Valentines Day… On this day, more than anything I urge you (and me) to fall in love with yourself. To be your own beloved. It takes embracing all of who we are — worts and all. Here’s the truth about me. I fall apart regularly, and just like the weather, I go through a pattern… I do my best but niggling thoughts creep up over time — guilt, ugly self talk, frustration, loss of self control and I begin to beat myself up and feel all dark and twisty – I know I’m heading for a big cry… I can feel it coming like rain. So, I start to tell my people the truth… the truth I’d only tell those who really love and know me for all my seasons…then I start to cry, hopefully before I begin to lash out, but I do that too… it’s the pain and pressure building up inside me… I’m sure I’m not alone — you must understand this pattern because it’s so human. But I feel I’m the only one who does it at that point… and I should be locked away so I don’t hurt anyone… But, I have my people, and I talk with them and I cry it out as I tell my truth, the truth I’m ashamed of and know that I don’t really mean sometimes… sometimes I just feel so bad I don’t think it’s going to go away. But after enough times of getting it off my chest, it’s like I’ve been renewed. I often feel embarrassed that I had to go through it all again, but I have to live with that as well. But I come back and remember who I am… I begin to feel I’m that bigger self, the Linda who loves herself and accepts what is happening in my life, and gets back on the horse and keeps going. The humor of it all starts to come back. In fact, with my daughters, I can be in the middle of crying about it all and burst out laughing with them at the absurdity, the cosmic joke of it all…but the realities we live with are not a joke… they’re life and death, and old age, and aging parents, and parents with Alzheimers and financial issues, and stresses beyond stresses… and world situations we can do nothing about but watch as they go down, powerless… and causes that bring up so much passion we almost become dangerous. Life is simply LIFE… just like the Buddha says… BUT, I believe each phase of this way I go through life is an essential part of the spiral of growing onward in time and space. And the way I do it may be more dramatic than some folks, but it brings me back to health. After all the orgiastic feelings, I come back to treating myself better and others better, apologizing for anyone I may have injured when I was down and hurting, and doing my best to be the best I can be all over again. Once again, I have gained more perspective, forgiven myself and forgiven others for being human. And then, laughter and hope and positivity return.
I don’t know how we do it without each other — We people carry so much love and grief and pain, and disappointment, loss, fear… — I don’t know how we carry on as care givers for our aging parents, friends, ourselves without people who just sit and hold us and listen to us when we need to lose it and feel it all out. There is no “OK” or “happy” we get to live in, like some advertisements would like us to believe — they are simply moments we might find of relief and joy, but it’s always going to come back to chop wood, carry water, hold our dying parents and feed our hungry children and work to “save” the world — it’s going to always be an inside job to live with the ebb and flow of real life and real emotions and the real things we are grappling with inside. So, we just have to accept that that is just plain good enough and keep on keeping on.
WE ARE GOOD ENOUGH AS WE ARE. We must keep remembering that. And keep remembering that we are so much bigger than the small thoughts we have about ourselves, the ways we put ourselves down… we all do it. We must forgive the mistakes we make — the less than good enough times when we treat others poorly because we feel poor of spirit. All we can do is what Maya Angelous told me – forgive ourselves and ask for forgiveness from others. Relationships are not simple, but good ones are those that keep forgiving us our trespasses, as we forgive others for theirs. Right? Relationships give us a chance to hold each other’s worst and best in a wholeness much bigger and more human than we even know. ,
So happy Valentine’s Day… may your best relationships be those who truly love you as you are and are willing to stay in the ring, to sit in the fire, to go through it all, knowing that we are all everything… and that we are imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Until the day we die, we are worthy of love. And love is much bigger than hearts and flowers on Valentines day.
… gathering Calendula for a healing body oil we will be making at my Hollyhock Workshop in August! I’m getting very excited for this workshop on Cortes Island BC, where we will dive into Folk Herbalism, Fermentation, Herbal Brewing & other healing folk traditions together! The potency of Calendula actually increases through drying, according to former herbal teacher Matt Wood. #calendula#folkherbalism#hollyhockinstitute#salishsea#folkwisdom — at Hollyhock
August 10 – 15, 2018
Herbalist & Brewess,
Co-Founder Iggys Foods
Circle in Truth Trainer
Teen Talking Circle Facilitator
A beautiful workshop is coming up at Hollyhock.
Immerse yourself in the practices of folk fermentation and herbalism— living arts passed through the ages by cultures the world over. Through play and hands-on experience, learn to make a wide variety of vegetable ferments, brews, herbal elixirs, and medicines. Open to the magic, healing, science, story, and song of these important wisdom traditions.
Folk arts live in the collective, are passed by way of the people, and belong to everyone and no one at once – expressions of living culture in all respects. Fermentation and herbalism are central spokes in a great wheel of these traditions, with near endless manifestations throughout the world, including dance, song, story, theatre, art, food, healing medicine, ritual, ceremony and celebration. By connecting to one of these strands of folk wisdom, one is instantly drawn into the kaleidoscope of culture. Likewise, this wheel of folk tradition emerges directly from human relationship with earth and cosmos, held within the cyclic spiraling of time. The practice of these arts is the foundation of healthy living culture, instilling wellness to all levels of individual and collective being; they integrate us into relationship with ourselves, our relatedness, and existence itself.
Heather Wolf comes from a background of immersive study and practice in a wide variety of world folk traditions: herbalism & healing, fermentation, mythology & ritual arts, dance, music & theater. She is Co-Founder of Iggy’s Alive & Cultured, an artisanal raw-fermentation company based in the South Salish Sea, on Bainbridge Island. As Founding Brewess of Iggy’s Honeybrew Kombuchas, her formulations are inspired by old world herbal tonics. She has a deep reverence for the magic of fermentation, plants, bees, the healing alchemy of herbal brews, and living culture.
Maya Angelou is one of the great voices of contemporary literature and a remarkable Renaissance woman. In the 1960s, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Her books include an autobiographical account of her youth, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Gather Together in My Name. She has been awarded over 30 honorary doctorate degrees and been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. These are not the accomplishments one might have predicted from knowing her in her early days.
Linda Wolf: What do you tell young people who look out and see nature being destroyed, so much violence, everything falling apart?
Maya Angelou: It seems terrible and it’s true; it is pretty terrible. There’s racism and sexism and ageism and all sorts of idiocies.
But bad news is not news. We’ve had bad news as a species for a long time. We’ve had slavery and human sacrifice and the Holocaust, and we’ve had brutalities of such measure that in truth today, sitting in Seattle, Washington, in 1995, we can’t imagine what Attila the Hun did; we can’t imagine the cruelties of the Inquisition. We can’t imagine it.
Today we say “Ahhh, how horrible!” But the truth is we have had bad news a long time. Somehow we have survived, amazingly. While on the one hand we have the brutes, the bigots, the bullies, and at the same time we have had men and women who dreamed great dreams. We’ve had Galileo and Aesop, Paul Laurence Dunbar and W.E.B. Du Bois; we’ve had Sholem Asch, and Shalom Aleichem – great dreamers. We’ve had women who stood alone, whether it was Harriet Tubman or Mother Jones. We’ve had Margaret Sanger. We’ve had women who have stood in the gap and said, “I’m here to try to save the world.”
So I would say – not to the young people, but to you and to other adults – bad news is not news. Somehow, miraculously, we’ve survived and had a chance to laugh at each other and with each other, and fall in love and honor each other, and make dinners for each other.
This is what young women and men should know. They should know that we are carnivorous yet we have decided somehow not only not to eat our brothers and sisters, who may be delicious, but to accord them some rights and to try to love them and look after them. Look at that. That’s amazing!
I don’t want young men and women looking around at this little lonely planet and saying, “Oh my God! Mea Culpa. It’s so awful.” It’s bad, but it’s also good, and it’s up to each one of us to make it better – everyone of us. We deserve our future.
