When I started my first job after many years in television news, I was an electronic doofus! That’s because the software we used at that time in television was industry specific. Oh, and spelling was optional. I could produce the hell out of a 90-minute news program with battling talent and breaking news, but write a business letter in Word. No way! That’s why I’ll always be grateful to my friend Renee.
My first job in the Real World was as a Public Information Officer (unsworn) at the Richmond Police Department. I knew how to turn the computer on and off and was acquainted with a mouse. Renee taught me the rest. After two years, I was up to speed in most tasks and even editing a pretty good electronic newsletter.
I wouldn’t have lasted a week had it not been for Renee’s patience and tremendous skill as a teacher. It wasn’t like she had extra time to school her electronically ignorant co-workers, she just did. She’s now the head of a Department. You go girl!
Renee is an American Indian, a fact I always thought was really cool. How many American Indians do YOU know? She never made much of it until a few years ago when she married an American Indian and started to get more involved in the culture. This past Saturday I went to see her dance with the Yapatoko Drummers & Singers at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. She was gorgeous and graceful.
I must admit I went more out of friendship than interest. But I was blown away! First of all, her husband—a lovely, quiet man who doesn’t say much during visits—is like a rock star! He was the Emcee for more than a 100 people gathered in the Museum’s atrium. He was also one of the performers and has a beautiful voice. No wonder he doesn’t talk much socially, who wants to waste that voice on mere mortals? He explained the meaning of the dances and their origin. One of the dances was about a man running from a group of white interlopers who are shooting at him. The interpretation of the explosions and near misses in song and dance was something I’ll never forget.
My friend’s husband also talked about the clothing the dancers wore, explaining they should never be referred to as “costumes.” They are clothing with added regalia for special occasions. He asked the audience members never to dress as an “Indian” for Halloween because that is disrespectful. The audience was a sea of bobble-head agreement dolls as he explained this concept in his non-threatening, dignified way.
But the thing he did that left me with permanent goose bumps was when he asked the veterans in the audience to come forward so they could be honored for protecting us, all of us no, matter what our origins. At this point, most of the bobble-head agreement dolls had turned into jaw-dropped dummies. “You’re thanking us?! Uninvited guests show up, trash the place, get you sick, steal your land, kill you off, and herd you onto tiny pieces of useless land….and you can be thankful!” Damn, that’s a gracious host.
Thank you for visiting and thank you my most excellent, beautiful, friend Renee. You’re still teaching me.