Standing in front of an enormous American flag, Williamson announced that she wanted to run for president as a way “to engage voters in a more meaningful conversation about America, about our history, about how each of us fit into it, and how to create a sustainable future.”
“Our national challenges are deep, but our political conversation is shallow,” Williamson said. “My campaign is for people who want to dig deeper into the questions we face as a nation and deeper into finding the answers. . . . It is time for us to rise up, the way other generations have risen up. . . . I’m asking you to join with me . . . to join the evolution.”
In commenting on Williamson's announcement, Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Timeswrites:
The theater held hundreds of supporters and fans of her self-help ministry. Her 35 years of experience as a public speaker, teacher and pastor will serve her well if her candidacy goes anywhere. She is a charismatic orator, funny and erudite and passionate. She spoke for 40 minutes without notes or a teleprompter.
She spoke about her life – about her father, a successful immigration attorney, who taught her not just to look but to see – her anti-Vietnam War activism, her work as a “metaphysician,” someone who teaches spiritual lessons.
Her message seems perfectly in tune with the Democratic Party’s left wing. She is a progressive populist and does not object to being compared to Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
A new political possibility
Of her presidential bid, here's what Williamson herself says on her official campaign website.
There is an underground of people in America who are seeking higher wisdom. We are rich and poor, progressive and conservative, young and old. And what we share at this moment is deep concern – concern about the direction in which our country is headed, the assaults on our democratic foundations, and the erosion of our human values.
My campaign for the presidency is dedicated to this search for higher wisdom. Its purpose is to create a new political possibility in America – where citizens awaken, our hearts and minds are uplifted, and our democracy once more becomes a thing about which we can all feel proud.
It should be noted that Williamson and the spirituality she espouses are often dismissed as "New Age." Yet what I find interesting is that few people ever actually define "New Age spirituality" when talking about it. From my reading of folks like Marianne Williamson, what it is that they're saying (and what, in turn, is being disparaged by others as "New Age") is actually a reiteration of the age-old mystico/prophetic spiritual tradition that undergirds all the great religions, even if many of them now fail to recognize and embody it. So, yes, it's going to sound "new" to many, but it's actually not.
As to my thoughts on Marianne’s bid for the presidency of the United States, I support her run even as I very much doubt that she'll get the Democratic nomination. But what she will do is articulately and passionately raise the issues that desperately need to be raised, as she does in the following interview with TYT's Cenk Uygur. (NOTE: At the time of this interview (December 2018), Williamson was heading an exploratory committee on running for president.)
In conclusion, here's an excerpt from an informative (though at times cynical) Voxarticle by E.J. Dickson on William's presidential bid.
This is not Williamson’s first foray into politics. Throughout her career, she’s been vocal about her political views, from her stance in favor of offering reparations to black Americans (which she compares to the German government offering billions of dollars in compensation to Jewish victims of the Holocaust) to her proposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (“I don’t think the ultimate answer will be about settlements or checkpoints,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last fall, in what is perhaps the most Marianne Williamson response of all time. “The work of the genuine peace builders must be on the level of the heart.”)
But Williamson’s experience in a congressional election apparently didn’t slake her thirst for politics in general. Prior to announcing her bid for president (she is now running as a Democrat), she publicly endorsed Bernie Sanders and has spoken out at length against Donald Trump’s administration. In her announcement speech, she made it clear that her bid for the presidency was in direct response to what she saw as the “spiritual and moral rot” in Washington.
It’s also clear that she is positioning her bid for the presidency as a moral imperative, using the language of spirituality that is woven throughout her work. “It’s going to be a co-creative effort, an effort of love, a gift of love, to our country and hopefully to our world,” she said in the video for her exploratory committee.
Nonetheless, while Williamson’s congressional campaign was largely dismissed in 2014 – “she’s not a credible candidate,” Eric Bauman, the LA County Democratic Party chair, sniffed in [an] LA Weekly piece – the political landscape has irrevocably changed since, and it’s clear that she and her followers are taking her presidential run seriously, even if many other Democrats may not.
I had to miss work today as my car wouldn't start due to the extreme cold currently being experienced throughout the Midwest.
In some areas last night, wind-chill temperatures plummeted to 58 below zero. That's colder than Antarctica!
According to the Star Tribune, the official air temperature this morning was 28 below, a couple of degrees short of the record for this date, 30 below in 1887.