Linda Wolf: Dr. Angelou, you have done a lot in your life. You’ve taken drugs and written about it. You were a madam for lesbian prostitutes. You were a teenage mom. You tried prostitution. You had incredible experiences, deep and rich, that you wouldn’t have had if you had followed the straight and narrow?
Maya Angelou: Yes, but I wouldn’t suggest it for anybody. I mean if you happen to fall into the gutter, see where you are and admit it. As soon as you admit it you can be like the prodigal son, the prodigal daughter: get up and go to a safe place. Get up and go to someplace where your spirit is not kicked and brutalized, and your body misused and abused. Get up! But you can’t get up unless you see where you are and admit it.
I wrote about my experiences because I thought too many people tell young folks, “I never did anything wrong. Who, Moi? Never I! I have no skeletons in my closet! In fact I have no closet!” They lie like that, and then young people find themselves in situations and they think, “Damn, I must be a pretty bad guy. You know, my mom or dad never did anything wrong, so I’m pretty bad,” and they can’t forgive themselves and go on with their lives.
So, I wrote Gather Together in My Name, meaning that all those grown people, all those parents and grandparents, and teachers and preachers, and rabbis and priests who lie to the children can gather together in my name, and I will tell them the truth.
Linda Wolf: Where did you find the inner strength to keep liking yourself and feeling good about yourself through all the hardships, the scary times, and the painful times?
Maya Angelou: Well, I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live you will make mistakes. It is inevitable. Only the angels, the cherubim, and about three rocks don’t make mistakes. You’re going to do that.
But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, “I’m sorry,” to the people who you think you may have injured, and then you say to yourself, “I’m sorry,” and then you can like yourself again.
Quite often if we hold onto the mistake we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror, so we can’t see what we’re capable of being. It is equally important to see the mistake and to forgive oneself for it. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self.
I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now when a larger society sees you as unattractive, as a threat, as too black or too white, or too poor, or too fat, or too sexual, or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.
So, I think my blessing has been that I have been able to see a lot of my mistakes, and I’ve been able to forgive a lot of them and try to become better the next time.
Linda Wolf: Dr. Angelou, what advice do you have for young people growing up today?
Maya Angelou: To laugh as much as possible. Always laugh; it is the sweetest thing one can do for oneself and one’s fellow human being. When people see the laughing face, even if they’re jealous of it, their burden is lightened. But do it first for yourself.
Laugh and dare to try to love somebody, starting with yourself. You must love yourself first, of course, and you must protect yourself when you can. You say, “Just a minute! I’m worth everything, dear.”
If you really realize that, you realize everybody else is worth everything. Everybody, fat and thin and plain and pretty, white and black, rich and poor, thick and slow and brilliant, everybody is worth everything. Start with yourself though.
Linda Wolf is the co-founder of the Daughters/Sisters Project. (See Been There Done That in this issue.)
In early May, three 8th graders from Hyla Middle School, an independent private school on Bainbridge Island, asked to interview Linda Wolf, TTC Founder and Executive Director in support of their final project for their Global Communities class. The culmination of this class project is scheduled to be presented at the Living Futures unconference in Seattle on May 18th.
At Hyla Middle School, 8th grade students have the opportunity to explore issues that impact their lives through the Living Futures Global Education curriculum. This year, students have focused their energies on a wide array of issues including environmental and inclusivity issues of the Puget Sound area, and building community for youth. This particular group focused on inclusivity and community building for youth on Bainbridge Island, WA. Their goal is to bring attention to strategies and solutions that can serve as potential models for other communities. As teens, they understand the need for change and see themselves as active agents in that change.
Hyla Middle School 8th Graders
In this interview, Linda Wolf touches on poignant topics such as connection, empowerment, activism, substance abuse, grief, self-love and compassion and how TTC builds vibrant and authentic relationships that support and empower us in our personal growth which informs our capacity to affect social change.
On a personal note, as assistant to the Directors of TTC, I was deeply moved by the reactions of the teens listening to Linda speak. Their faces softened, their voices relaxed, and their eyes seemed to fill with relief. They were nodding their heads, saying, “Yes! Yes! This makes sense!”
It was an honor for me to witness this connection and I believe the true strength of our organization is that it allows us to see each other and connect in this deep way, listening from the heart and being heard and witnessed profoundly heals our wounds and this positively impact everything from our personal relationships to deep divisions in the political and social climates. Please let us know your thoughts and take-aways from this interview.
Olivia: So, do you feel like you are pretty tapped in to the community of youth, ages middle age to high school?
LW: I have a lot of experience in the past but I haven’t worked directly in circle with teens on the Island for a few years; I run a middle school aged circle in Seattle, now. But, we look forward to offering multiple local circles on the island, starting this Fall.
Olivia: How would you describe the youth community on Bainbridge?
LW: I would say, in general the youth on Bainbridge are pretty privileged, mostly white, upper to middle class – they have mostly college-educated parents who are either stay-at-home parents or business people. The kids here have a lot of opportunities to be in nature versus growing up in the city. Being on Bainbridge is sort of like living in a gated community. I think there is a lot that young people on Bainbridge are missing out on though – one of the most obvious is a connection with youth from Suquamish. There is a whole diverse culture that is only 5 minutes away that this community has not merged with… and you don’t get that in cities where there tends to be much more diversity. I do see youth on this Island going through the exact same things that youth go through all over the world go through in general as adolescents and teens, though I think many youth on this island are perhaps more conscious about alternative ways of living.
Dock Jumping on Bainbridge Island, WA
Jacqueline: Do you see patterns in middle school or high school that lead to drug use, alcohol use, failing classes or school?
LW: Yeah, I do. The way I would describe the biggest problem for all of us in this world, including teens, is that we live in a toxic system – an unhealthy paradigm of dominance versus partnership. The larger paradigm is one of power-OVER instead of power-WITH. For example, white men over everyone, men over women, adults over children, people over animals, people over the planet. It’s dominating and controlling power versus cooperative partnering and collaboration. We live in a system that doesn’t honor compassion, cooperation, sharing, communication, true friendship, equality, and respect as primary principles to live by, even if we espouse it as a value. We live in a system of power over. “You are less important than me because I am an adult. You are less important to me because you’re brown. You’re less important because you’re Jewish. You’re less important because you’re a woman. You’re less important because you’re gay.” It’s all about domineering over people, the planet, animals. How can we be well when we live in a system where the paradigm is dominance?
We need a system of power-with, a paradigm of cooperation and partnership. I think that is the biggest problem we all have. Every single solitary one of us world-wide. The most important thing for me is to create something that holds us all in partnership, in cooperation, and respect – that has been the overriding value of the Teen Talking Circles Project. TTC is not about an adult coming in to a circle and lording over you. We are not going to try to mentor you, fix you, or tell you how to live.
TTCs are about listening and having the answers and wisdom come from you. What is it that you are longing for? What is it that you want out of life? As a facilitator we’re saying I was once a teenager, and even though I am 67 I have the teenager in me just like every adult has the teenager in her. Your parents have a teenager still inside of them. You happen to be teenagers. It’s co-mentoring that is most important to us. What do you know that you can teach me? What do I know that I can teach you? This creates a space where we can be truthful with each other.
Alcohol and drugs are a complex issue. What drugs are we talking about? Are we talking about marijuana? Are we talking about MDMA, acid, heroin, cocaine, meth?
Olivia: We are talking about substance abuse in general… It could be anything, like sugar.
LW: That’s a complex subject. Much of it has to do with wanting to escape our feelings. When we want to escape our feelings, we could do it in a number of destructive ways, as you say, through sugar, overeating, alcohol, cutting, sex –all kind of ways to distract ourselves and numb ourselves to real life and our feelings. The opportunity that life affords us is to feel grief – and joy. When we feel grief, our hearts break open and that is where the compassion comes in, the self-love comes in. If we are trying to avoid feeling pain, we’re going to use all kind of methods to avoid the wound, the pain, the grief, the shame.
