at the Showcase for Private Schools and Camps The Woodlands Market Street, Texas, USA, March 3rd By Anjali Nataraj
Texas is a very interesting place. It is the home of President George Bush, and many, many conservative Christian republics. Just to give an example, at the Showcase of Private Schools and Camps, hosted by our Waldorf school, over half of the participants were Christian schools and camps, with a smattering of alternative schools and organizations being in the minority. The Woodlands is mainly a wealthy, Caucasian community. As head of the diversity committee at our school, I felt it important to bring diverse cultural programs to this event, coloring it with pockets of NHE.
I hosted a workshop and storytelling tent; and scheduled the artists for stage performances. I hired an elder African drummer (member of Ananda Marga) to give a two hour workshop. Abuji works beautifully with children, teaching them the morals and ethics of his native Ghana . I brought in storyteller PK McCary, as an African American woman who also chooses stories with moral and ethical content. As she tells stories, she asks the children to participate adding their own pieces to the stories of good will and right intention. I told the neohumanist story, “The Fairy’s Flowers”, to a group of parents and children, and sang neohumanist songs and kiirtan with the children. One little girl from my school joined me, singing with much love. Several parents there inquired about NHE and the concepts of Yama and Niyama.
I called in a capoeira group from the Brazilian Cultural Arts Foundation. Capoeira is a martial art that was created during the time of slavery in Brazil . The African slaves disguised it as a form of dance in order to be able to train without suspicion from their masters. There are many success stories in how different tribes were able to overcome their oppression and form revolutionary groups. Thus, capoeira and African culture are important to the strength of the Brazilian people. We made a “roda” and sang Afro/Portuguese songs of the history of capoeira and of the African sages. We encouraged the audience to join and play the instruments. Much joy and community spirit was shared.
The last performance was with the Sur Samgiita School of music. Three weeks ago, my teacher, Chandrakantha Courtney, had asked me to come in and teach her students Prabhat Samgiita. I chose Raingin Pari and Tiny Green Island . This performance had the most profound effect on the surrounding area. I told a little story about a flying fairy, asking all to come with her. “She is flying always towards the light. If she sees any children sad, lonely or hurt; or any animals that have lost their way, she picks them up and carries them with her. She is asking that we all do the same, so put on your fairy wings and fly with the fairy. Take care of all the children and animals and help them towards the light.”
The whole atmosphere was transformed as we sang. The children wore beautiful colorful Indian costumes. We sang on an outdoor stage, a grassy park in front of us where grownups sat, and children played. Several people commented afterwards on the peace they felt from the songs. The organizers and participants of the Showcase were appreciative of our efforts this year, and have asked us to come back next year. There is talk of a neohumanist themed summer camp for children at an eco village the following year.
In other Texas News
In the fall of 2006, Dada Gunamaya told stories to the children at The Harvest Waldorf School, grades 1-4. We taught them how to sing and dance to kiirtan, as my son, played the tablas. The children at the school were attracted to the African kiirtans, and danced with sweet, joyful expressions. A group of older girls came on the stage with us and danced and sang with all of their hearts. Some of these children come from homes where their parents practice yoga. Several of them have kiirtan and The Fairy’s Flowers story CDs in their homes.
In November, my two sons and I celebrated a late Diipavali (Festival of Lights) with the Kindergarted, 3 rd and 4 th grade children at The Harvest Waldorf School. We sang Prabhat Samgiita, and danced kiirtan together. I told the valiant story of Satyabhama, and we distributed sweet cakes to the children.
In January, I teemed up with world known storyteller PK McCary to present stories and songs of peace in several classrooms at Harvard Elementary School . Harvard Elementary is near downtown Houston and is a little more progressive than other city schools. It has a make up of around 90% Latin American children. I was pleased when we entered a bi-lingual classroom, and did a circle time in Spanish and English, to the joy of all the children! PK and I are presenters and committee members of PEIS – Peace Education in Schools, promoting ideas and actions of peace in children of all ages.
On February 9th, I presented the AMGK project, The Fairy’s Flowers audio CD; and did a segment on NHE philosophy on The Peace Hour radio program, KPFT Pacifica Radio. It was pledge drive, so I offered CDs to listeners for a premium. The show was well received, and we raised twice the allotted amount for the program! I have a copy of the show to put in the AM archives.