Local talent packed the building behind the Rex Club on the evening of November 19 to share an uplifting evening of Native American rap, spoken word, blues, gospel music, poetry, folk music, folk dancing, belly dancing, and story telling. More than 50 people attended
The event named “Hope is Alive 4!” was held in honor of National Suicide Loss Survivor Day on Nov. 21. It was sponsored by Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency in conjunction with the Community Education Committee along with community partners and advisory boards.
By six o’clock the hall was full. Marc invited everyone to share refreshments: veggies, small wrap sandwiches, popcorn, lemonade and water. He then explained that performers would have eight minutes to share their creative offering.
First to get up to the mic were Louis Gustafson and Billy Riggins, two members of the Pit River Tribe.
Louis began by saying, “We are very grateful to be able to participate in this event to help the community.”
He then introduced us all to Native American rap. Louis’s rapper name is PittFox. They rapped two rousing and inspirational songs. It was awesome. Louis and Billy also do Native American drumming with the Pit River Nation Drummers and shared some of their sacred songs at Burney Basin Days last July.
It was a great way to begin the evening and crack the ice. The crowd responded with total enthusiasm. Next up was Brave Faces advocate Christina Stampfli who shared a poem about facing depression.
Reading her poem, Ms. Stampfli portrayed perfectly the theme of the evening, “Has creating music, rhymes or poetry given you light in dark times or shed light on a hidden struggle? Then come celebrate how art heals and promotes understanding.”
Next, Kimberly Michelle Davis delighted the audience with her a capella rendition of two songs. Ms. Davis has a lovely voice and a natural charisma. As she sang, people could feel the love.
Steve Stoore came up on stage next. He said he hoped there would be more events in the future because he had a number of songs he would like to share that are relevant. Then he proceeded to play his soulful version of the classic blues song, “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad)” written by T-Bone Walker and recorded by the Allman Brothers as “Stormy Monday.” He accompanied his artful singing and guitar picking with some bluesy harmonica playing.
Next Billy Riggins came up again and shared some songs that he had written. Billy was just turning 17. He told of how he had suffered because of the death of beloved family members. Billy is a young man of great heart. He told us how he “loves his family to death,” and we all felt it. One of the songs he sang was a beautifully melodic, poignant song about the madness in today’s world.
Mental health concerns us all. We all would like to enjoy optimum health, mentally as well as physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet, whether through our own trials or affected by the struggles of others we all have been touched by illness. The challenges to mental health include stress, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, addiction, learning disabilities, mood fluctuations, and other psychological concerns.
These issues affect us not only individually, but collectively through the problems that we see every day in the news about our nation and the world. Billy’s song illustrated the anguish of this situation.
After Billy sang, Martin and Vicky McAffee got up and sang two moving gospel songs, one of which was “Light at the End of the Darkness” written by Larry Gatlin.
Creative expression is one of the ways we address and deal with our down times. Faith, family, and friends are major sources of support. But sometimes, in the pit of despair, one feels totally alone, doesn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, and loses all hope.
About forty people a year die from suicide in Shasta County.
Sometimes, people need help. Sometimes people who need help don’t reach out because of the stigma associated with psychological problems. That is why programs like Stand Against Stigma have been created: to increase awareness and openness; to lessen the stigma associated with problems we all share: to make people aware of behaviors that may be warning signs; and to provide avenues of support.
When my turn came, I did a poem entitled Night and Day and then performed an original song “Stay Awhile.”
Then we took a break which was nice because I had a chance to talk with two friends that I hadn’t seen for awhile. They are planning on getting married and asked me to sing a song at their wedding. Good things happen when folks get together.
After the break there were still more amazing things to come. Justin Babb, who was engineering the sound for the evening, told us that stand-up comedy helped to relieve his woes. Justin had chosen this evening for his debut performance.
The crowd was in stiches When Justin said, “If I had a dime for every time I picked up a chick, I wouldn’t have a dime,” a lady in the audience shouted, “Don’t worry I will set you up.” Everyone roared.
He also told a joke about Donald Trump’s hair which pretty much always goes over well with everyone.
We also were treated to two dances by the Burney International Folk Dancers
And while we were in the mood for dancing a young lady named Amy demonstrated two belly dances.
The crowd’s was rapt in attention. No one in the audience fell asleep.
Next, one of the women who had participated in the folk dancing read a moving section from her master’s thesis. The thesis was 25 years in the making. The reading described how support from a mentor had encouraged her in accomplishing the work.
After Sarah’s reading we were treated to more poetry by Stand Against Stigma advocate Chante Marie Catt.
Ms. Catt and all of the performers are living testimonies to the fact that hope is indeed alive!
To conclude the evening, our host, Marc Dadigan, told us a story. It was a humorous and engaging story from his college days about a blind date. The date didn’t work out. To put it mildly, the chemistry was not quite right. While the story was amusing, it also ended on a telling note. At the end of their last conversation, the girl said, “I wish I were not around.”
Looking back, Mark told us that he wonders how the girl fared. Now that he has become more aware he realizes that her statement was a sign that she may have been in need of help. Awareness awakens compassion. Mark advised us that materials and resources are available to help prevent suicide.
It may seem paradoxical that such serious issues were addressed at such a joyful gathering. One of the amazing things is that the whole event only lasted about two hours. The creativity flowed as smoothly as water through a dynamo producing a healing surge of inspiration for all. The atmosphere was never heavy. Au contraire, it was uplifting and empowering.
It was wonderful to experience such a wide variety of talent. It was truly a social event that helped a community connect in heart.
After the program concluded, people did not rush home. Rather, people lingered to get to know each other better and talk more.
The next day, I stopped by the Rex Club to thank the owner, Connie for hosting the open mic. She said that they may have another one in 3 months. Wonderful!
I tried to include everyone in this article, but I fear I may have missed a performer. If I did, I apologize. There was a lot of hay on the fork. If you are aware of someone I left out, please notify me and I will include them.
Also, I want to thank all of those who came to attend. Listeners are participants, and what’s a show without an audience? God bless you all.
See you next time.