What Teen Talking Circles gives us an opportunity to do is to share those feelings and find out that for goodness sakes, we are not alone. We all feel the exact same things. We all bleed red blood. We all have hurt. We all have shame. We all have wounds… so what?! That doesn’t mean that’s who you are; who you are is so much bigger. To see who you are is also a great healing and helps us to not want to divert, numb ourselves, leave the room, avoid people, not be real, or not be authentic. Right?
Olivia, Jacqueline, Keenan: Yeah! Yeah!
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” — Leonard Cohen Expansion: Sculpture by Paige Bradley
LW: See, these are things you already know… Young people have their ear to the world like listening with a stethoscope. Someone just said to me recently, “We radio out what we are feeling, seeing, imaging.” We radio it to each other energetically. That’s why we can feel what’s going on with other people at school. You know when someone’s giving you the eye. They don’t have to say a thing. You know when you feel safe – you know when you don’t. How are you to trust an adult if you feel an adult is not walking their talk? If you feel an adult isn’t facing themselves? How are you going to trust an adult if you know an adult isn’t really going to listen to you? How do you know when you are really being heard? Being heard is one of the greatest gifts you can give each other. Being heard heals us.
For years, I couldn’t say what I thought about “drugs,” like pot. I’ve wanted to just say to adults, ‘Look, there is going to be experimentation in the teen years, face it. Why? Mostly because they just want to know what is it already!’ Young people just don’t want to feel dumb around other young people who have done it and have to say they don’t know what it’s like. Now, there is religion, wisdom, parental advice that young people need to hear, no doubt about that … of course the advice I gave to my daughters was “don’t do it!” but the reality is that there is going to be experimentation. I experimented as a teen and almost everyone I know has experimented as a teen.
But, there is a real difference between experimenting safely and abuse, self-harm, or lack of self-esteem. I would bet that teenagers have been experimenting in every generation since there was ever a group called “teenagers” and adults haven’t liked it because we know that it can cause so much pain and worse. We know the pain that can happen but sometimes we have to let our kids find that pain, otherwise they will never learn – never make their own choices. They need to ask themselves what is a boundary that I don’t want to cross? How do I create a happy life? What is a healthy life? Balance. Balance.
TTC is an extraordinary place for young people to come together and be heard wherever they are at. We stand by the idea that if we as facilitators hear you or feel that you are hurting yourself with drugs or anything or being hurt by anyone, we are first going to encourage you to talk about it – and if we feel it is dangerous to you or others, we’re going to stand with you to get help outside of circle. But young people who are experimenting with something like pot and talking about it and showing up consistently to circle every week… we’re going to think you’re pretty much doing ok, most likely. But we’re going to ask you to dig into what is behind what you’re doing and the choices you’re making. It is all about balance and well-being and our facilitators are trained to be conscious about all this. As a circle, we all agree to this on day one. This is talking circle – this isn’t psychotherapy, although it is very therapeutic. The thing about TTCs is that one of the basic agreements that we make with youth in circle from the get-go is that we are all coming to circle to become healthier, wiser, and more self-loving and self-accepting as well as caring about each other and others in general. So we assume that is what you want if you are committed to coming to circle each week.
Also, you young ones are the ones who become activated the quickest if you see or hear that one of your circle mates is hurting themselves or being harmed. Often in circle you would be the ones to ask permission from Joe to talk about it with him. We’ve seen this many times in circle. You develop real care for your brother or sister in circle and it becomes another opportunity to become co-mentors to each other, which is really a beautiful thing. This is part of the empowerment and growth young people develop and practice in themselves and with each other in circle.
TTC on Bainbridge Island
Olivia: What kind of social changes have you seen over your time here on Bainbridge Island?
LW: I think change is cyclic. Things change but then they come back to be dealt with again and again but from a new place. It’s the same in our personal lives. We make changes and then time goes on and we have to learn the lessons all over again, each time growing and evolving.
Over the last 20 years, circle has stopped being such an odd, unusual thing. It’s more common to have a “Gender Talks” group or guy’s circle, where guys are looking at the cost of sexism to them. I would say that activism is a lot more normal. Sexual identification is more gender fluid. But, it seems to me, from a larger perspective we’re back to a starting point on some of the same issues we had 20 years ago, especially right now with our current president, his administration, many of those who voted for him and a general political climate in the world right now. For us in the US, the rug has been lifted up and the stuff that has been swept underneath it for a long time is coming out again. Many of these issues came up when I was 16 and I was working against nuclear power, war, sexism, homophobia, racism – working for civil rights, for environmental issues, for women’s empowerment. I think this is coming back up to the forefront and young people and adults are going to have to awaken on a whole new level.
Keenan: How did TTC come about?
LW: TTC started because a friend and I wanted to write a book for teens, telling them everything we had learned that could help them navigate the teen years. We brought together 21 teens from Bainbridge and Suquamish ages 13-21 and we met for 10-weeks and created safe space to find out what the issues were for each one of the teens in the room and what they wanted the book to be about. We called our first circle a focus group – to focus on the issues — and a safe space to tell the truth. After 10-weeks, we thought we would write this book on teenagers for teenagers. We didn’t want to write another book for adults that would make adults feel comfortable about teens. We wanted to write one teens would pass to teens. Just so we’re clear — adults aren’t ever, usually, going to feel comfortable about your teen years, especially parents; it’s scary for them. They know what can go wrong. It’s scary and it’s exciting, and sometimes you live out what your parents did or didn’t do or what they wished they could have done and it’s crazy – very complex.
Anyway, after 10-weeks was up the girls in circle said, “Please! Please don’t stop, we have nowhere else to tell the truth like this! We have no place where we can totally be real and tell people what’s going on with us without being judged, labeled, punished, or where we are vulnerable to gossip or it being used against us.” So, we kept the circle going for two years and then we wrote the first book, “Daughters of the Moon, Sisters of the Sun: Young People and Mentors on the Transition to Womanhood.” Afterwards, we kept meeting every week. Actually a lot of kids from Hyla were part of our first circles. We held circle outside of school so none of the kids would get in trouble from the teachers or administrators if they talked about the more edgy stuff. The book ended up selling over 50,000 copies and was so successful people helped us start the nonprofit so that we could train other adults to lead circles in their communities.
First Teen Talking Circles with Co-Founders Wind Hughes and Linda Wolf
Years later, we wrote a second book called Global Uprising: Confronting the Tyrannies of the 21st Century – Stories of a New Generation of Activists. The idea being that each of our personal issues are connected to global issues. For example, one of my personal issues as a teen was over-eating, which is how I tried to escape my feelings of insecurity and lack of self-esteem, I just ate and ate. I didn’t know how to throw up, I would just stuff myself with food and eventually cry. It was a paradox.
So where does that come from? I felt too fat. Why did I feel too fat? My mother was a fashion model and I compared myself to her. Where else was I getting the message that I was ugly if I was fat? Magazines, TV, movies. Who was selling me those magazines? Men and corporations interested only in exploiting me though promoting cultural norms around what a woman should look like and though ads in those media sources. How did I come to feel so objectified? Sexist messages were coming in from all sides. So, we once I started identifying and connecting my personal issues to global issues and started seeing all of the tentacles that interwove in creating my thinking that I was not good enough, I could start to take some action. I could become an activist. Once we can identify with our power to take action, we no longer have to be muted or overwhelmed by our personal issues.
Global Uprising came about because we were inspired by the WTO protests in Seattle that happened in 1999, where young people came together from around the world protesting these very things – Advertising messages, sweatshop labor, animal cruelty, the prison industrial complex, institutionalized racism, etc. Global Uprising is a book for teens, your age, that will teach you what’s wrong and why are we are behaving this way.