Not surprising, then, that starting my (un-garaged) car this morning was a no-go. I even tried jump-starting it, but to no avail. And even if I had managed to get it started, I still would not have been able to drive it as the gear shift is locked frozen. A colleague has kindly offered to pick me up and take me to work tomorrow, and hopefully by tomorrow afternoon or Friday my car will have thawed out enough to start.
I feel bad for the homeless and those living in substandard housing, and hope that all my find shelter and warmth tonight.
One [question we get asked] is, ‘Did we know that this movie was going to receive this kind of response?’ ... The second question is, ‘Has it changed the industry? Has it actually changed the way this industry works and how it sees us?’ My answer to that is to be young, gifted and black ― we all know what it’s like to be told there is not a place for you to be featured, yet you are young, gifted and black. We know what it’s like to be beneath and not above. That is what we went to work with every day because we knew ... that we had something special that we wanted to give the world. That we could be full humans beings in the roles that we were playing. That we could create a world that exemplified a world we wanted to see. We knew that we had something that we wanted to give.
Postscript: In his list of the "Top 10 Blockbuster Movies of 2018," writer and historian Matthew Rosza ranks Black Panther at #1. Here's what Rosza says about the film.
It's not even close: When ranking the blockbusters of 2018, Black Panther is in a category all by itself.
The challenge for any genre picture that aspires to greatness is that it must execute a paradoxical task: Excelling in its adherence to a formula while being about something more than the sum of its parts. Black Panther achieved both of these things. As a superhero movie, it creates a rich mythology around its titular protagonist Black Panther/T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Wakanda, the fantastical African kingdom he rules as a benevolent monarch. The special effects are top notch, the dialogue is smart and the action set pieces are among the most skillfully executed of the year, surpassed only by those seen in Mission Impossible: Fallout.
Yet Black Panther is more than your standard superhero movie, and the reason is simple: What director and co-writer Ryan Coogler, co-writer Joe Robert Cole and co-star Michael B. Jordan did with the character of N'Jadaka/Erik "Killmonger" Stevens [left]. He is an outspoken political radical, an ideological visionary whose outrage about racial, economic and political injustices prompts him to foment a revolution. His observations are more relevant to the real world than much of the bloviating you'll find on television, YouTube or message board comments sections, and the conflict between his militant idealism and Wakandan conservatism drives both the movie's plot and Killmonger's own Shakespearean lust for power. The political message carries an intelligence sorely lacking in equally ambitious superhero movies (such as Thanos' half-baked Malthusianism in Avengers: Infinity War). These qualities guarantee that long after other pop culture ephemera from 2018 has faded into obscurity, Black Panther will be remembered and re-watched.
In short, it is fitting that Black Panther was the highest grossing film in the United States this year. Indeed, it deserves to be regarded as one of the best movies of the year. If the Oscars fail to recognize this, they will provide their critics with a powerful exhibit in the case against the Academy's own cultural relevance.
Since Rosza wrote these words the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recognized the merits and significance of Black Panther. The film has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Original Song (for "All the Stars"), Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. The film was the first superhero film ever to be nominated for Best Picture.
The 91st Academy Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, February 24 (7:00-11:30 p.m.). And, yes, I'll be watching . . . and rooting for Black Panther!
For “music night” this evening at The Wild Reed I share the video for South African singer-songwriter Nakhane’s new song, “New Brighton.” (You may recall that I spotlighted Nakhane and his “tortured journey to clarity,” around this time last year.)
“New Brighton” is very much a hymn to freedom, an ode to that “strange joy” of being in the world with open eyes, true to one’s self and one’s journey. It’s a theme that has become a hallmark of Nakhane’s music.
Following is how The Huffington Post's Curtis M. Wong describes the latest from Nakhane.
Boundary-smashing pop artist Nakhane draws on his inner struggles coming to terms with his authentic self in a haunting new video.
“New Brighton,” which dropped [last] Friday, sees Nakhane striking a number of dramatic poses in a pale pink suit and striking blue eyeshadow while strolling on a windswept beach and in the corridors of an abandoned mansion. As the song climaxes, he pledges to “never live in fear again.”
Featuring Anohni on backing vocals, “New Brighton” serves as a powerful introduction to Nakhane – already a household name in his native South Africa – for American audiences. The track is a standout on his debut album, You Will Not Die, due out February 22.
With just over a month to go before its stateside release, You Will Not Die is already riding a wave of advance buzz among music critics and fellow artists. The New York Timesnamed Nakhane one of “10 artists to watch in 2019,” and British Vogue felt similarly, describing him as one of pop’s most influential new stars.
