Happy New Year!
Blog entry #28 in the development of the Road series for Stardale
Written by Eugene Stickland - December 29, 2020
Well, wasn't that a year? It was a year more to be survived or endured than really lived with any joy or contentment. I've heard it described as building the airplane while you're flying it, and that seems pretty accurate. Do we wear masks or not? What about gloves? Can we congregate or must we isolate? The messages changed as the year we went on, and most of us tried to adapt and do what we could to remain safe ourselves and protect those around us.
How many times did you wash your hands this year? I lost track sometime in March.
For those of us involved in the Stardale girls' program, the year was a balancing act, to put it mildly. How do you support over twenty different girls spread throughout the city during a lockdown? Two lockdowns now, in fact. How do you continue to foster a sense of community, and keep the circle strong, when you cannot physically get together? It would have been easy enough for Helen and her staff and volunteers to shrug their shoulders and throw up their hands and give up for the year (better luck in 2021!) but in fact, just the opposite happened.
Knowing that lockdowns and the resulting isolation would be particularly trying for the girls of the program, they set out on an ambitious program of home visits (of course, following all of the distancing protocols, etc.), along with curbside drop offs of various and sundry goodies and necessities - all of this activity aimed at making the girls feel loved and supported during these very lonely and isolating times.
For those of us working on The Road project, it was a particularly challenging time. There we were, about to embark on the production of a new stage play at the very moment that theatres around the world were shutting down. Making matters worse, the production of the play was to be the cornerstone of a gala fundraising event that was sorely needed to help offset some of the operational expenses of this perennially underfunded organization. No play. No gala. No funds.
I think for those of us who work at Stardale who are not Indigenous, we are driven by a very strong ethos not to be part of the problem. You know, the problem. And so, we do what we can, come hell or high water, to make good on our promises, and to never let these girls down. It's one of the Four Agreements, after all: be impeccable with your word. It's high time (actually, it's way beyond time) for mainstream society to stop making excuses and to honour our commitments to our Indigenous people.
With this in mind, cancelling was never an option for us. Anything but. Adaptation was the key. Fortunately, we had the right people on hand to switch horses midstream, as they say, and create a short film from what started out as a stage play. The text came from the girls - we had created it together in January and February. The film featured girls from the program, along with a very special person in Stardale world, our Elder, Wanda First Rider.
So, in that horrible year that is now mercifully coming to an end, we created the text for a play, we adapted the play for film, we shot the film, we completed the film and released it as well as we could on the Zoom format, and we even won a few awards for our efforts. All of this in a year known more for cancellation than completion.
The best thing about it was that we honoured the work the girls did as well as our promise to have their words heard, and we brought an important subject - the girls' reaction to the sad ongoing situation of missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women - to light.
Despite all odds, we seemed to have a pretty good year, considering everything!
As for next year, well - onward and upward! We will find new ways to grow and adapt and we will create a companion piece for The Road. Failure, quitting, giving up, turning our backs, walking away - none of these have ever been options for us. We will meet the challenges of 2021 by using the same spirit with which we faced the uncertainties of 2020.
That said, wouldn't it be great if 2021 was just a little bit easier?
Happy new year, everyone!
Previous entries can be found in the Eugene's Blog section of the site.