Olivia: So, what you are really saying is that we need empowerment?
LW: Again, a very deep question with many answers, empowerment. What is true empowerment? What I learned recently was that there is a real difference between force and power. True power can be very graceful, something I have to learn myself because I fought so hard in the 60s and still feel like I have to fight hard what’s going on in our country today. One of the greatest ways to have true power is through self-knowing, to cultivate self-respect and respect for others. To see your elders and the authority figures around you as human beings. To understand what it means to change the paradigm from power-over to power-with. There are many ways we can nurture our own agency. Being around people who support and uplift you is also so important, which is what circle offers.
Who are you? See yourself. You’re not this little thing that’s been labeled you. You are this enormous consciousness, you are not limited. You’re everything. What happens with a lot with young people is that someone will say to them, “Who do you think you are?” That’s disempowering beyond belief.
“Girl in the Tree” Protest on Bainbridge Island. Driven by a deep sadness that her home town was developing unsustainably, teen activist, Chiara Rose protests 800+ trees being cut down for shopping center build. Hundreds of people show up in support of her. Great example of bringing the personal issues to external action.
TTC: Let’s turn the tables for a minute and ask you teens something. What one thing do you wish adults knew about the teen community?
Keenan: I would like them to know that we are mature and if we show that we are mature they need to know that we can handle more. Sometimes, say they are mature and their parents still treat them that they are not
Jaqueline: Here at Hyla, adults trust us that we are going to do the right thing… maybe a few of us need a steer in the right direction every once in a while. I think adults should know that we can make the right decision but nobody can always make the right decision.
Olivia: I want them to know that we are ready. With Internet and everything, there isn’t a time in our lives that we don’t know. There is no use crying about it, it’s done – you can’t stop it. You have to stop protecting us from things we already know because it’s counter-productive and annoying. All of that effort can be used to teaching us knew things. Of course, we are going to make our stupid jokes and goof around but we are mature, we just don’t act like it because aren’t expected to and it’s kind of fun to not be… but we still have it in us.
LW: It sounds like you don’t feel like adults are giving you credit for having a much broader understanding of the world. And that you do have a much broader understanding of the world even though you are still “kids”… and you are still kids in some ways because you aren’t working or having to work for your living – you’re still dependent. It sounds like you want adults to jump levels and treat you as more mature — perhaps they aren’t ready themselves to do that. It’s hard to let go of our children into an adult world that has so many pit-falls.
Olivia, Jacqueline, Keenan:Yeah! Yeah! Exactly!
Olivia: Thank you for meeting with us. You have been so apt at hitting all of our questions. We would love to have you come in to our class and speak about this more! We would love to have TTC in our class next school year if possible!
LW: Yes of course! We would love to!
Thank you, Olivia, Jacqueline, Keenan, for inviting us to sit down and chat with you. We look forward to more opportunities to talk with you and see what we can learn from each other.
If you are interested in learning how to start at Teen Talking Circle in your community, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interview has been edited slightly for clarification.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month which affords us a specific opportunity to break the silence of sexual violence and reinforce the need for prevention efforts.
TTC is committed to having truthful conversations even when they contain tough topics that are often silenced and hidden in our society. In this blog post, we will explore sexual violence and provide information on what to do when you or someone you know has experienced it. Both victim and perpetrator suffer when sexual violence occurs.
Rape culture affects all of us. In a country where our president has been accused of sexual assault, it is more important than ever to bring awareness to this reality. Four women have come out against Donald Trump and are pursuing legal recourse. Last year, a 2005 recording leaked in which Trump bragged about kissing women (“I don’t even wait”); as well as how easy it is for celebrities to “grab them by the pussy” because, “they let you do it.”
In the following interview, we turn our attention to Hailey, a courageous teenage girl, who has taken action in her high school.
Hailey is a senior on an island in the Pacific Northwest who started a campus club called “Students United Against Sexual Violence” whose mission is to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault in her community and to prevent assault from happening. Early on in our interview we learned about Hailey’s motivation for starting the club. Two years earlier, Hailey was forcibly raped by a friend during a casual hangout. She’s suffered through the pain of hiding her rape; the pain of coming out with it — and now works to help others. Unfortunately, Hailey is not alone. There are heartbreaking stories of rape just like hers all around the world.
Statistics on rape and other sexual assaults are notoriously difficult to calculate due to inconsistent definitions of rape, different rates of reporting, and a variety of other issues. For example, some countries may not criminalize marital rape. In some countries, women do not report rape because they fear retaliation or persecution (Honor Killings) or prosecution due to laws against premarital sex. Across the world, there may be a general distrust in local law enforcement to handle the case, which magnifies the trauma.
In Hailey’s case, there was distrust of local law enforcement because the perpetrator was an intern at the police department. Her case was never reported just like so many others. In fact, it is estimated that 54% are not reported.
Low estimate of the number of women raped every year according to the Department of Justice: 300,000
High estimate of the number of women raped every year according to the Center of Disease Control: 1.3 million
TTC: Thank you, Hailey, for meeting with us! We are excited to hear about the Students United Against Sexual Violence club you started at your high school. Why was it important to you to start this club?
H: In my sophomore year, I was raped. He was a friend of mine. He knew my parents, I mean, we were friends for a long time. One day, we were driving home and he said, “Hey, I want to show you this cool place I found.” I was like, “Ok sure,” because this is something that kids do; we show each other cool abandoned places, views of the water and stuff like that. So he drives us there. It was an old deserted patio overlooking the water and he forcibly raped me there. We were just hanging out. I didn’t really know that was going to happen.
He grabbed me and threw me against the railing, shaking me, and yelling at me. I felt stuck. I didn’t know where I was so I couldn’t really leave. He was pushing me so hard against the post it was starting to hurt my back. I was telling him to stop. He didn’t. He continued. It was physically so painful and I was so scared. When it was over, he told me to “Get in the fucking car” and he dropped me off at my friend’s house.
H: I didn’t tell anyone for a long time. He worked at the police station as an intern answering phones and he had access to files. My parents found out a year later when I had a break down. I got caught at school with drugs. My dad was like, “What is going on? I know something is triggering this.” So I told them. I didn’t tell them who it was but I think they may have figured it out by going through my phone.
In the US, victims are not reporting for the following reasons:
20% feared retaliation
13% believed the police would not do anything to help
13% believed it was a personal matter
8% reported to a different official
8% believed it was not important enough to report
7% did not want to get the perpetrator in trouble
2% believed the police could not do anything to help
30% gave another reason, or did not cite one reason
TTC: So, what happened with the guy?
H: I kind of felt like I had to keep up appearances because he was in the same friend group. When I told my friends, they stopped inviting him places. Didn’t bother him much; he had a bunch of other friends. He was a typical all American guy, popular, jock. He’s at college now. I guess it just sort of got buried.
TTC: How do feel you toward him now?
H: Super pissed! I had a few conversations with him about it at first but he kind of shut it down. After a while he was like, “Okay, okay, I guess that’s what happened, I’m sorry.” For me that wasn’t enough.
TTC: How do you think that’s affecting you now?
H: More than anything the experience has empowered me. I started a club at my high school called Students United Against Sexual Violence. The school won’t let me fundraise yet because the club has to be around for a year before it can become an official club. One of the club’s sponsors is the mother of the guy who raped me. She comes to our meetings and helps pay for our events but she has no idea that it was her son. My parents never confronted his parents, I wouldn’t let them. It’s so hard to be in meetings with her and openly talk about my experience looking at her face which looks so much like his. I don’t want to tell her because I am afraid she will stop giving us money and the club will be closed.
At the same time, I met one of my current best friends through the club. She came up to me at school and said she needed an older girl to talk to about being raped. I worked with her and two days later she told her parents. We’ve become such great friends. I realized that I could be helping people like her. I want to be making a difference. That’s something our generation wants to do – make a difference with our work. I think that outweighs the stress of having to work with this woman.
