What a gift this was to be to share my insights on and understanding of Australian Indigenous literature with this passionate, switched-on group of Harlem Clemente students. They were so keen to hear and know about their less well -off brothers and sisters down-under. I shared with them the way that our university supports Indigenous Students through the Yalbalinga Centre and spoke to them about the work of Danielle Dent in this connection. And thank you Peter Howard (Leader of the Clemente Program in Australia) who set up this whole event:
In our session in Harlem we explored Yothu Yindi and some of the poetry of the Stolen Generation (Eva Johnson, Kevin Gilbert, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Lisa Bellear) together with art work and poetry by Paddy Nelson, Margaret Preston, Russell Drysdale, Judith Wright and others.
This was such a wonderful opportunity to share with this vibrant, intelligent group how the continuing disadvantage of indigenous people in Australia has many similarities with the situation of African Americans although by and large Australians do not want to admit this. Thank you for all your comments and thoughts: Martha, Linda, Cha-Ron, Alexis, Michael, Elvin, Nadine, Carina, Lisa Holmes, Andrea, Charlene, Cynthia, Charlitta, Jeca, George, Yolande, Alan, Kelissa, Mary Alen, Rogelio Vanessa, Daniel and Desiree. It is my observation that Indigenous people have been made very invisible in main-stream Australia. We are very lucky to have groups of them coming through our University to complete their studies on a regular basis, but aside from this, their invisibility is shocking- except in the Gaols! This group of Harlem students was in awe at the fact that their situation here in Harlem might in fact be better than that of the effectively silenced voice of Indigenous Australians. There is much work to be done on both sides of the ocean, and reading/studying literature – the opening our heart to the experience of those still suffering severe disadvantage- is one powerful way of taking us forward.
And thank you Carina- one of our ACU (Literature & Drama of NY) students for coming along and sharing your own experience of growing up in Australia and how this deepened the group’s sense of the place of the indigenous in Australian Society today. What you were and were not taught in schools about our Indigenous community was powerfully helpful to our wider picture of the situation . Thank you David Kittay and Charlene Floyd for organising this whole event!! And thank you to all you students for your passion and your friendliness: this is where again I felt blessed to be touching the real New York!
Here are some of the images to which I directed our discussion – click on any of these to enlarge :
The recording of our our class discussion on these topics is right here: Haleluia :):