One thing I love about the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Convention is the number of Native voices spoken and heard. Some resonate and some are louder than others. Tough topics are raised, discussed and acted upon. I am still processing all of the things I heard this week. I shared photos from the Hunt Fish Share and Vote Rally and the signing of the Alaska Native language bill. It is awesome to hear some of the messages from strong voices from around Alaska bring up topics that are important to them.
Some of the topics to bring up and generate meaningful discussion are sometimes the most difficult to talk about. Those topics include domestic violence, sexual assault, suicide, alcohol abuse and substance abuse. Yet, I heard some brave youth, adults and Elders speaking up about these topics this week first at the First Alaskans Institute’s Elders & Youth Conference and at the AFN Convention.
The Tanana 4-H group spoke up at the Elders & Youth conference and the AFN Convention. Each of the youth had their own powerful statement to share. They are giving a face and voice to some of these issues plaguing our Alaskan community. They are not being silent about their experience. I commend them for raising the issues. Watch their video on the Alaska Dispatch News site.
Cynthia Erickson spoke about being a part of the Choose Respect campaign. She said something like, “Choose Respect is not just a day. It is something we have to work on every day.” What a great reminder that some of these complex issues are not something that can be tackled overnight, but they can be one day at a time.
Another strong voice throughout the week is Samuel Johns, an Alaska Native rapper and motivational speaker. On Friday night’s Quyana night, he debuted his music video for his song about domestic violence. Samuel is using his powerful voice to speak up about domestic violence at as many venues as he can.
Wake Up (Music Video) – Samuel Johns feat. Blaack. via Muhnee OndaTrack on YouTube:
“I’m very proud of Samuel. He’s grown in so many ways in these last few years. I’m proud that he is using his amazing capability to move mountains around him, like in this video. His influential advocacy towards what he believes in is awe inspiring. Keep on keeping on Samuel! Mahsi’ choo!” – Roxanne Peter
The 2014 Elders & Youth Conference theme was “Get Up! Stand Up!” The 2014 AFN Convention theme is “Rise as One.“ It is tough to get up on stage and share your message. We cannot stand by and let their message go by in vain. Let’s figure out a way to keep the dialogue going and continue to find ways to tackle some of these issues. Thank you to those who bravely shared their personal stories to prompt and motivate change. They really give a voice to thousands of others who are too afraid to speak up.