I learned many things in Flagstaff – but perhaps the lesson that hit me the strongest is this. When the Indigenous population of this country expresses anger against the White people of this country they are not only focused on what happened several hundred years ago. They are legitimately angry at what happens right now, today. As white people, it is time we stood up to take responsibility. This includes me.
I arrived in Flagstaff with an open mind. Flagstaff will without a doubt go into the story as one of the most eventful stops I have had along the way.
Klee Benally is an Navajo activist and anarchist. He volunteers at the Táala Hooghan Info center. The info center is an safe space for radical left wing youth, a media center and a spot where activism is organized, especially to protect the environment. The info center is multicultural and diverse, with White, Latino and Indigenous Navajo people all represented. I suppose it is lucky that since I ended up staying for some time at a radical political center my own leanings were fairly close to that of my hosts, although perhaps a little less extreme. (not by too much)
While a little shaky, this is a great picture of Klee with a big smile.
When I arrived I was as usual road weary, tired and very full of experiences. For a couple of days I slept in til 10, did my laundry and started to get to know my hosts some. I also got weighed, and I am proud to announce – that magic 250 pounds that I struggled for so many years to break – is not only broken, it is pounded in to dust and forever left behind. I now weigh 245 pounds. I am down 44 pounds from my departure and 85 pounds from my biggest. I only have 15 pounds to lose and I will have lost 100 pounds – and that will easily happen by Albuquerque. I have 75 pounds more to lose to goal.
Staying already at the Info Center was Alex and Nathan, but this was the gathering spot for a thriving community. Steven, Taylor and Klee all came and went on an almost daily basis, and several others popped in and out occasionally.
Alex, Steven and Taylor hanging out an evening.
Nathan managing to look like he wish I didn’t have a camera in my hand.
When I was in my early twenties I lived for almost five years in a destructive cult. As is typical with cult survivors, I then spent several years with severe phobias of being in group situations – for years, any kind of group could set me shaking in terror, running out the door as fast as I could. Or at the very least checking that no doors were locked. This phobia thankfully abated many years ago, although I could never imagine living in a communal setting again. And while the outright phobia of groups is long since gone, I am never in a group without, at least initially, spending some time making sure there is no overt or indirect manipulation. Now, I found myself in a communal setting at the Taala Hooghan Info center. Experiencing communal living again was markedly different.
Remembering my extreme introversion and fearful withdrawal from people of the last few years staying in a setting like this was a huge contrast – and I really enjoyed it. Actually, I loved every single second of it. It was wonderful to have people around, to have people to cook for and hang out with. I not only enjoyed my stay for a brief time, I seriously started to think that maybe communal living is something I might choose in the future. The sense of community is something I have missed. I suspect that maybe I might not have gotten so dangerously depressed if I had had a strong community around me. And as always with my road angels – I received graciousness, kindness, generosity and a lot of support.
Thank you to everyone at the Taala Hooghan for the wonderful stay. It is a big leap in consideration – to go from extreme phobia of groups, of communal living and extreme introversion – to thinking this might be in my future. I hope you all know you touched my heart and it is because of all of you that I change.
I was inevitably introduced to the political work done at the Info Shop, and even more importantly, I learned a lot during my stay there. Many more articles are planned from my Flagstaff stay, and now that I am back in the wilderness, writing is a little easier for me. While writing is easier – connectivity is much less, so you folks will still have to be patient a little longer.