TTC: Wow! What a story of transmutation! Taking your pain and turning it into something that can really help people. Tell us more about your club at school.
H: The school threatened to shut the club down because they said sexual assault wasn’t happening until I came along. One school administrator would single me out and harass me anytime I was talking to a girl, even when the campus police where present. There was one time she came up to the campus detective when a girl was reporting a case and said, “Hailey is just trying to make up cases and have all these girls report it to make a scene at my school.” The detective said, “If you are not nice to Hailey, I can take your job away.” She kept giving me a bunch of crap. When we made a website, she blocked it from the school district. Eventually she was fired. The school officials told her that she had to meet with them on Friday and she knew what was coming. The day she was supposed to meet them, they came in to her office and it was empty. The rest of the school just thinks she quit because the official statement was that she was going into a new phase of her life…. but the school admin told me what happened.
TTC: Would you ever consider telling this woman that it was her son who raped you?
H: I was considering telling her next year. The only reason our club is around is because of her advocacy. The school told us that they would shut the club down and that I could get in academic trouble because they didn’t like that I was bringing this negative attention to our student population. Until this summer, when I started talking about it, there were very few rape reports. Just this fall, four girls reported to the school administration, “I can’t be in this class because this boy has raped me.” I think they just don’t want to admit it’s a problem. They make it difficult for me to promote the club.
For example, all school clubs are allowed to hang up posters as long as they don’t have any nudity, drugs, or swear words. I had a poster with our club name and meeting time and the office said we couldn’t hang them up. The day before I was hanging posters for another club and the office was so supportive. So, when they said no to the Students United Against Sexual Violence club posters, I was like, “This is not okay!” I gave them a lot of push back. My parents’ friends who were lawyers sent a letter to the school about all the legalities that they are breaking. The school’s response? They gave us permission to hang two posters. The limit for every other club is 12… so I said, “No, I want to be treated the same way the other clubs are being treated.”
Eventually, it all worked out but there was a ton of resistance I had to get through. That’s why it’s so important to have this one advisor support us. I know that they are going to make it so much harder for us to be a formal ASB club next year. Once things fall into place with the club, I may tell her that it was her son who raped me.
TTC: Do you think he will do this to someone else?
H: I think he is scared as hell. He saw that perfect opportunity to do it but then he saw how much shit I brought to the table. I don’t think he would do it again but I can’t be sure.
TTC: What do you think about when people say, “she asked for it”?
H: I hate it when people say that “she asked for it.” If I were to get mugged tomorrow and somebody stole my purse, I would immediately call my mom and ask for her help. If I were on that same street and someone pulled me into an alleyway and raped me, the last thing I would want to do is tell my mom.
TTC: Why do you think so many girls don’t tell their parents?
H: I felt like I was letting my parents down… and I still haven’t really figured out why. No parent wants to hear that their child was raped. I have seen my parents cry over it and know that I have caused them sadness. I don’t feel responsible for what happened to me but knowing that the people I love and the people who love me are hurt by my coming out with it makes me feel like I should keep it to myself.
Also, a common complaint is that when you do tell your parents, they begin to freak out and I think that’s where a lot of the victim shaming comes in. Like with my parents when I told them, they were like, “Okay, you are just not going out again!” I felt like I did something bad and was being punished. My friend’s parents took her phone, read all of her text messages, and won’t let her out past 11pm because they’re scared – it’s understandable to be scared but it just makes the kid feel like they are being grounded for getting raped and that goes into the huge subconscious place of victim shame. I actually want to start educating parents on how to treat their kids who have been raped and what to do.
Please help TTC continue our work bringing to light the dark truths of sexual assault this month on social media and in conversations. It is especially critical to talk to the youth about consent, mutual respect for bodies, and how they might advocate for awareness amongst their peer groups. We ask that adults educate themselves on how to talk with the youth, how to help, and how to listen compassionately, without overreacting, during these sensitive conversations.
Thank you for taking the time and care to help us raise awareness and create a safe and loving world for all.
We’ve begun a series of interviews with teens, starting with two volunteers in our predominantly white community who answered questions we posed to them concerning drug use in high school, racism, sexism, white privilege, and their experience as teens in 2017 in a US dominated by a Donald Trump presidency. Stay tuned for diverse teen perspectives over the next few months as we delve into the topics that matter. Please feel free to share our blog on FB or with young people in your life and anyone who works with youth
Our mission has always been to educate and empower young people. This year, Teen Talking Circles is 24 years old. We are honored to begin the process of supporting TTC to be an adult in the world, so to speak, and will be re-visioning in conjunction with a new youth advisory board, board of directors, group of advisors and leadership. I’m delighted to announce that Jeny Rae Vidal has joined me to administer TTC. Along with our board and advisors, Jeny Rae will play a vital role in ushering in a new generation of facilitators and youth as we craft a renewed vision, mission, and strategy moving forward.
Before we get into the interview, please take note that a TTC Facilitator’s Training is online for registration. If you have wanted to join us we have space for 10 people and scholarship funds to offset the cost — especially for folks working with groups of refugee, immigrant, and/or marginalized youth. Check our training site and get in touch if we can help you come. ttcsummer2017.eventbrite.com
Our first interview is with a young man named Derek (not his real name), from Kitsap County in the Pacific Northwest.
Derek Interview: 1/31/17
D: My name is Derek. I am 16 and a junior in high school. I like baseball. I like playing guitar. I like spending time with my friends. Typical teenager things. I would say I’ve had a diverse upbringing — moved around a lot and lived in a lot of different places, met a lot of different people, experienced a lot of different communities. I’ve lived in the South of the US, and also in California, and now I live in the Pacific Northwest – one of the liberal parts of the Pacific Northwest.
TTC: What’s your take away from living in so different communities?
D: I think I have a better time transitioning between groups of people than others, just because I’ve done it my entire life.
TTC: So now you’re here in the PNW, going to a pretty liberal school. What’s it like for teenagers here?
D: Pretty good. It depends on who you are as a person. It’s a pretty accepting community of everybody’s differences. I can’t really tell you if it’s better or worse here but I would say that the general consensus is that there is a lot of partying and stuff that goes on here.
TTC: What do you mean?
D: A lot of kids here are into heavier drug use and drinking and stuff like that — even at school. Also, some groups of parents party and stuff, too. This community has a small town vibe but the reality is we’re less than a 20 minute boat ride from Seattle, which means that if you’re trying to get some coke it’s not that far away or hard to get. For kids further up the peninsula like in Port Townsend it’s a lot harder to get that kind of stuff. My experience is that teens can do a lot more at young ages here than most kids from small towns in other parts of America.
TTC: What kind of substances and drugs are kids doing here?
D: Pot and alcohol are as common as they always have been. Beyond that, I would say pills; a lot of pill usage –anything that can give you a good time – Oxy, Adderall, all the Adderall types, Vyvanse, Ritalin, Vicodin, and other pills that teens steal from their parents. Lots of kids use them at finals times. Also, there are recreational drugs like Molly, which is MDMA. I can’t actually say that I’ve ever met anyone whose done heroin though, but definitely coke — but I think coke is kind of outdated at this point. Acid is definitely a big thing, and ‘shrooms – those are two really big things.
TTC: Are the administrators of your school aware of all this?
D: Our vice-principle is in denial about drug at our high school. He sent out a bunch of emails so far this year saying that we don’t have a ton of problems. He thinks only about 1/10th of the student body has experimented with substances. I thought to myself, “You are shitting yourself if you actually think that!”
National Statistics based on 2014 Monitoring the Future Study. The Monitoring the Future Study has been funded under a series of research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institutes of Health. MTF is conducted at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.