. . . If You Will Not Die succeeds in the U.S., Nakhane could have an impact on pop music well beyond critical raves. . . . Last year he starred as a closeted gay man in The Wound [right], a film that depicted a secret rite of passage into manhood observed by South Africa’s Xhosa people that includes circumcision. As a singer-songwriter, he has never shied away from exploring his queer identity through his music and performances, which is still unusual in mainstream pop.
“Some people say: ‘Aren’t you tired of always having to talk about the fact that you’re a gay artist?’ and I’m like, ‘You have no fucking idea how tired I am of it.’ But for as long as I need to, I’m going to talk about it,” he toldThe Guardian last year. “For as long as it needs to be said, then it needs to be said. For as long as there’s some kid out there who can’t be themselves, he’ll need someone.”
You Will Not Die was first released in South Africa, Europe, and elsewhere last March. I bought it as an import through Amazon.com. It’s become one of my favorite albums, with “Interloper” and “Presbyteria” being stand-out tracks for me. Interestingly, it doesn’t contain “New Brighton,” which is an addition to the U.S.-version of the album, one that is being marketed as “the deluxe version.”
Also, You Will Not Die is Nakhane’s debut album only in certain parts of the world, including the U.S. As I note in my previous post on the singer, 2014’s Brave Confusion is Nakhane's first album, one that was released in South Africa under his full name, Nakhane Touré. The album, noted music critic Graham Gremore, couldn’t be more appropriately titled. “Here is a black Christian male singing love songs about other men in an environment that hasn’t exactly been welcoming towards gay people, wrote Gremore in Queerty. Upon its release in 2014, Brave Confusion caused such a stir that it ensured Nakhane made the cover of the South African Rolling Stone.
Anyway, without further ado, here's Nakhane's latest offering, “New Brighton.” Enjoy!
I slipped on the pebbles on the way to the gate
Held my balance on the cuff of your shirt
You were upset
We were going to the Port Elizabeth port
Up from the hill on due point was fragile to fault
I was upset:
Never live in fear again
No, never again
And all the seraphim
And all the cherubim
Never knew them before, don’t know them now
What about my mother and her sisters?
Where was their name
I rose up, sing:
Never live in fear again
No, never again
Never, never, never again
Never, never again
Never live in fear again
No never again
And all the seraphim
And all the cherubim
Open the blank New Brighton sky
Birds with strangled cries
And a strange joy in their head
So go with open eyes
Much has been written about poet Mary Oliver in the week since her death last Thursday.
Described as "far and away, [America's] best-selling poet," Mary Oliver has been compared to Emily Dickinson, with whom she shared an affinity for solitude and inner monologues. Also, like Dickinson's poetry, Oliver's combines dark introspection with joyous release.
The poetry of Mary Oliver is also known and celebrated for its clear and poignant observances of the natural world. Indeed, according to the 1983 Chronology of American Literature, one of Oliver's collection of poems, American Primitive, "presents a new kind of Romanticism that refuses to acknowledge boundaries between nature and the observing self."
Oliver's creativity was stirred by nature, and, as an avid walker, she often pursued inspiration on foot. Her poems are filled with imagery from her daily walks near her home in New England: shore birds, water snakes, the phases of the moon, and humpback whales. In Long Life, a collection of essays, she says, "[I] go off to my woods, my ponds, my sun-filled harbor, no more than a blue comma on the map of the world but, to me, the emblem of everything."
The numerous recent tributes to Oliver also acknowledge her 40+ year relationship with photographer Molly Malone Cook, who died of cancer in 2005.
Above: Molly and Mary.
I particularly appreciated Samuel Leighton-Dore's January 18 SBS.comarticle, headlined: "Tributes Flow for Pulitzer-winning Lesbian Poet Mary Oliver."
Oliver, writes Leighton-Dore, "was particularly beloved by members of the LGBTIQ+ community, who saw in her a queer woman unafraid to speak about life, love and loss."
Given my interest in the Pagan spiritual path, I was glad to recently discover Ruth Franklin's 2017 New Yorkerarticle in which Oliver's deeply spiritual connection to the natural world is highlighted. Writes Franklin:
Part of the key to Oliver’s appeal is her accessibility: she writes blank verse in a conversational style, with no typographical gimmicks. But an equal part is that she offers her readers a spiritual release that they might not have realized they were looking for. Oliver is an ecstatic poet in the vein of her idols, who include Shelley, Keats, and Whitman. She tends to use nature as a springboard to the sacred, which is the beating heart of her work.
