Radical Love (A Hard Sell in Upstate New York?)

An evening with Nahko Bear and Medicine for the People

Nahko Bear and Medicine for the People literally fed my body, mind and spirit yesterday.

I am sitting here on my lunch break eating leftover homemade Lebanese food from last night, as well as some kick ass stir fry made by the trumpet player from the band Medicine for the People.

Last night I came home from work to find the trumpet player in our kitchen cooking with curry powder while drinking our Tulsi tea: potatoes, turnips, rice, lentils, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower. He is super peaceful, and relaxed. He asks to use our shower and brushes his teeth after a long day of traveling.

We put on a pot of coffee, and soon the lead singer, Nahko Bear walks in with some other bandmates and friends. He comes over and introduces himself to us and asks our names. He gives each of us a big long hug. His song lyrics and words have been magic inspiration to me for years- particularly when I was up in the Arctic Circle a few summers ago. As I hugged him and mumbled welcome I kind of loudly also crunched on the chips and dip that were in my mouth. It was that casual.

All of the band mates were super intentional people who looked right into everyone’s eyes when they spoke to them. They put me into a peaceful and relaxed place, and also inspired me with their kick ass cooking skills. Lebanese family friends brought over the best hummus I’ve ever had in my life, and I realized this is exactly where I need to be at this moment in time.

At one point Nahko went into our living room by himself and started playing the piano in preparation for his concert. My “Beatles” piano songs book was sitting right there.

I had to run to my spot at the concert as I was tabling for the ally group for the Onondaga Nation here in the area. We were trying to get people to sign petitions to make Columbus Day changed to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Syracuse. Carp stayed and had dinner with the band, and he said that they all touched fists, and gave a short thanks for the food on the table before eating. Carp asked them at some point how they all met, and he said that they all kind of laughed at that, and Nahko said “everyone is related.”

And that’s why they are my favorite band.


At the concert- which I got to go to for free with a VIP pass since I was doing the petition work- there were two great opener bands that I want to research more about. They had inspiring activist lyrics, and power behind their smiles.

When Nahko was finally up to come on stage, he simply walked on stage without any buildup and started playing. The band followed.

During “Love Letters to God,” one of my favorite recent songs by him- which he filmed at Standing Rock last year- he jumped into the crowd and sang the song on the ground with all of us in solidarity.

Later, Nahko sang my favorite song- “Aloha Ke Akua,” and I smiled the whole time. The night ended in various crescendos — at one point one of their songs merged into “Hey Jude” for half a minute — and I thought maybe there might have been a connection to the “Beatles” piano book I left open to the “Hey Jude” pages which I always play when I play piano? We’ll never know if that’s actually the reason they played it, but synchronicity regardless. We can choose to believe whatever we want to believe.

By the end of the concert we had so many signatures for the petition, and Nahko asked everyone to stop by and sign if they had not signed already.

For the past few weeks I didn’t actually think Nahko would come to our house, but I did think that it was an inspiring idea at the end of this Northern winter. Thinking about sharing a space in my home with the band centered me and reminded me about why I care about activism in the first place. It starts within each and every one of us, and we can’t get too caught up trying to shape the world around us. If we can be the best selves we can be, that’s the beauty that we bring to the world. And it influences the world way more in my opinion than any forced campaign, though that shit might be necessary too. The activism Nahko sings about — love and beauty and finding the world within oneself and together as community builds up that beautiful resilience that you need to do the work.

What even is activism without the focus on loving ourselves and each other? I think that’s part of why I have been burnt out by the work lately.

It’s something I am still struggling to unpack- but I realize now that I need to take intentional meditation time to unpack it. I’m judging others for letting the fear lead them- but then again- maybe I’m only upset at them for that because I’m really actually upset at myself for the same reason.

I guess we’re all still human.

I’m going to eat healthier, drink more tea, stretch and run and meditate and love and let activism pour out in the beautiful flow I’ve been missing this winter.

Special thanks to Nahko and Medicine for the People for the perfect reminder

“I see so much hurt in my generation’s eyes. The lack of empathy is so deep. What has been taken from us is hardly replaceable. Our tendency is to strike rather than love. It is impossible to flip the script narrative if we continue to fight like our predecessors did. We must be a nucleus and move as one organism and think far ahead of our enemy. And use alternative modes of reaction and defense. I don’t have all the solutions, but I do believe the previous model of resistance isn’t working on certain levels.”- Nahko

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© Copyright 2018 Annie Windholz

midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe — http://eepurl.com/cZoiG9

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