Operation Care had placed my book Upcycle on their shelves for sale. All sales were to go to the transitional housing program for women and children, which needed costly maintenance. A volunteer who helps man the store sometimes was offended by something in the book and removed all copies from the reach of customers.
We had a meeting- the director and two staff of Operation Care, and myself, regarding the book, the flyer i made for the benefit event, and how we ought proceed.
as you can see i put two hope poems on the flyer which would serve as the program for the benefit event July 23. i wrote one poem about God and perseverance, and beside it went a poem which is among just a tiny handful i have written that i believe anyone in the world could identify with, since it is about being ‘eachother’- just the same. no more. no less. brother and sister.
however, not only did the org members at the meeting not identify with the poem, it rather offended them. they do not believe we are ‘alone together’- they believe we are with God. my poem does not exclude God, rather i dont use the word so that my words could apply to each of us. the word God could put some people off from the poem – they might not read it. i wanted to reach every person with this poem. my idea of us just being ‘eachother’ was interpreted as me saying we are alone together without God – which of course my poem does not say.
the poem meant we are in this together- whether we go to church, pray, atone, have faith in a God or serve a master, whether we are surgeons or clowns, northern, southern, red, white, brown…
in addition to the poem, the director pointed out words that may offend the reader, should they not have read the accompanying text, which explains the lines of a song in the Upcycle book, which contains all the lyrics to my 40+ songs.
i said, the words of this song are the reason i became a poet who would serve her community, as i am here, serving you. i asked whether anyone in the room had read my book? had they read my essay about how i came to be a poet or write songs in the first place? how they healed me, and enabled me to thrive despite trials and abuse?
they admitted they had only read some parts of the book.
this being said, i have art on my blog which is political in nature they did not think their donors would care for, and so they wanted no further association with me as an artist. they would not be selling the book in their brick and mortar.
truly, they hadnt done their due diligence. only at the 11th hour had they discovered art on my blog that disagreed with the points of view of their patrons, and so forth. anything i did i had passed along for approval, but at this point they wanted me to put out the flyer as it was- except make the part that mentions proceeds go to Operation Care really small.
it was a learning lesson. i learned along the way that the library was going to have yoga lessons until members of the community complained that there must be separation of church and state. i knew where to tread, and how lightly. i also learned who my allies were and who i will work with in the future, to spread community in this town which seems to be just now burgeoning with culture.
i said you still want me to do the event? you want the money?
they laughed and said of course. the following day i gave the first Upcycle workshop. i felt extra inspired and full of mojo. i began by explaining how i spread Gods love through poetry. being a poet is not all about writing. it is the way one carries herself, the way she responds, her POV. that to reach the widest audience, i leave words like God and Jesus out of my books, not wishing to lose a percent of the audience straight away. that each poem means whatever you get out of it when you read it. that you could read it years later and it could mean something else entirely.
i reached a few of the women- in our hearts we have the same stories. the same struggles and achievements. the striving for balance. the belief in ourselves. this was all that mattered to me in the first place, when i conceived of this vast project Upcycle.
i didnt try to sell my book at all. i was afraid who i may offend- it says in there- you are a vacuum /and i am a witch /who got carried away by her broom …
some people would take that literally. there are witches, ive been told, who lived right there in the town. and since i would rather move on to my next project here without being cast off – i did not release the album on the day of the benefit event as planned. i sure didnt want anyone offended by my lyrics to think Operation Care stood behind them or me as an artist.
i am grateful to Operation Care, their many volunteers who gave plenty of time to the Upcycle cause- plenty of work hours for the workshops and benefit event. the zest and zeal and dedication to make the workshops and benefit great as possible was never lost on me. with plenty of moral support, it was not a struggle to keep my ego and pride out of it, and complete what i set out to do as well as i possibly could, being me, rather than being the artist Bree.
i am utterly grateful as well, to the women i met- in particular Melissa Jesse, Rose Maggard and Sheila Fow- who sat and had tea with me repeatedly, and worked always with such brilliance and enthusiasm, through the very last minute of the event.. your passions humble me as i write this- and continue to give me much strength- i was able to rely on you while our shared faiths emboldened each other.