Of course, the idea of nature being a manifestation of – and thus a means of connection to – the sacred is at the heart of Pagan spirituality. As Thomas Moore observes, Pagans see "sacredness and depth everywhere."
And as I've noted previously, like people on other spiritual paths, those on the Pagan path seek, discern, and respond to the Divine Presence. Yet what is perhaps unique about Paganism is that it is a path that recognizes the Divine Presence in all things, though particularly in the natural world – the elements, the cycle of the seasons, and the inherent diversity of life. There is an elemental power and beauty in these natural realities and processes; a grounding power and beauty that transcends doctrine and dogma.
Much like the poetry of Mary Oliver.
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean –
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down –
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
The viral video that seemed to show a white teenager [Nick Sandmann] in a MAGA ["Make America Great Again"] hat harassing a Native American elder [Nathan Phillips] near the Lincoln Memorial turns out to have captured a more complicated conflict. The clip, which drew widespread condemnation over the holiday weekend, appeared to depict a then-unidentified teenager silently leering in the face of a Native American man who was beating a traditional drum. The teenager was surrounded by dozens of rowdy peers from the all-male Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, who were in town to attend the anti-abortion March for Life; the man was participating in the annual Indigenous People’s March the same day.
. . . [W]hat everyone saw so clearly in the initial clip, and what hasn’t changed with the additional information [is] Sandmann’s smirk, and his failure to get out of Phillips’s face. I [previously] described Sandmann’s expression . . . as “The face that sneers, ‘What? I’m just standing here,’ if you flinch or cry or lash out.” Or, as Sandmann put it in his statement, “I never interacted with this protester. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves.”
. . . The new facts about this small encounter this weekend in Washington are important, and worth clarifying. But they don’t change the larger story, the one that caused so many people to react so viscerally to the narrative’s first, and simpler draft. We shouldn’t make the same mistake the president does when he confuses climate and weather. The weather is the encounter between Sandmann and Phillips, and it’s the media’s responsibility to describe it accurately (once we’ve decided to describe it at all). The climate includes a president whose name is used as a taunt by school bullies and racist harassers, who wields the rhetoric of domestic violence to cause pain and then blame those who are suffering, who delights in teasing and threatening his enemies, and who just last week made a joke about a government massacre of Native Americans. It would be a mistake to let our preexisting views persuade us to see something in this particular video that isn’t there. But it would also be misguided to let the complexities of the scene at the Lincoln Memorial dissuade us from telling the truth about who Trump is and exactly what he stands for.
On its way through the innocent night,
The moth is ambushed by the light,
Becomes glued to a window
Where a candle burns; its whole self,
its dreams of flight and all desire
trapped in one glazed gaze;
now nothing else can satisfy
but the deadly beauty of flame.
When you lose the feel
for all other belonging
and what is truly near
becomes distant and ghostly,
and you are visited
and claimed by a simplicity
sinister in its singularity,
No longer yourself, your mind
and will owned and steered
from elsewhere now,
you would sacrifice anything
to dance once more to the haunted
music with your fatal beloved
who owns the eyes of your heart.
These words of blessing cannot
reach, even as echoes,
to the shore of where you are,
yet may they work without you
to soften some slight line through
to the white cave where
your soul is captive.
May some glimmer
of outside light reach your eyes
to help you recognize how
you have fallen for a vampire.
May you crash hard and soon
onto real ground again
where this fundamentalist
shell might start to crack
for you to hear
again your own echo.
That your lost lonesome heart
might learn to cry out
for the true intimacy
of love that waits
to take you home
to where you are known
and seen and where
your life is treasured
beyond every frontier
of despair you have crossed.
A major reason for my interest in this film is that it features an artist I greatly admire and respect: indigenous actor and dancer Michael Greyeyes (right). Michael has a prominent role in Woman Walk Ahead, playing Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake (also known as Sitting Bull), the HunkpapaLakota leader who in the late 1800s led his people during years of resistance to United States government policies.
Interestingly, in the years that Woman Walks Ahead is set, much of this resistance took place on and around the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, the same location where, at the time of Woman Walks Ahead's filming, a groundswell of protest over the building of a new pipeline carrying “fracked” oil from the massive Bakken oil field was making international news.
