Let It Be

Sunday often ends with a musical ponder. In keeping with civil rights, a topic weighing heavily on my mind as the 50th anniversary of America signing the first Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964 approaches – a short clip from Across The Universe.

Across The Universe – directed by Julie Taymor, released in 2007, Oscar nominated for best musical (lost to Sweeney Todd) – not just my favorite musical, it rates as one of my top movies of all time. On the surface a love story based on music of the Beatles, set in the era of Vietnam and Civil Rights protests. What it delivers – a razor sharp statement on war and civil rights, as relevant today as in 1968. A link to the full movie….

Olympic Power

In the spirit of July 2 marking the 50th anniversary of America’s first signed Civil Rights Act , on the heals of last night’s pondering of those rights – I’m re-posting “Olympic Power”. I can’t watch this clip without becoming emotional. Take 4 1/2 minutes out of your life to watch and ponder. All I ask is that you try to find the absurdity of hatred, fear, and exclusion based on the colour of your skin.


Fresh off  closing ceremonies at Sochi, still smiling from the exhilaration of Canadian men and women’s hockey taking gold, I find myself pondering another Olympic moment.

The courage of Tommie Smith and John Carlos exemplifies the civil rights movement. I’m not going to explain why – take 5 minutes out of your life to watch a snapshot in time, a moment in history when  Olympics’ sacred line was crossed, when damn the consequences ruled over “tow the line”. Smith and Carlos managed to define injustice without uttering a word.

I often write of protest; specifically my dismay at society’s screwed up priorities – our spoon fed, cult of celebrity, gun toting, fundamentalist, reality television, someone else’s problem world. For those too young to understand the optimism, hope and determination of people who believed they could make a difference, I wish I could roll back time. When coffee shops and campuses burst under the weight of collective purpose…

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July 2, 1964

On July 2, 1964 American president Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, national origin and gender were outlawed – America officially recognized the rights of all citizens. In August, three black civil rights workers working in Mississippi to register African American voters, were found murdered by the KKK. That October, Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The following year Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – literacy tests and poll taxes aimed at southern blacks became illegal.  Legislation sparked by a tumultuous year that witnessed Malcolm X’s assassination and “bloody Sunday” – Alabama State Troopers using tear gas, whips and clubs to send 50 peaceful protesters to hospital as they crossed a bridge.

1966 – Huey Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther Movement, the term “black power” immortalized in 1967 by Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Seattle. President Johnson appoints Thurgood Marshall as the first black Supreme Court Justice. The court rules in Loving v. Virginia that prohibiting interracial marriage is unconstitutional.

April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. A few days later President Johnson amends the Civil Rights Act to include racial discrimination in housing sales, rentals and financing. Democrat Shirley Chisholm of New York becomes the first black female Representative elected.

It would take pages to properly document the American civil rights movement.  Rosa Parks of Montgomery, Alabama refusing to sit at the back of the bus in 1955 would shudder at the 1972 Tuskagee Syphilis Experiment (a 40 year U.S. Health Dept. program, from 1932 intentionally infecting black men with Syphilis) or Rex 84 (a plan penned by Oliver North in 1984 laying out plans to inter 21 million African Americans in the event of civil unrest),  to the abysmal behavior of pin headed “patriots” (terrified, petulant children quaking in their boots because Obama tried to drive the bus).

Pondering 50 years since signing of America’s first Civil Rights Act is depressing. Narrow minded nincompoops may be wise to the illusion of equality, becoming adept at politically correct facades is second nature. Don’t kid yourselves – inclusion, equality, education, housing, fair wages – they all impact the bottom line, civil rights are bad for business. Racial equality screams foul from every courtroom, prison, ghetto, housing project, and school in America.

A few days from now, the 50th anniversary of a momentous civil rights act coincides with Fourth of July flag waving hoopla. At some point between all the fireworks, BBQ’s and marching bands – I propose a moment of silence for courageous Americans forced to suffer the stigma and inequality of race.