TTC: The same thing happened in your school with the book I co-authored about teen girls and the issues they deal with. One of the administrators had the book banned from the campus library saying she didn’t know any girls like the ones in our book! 90% of the girls who told their stories in that book were from that school!
Daughters of the Moon, Sisters of the Sun written by K. Wind Hughes and Linda Wolf banned by campus library because the administration “didn’t know any girls like that”.
D: Well, of course, they aren’t going to know. Why would anyone tell them? The way school administration works is that it’s not like there’s a counselor you can go to talk to confidentially. So why would they know of anyone like that? Their approach is bad; they are really militant and authoritarian. Our vice-principle and some of the counselors have been in the military. That’s just not a good approach to have to help form young adults. Since they’re in denial, it makes the cases that do come forward seem more extreme and then they’re more extreme when they have to be disciplinarians.
TTC: What would you like to see from adults in positions of power?
D: People you can relay your problems to if you feel the need to, so that you can have a back and forth conversation rather than, “You’re doing this wrong and this wrong.” Even if you went in to talk to the principle, he’d be able to say “I understand, I drank in high school also…” But, it’s not the way the school system is set up. The administration is set up so you can’t relate to them at all and thus they can’t relate to you.
TTC: So having something like Teen Talking Circles is still very, very unusual and needed.
D: Yes, it’s needed. The good thing is that it gives you a place to come and talk and have a back and forth with other people about your problems and you can relate to each other. The bad thing is that it won’t have an impact on the larger system you have to live in — only on the way you’re relating to people. Because you still have to go back to the other “world.”
Teen Talking Circles — Seattle Girls Group 2016
TTC: Yes, that’s true, but by practicing other ways of being heard and hearing yourself that changes you – and you then carry back into your other world a different expectation of how you can relate with adults and peers. When you change, you change everything around you. Why do you think so many teens do so many substances? Just for fun, or other reasons?
D: Different things apply to different people. For a lot of kids here there’s a work hard/play hard kind of mentality where it’s like they have to do really good at school—they’re under so much pressure because their parents are really successful so it’s what’s expected of them –but they also party really hard. They party a ton. Also, you have people that either their parents are wealthy or they have a comfortable lifestyle so they don’t really have repercussions in life, so they just don’t really care. They just do what they do and party and stuff. And they don’t really care about school or anything like that because they will probably be fine in life no matter what. They can get a job at their dads company or something after they graduate. And then there’s a big group of people that don’t do any substances –they just do good in school — but I would say that’s only about a third to a fourth of the school’s population. Most teens do experiment with substance use because that’s just what we do. Then, there are kids who do have legitimate problems. They do drugs and drink because that’s their way of coping with stuff.
TTC: Do you know any other ways in which ways young people are coping? Are there kids you know who are not coping and who may be suicidal?
D: Oh yeah, totally. I don’t know in terms of other ways of coping, but I think that there are people who make it through and the people who don’t. Some just do better in society. I just think that there are a lot of really depressed people, especially in this part of the country. Just the weather makes it depressing—there are definitely are a lot more depressed people here than other places. So yes, depression and suicide is higher here.
TTC: But, do you ever hear any kids talk about committing suicide?
D: No, not in a serious manner, no.
TTC: Have you ever known anybody in school who has committed suicide? Or attempted.
D: (Hesitates) Yes. There was a kid in another school near by who died this summer. He did acid then went home and shot himself. But I don’t know if I would call that suicide, honestly. Yes, he did kill himself but he was tripping on acid – he wasn’t thinking clearly… The kids I know who knew him said he wasn’t somebody who would ever have done that.
TTC: Do you know girls who are harming themselves through cutting, over or under eating, or sexually putting themselves in situations that cause them pain?
D: I don’t know any girls anymore that cut. I think that’s kind of a middle school thing. I don’t think there’s a ton of people who have legitimate eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia but there’s a lot of stuff that people do related to body image that is unhealthy –like extreme dieting. Not like, “I’m going to quit eating corn syrup” but like avoiding eating altogether and stuff like that – not true anorexia but close. I know one chick that does laxatives so that it just passes through.
TTC: So pressure on girls to be thin?
D: I wouldn’t say pressure; it’s more their own personal thing, it’s what they think. Nobody is saying, “You’re fat! Go throw up in the bathroom.” It’s their own image of themselves. No one else is imposing on them.
TTC: Except it’s still the model of beauty for girls and women, to be thin; although there is quite a movement these days against such a narrow, old fashioned, and hurtful idea of beauty. Do you think there still a stereotypic “beautiful person” that makes one person more popular than another?
D: I don’t know what I would define as beautiful. If you’re talking about beauty being skinny people, I don’t know if I would describe that as beautiful. People are very fit here in this community, which means that the ones that are not as fit as the others stand out. It’s kind of weird to see a truly overweight person in this community; whereas in other places in the Midwest or the South, the majority over there are overweight people.
TTC: What about racism? Do you see racist behaviors in your school?
D: I don’t know if I would say that there’s any true racism. There are people making stupid, ignorant comments but its kind of tongue in cheek — it’s not done in a hurtful and mean manner. I think we have a very inclusive community for all races and sexual identities. We are used to a certain amount of political correctness here. Like, if somebody hears a Jew joke, they’d just be kind of like shocked. I mean come on, it’s not a good thing but it’s not something to raise all hell about, you know what I mean?
TTC: You said that if somebody said a Jew joke it would be no big deal?
D: No it would be a big deal because people are so shocked by something like that here because every thing is so politically correct!
TTC: In this community and at your high school there isn’t much diversity? The statistics I got from your school came out to be 80% Caucasian. The Suquamish reservation is right near you but there are only 0.6% Native Americans and about only 3% blacks in your high school.
D: I don’t think that it shows our community is discriminatory or anything; that just shows that not a ton of black people live here and not a ton of Native American people live here. Whether that’s because of where they’re at financially, which is a huge part of it, or whether or not they would like to live here, who knows? I would not say that there’s a ton of white people here because there’s a ton of discrimination. I would say that it’s just because there’s white people that already live here they’re gonna have kids, and the kids are going to stay here or move back here after college. It’s just kind of the community. I think that also this type of community is more attractive to hippie-esque white people because it is such a liberal community.
TTC: I’m surprised you don’t know more about the history and legacy of racism and how it plays out in the culture? Racism and white privilege permeates all aspects of our lives and communities. Have you ever heard of institutionalized racism? Have you ever considered how white privilege fits into the reality of ongoing institutionalized racism?
D: Well, I think you have poor white people, poor black people, poor Native Americans, poor Asians – in every race you have poor people. I don’t think whether or not they move up in life you can attribute that to racism. Maybe in a different era, like the 1820s, where there were plantations where black people were slaves and stuff, yes, that is racism. In modern society whether or not somebody moves up in society and can afford to live here or something like that is kind of dependent on how they do in life, not the color of their skin or what their background is or religious views or anything.
TTC: Actually, all that has everything to do with racism, sexism, and religious intolerance over the history of this country. Do you have any friends of color? Do you have a diverse group of friends?
D: Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t say so diverse. I have a few friends that are black. I have a few friends that are Asian. I have a few friends that are Native American.
TTC: Have you ever asked them how it feels to be in their skin?
D: No. I mean I have never asked my friends out right. Personally, I think if we focus on racism or focus on sexism we can protest that, yeah, for sure. But, like, when you watch a commercial and you see that the commercial has made it a point to have a black dude, an Asian, and a bunch of every nationality just to come off as politically correct, I think they’re making too big a deal of it. Whereas, if we didn’t focus on it, it wouldn’t really be such a big problem. Diversity is good and we should show where it fits. But, there’s no need for every single kid to be diverse in a commercial — that’s not necessary for us to be a perfect liberal society.
TTC: Are you politically aware of what’s going on in the past couple of weeks with the recent immigration ban? If so, how is that hitting you?
