Friday, May 31, 2019

Quote of the Day

This Pride Month there’s a lot to be mad about. . . . If the gatekeepers of our community (those powerful, mostly white, cis, able-bodied wealthy nonprofit directors, CEOs, political insiders) really believed in what our ancestors and transcestors at Stonewall were fighting for, we would see more elevating of grassroots Black and Brown leadership, the people who actually carry the torches lit by the founders of our movement. We would see more money going into efforts supporting those who are low income, incarcerated, homeless, and sex workers. . . . We would see less of an interest in bringing on token queer and trans people – many who already have major platforms and little-to-no connection to the community throughout the rest of the year – in Pride campaigns to support organizations with million-dollar budgets that do work that never directly touches the most marginalized groups within our communities.

– Raquel Willis
Excerpted from “50 Years Later,
Pride Month Is a Disgrace to Our Ancestors

May 31, 2019

NEXT: James Baldwin's Potent Interweavings
of Race, Homoeroticism, and the Spiritual

Related Off-site Links:
How the Queer Liberation March Wants to Bring Pride Back to Its Activist Roots – Zachary Zane (Rolling Stone, May 15, 2019).
New York City Gets Ready for the Battle of the LGBT Pride Marches – Tim Teeman (The Daily Beast, May 16, 2019).
James Baldwin’s Blueprint for the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement – Tre'vell Anderson (Out, May 19, 2019).
One Hot New York Night in 1969 Changed the World – Amarra Mohamed (LGBTQ Nation, May 30, 2019).
Activist Miss Major Recounts the First Night of the Stonewall Uprising – Raquel Willis (Out, May 31, 2019).
6 Major Moments in Queer History Beyond the Stonewall Uprising – Elyssa Goodman (Them, June 27, 2018).
Pride Is Still an Elitist White Gay Fantasy – Phillip Henry (Them, June 28, 2018).
Challenging Trump With Powerful Black Queer Stories – Richard A. Fowler (The Huffington Post, October 23, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Michelangelo Signorile on the Rebellious Purpose of Queer Pride
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
Making the Connections
A Lose/Lose Situation


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Australian Sojourn – April-May 2019

Part 10: Port Macquarie Days

Note: This post is still under construction. Commentary will be added soon. Thanks for your patience!

For previous posts in the Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 series, see:
Part 1: Guruk
Part 2: On Sacred Ground
Part 3: In the Land of the Kamilaroi
Part 4: Meeting a Living Legend
Part 5: Flower Moon Rising
Part 6: A Walk Along Lighthouse Beach
Part 7: Jojo Zaho: “Let Your Faboriginality Shine Through”
Part 8: Recognising and Honoring Australia's First Naturalists
Part 9: Matariki

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


When I was out for dinner on Wednesday night with my parents and their friends at the Port Macquarie Golf Club, I came across a beautiful work of art on the wall near the entrance to the dining room.

It was a sculpture-like work, made of twisted branches and some kind of weaved fibrous material, comprised of vines, stems, and/or grasses. Try as I might, I could not see a title or the name of the artist. There was, however, an artist's statement, which informed me that whoever created this beautiful piece is Māori, an Indigenous person from New Zealand.

A later search of the "Photo Gallery" of the Golf Club's website revealed that the artist is Anaheke Metua, a young Maori woman from Aoeteroa, the Māori name for New Zealand, and a descendant of the Nga Te Rangi tribe.

Anaheke describes herself as a "fibre artist" and "environmental and art worker." As such, she is part of Sustainable Dreaming, a "collective of artists and cultural ambassadors that work across various fields, towards a common goal – co-creating a healthy future by utilizing new sustainable innovations whilst honoring and learning from the cultures and custodians who have come before us." Inspiring stuff, to be sure!

Here's what Anaheke says about her artwork at Port Macquarie Golf Club.

I’ve always been fascinated by the moon and the stars, endlessly curious as to their magic. This piece is inspired by the constellation known to my people (Māori) as Matariki/Pleiades. When she rises on the horizon in June/July, it marks the beginning of the new year in the Māori calendar. Our calendar is a phenomenological calendar – meaning it is based on the observations of the cycles of the moon, sun, water, wind, plant, animal and flower as indicators to help guide us cultivate, hunt, fish and store food. Each star has is its own name and represents both male and female spirit/energy. This star system is also a very important navigational marker when traversing the great expanse of Te Moana o Kiwa – the Pacific Ocean. Every human culture has developed a deep understanding and knowledge of the cycles and patterns of the plant, animal, elemental and spiritual kingdom of their place. Thousands of years of irreplaceable knowledge is being lost daily. This is how I’m expressing my growing understanding for these indicators of change and guidance for my people.