A thank you to the inspiration for this ponder….



Monumental Canadian Land Rights Decision

Today’s announcement of a unanimous 8-0 ruling by The Supreme Court of Canada in favor of the Tsilhqot’in first nations land claim appeal – nothing less than astonishing. Aboriginal leaders wept, overwhelmed by the unexpected victory ending a decades old dispute.

The ruling settled aboriginal claim to 440,00 hectares of land near Williams Lake in the B.C. interior. Tsilhqot’in First Nations people took a 2012 B.C. Court of Appeal decision (one giving rights to hunt,trap and trade in traditional territory provided they name specific places their people once lived) to the Supreme Court, arguing their people were “semi-nomadic” and the Court of Appeal decision ignored centuries old tradition.

The decision written by Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin recognized semi-nomadic land claim titles, removing “continuous occupation” as a requirement, giving First Nations people the legal right to use and profit from traditional lands. In future, this decision will apply to all disputed Aboriginal land titles. A three point test will be used to determine claims – occupation, continuity of habitation of the land and exclusivity in the area.

The second part of the decision heralds truly momentous changes in terms of economic development. As of today, mining, logging, pipeline construction – not so fast, you have some explaining to do.  Cool your jets, satisfy one of the two following conditions, or take your project someplace else.  For the first time in history, aboriginal people must give “consent” to development of traditional lands. No consent? You can take a run at the second rule – plead your case to the government, convince them of the dire, pressing and substantial importance of your plans to become even wealthier. As of today the government has a legal obligation to justify development on aboriginal land, but who knows – you might get lucky.


Kudos Supreme Court of Canada, congratulations Tsilhqot’in and all First Nations people, condolences Enbridge, suck it up resource sector. The high court has spoken – ponder the enormity of a decision not only righting historical wrongs, but taking steps to protect our environment from the pillage of a greedy few.


Varosha, Cyprus

Our world is littered with abandoned “sites’, for the most part archeological treasures worthy of scientific scrutiny. Ancient riddles, often without reference points or defined origins – physical evidence void of mainstream historical pigeon holing, Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids – well known tourist meccas, not entirely understood yet duly noted on historical timelines. Puma Punku, Gobekli Tepe – never so much as whispered in classrooms, despite irrefutable scientific proof they blast historical timelines to smithereens.

Pondering “sites” led to this conclusion – we dismiss anything we haven’t been taught in school (with tendencies to peg the unfamiliar as bat shit dribble), embrace familiar lessons as definitive truth, and never bother to consider modern “sites” as something with historical value. In short – the very old and relatively new – completely overlooked in favor of predictably dusty bedtime stories.

I’ll concede – ancient, ancient history, the history responsible for my passionate enthusiasm towards civilization lost may be hard to swallow. I see the eyes roll, the blank stares as you say “how interesting”, knowing full well it means “she’s run off the rails”. I don’t hold it against you.. We live in a world where absolutes are comforting, skepticism greets new information, and mainstream (textbook history) rules supreme.

All history is relevant – if we can’t wrap our heads around the distant past, how about looking at something easier to fathom. The world is littered with surreal “sites”, created within the last 100 years – places we can explain yet choose to ignore.

Varosha, Cyprus comes to mind. Famagusta was an exotic resort destination on the island of Cyprus. The Varosha district, a playground for the rich and famous until 1974 when Turkey took exception to a Greek coup, invading and dividing the island into a Greek south and Turkish occupied north. Thousands of residents fled the city, they never had a chance to come back. Turkish army enclosed Varosha in barbed wire – 40 years later, uninhabited, utterly forsaken, beyond repair. A “petrified urban museum, enclosed, boarded up, frozen in time”.


