I wasn’t sure what to expect as I waited for our storyteller to arrive at the Farm by the Lake Storytelling Event February 10th. My friend Emily, aka Nerd, had told me he was “AMAZING” so my expectations were high!
I read his bio from the FBTL Event:
Louis Alemayehu is a writer, educator, activist, poet and mentor of younger artists and activist. His writing has appeared in national and international publications. Alemayehu is a founding member of the seminal, award winning poetry/jazz ensemble, Ancestor Energy, strongly influence by Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. In 2009 the Minnesota Spoken Word Association gave Alemayehu an Urban Griot award for 30 years of excellence as a pioneering spoken word artist. In 2012 the Process Work Institute in Portland Oregon certified Louis as a “World Work Elder” as he engages in art as a “spirit weaver” or community builder, connecting diverse populations. Much of his non-artistic work today is centered on Food Security, Climate Change, Human Rights, Environmental Justice and always performance. Alemayehu has been Community Faculty or “Wisdom Carrier” for the Environmental Sustainability class at the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs where he has taught for 12 years. His performances work draws richly diverse audiences in terms of age, race, class, gender, nationality and education. For him storytelling is essential tool of community building. Over the years his collaborators have included master musicians and composers Carei Thomas, David Wright III, Mick LaBriola, Gary Schulte, Donald Washington, Davu Seru, Mankwe Ndosi, Anthony Cox, Dean McGraw and Douglas Ewart.
So I was expecting great things. I wondered if he would remind me of Kima Hamilton, a spoken word artist that I dearly love, with a more environmental bend. This piece, Bound Hand, Brown Man, was performed at Rec Lab a couple years back and it was powerful. Still makes me sob… Ok, in case you need to laugh now too… here’s his partner, Dash Kelly Hamilton in a recent performance that should bring some smiles. All right – now back to Louis…
He began that day by sharing a bit about his story… growing up on the South side of Chicago. What an interesting life! Then he asked what we expected in showing up for his storytelling. One shared about recently seeing “Green Book” and wondered on what Louis could share on that. I shared that I expected him to provide some spoken word on environmental activism to inspire me as a Water Protector. One or two others spoke their thoughts.
He took a moment to ground and as I closed my eyes with him, I felt the world spin a bit – a lightheadedness that felt powerful. What he shared brought tears. But even more, it brought a message I felt was personal to me. I remember him being overwhelmed with messages coming into his head. I took a moment to send calming energy.
He spoke about being placed in this point in history because we have the needed ability to heal the planet. He spoke in the exact words that I’ve recently heard in other places where I am doing work. He seemed to shine a light on what I am currently doing as being exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. He seemed to be speaking directly to me. I wonder if everyone else felt that way…
I had a call at home that evening so had to scoot out right as the event ended but I took a moment to give a hug and thanks for his message.
Since that day, I spent a bit of time looking for some of his work and found this inspiring piece from 2015 that includes his All the Earth is Holy. And this, a bit more challenging… Akhenaten’s Dream. I believe this may be a meditation I will do regularly. It is a beautiful message of the reality of our situation and yet that there is still hope.
“There is no sanctuary except in compassionate action.”
~ Louis Alamayehu, Akhenaten’s Dream
Grateful to have had a chance to encounter this beautiful and charming soul along my journey.