NEXT: Port Macquarie Days

For previous posts in the Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 series, see:
Part 1: Guruk
Part 2: On Sacred Ground
Part 3: In the Land of the Kamilaroi
Part 4: Meeting a Living Legend
Part 5: Flower Moon Rising
Part 6: A Walk Along Lighthouse Beach
Part 7: Jojo Zaho: “Let Your Faboriginality Shine Through”
Part 8: Recognising and Honoring Australia's First Naturalists

Friday, May 24, 2019

Recognising and Honoring Australia's First Naturalists

(Part 8 of Australian Sojourn – April-May 2019)

NOTE: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised that this post contains images and names of people who are now deceased.

While recently perusing Port Macquarie's one and only bookstore, I came across a title that instantly caught my attention: Australia's First Naturalists: Indigenous Peoples' Contribution to Early Zoology.

Written by Penny Olsen and Lynette Russell, the book documents how Indigenous Australians "gave Europeans their first views of iconic animals such as the Koala and Superb Lyrebird." The basic message of the book is an important though largely overlooked one: "[M]any zoological discoveries made by European naturalists would not have been possible without Aboriginal people and their knowledge of [Australia's] fauna and environment."

I'm very much appreciating and enjoying Olsen and Russell's book, and share today as part of my ongoing Australia Sojourn – April-May 2019 series, a review of it that was first published in Australian Geographic.


Time to Recognise Australia’s First Naturalists

Australian Geographic
April 4, 2019

A new book reveals the Indigenous knowledge that led to some of western science’s greatest discoveries.

You know the names of early European naturalists John Gould, Joseph Banks and Carl Sofus Lumholtz, but not the Aboriginal Australians who led them to the discoveries that they’re now famous for.

These Aboriginal Australians – those whose names have been recorded – are the subject of a new book, Australia’s First Naturalist: Indigenous People’s Contribution to Early Zoology.

“I’ve written a lot of books on Australian natural history,” says author Penny Olsen, who co-wrote the book with Lynette Russell. “And the Indigenous connection just kept coming up. Over time, I thought I’d better collect these all into one book and make something of it.”

European naturalists, determined to discover and name any new animal they came across or got word of, used Indigenous knowledge to carry out their activities. But this knowledge was hardly recorded, nor were many of the names of these Indigenous guides.

The book details the names of the few Aboriginal Australians mentioned in the diaries of these early explorers, including Natty and Gemmy who helped John Gould in the study of several birds including the lyre bird, boobook owl and several species of pigeon.

Above: A guide known as Dick, probably from the Barkindji tribe, who helped guide the Victorian Exploring Expedition of 1860-1861. This portrait was drawn by Ludwig Becker, the expedition naturalist, who wrote on it: “Portrait of Dick, the brave and gallant native guide. Darling Depot, Dec. 21, '60.”

The book also details the pursuits of naturalist George Caley, who was assisted by a young Aboriginal boy by the name Moowattin, who helped him for several years classifying eucalypts, as well as collecting bird and mammal skins to send back to Banks.

By the late 1800s it was common to ask Indigenous people for assistance in locating Australian animals. Museum collector Frederick Andrews used this knowledge to locate elusive night parrot specimens, and mammalogist Henley Finlayson had Aboriginal helpers to find the now extinct desert rat-kangaroo.

All of this, without formal recognition. They were often paid with tobacco and bread.

Right: John Piper, the Wiradjuri man who guided Thomas Mitchell and helped him collect mammals on his 1836 expedition along the Murray and Darling rivers.

“It was very exploitative in the early days when these Europeans came in, used Indigenous knowledge to find these fabulous animals and hardly said a word about Indigenous knowledge,” Penny says.

“Then they’d give these animals names that honoured distant European earls that they wanted to curry favour with, who had nothing to do with anything.”

Such is the case of Carl Sofus Lumholtz who was informed by the Warrgamay people about Bonngary, a peculiar tree mammal. After finding and describing Bonngary he then renamed the animal the Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo.

That many of the behaviours and names of these animals were not recorded is a great loss to science.

“Sadly, a lot of the early naturalists either didn’t take Indigenous knowledge about behaviour seriously or it was just too hard to communicate,” says Penny. “With many of the extinct animals that Aboriginal Australians lived alongside for thousands of years, we know hardly anything because of this. The opportunity wasn’t seized.”

Penny hopes that the book will go some way in giving recognition to Australia’s first naturalists. “I think we’re beginning to recognise the importance of Indigenous knowledge. The time is right, it’s the time for truth telling in terms of how much they truly did before the Europeans came.”

National Geographic
April 4, 2019

Above: A group of Indigenous Australians at Port Essington, including Neinmal (third from left), who spent two years assisting John MacGillivray on land and aboard HMS Fly.

Above: Galmarra, a young man from near Muswellbrook, New South Wales, was known to Europeans as Jackey Jackey (or Jacky Jacky). He accompanied Edmund Kennedy's disastrous attempt to find a route from Rockingham Bay to the tip of Cape York.