Left: Protesters being tear-gassed by police – Standing Rock, November 2, 2016. (Photo: Johnny Dangers)
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2017. Shortly after, A24 and DirecTV Cinema acquired distribution rights to the film. Its U.S. premiere was at the Tribeca Film Festival last April, followed by a limited release on June 29, 2018
Since then, it has garnered what you could call average reviews. On Metacritic, for instance, which assigns a rating to reviews, Woman Walks Ahead has a weighted average score of 51 out of 100, based on 19 critics. A common critique is that it is yet another film about Native Americans from the point of view of a white protagonist. (For more on this, see the comments by Caroline Cao towards the end of this post.)
Despite the film's mixed reviews, Michael Greyeyes received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Sitting Bull. The New York Times critic Jeannette Catsoulis calls his performance "a miracle of intelligence and dignity". RogerEbert.com contributor Susan Wloszczyna also offers praise, noting the Greyeyes portrayal is "the most subtle, soulful, and believable." Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times acknowledges that "[i]nhabiting the role of an icon of Native American resistance is no small feat, but Greyeyes, a Canadian actor of Plains Cree descent, draws you in with his wry wit and quiet gravity."
Michael Greyeyes is not unfamiliar with portraying famous historical figures. In 2009 he played Shawnee leader Tecumseh in the award-winning PBS series We Shall Remain, while in 1996 he played the title role in John Irvin's TV movie Crazy Horse (left). (For more about this film and the Oglala Lakota warrior and mystic Crazy Horse, click here, here, and here.) The events of Woman Walks Ahead take place around twelve years after the murder of Crazy Horse.
Back in November 2016, Greyeyes, in the CBC Newsstory below, shared his hopes that in watching Woman Walks Ahead, audiences will learn about indigenous rights and the power of those who resist.
Michael Greyeyes says his role as Sitting Bull in the upcoming film Woman Walks Ahead is the most significant and important artistic endeavour he has undertaken.
"The humanity of Sitting Bull and how he represents a community in crisis is really gripping and I think people can't help but come in to a new understanding of how history works, how history repeats," said Greyeyes.
Greyeyes, an associate professor of performance and devised theatre at York University, will play in the film as Sitting Bull opposite Academy Award-nominated actress Jessica Chastain as Catherine Weldon.
He said he hopes the story find its audience and that people really appreciates what the story is about.
"I think they'll learn something really significant about Indigenous rights, about empowerment and the power of people who resist," Greyeyes said.
The film's screenplay was written by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises) and is directed by Susanna White (Generation Kill). The film, currently in post-production, will be released in 2017.
"There was violence around each corner and I look at the United States right now and it's not dissimilar," Greyeyes said.
Greyeyes mentions an instance where he was reciting his lines, lines he says which were about not giving up ownership to the land. While he was saying his lines, he said he was very aware of the events unfolding around him such as the U.S. election and the protests in Standing Rock.
"For a movie that's been in the making for over a decade, it's timely beyond anything I could have imagined," he said.
Greyeyes thinks the movie has the potential to have a huge impact because of the way media is consumed now. He said people might read a book about what happened but actually seeing it will be a different experience.
"When you see it unfold in human terms, it grabs you in a different way," he said.
I found Woman Walks Ahead to be a very powerful and moving film.
It's no masterpiece but it's far from "average." I give it a solid 8 out of 10 and lament the fact that it didn't get a wider theatrical release. Related to this point, I find myself wondering to what extent, if any, the political implications of the film's story in light of the ongoing struggle at Standing Rock and elsewhere, may have played in decisions about the film's release and promotion. I'll guess we'll never really know.
What we do know is that Woman Walks Ahead director Susanna White and actors Jessica Chastain, Michael Greyeyes and Sam Rockwell believe that their work does indeed relate to events at Standing Rock, and thus the phenomenon of history repeating.
Michael, for instance, shared the following in a Los Angeles Timesinterview last June.
When we were making the film, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests were unfolding to the north of us. It’s really actually quite powerful to come to set every day and recognize that some hundred plus years have passed, but the underlying political landscape remains exactly the same. The state wants our land either for access or to mine it of its resources. And here we were making a film about one man and his community’s struggle to resist the state taking everything. To me, that was quite sad, to recognize that truth – but also as an artist, I was so passionate about the work and the political message that the film gives. Literally, time has passed and nothing changed. We are still in the way of the conquest.
Also, in the video below, Michael and co-star Jessica Chastain talk about how the protests at Standing Rock affected the filming of Woman Walks Ahead.
Following is something of a retrospective of Michael Greyeyes' acting career. Enjoy!
Above: An early publicity shot of Michael Greyeyes (circa 1994).
Left: Michael in the 1993 made-for-television movie Geronimo. He played Juh in this film while Joseph Runningfox (pictured with Michael above) played Geronimo.