Varosha, Cyprus is is an archeological site, a place of historic importance. Our one advantage – we know who, how and why it became a “site”. We possess absolute, irrefutable knowledge yet it languishes in the realm of inconsequential. The tough work is done – we don’t have to squabble over who built it or why it was abandoned. Places like this fit politely into historical timelines – few outside the immediate region have ever heard of it. Much like the Prora Hotel…


We should alter our thinking to include such places in historical mindsets. Nothing would make me happier than hearing an enlightened educator used them to ignite classroom discussion. Sigh.




Ponder a Day In My Life

For over 30 years the food and beverage industry has paid my bills. Years spent operating my own catering company, running back stage and suites at the stadium/arena, F&B management at a major hotel. The last 5 years, making parties fabulous for a major catering company. No two days alike, no two parties the same – I thrive on little more than “thank you” for a job well done.

Top dollar for exemplary service, attention to detail, problem solving and my undivided attention. So much more than food – we take success seriously. Bat shit expectations, unrealistic timelines, “little Miss know it all” executive assistants , hysterical brides, in your face hot heads – all walk away with smiles on their faces, skillfully dealt the appropriate measure of expertise and common sense.  Hospitality has taught me to more about Psychology than years of schooling ever could.

Much as I enjoy what I do, at times I shake my head in astonishment. Next time you’re at a party, think about a day in my life.

Take a look around – every table, chair, tablecloth, fork, candle, bar, morsel of food – came from someplace else. We began hours ago, loading trucks with heavy equipment. unloading and hauling it into place. We didn’t have time to whine over the blocked loading bay nobody bothered to tell us about – we had a party to pull off. Never letting on how monumentally behind schedule we were, finding a painfully arduous and slow load in – all with a smile on our face. Why should it be any of your concern the rented china, glassware and cutlery languished on the wrong floor of this one elevator building because the event rental people messed up. We’ll deal with them later, we have a party in an hour – get to work.

Tables set for 250 people, bar open, buffet ready to go, a free drink ticket each plus a bottle of red and white wine on every table – enjoy yourselves, the food is lovely – what a great way to end your conference. For the 40 Vegetarian and Vegan guests – don’t worry, we’ve prepared lovely meal options for your dining pleasure – please identify yourselves at the buffet and one of my staff will plate your dinner. Hold on a moment, I’m confused. You stipulated your lifestyle choice, we went out of our way to make sure you had a spectacular dining experience, but you were hedging your bet? The chicken and salmon look pretty good so you switch teams and load your plates with proteins meant for your associates? Didn’t cross your mind this might create a problem? Quick calculation as I eyeball the buffet line – only 10 “special meals” taken, 30 inconsiderate guests now scarfing down dinner meant for someone else – we made plenty of food but 30 lifestyle imposters has taken a toll. I wonder if you even noticed the tables still at the buffet line – did it cross your mind they might not be thrilled to eat your Vegan meal?

No I can’t “slip” you another bottle of wine – your host paid for 2 bottles per table and your free meal. This is the third time you’ve asked me, please stop embarrassing yourself. Time to go home now – the bar is closed, no I won’t make an exception. 25 tables to roll out, 250 chairs to stack, a one ton truck to fill, drive back to our headquarters, unload a one ton truck, write a report, and finally limp home.

I need my head examined – like childbirth, if able to remember the pain I’d never do it again. Miraculously, my mind resets, I wake up ready to take on the next party – a spring in my step and smile on my face.


Sunday Night Musical Ponder

Sunday evening often brings a musical ponder. All I ask – a few minutes listening to one of the shadow people you scurry past every day. Rendered invisible, inhabiting a realm outside our comfort zone – we avoid eye contact, pretend to look at our phones, or brace our delicate sensibilities until well beyond their presence.

Drug addiction, mental illness, violence, poverty and circumstance – not easy to solve. I’m not asking for, or expecting acknowledgement as the magic wand capable of wiping it away. All I could hope for is a fleeting moment of realization – a moment when compassion allows us to see people hidden in the shadows.