Above: Two Aboriginal men from Groote Eylandt, in the Northern Territory, searching for the Northern Hopping Mouse for anthropologist and ornithologist Donald Thomson (circa 1929).

NEXT: Matrariki

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Prayer of the Week – November 14, 2012

See also:
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 1: Guruk
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 2: On Sacred Ground
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 3: In the Land of the Kamilaroi
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 4: Meeting a Living Legend
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 5: Flower Moon Rising
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 6: A Walk Along Lighthouse Beach
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 7: Jojo Zaho: “Let Your Faboriginality Shine Through”

Related Off-site Link:
“As Long as We Can See the Sky, We Can See Our Stories”: Indigenous Australians First to Discover Variable Stars – Mim Cook (ABC News, July 15, 2019).

Opening image: “Aborigines Hunting Waterbirds” by Joseph Lycett (circa. 1817).

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Jojo Zaho: “Let Your Faboriginality Shine Through”

(Part 7 of Australian Sojourn – April-May 2019)

One rainy Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago I drove down to Guruk's Shelly Beach to watch the ocean waves. On the way I stopped and bought a copy of The Sydney Morning Herald and a packet of the iconic Australian snack, Twisties (cheese-flavored, of course!).

After spending time listening to Enya's Watermark album as I contemplatively watched the sea through the rain-splattered windscreen, I turned to the newspaper beside me. What I thought was The Sydney Morning Herald turned out to be The Newcastle Herald. Oh, well, I thought with slight annoyance, I'll take a look at what it has to offer.

As it turned out, I ended up being really grateful about the mistake I'd made. Why? Because this particular issue of The Newcastle Herald contained a wonderful piece by Phoebe Moloney about Indigenous drag queen Jojo Zaho and the man who embodies her, John Ridgeway. Indeed, I appreciate Moloney's article so much that I share it today as part of my Australian Sojourn – April-May 2019 series. (Note: To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)


Showtime for City's Queen

By Phoebe Moloney

Newcastle Herald
May 4, 2019

Jojo Zaho was born out of an act of defiance.

Four years ago John Ridgeway, now 28, walked down Dubbo's main street wearing a dress he had made out of Indigenous and gay pride flags as part of the town's first ever pride parade.

Mr Ridgeway, who has returned to live in Cardiff after growing up in Kurri Kurri, said the act was in response to a councilor who had said homosexuality had no part in Indigenous culture during a meeting. A belief, Mr Ridgeway said, he had "never encountered before" in his own family.

"It wasn't until I was in the parade that I realized what I was doing was bigger than getting back at a council member," he said.

"Looking at the Indigenous kids on the side of the march pointing at me and my costume, that was the moment I was like, okay, I didn't have this representation growing up. If there's no one to fill that void then I've got to do my best to be the representation."

And so Jojo was born. The pseudonym was actually a nickname from way back.

"My sister used to call me Josephine, because I dressed up as a child. And then her and my best friend started shortening it to Jojo."

Ridgeway's larger-than-life character has since graced the stage at Broken Hill's Broken Heel Festival, featured in Australian documentary Black Divaz and even hosted Cher's VIP pre-concert party in Newcastle.

Now Jojo has been selected as one of the seven finalists in Miss First Nation, Australia's annual search for the best Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander drag performer. The four-day pageant takes place in Melbourne next week as part of the Yirramboi Festival.

It's the second time Jojo Zaho has been selected for the honour and, this time, Mr Ridgeway believes Jojo has the goods to win.

"It's redemption," Mr Rideway said. "I feel a lot more confident this time around and I have taken a bit of a stand."

Mr Ridgeway has chosen to use his final performance at the event to highlight Indigenous deaths in police custody and the disproportionately high rates of suicide among Aboriginal children.

"When you are in drag, you're making a statement whether you like it or not," he said. "But it's an amazing platform to send a positive message without having to verbally shout about it.

"I want to remind people white Australia has a dark history, and hopefully a black future.

"We've come so far but we have a long way to go until we'll all be in a place we're happy with. We need to build a better Australia together, rather than against one another."

Jojo's catchphrase? "Let your faboriginality shine through."

– Phoebe Moloney
Newcastle Herald
May 4, 2019

NEXT: Recognising and Honoring
Australia's First Naturalists

Related Off-site Link:
Meet Indigenous Drag Queen Extraordinaire, Jojo ZahoTriple J (March 2, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, March 2015 – Part 4: The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Michelangelo Signorile on the Rebellious Purpose of Queer Pride
Liberating Paris: The Meaning of Liberation in
Jennie Livingston's Paris Is Burning

See also:
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 1: Guruk
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 2: On Sacred Ground
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 3: In the Land of the Kamilaroi
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 4: Meeting a Living Legend
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 5: Flower Moon Rising
Australian Sojourn, April-May 2019 – Part 6: A Walk Along Lighthouse Beach

Tuesday, May 21, 2019