The film also stars Kimberly Norris as Geronimo's second wife. In a December 5, 1993 Los Angeles Timesarticle, Norris, a descendant of Chief Seattle, shared the following.
I'm sure that for all involved, this is more than just a job, it's a spiritual endeavor. It's an effort to reach back into our history, and to understand what happened, why it happened, to regain some of the humanity that history – at least history in the form that it's taught – has taken away from us. That's what we're trying to do here with this story. We want to show people that we fell in love; we were heartbroken; we loved and lost; we whined and complained every once in a while – and that there are eternal truths that exist in all societies. Indian people are just human beings. So we're here setting some falsehoods straight.
In an August 2016 interview with CBC's Candy Palmater, Michael reflected on his breakthrough film role.
The filmmakers, when they met me . . . you know, I'm Cree, I have kinda a smooth vibe when you meet me, and they were concerned that I couldn't play [Gooch] hard enough. So for me his experience, his toughness, what he went through, that was the layer I put on top of me.
It's a question of finding just the right balance because, for me, playing someone hard or thuggish is really interesting because there's really no one like that. Everyone has something. There's something sophisticated about every person. So I'm delighted that people actually connected with this guy who's a loner, who's really had difficult experiences but [within whom] there's something; there's a heart there.
Above: A meme that humorously contrasts the character of nerdy Thomas Builds-the-Fire in the film Smoke Signals with Gooch in Dance Me Outside.
Later in the same interview with Palmater, Michael talked about his evolving film career.
Change is something that we can make happen. And you can look at history, you can look at an industry [like the film industry] and go, argh, they won't move, they won't budge. But we just keep pushing; like, just put your finger on the door and keep pushing because we're dealing with a lot of history . . . a lot of stereotypes. But every actor from our community out there is trying to make it happen.
. . . So even when I started [with Dance Me Outside] I was allowed to see how sophisticated our characterizations could be. . . . So I took that going forward so that when I started doing period films, the historical films [like Crazy Horse and Stolen Women, Captured Hearts (right)] I understood how they wrote us was just only one part of how they could understand us. And it was my job to make sure that there were other elements that I would bring as an indigenous person, as someone who understood our culture or was learning about it.I can make that role different. I can change it. And I've been doing it, I think, in all the roles that I've done.
Above and right: Michael in the title role of director John Irvins' 1996 made-for-television movie, Crazy Horse.
Filmed on location in South Dakota and Nebraska, Crazy Horse has been described as a "gripping story with a fine cast." It's also been praised for its attention to detail. In The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History, historian and author Joseph M. Marshall III is critical of movie portrayals of Crazy Horse. Yet he concedes that Irvins' film "came the closest" in credibly portraying the life and story of the "strange man of the Oglalas."
In her profile of Michael in the February/March 1996 issue of Cowboys and Indians magazine, Wolf Schneider writes the following.
[I]n True Women [Greyeyes] developed a speech pattern for his threatening yet proud Tarantula that gave new meaning to the term "broken English." He seems to have the chops for that expansion of self and heightened awareness that Stanislavski considered so key to believable acting. . . . [Indeed, Greyeyes] proved [so] popular in True Women . . . that crew members began mimicking the halting speech of his Comanche character, like how he told Dana Delaney, "You . . . will walk . . . again . . . but not good. You . . . will not . . . ride horse with wings . . . again." Today, Greyeyes chuckles, recalling, "Everyone was imitating the way Tarantula spoke. They'd say, 'You . . . come to my bed . . . hey, Michael.' The cameramen, the grips, everyone was imitating me. What do they say – it's the highest form of flattery?"
[The] story is set in 1963, when Sam Callahan (Bug Hall) and his singularly bad-behavin’ mom, Lydia (Jennifer Jason Leigh), are exiled from South Carolina to faraway Wyoming. This gives [director] Tamra Davis a chance to toss in the Kennedy assassination, bad haircuts and other period symbols, but the pic never reads as if it’s really the ’60s; languid body language and frank, casually profane dialogue all convey a ’90s feel.
Conflict, in a nutshell, has sexually naive but good-natured Sam falling in love with his new schoolmate, a pretty girl called Maurey (Mischa Barton). She doesn’t love him back, exactly, but his slatternly mom encourages them to experiment, with predictable results. Her subsequent visit to the local abortion clinic — presumably a challenge to find in 1963 Wyoming — is further complicated by a surprise encounter with her Betty Crocker-like mom (Peggy Lipton, in a dark Jackie Kennedy do). Meanwhile, Lydia has hooked up with Hank (Michael Greyeyes), seemingly the only Indian in town, thus putting at risk the trust fund her Southern-fried dad (R. Lee Ermey, doing a spot-on Broderick Crawford) cruelly dangles before her.
