P.O. BOX 688 * FLOYD, VIRGINIA 24091 * AWA@swva.net


by Marta M. Miranda
Ironweed, 2005
On this night, at this moment with this breath
En esta noche, en este momento, con este respiro
We evoke the communal spirit of justice
Nosotros evocamos el spirito de comunidad y justicia
We break bread with our neighbors, we extend our hand to our enemies and we pray for global justice
Nosotros partimos el pan con nuestros vecinos, estendemos nuestras manos al enemigo y pedimos por justicia universal
We feed our souls with the courage of those who have dared to break the silence of oppression
Nosotros le damos de comer a nuestras almas con el valor de aquellos que tuvieron el coraje de romper el silencio de la oppression
We honor the holy places of protests, the streets, the marches, the public halls, the seat on the segregated bus, the brown hand who refused to pick the grape, the power to love in spite of hatred and shame, and we are strengthened by the convinction of those who dared to spit in the master's soup.
Nosotros honoramos los lugares santos de protesta, las calles y desfiles, los pasillos politicos, el asiento en la guagua segregada, la mano mora que no recogio la uva , el amor que ama envuelto en verguenza y recimos fuerza en la convicion de aquellos que escupireron en la sopa del patron.
On this night, on this moment with this breath
En esta noche, en este momento, y con este respiro
We promise to bring water and hope to the thirsty immigrant
Nosotros prometimos traer agua y esperanza al imigrante con sed
We demand access for the less abled bodied amongst us
Nosotros demandamos acceso a los que el cuerpo no les funciona bien
We rejoice in the inherent goodness of all people
Nosotros regosamos en la inherente bondad de todas las personas
We worship in all the names given to the holy ones and we pray:
Nosotros resamos en todos los nombres de dios y pedimos
For the marriage of compassion to power
Por el matrimonio de compasion y poder
For the abundance of the earth to feed the mouths of the hungry
Por darles de comer a las bocas hambrientas con la abundancia de la tierra
On this night at this moment with this breath we pray
En esta noche, en este momento con este suspiro rezamos
We pray that our men and boys claim their true masculinity and bring their hearts to their sexuality
Resamos por nuestros hombres y ninos, pedimos que ellos reclamen la verdadera masculinidad y que unan sus corazones con su sexualidad
We pray that our women and girls grow strong, safe, and free
Pedimos que nuestras mujeres y ninas crescan seguras, fuertes y libres
 And we pray for us the justice workers, that we may have a circle of family and friends to come home to and for a lover who is willing to wash our aching feet
Por un circulo de familia y amigos en nuestras casas y por un amante que nos labe nuestros adoloridos pies.
Namaste, Amen
Inspiration and credits given to: Judy Chicago, Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks,
Anne Frank, Camilo Cienfuegos, Thich Nhat Hanh, Georga Ella Lyons and Rigoberta Menchu.



Children's Creativity and Diversity

Children's Diversity participants share their creativity at Ironweed 2003


"Children's Creativity and Diversity" participants at Ironweed 2003 enjoyed a fabulous day led by Alliance members Susan Mead and Omope Daboiku. After drawing some amazing self-portraits using multi-cultural crayons, they read picture books by George Ella Lyon and other Appalachian women authors. Next, they listened to stories and songs about the Cherokee and Monacan Indian Nations, while learning about African Americans, Chinese and European immigrants, and other racial-ethnic groups who have enriched Appalachia.

Once on-stage, they wowed us with their multicultural banners, along with a rousing rendition of the environmental lament, "There's a boom in Appalachia, boom in Appalachia...... Bring on the trash 'cause we need the cash!"

Participant Alex Franklin then paid the women of Ironweed the ultimate compliment of the day: "Grandma Sheri sure has cool friends."




Carpetbag Theater and Friends fill the stage at Ironweed 2002
The Enchantment of Ironweed: Creating Our Own Way
by Linda McKinney
Ironweed, 2002

We gather as women from across seven states, to honor and celebrate the lives of women and to reach out to other women who are "looking for something." We organize a good time, a time for letting our hair down, and for listening to women perform works that amaze and inspire. We create "our way" of expressing art as cultural activism.