D: It’s depressing, as far as “Chumps” ban on people flying in from the Middle East. There are people with legitimate reasons and rights to be here and people who are refugees and immigrant families. I mean, they have a total right to be here. Telling people they can’t come because they have a citizenship in a certain country, I think that’s wrong. It’s sad, but as a 16-year-old I try not to focus on it too much because I have a lot of other stuff going on in my own life that impacts me. If I worried about political stuff all the time, I’d just be stressed out of my mind.
TTC: Would you consider yourself an activist? Do you believe in standing up, speaking out; in protesting, marching, that kind of thing?
D: No. I’ll stand by my beliefs but I feel no need to go out and display them. I see the necessity for it in certain time periods, like women’s suffrage and the MLK rallies, but no, there hasn’t been something that has me out protesting.
TTC: Do you have any idea what might draw you out?
D: Human rights stuff that goes on near me because I can’t go to New York and occupy Wall Street because I have no means of getting there. If there is a clear, blatant, “this-is-just-wrong”, civil rights or human rights issue, I’d protest.
D: Black Lives Matter is a very tumultuous group. I think the message is good but it’s how I was saying with the commercials. I’m not one of those people who say “all lives matter” even though I believe all lives do matter and black lives matter, as well. I think it’s another thing where the differentiation is harmful to society because when you put a label like that on something, it detracts from the true message of it, which is what they’re saying –that there’s a disparity of treatment between white people and black people in certain parts of society. I think that many of the people who are in the Black Lives Matter movement are racist themselves as well. You can be black and be racist. I think there are many who are racist towards white people and other ethnicities. I think a lot of people in Black Lives Matter are #1. Bandwagoning and #2, for a white kid to go to a Black Lives Matter rally is iffy because, depending on what part of the country you’re from it can be a very unsafe place any white person to be. Quite honestly, it’s not like the peaceful protest of MLK’s day. It’s more radical.
Seattle Times has put together an excellent compilation of videos meant to probe the deeper issues and complexities of language when we speak on issues of race and racism. We encourage you to click this link to learn more about everything from Political Correctness to Microaggression, All Lives Matter to Institutional Racism. #UnderOurSkinis a conversation starter. “For those who freeze up at the prospect of talking about race, we hope this project will help break the ice. For those who tend to take sides right away when the issue of race comes up, we hope Under Our Skin will challenge assumptions and build common ground.”
TTC: In MLK’s day, protests were not so peaceful. The recent Women’s March in Seattle, now that was peaceful! Even the police were out in the streets holding our signs with us. So what are your biggest concerns as a 16 year-old guy?
D: My biggest concern is how if I have a problem with someone, how it’s going to divide my group of friends. That’s one thing I worry about because I don’t like to see that. I want to continue to spend time with people who I want to spend time with.
TTC: So you’re biggest concerns are relational concerns? Are you a peace builder?
D: I don’t think I’m a piece builder or an antagonist but I think I have my moments when I’m really pissed off at people and then moments when I’m really nice to people. I think it varies by how I’m feeling.
TTC: How do you work out your feelings? Are you emotional?
D: I would say that I’m an angry person depending on who I’m interacting with. I probably take my anger out on my family and my closest friends the most — in my family, I take it out on my mother and my little brother.
It’s not like I’m going to like throw a chair at the wall. It’s more like I’m just angry and pissy and stuff. And it’s not just me choosing to be angry, it’s usually prompted by something. Like when my mom is being irrational about something… Like if she agreed to something earlier and she was totally fine with it and we talked about it and stuff and then she gets in a mood and changes her mind. That’s when I get really angry. Also, I think it’s just my family’s way. We can be very fast and we can be smart asses and fire back very quickly. That’s just how we do our thing. We escalate and it escalates until we have to be apart for a few hours.
TTC: How do you work things through?
D: Normally, we just kind of separate and a few hours later we come back. Depending on what it is, we both just come back and accept each other’s views or come to a conclusion. I can be very harsh. Especially with people who are not part of my family who talk shit to me, I can be harsh but 20 minutes later I’m like shit that was kind of mean. I can be negative at certain times.
TTC: Are you clear about your own sexuality?
D: I would say I’m attracted to whoever I’m attracted to. 99% of the time I am straight. I mean I’ll make out with a dude, I don’t give a fuck about that, but that’s about it
TTC: Have you been in love yet?
D: No, I have not.
TTC: Have you made love yet?
D: Oh, yeah.
TTC: But not with someone you are in love with?
D: No I actually haven’t dated anyone in my high school. Teens just do things. Like if you’re at a party, you’re like, “What’s up”? I don’t think sex is that big of a deal. It’s not like we schedule it; it’s just spontaneous. Yeah, it happens a lot in the community and has various times for me
TTC: Is it satisfying? Or are you missing something?
D: It kind of depends on the situation but I think sex is definitely different when you have some type of feelings for the other person other than just pure attraction.
TTC: Do you have any kind of sense about how you want your life to go? Do you imagine your future?
D: I hope I make it in something artistic because I really don’t want to just do a monotonous job. I’m saying this as a 16-year-old right now, but I feel like I would be more satisfied with working just a shitty job until I sell a painting for a quarter of a million dollars or something like that. I feel like I would be more satisfied working the drive-through at McDonald’s than accepting that I should probably go through a career in accounting or something like that. So yes, kind of, but not really. I don’t really have any vision for my life.
Recently, Heather Wolf, Eric Kuhner and I visited Bibi at her home in Portland. She graciously spent a couple hours with us. This month, we’ll be sharing photos and the full interview. Until then, here is a sweet video of Bibi offering us a tea ceremony and speaking with us about her life as Beyonce’s guitarist and musical director – what she went through staying true to herself.
Stay tuned for the full interview and much much more from one of the most inspiring and inspired women in the world today… ms bibi mcgill. xo linda
PS – TTC’s annual Seattle fundraiser is happening October 16th. Save the date — more about this in our next post.
In 1970, when I was 19, I was a member of the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs & Englishmen Tour as a photographer. JCMD&E was a two-month traveling circus of 45 young people: musicians, singers, girlfriends, roadies, a 5 person film crew, 2 official photographers, some children, a nanny and a dog! We traveled around on a private plane and played concerts in something like 50 states. The Tour is iconic — out of it came a documentary movie, a double album, the “JCMD&E Memory Book” I created last year, live albums, and many tribute concerts worldwide. The original Tour is considered by many to be one the top 10 R&R tours of all time. In fact, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi modeled their 12 piece band, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, after the JCMD&E Tour.
A couple years ago Derek (Trucks) and Susan (Tedeschi Trucks) got in touch with Joe about collaborating on a tribute to the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour. Joe was game, but sadly he died before it could happen. Not long after that, Derek, Susan and the band decided to go ahead with the tribute but to make it a memorial concert to Joe and a reunion of us original members. The idea emerged to perform the show at the 2015 Lockn’ Festival in Virginia. Long story short I was contacted by the producers of the Lockn’ Festival as they began to seek out the original alumni and soon the majority of us still alive agreed to come reprise our roles from the Tour.
Leon Russell on piano; Chris Stainton on organ & piano; Space Choir members Rita Coolidge, Claudia Lennear, Daniel and Matt Moore, Bobby Jones, and Pamela Polland; Bobby Torres on Congas and me as official photographer. Besides the 12 members of Tedeschi Trucks, we were also joined by Dave Mason, Warren Haynes, Doyle Bramhall II, Chris Robinson, and a number of other well known musicians. We all came together for 5 days to rehearse, hang out, perform and have a great time and that it was. Jesse Lauter and Jojo Pennebaker assembled a film crew to capture the whole thing and a documentary is in the works to come out next year about it all.
