Poem: Standing on the Frontlines in Anishinaabe Aki

What does the first memory of racism mean?
If the Grandfathers and Grandmothers are with us,
If the ancestors are with us,
What does the first memory mean?
If blood memory means feeling,
If blood memory means healing,
Does it mean I can final feel and release what Grandpa LaPointe endured?
My Great-Grandparents?
Madeline Cadotte?
Waub Ajijaak?

I recall friends in my hometown saying,
“Me sled downhill on bones,”
In a derogatory tone,
Mocking stereotyped and broken Native American speech,
I said to them,
“If you don’t stop I will walk home,”
They didn’t stop and I walked home alone,
In the cold white suburbs on that end of summer day,
Along the railroad tracks,
Looking south at the Detroit haze,
My mind through the train yard to the rivers,
Looking north at the unknown from 12 Mile Road and up,
Angry and hurt, 

Or was it the white girl in high school joking about,
“Wanting her land back,”

The white man got the job before me,
The white woman got the job before me,
I wasn’t hired as the “token minority” in Detroit,
Because of the harm of the Black and White racial binary,
Discredits and ignores Native lives from the start of Grand River,
To 36 Mile Road,
I was allocated to unemployment,
Underemployment,

Making movement out of poverty,
Now here is your chance,
But the racist white liberal in lily white Traverse City says,
Maybe we need to treat you with more harm,
Maybe we need to treat you harsh,
Maybe you don’t deserve any job, 

And on my own I have cried in the shower,
My tears blended with the water,
Why is this happening to me?
When will it end?

The racist words,
I jot them down,
My ancestors I confide in,
The land I touch,
I am reconnecting,
I am reclaiming,

The words are continuing to come,
These racist words are all around me,
I jot them down,
I am taking more notes,
They say they will do cultural diversity training,
They aren’t taking action fast enough,

The hostility increases,
It is hard for me to be here,
I am barely functioning,
More racial microaggresions,
More covert racism,
I am yelled at when I ask them to take this seriously,

I couldn’t take it anymore,
So I “filed the paperwork,”
I couldn’t breathe anymore,
I feel like I didn’t want to be here anymore,
I’m filing the paperwork,
Shaking with deep soul wounds,
As I write down my addendum to the “Charge of Discrimination,”
On my kitchen table in Manistee,

The last moment,
She appeared in the bathroom mirror,
Cecelia Shalifoe was with me,
She is behind me,
I see her old clothes,
I feel her spirit,
I’m not alone,
I’m fighting for the ancestors when they had no platform to speak,
Cecelia was there in spirit,
To have her life and pain validated through this action,

I won this case as far as colonial justice can go,
But it is never over,
Racism is on every inch of this land if you are Anishinaabe,

Standing on the frontlines in Anishinaabe Aki,
I hold an anti-racist sign daily,
Because I can’t afford a billboard campaign,
Do you see my sign?
I’ve never gained “likes” and an online “following,”
No one started a gofundme for all the racism I’ve experienced,
My issues aren’t made popular on whitestream and lamestream media,
I didn’t have aid sent to me in mass,
Surprisingly it was conservative allies who stood with me and encouraged me to speak,
Actually white liberals left when it became too uncomfortable to face racism in their own backyard,
Except they run off to Standing Rock,
Not Eagle Rock,
Not Benzie County,
Or Manistee,
Not Ispheming,
Thunder Bay,
Winnipeg,
Or da Soo,
My story didn’t happen in isolation,
So this is why I share it, 

It never stopped,
2 EEOC cases later,
I’m sorting through files,
I keep adding to folders,
Sometimes it is racial microaggression or bigotry in a grocery store,
Other times its people thinking I have too much money for a minority,

Standing on the frontlines means everyday life for Native people,
My existence is resistance,
Our existence is resistance!