Each time a woman performs, there's a moment of enchantment, a sudden hush when our spirits are touched by what she has shared. As a woman without a clear talent, that moment of enchantment even happens for me. It happens because I feel safe within the space that the Alliance creates for women to give birth to their own unknown self-expression.

I read an essay that I wrote for the Appalachian Women's Journal. And I experience enchantment, a moment when I am larger than my own low self-esteem, and the voice of self doubt is just a whisper. I have a voice without the full vibrant colors of the other women, but I wrote and now read my own work, because of the Alliance women pushing, pulling, and inspiring me to create, work and organize. And I know this is a good thing because enchantment takes shape and spreads out across the whole space and spirits are touched within those of the audience.

For women who are searching for something, the Alliance has a place for you; where your work and commitment can strengthen and grow into meaningful, creative work throughout Appalachia. Come join us, so that your vision and energy and spirit will help to create our way.

Taking A Stand: Guerilla Theater at Ironweed
by Carmen Shuler
Ironweed , 2004

I am the concerned, and sometimes distraught, mother of a United States Marine Corporal serving in an Iraqi hot zone.

When I was asked to be in an anti-war demonstration at Ironweed, for a moment I was concerned about whether or not I would be viewed as not supporting the troops. But I knew that my oldest son, a Marine serving in Iraq, would be proud for me to "act-out" in support of the troops. I knew that he would believe that Americans have the right to question the weight of oil rights in the decision for a U.S. lead pre-emptive strike on Iraq. My son was raised to be patriotic in a family with a military history, but he was also taught to question dogma and to seek the truth.

As a Cherokee descendant, he was taught to understand the secrets the United States government has sometimes kept locked away. Right now my son and many soldiers are fighting a war in Iraq, because it is their military duty under a misguided Commander in Chief. Their lives are in the hands of a government's war and political strategies.So, because of their plight, I agreed to be wrapped in a flag and to don a beard to represent Uncle Sam at Ironweed.

Our anti-war demonstrators depicted pall-bearers carrying a coffin draped with the USA flag, to represent the Bush-controlled media which will not allow America to see photos of the flag draped-coffins when our military dead are returned to the homeland. As "Uncle Sam," I lead the pall-bearers with the coffin through the crowd. Uncle Sam was drinking from a bottle of oil labeled with a dollar sign ($), and pointing from the coffin, to the oil can, and back at the crowd in an "Uncle Sam wants-you" style.

As we walked through the crowd, my mind was bombarded with the reality of each American citizen's responsibility for taking whatever actions to stop unnecessary war. I felt the pain of mothers and fathers who have lost their sons and daughters in Iraq and are crying out to America, "Feel our pain and loss! Ask yourself, has international terrorism been lessened?" And from the coffin, it seemed as though I could hear the voices of the fallen warriors saying, "Speak out for us. Speak out against the greed of the guilty oil corporations. Speak out as you grieve for the unnecessary blood shed of U.S. military personnel and innocent Iraqis."

Because our troops are treated as dispensable by the government, I demonstrated to gain some hope that sanity may soon be restored to our country and that our troops may be returned home.

I acted out against the Iraqi War (Operation Oil Rights) and I spoke out for our U.S. military troops who were lead into this war on false misinformation, as documented by the 9/11 Commission Report. I will always remember 9/11 and I hope that the responsible terrorists will be brought to justice, including Osama Bin Laden. My family and I will always mourn that tragic day. However, I do not believe that the war on terrorism and Operation Iraqi Freedom are one and the same. Thomas Jefferson once said that the highest form of patriotism is dissent, and Abe Lincoln said it is a sin to be silent when it is your duty to speak out. We cannot be afraid to act out for the lives of the soldiers that are sworn to follow the commands of their superiors. We cannot be afraid to act out for the lives that are still at risk and for those US and Iraqi families that have suffered so much loss. I'm just one mom, who wants her son to come home, safe and in one piece. Those words, heard from some book or movie, are now real to me "Creator, please bring Zach home, safe and in one piece."