Above: Michael with Skipped Parts co-star Bug Hall.
Above and left: The most powerful scenes in Skipped Parts involve Michael and actress Peggy Lipton, who plays a woman experiencing a psychological breakdown.
Apart from these scenes (and a number of others featuring Michael), I agree with critic Ken Eisner's contention that Skipped Parts is a "clunker," one that "hits wrong notes from the start and only gets more sour as it goes along."
Above and below: Whether hanging out with his rodeo clown buddy, drinking coffee, or displaying his physique while wearing only a pair of boxers, Michael's character, Hank Elkrunner, very much provides the heart – including the moral heart – of a movie which critic David Nusair declares "comes off as one long attempt to shock."
In 1998 writer Wolf Scheider wrote the following about Michael's physical attributes.
At 6'2" and 200 pounds, his got a dancer's grace (he spent a decade on the ballet circuit) and an athlete's muscles. Full-lipped, with shoulder-length dark hair and wide-set, steady eyes, 30-year-old Greyeyes, who's full-blooded Cree, more than fits the romanticized ideal of a people that once thrived free and in harmony with nature.
. . . While Greyeyes is physically so consummate so as to be idealized, he is in his personal life hardly stereotypical. Although he rides a horse bare-back and deep-seated on-screen, real life finds him allergic to animals. He's never lived on a reservation, but mostly in Toronto, New York, and now Cleveland, and admits, "I'm really a city boy." To get out in nature he neither hikes nor tracks nor hunts, but bicycles with his Polish-American dancer wife, Nancy Leroszewski, who performs with the Cleveland Ballet.
Above: Michael as Thunder Spirit in the 2003 miniseries Dreamkeeper.
Above: In The Reawakening (2004), Michael portrays Robert Doctor, a successful lawyer returning home to defend a childhood friend accused of murder.
Made by the National Geographic Channel, Saints & Strangers tells the story of the Mayflower voyage and chronicles the Pilgrims' first year in America and the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Critics give the miniseries mixed reviews, with Keith Uhlich of The Hollywood Reporterwriting, "Nat Geo's two-night miniseries about the first Thanksgiving is admirable in parts, though bland overall"; and Maureen Ryan of Varietyopining, "The serious intent [of Saints & Strangers] trips it up at times; many characters remain one-dimensional, and some sequences are plodding or repetitive. That said, the miniseries features nuanced work in a number of the Native Americans portrayals – often the best-developed characters on the screen."
Above: About his role in the TV series Fear the Walking Dead, Greyeyes said that he was honored to be representing Indian Country through his role as the tribal leader Qelataqa Walker, a Native man leading tribal members, who face ranchers over land disputes and more.
In her insightful piece that evaluates the feminism of Woman Walks Ahead, Caroline Cao notes the following.
Sitting Bull’s male comrades rib him to take Weldon as his mistress. In a scene of sexual tension, Sitting Bull and Weldon seek shelter in a tent, undress, and gaze at each other uneasily; there is an atmosphere of unspoken attraction that spans racial and class inequalities. Though the film wisely averts the Hollywood sex scene, I wonder if this fictionalized version of Sitting Bull would look at a Native American woman in the same way he does at Weldon. After all, to shine a light on Weldon’s and Sitting Bull’s romantic tension, Sitting Bull’s real-life wives are erased completely from Woman Walks Ahead. However pragmatic this decision was from a story perspective, their excision accentuates the centralization of the white woman’s part in this slice of history.
If there is a lesson to learn from Woman Walks Ahead, it’s that a perspective of intersectionality is useful in interrogating inherent problems in any story or concept. However, treating a white figure as the relatable focal point for a mostly white audience comes with its own set of problems. It’s a pattern that dates back to the white-person-meets-Native-American-person of films like Dances with Wolves. At least the climax of Woman Walks Ahead speaks to the issue of Weldon’s white feminism: While allies such as Weldon can be a useful tool for a marginalized community to help its cause, white feminism does not have an intimate place in that marginalized community. In other words, Weldon has the privilege of crying her tears from a distance, while Sitting Bull bleeds in the snow, surrounded by his mourning people.
Above: Michael as Brett Woodard in the third (and current) season of the HBO drama, True Detective.