Warren Haynes with the Tedeschi Trucks Band – JCMD&E Tribute
In the months before we all congregated at Lockn’, I started reading about the musicians who were going to join us on stage and one in particular stood out to me– Warren Haynes. From the get-go I wanted to meet Warren in particular and it struck me that he would make a great interview for this blog. I read about his life and discovered he’d grown up with brothers and his father but not his mom. I wondered how his life developed without a mother. I wondered if he had women in his life who were role models. At Lockn’, I mentioned the idea of interviewing him and he said he’d be glad to. A few months later through his record label, Hard Head Management | Evil Teen Records, we set up the interview for March 28th in Seattle, where he was going to be playing at the Moore.
I asked Audrey Lane, my TTC assistant and videographer (Fem de Film), musician Zach Fleury, and my daughter, Heather Wolf to assist me. We arrived at the Moore just as sound check was happening and we set up our cameras in Warren’s dressing room. I thought the interview would last about 20 minutes but we ended up talking for well over an hour, and even that was not long enough.
Warren was exactly who I’d imagined him to be. Generous, warm, smart, funny, personal, and willing to reveal his authentic self. Warren is a multi-talented, openhearted person — a husband, father, brother, musician, songwriter and producer who, for over two decades, has produced an annual Christmas concert in North Carolina in support of Habitat for Humanity.
“I hate to think what my life would be without music…” Warren Haynes
Extras: More Q&A:
Linda: Why wasn’t your mother around after your parents divorced?
Warren: She met someone else and they fell in love. And they’re still together. My parents were like so many parents from that era; childhood sweethearts, known each other their entire lives. They were from the country in North Carolina and when you get married and are raising kids at such a young age you’re almost to kid yourself. They were 20 years old. The norm’s changed now. Now, people are choosing to have kids later, which I think it is a good thing. I had mine at 50, which I don’t necessarily recommend, but it worked out for me! Being 50 is a bit of a challenge because my son’s in the modern world and I tend to gravitate towards sealing myself off from the modern world but I can’t really do that.
Linda: They were practically teenagers themselves! As a teen did you do things that you regret?
Warren: Yeah, but I was not as wild-natured as a lot of my friends and it could’ve been a lot worse! But, I definitely experimented and did things that I regret, things many teens do. For example, I started drinking at an early age and now I don’t drink it all, but that’s what everybody who was cool was doing so that’s what I wanted to do.
As a musician you are as student for life… if you’re lucky to have something like music in your life there’s all these levels that you can explore. You can enjoy it on a fundamental, basic level where it is just about enjoyment or the other extreme is this enlightenment that you try to achieve a few times in your life and hopefully will be able to and everywhere in between. The only way to truly grasp the true power of music is through a lifetime of study and committing yourself to it.
Linda: Were you brought up religious?
Warren: We grew up Baptist but at some point it became less and less important. One of the things we learned in an unspoken way back then was that you don’t have to adhere to all the dogma and the fear factors that can be part of that whole scene.
Linda: Were your brothers musicians, also?
Warren: Both of my brothers are artists. One is a folk artist and the other is a wood carver. Both are very talented and were into music. My oldest brother plays a little bit but both my bothers have not only amazing taste in music but a great passion for music, which is where I got mine. When I was growing up my brothers had thousands of records I could go through, and that made a huge difference for me.
I lovingly referred to my brothers as the music police when I was growing up. They would say things like, “Don’t listen to that, listen to this — don’t waste your time with that –check this out.”
Because of my brothers, I was able to avoid getting trapped listening to what every other kid was listening to, all the trends of the day. I don’t mean to take away any value that trendy music may have, but in general trendiness is not something that helps shape or mold our personalities. Usually, it is highly marketed to us even if we don’t want it. Marketing can be highly manipulative. I understand that marketing is important but when you take something that someone inherently does not want or even like and repackage it to manipulate them to want it, it’s just wrong.
Zach Fleury, When you’re doing a show, how do you judge if it was a good night for you?
Warren: When it’s kind of effortless and I’m not struggling. There has to be a bit of a struggle but when everything I try seems to fall into place and I’m not having to fight too much that’s a good night for me, but I can’t imagine anyone walking off stage thinking they did absolutely the best they could ever do — I just don’t think that’s a possibility. Whoever the greatest guitar player in the world is walks off stage sometime saying, “Wow, I sucked tonight,” because that’s just the way it is. I think as people, we tend to only focus on what we did wrong and not what we did right. But I think that makes you better because it’s those people who were like, “Wow I’m great” that are not going to get any better, that are not going to peel off layers of discovery and find something new. I’ve had nights that I thought I played really good and somebody came up to me and said, “I’ve heard you better.” And there are times I’ve walked off stage thinking, “Wow, I didn’t do anything new tonight, I didn’t create anything that I haven’t been practicing my entire life, and somebody will come up to me and say, “That’s the best I’ve ever heard you play,” and it kind of freaks me out a little bit and eventually I realize it’s because everything I did was tried and true, it was all stuff that’s made the grade; that I’ve made as part of my vocabulary. I’m happy when I’m finding something new some new territory. That doesn’t mean someone listening is going to think that way.
The way all the projects that I’m involved with and the way I approach music is from a conversational standpoint and so the more conversational it is the more musical it is and the more dimensional it is, from my perspective. We always walk on stage and do something we call rumble where in a symphonic way we make little musical noises just to get our bearings — like a two minute improvisational thing that happens before the first song and on a good night the very beginning of that falls into place. The beautiful thing about playing with great musicians is that everybody’s listening so intently and that’s one of the hardest things for musicians to achieve; how to listen and perform at the same time; how to play what’s coming into your mind and also be influenced by what you’re hearing from across the stage coming from someone else.
I always tell people my favorite band is probably Miles Davis with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. That quintet. Everything they played sounded like a musical conversation and no one knew what they were going to play next until they heard what somebody else played and what they played was the response to that. That’s the most rewarding way to play music for me.
If you’re playing with the right musicians you can play forever. If you’re playing with the wrong musicians it’s over really quick and that’s just the way it is because what I’m playing depends completely on what I’m responding to.
It has to be an equal playing field onstage. When I joined the Allman Brothers in 1989, even though I wasn’t an original member and an equal member so to speak, musically we were all equal because we wanted the music to be the best it could it could and there had to be that quality on stage.
Linda: That’s one of the reasons why Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen was such a success. All of us, the kids, the nannies, the roadies, the friends, the girlfriends everybody, we were all treated as equals. And sometimes Leon would have the house lights turned up so that everybody would feel part of it all.
Warren: That opens up a whole other sense of a kind of communal connection it’s an energy you can tap into from a different source. That’s why I think trying to do as many different projects as I do has always worked for me because I learn from every experience. People ask me why do I do so many different projects and the reason why is so that I don’t get stagnate. Each project brings fresh energy.
Linda: Warren, we better let you go prepare for the concert! Thank you so much for taking so much time tonight.
Warren: We can do this again sometime, I really enjoyed it.
In 1998, K. Wind Hughes and Linda Wolf received the Athena Award for Excellence in Mentoring for their work with teen girls and for their book, Daughters of the Moon, Sisters of the Sun: Young Women & Mentors on the Transition to Womanhood. (website for the Athena Award)
The nonprofit they founded, Daughters Sisters Project, now known as Teen Talking Circles started in 1993 with the first Girl’s Talking Circle. Today, there are talking circles around the world. TTC has been a pioneer in the development of talking circles for teenagers.
This June, Linda Wolf will lead a 4-day training for new adults who would like to learn how to facilitate a talking circle. Scholarships are available and a hotel on Bainbridge Island has offered to donate a double occupancy room to help defray the costs for two people who would be traveling from out of town.
Imagine you had a safe space each week where you could speak your truth with a supportive group of friends without fear of judgment — where you could see how the issues you face are connected to global issues — where you could discover you are not alone — where you could see your gifts and feel your self-worth. Now, imagine you are 13 years old and have this in your life… This is what teen circles offer.
Check the TTC website to listen to teens talk about why circle is essential to their lives.