Carmen E. Shuler is the mother of Marine Corporal Zachary J. White (22), NorthGeorgia




Catch the Spark

by Sue Massek
Ironweed, 2003

What do a Cherokee singer/dancer/visual artist, an African-American grand champion slam poet and a "glued to the hide" clawhammer banjo player descended from Irish and Bohemian stock have in common?  They and many more Appalachian women artists will be performing at this year's Ironweed Festival. Like the Ironweed flower the festival is named for, these women are strong and their roots go deep.

In the morning you can learn to "Catch the Spark" and start a fire with flint and steel as you dance to Cherokee rhythms and sing a song of seasons in the Cherokee language. If you are interested in written and spoken word you can explore your way from Haiku to slam poetry.  You may prefer to participate in building a sculpture with donated canned goods.  There are workshops where children revel in diversity and teens discuss the value of "attitude" and how they can get adults to listen.  

In the afternoon you will find a stage that features storytellers, actresses, playwrights, musicians (from drummers to singer/songwriters) and poets.  What gives it a powerful twist is that mingled among those who make a living expressing themselves through art are the voices and visions of women who've risen above the forces that have kept them silent far too long.  At Ironweed, their voices also ring out -- against racism, economic injustice, domestic violence, and homophobia.

There will be crafts for sale and a silent auction for those of you who are drawn to visual arts and food vendors when you get hungry.  Or you can bring your own food if you prefer.

Ironweed is an undiscovered treasure where the soul is rejuvenated and the heart is strengthened.  A rainbow of people coming together to celebrate Appalachian women's voices and the messages they bring.




Cultural Pride & Prejudice

by Tara Buckler
Ironweed 2001

Ironweed was such an intense cultural experience -- dissolving prejudice just by being around those we are prejudiced against. I've justified my prejudice by saying that "they" would be that way towards me, by having contempt towards those I assume to be racist, homophobic and ignorant, classifying an entire community as rednecks and hillbillies, disclaiming my heritage in Kentucky by saying, "I'm from Louisville, not Kentucky," as if Louisville is superior over the rest of the state, and the south.

During the week-end I realized the absurdity of my own ambivalence as it is based on fear and ignorance. And these "lessons" came from drama, communication and good ol' mountain music; from sharing personal stories and backgrounds, and music and art and theater and nature and traditions.

The Women's Alliance represents a community grown tired of outsiders showing their images, telling their stories, and promoting sterotypes -- the last group of people that its okay, even politically correct, to ridicule and discriminate against.

I realized how far my own prejudice extends, and that I need to go back and visit the small town where I grew up.




Ironweed Reflects Diverse Heritage of Women in the Region
by Meredith Dean
Ironweed, 2000

They killed G.P. and the kink fell out my hair. He was my cousin, blood brother, bond of felicity They said, "Another nigger dead, white folks don't care."

Southwest Virginia Poet Patricia Johnson cried out the story of her cousin, G.P., to a hushed crowd gathered in the midst of the Appalachian mountains for the annual Ironweed Festival. Through poetry and dance, music and prose, the Festival celebrates the regional leadership and courageous lives of Appalachian women. Participants in this year's event also spoke to the devastating experiences of poverty, racism, and violence that women face in isolated homes and communities.

As those assembled sat mesmerized by the majestic view, author and West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Denise Giardina described the violent destruction of her state by mountaintop removal, urging us to fight against the desecration of our Appalachian lands.  Dancer Jude Binder reminded us of women's long herstory of resistance, with her original rendition of the early life of Mother Jones.

Performance artist Linda Parris Bailey led us to call forth our own crones and mentors by conjuring up a wise woman from her past.  The Three Cherokee Women then guided us to an earlier time of struggle with Cherokee songs and chants; while Sister Drum brought forth ancient African and Celtic rhythms from our foremothers.

Musicians Kate Long, Elaine Wine, and Wishing Chair sang of more recent struggles -- the Viet Nam war, the civil rights movement -- through the eyes of women.  And Reel World String Band gave us hope for the future of our own effort, an "Appalachian wind" moving through the mountains.  Interspersed throughout the day were the poetry and songs of Appalachian women, seven to seventy, who are part of our Alliance and our movement.



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