Writes Vincent Schilling about Michael's "stellar performance":
Michael Greyeyes shook me to the core. His hidden rage, his sadness and his frustration at being ridiculed by a town that automatically assumes he is responsible for the crimes being investigated.
Above (from left):Stephen Dorff as Roland West, Mahershala Ali as Wayne Hays, and Michael Greyeyes as Brett Woodard in True Detective (2019).
Above: Michael in the forthcoming film, Blood Quantum. Writes Joe Leydon:
In [Blood Quantum], Greyeyes explains, “I’m playing the sheriff in a fictional reserve community called Red Crow. It’s 1982 – and it’s the zombie apocalypse.”
But this particular apocalypse scenario has a major twist.
“Native people are immune. So, as the sheriff, I’m holding back the horde of white zombies to protect the community. It’s actually a very astute political commentary, really, on colonialism and the rapacious nature of colonialism. It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s exciting – and it also is quite politically astute.”
Above and right: Michael, his wife Nancy Latoszewski, and the couple's two daughters, Eva and Lilia, at the Woman Walks Ahead premiere during the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival – September 2017.
Above: A 2018 portrait of Michael Greyeyes by Michael and Shelle Neese.
When [Sitting Bull in Woman Walks Ahead] says, “We will give no more of our land away. Not even this much,” he’s just standing there, defiant and angry and powerful. For me, I was so gratified that we could, again, show this side of him. He’s legendary, he was a charismatic leader, he was a leader in every sense of the word. He lived the truth that he spoke. For me, that was also my responsibility as a performer: just to summon my own charisma, my own sense of power, and play him as I know he must have been.
I established The Wild Reed in 2006 as a sign of solidarity with all who are dedicated to living lives of integrity – though, in particular, with gay people seeking to be true to both the gift of their sexuality and their Catholic faith. The Wild Reed's original by-line read, “Thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective.” As you can see, it reads differently now. This is because my journey has, in many ways, taken me beyond, or perhaps better still, deeper into the realities that the words “progressive,” “gay,” and “Catholic” seek to describe.
Even though reeds can symbolize frailty, they may also represent the strength found in flexibility. Popular wisdom says that the green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm. Tall green reeds are associated with water, fertility, abundance, wealth, and rebirth. The sound of a reed pipe is often considered the voice of a soul pining for God or a lost love.
On September 24, 2012,Michael BaylyofCatholics for Marriage Equality MNwas interviewed by Suzanne Linton of Our World Today about same-sex relationships and why Catholics can vote 'no' on the proposed Minnesota anti-marriage equality amendment.
"I believe your blog to be of utmost importance for all people regardless of their orientation. . . . Thank you for your blog and the care and dedication that you give in bringing the TRUTH to everyone."– William
"Michael, if there is ever a moment in your day or in your life when you feel low and despondent and wonder whether what you are doing is anything worthwhile, think of this: thanks to your writing on the internet, a young man miles away is now willing to embrace life completely and use his talents and passions unashamedly to celebrate God and his creation. Any success I face in the future and any lives I touch would have been made possible thanks to you and your honesty and wisdom."– AB
"Since I discovered your blog I have felt so much more encouraged and inspired knowing that I'm not the only gay guy in the Catholic Church trying to balance my Faith and my sexuality. Continue being a beacon of hope and a guide to the future within our Church!"– Phillip
"Your posts about Catholic issues are always informative and well researched, and I especially appreciate your photography and the personal posts about your own experience. I'm very glad I found your blog and that I've had the chance to get to know you."– Crystal
"Thank you for taking the time to create this fantastic blog. It is so inspiring!"– George
"I cannot claim to be an expert on Catholic blogs, but from what I've seen, The Wild Reed ranks among the very best."– Kevin
"Reading your blog leaves me with the consolation of knowing that the words Catholic, gay and progressive are not mutually exclusive.."– Patrick
"I grieve for the Roman institution’s betrayal of God’s invitation to change. I fear that somewhere in the midst of this denial is a great sin that rests on the shoulders of those who lead and those who passively follow. But knowing that there are voices, voices of the prophets out there gives me hope. Please keep up the good work."– Peter
"I ran across your blog the other day looking for something else. I stopped to look at it and then bookmarked it because you have written some excellent articles that I want to read. I find your writing to be insightful and interesting and I'm looking forward to reading more of it. Keep up the good work. We really, really need sane people with a voice these days."– Jane Gael
"Michael, your site is like water in the desert."– Jayden