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An Evening of Indigenous Resurgence through Poetry and Song

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson in Conversation with Moe Clark

“I’ll sing to you,” she promises, “until you sing back.” – Leanne Simpson

What does it mean to live and embody freedom? For Michi Saagig Nishnaabeg writer, activist, and artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, freedom means falling in love with one’s territory through poetry and song while purposefully and meaningfully stringing together moments of Indigenous resistance that fully reject the systemic power dynamics of colonialism, capitalism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and anti-Blackness. Freedom is the reclaiming and rebuilding of Indigenous selfhood through words written and sung, words that colonialism tried – and still tries – to either assimilate or eradicate. To use Simpson’s aptly coined phrase, and title of her most recent academic work: Indigenous peoples all over the word will continue to reject colonialism and create space for themselves in this world as we have always done.

This is how to die in a war, they insist doesn’t exist – “Road Salt” from Simpson’s album F(l)ight

Naomi Klein describes Simpson as “playful, pissed-off, and ferociously funny.” She interpolates this pejorative stereotype of the angry woman and makes it her own as part of the radical rejection of colonialism broadly, and the multicultural mosaic in contemporary Canada more specifically.

i am writing to tell you

that yes, indeed,

we have noticed

you have a new big pink eraser

we are well aware

you are trying to use it.

erasing indians is a good idea

of course

the bleeding-heart liberals

and communists

can stop feeling bad

for the stealing

and raping

and murdering

and we can all move on

we can be reconciled

except, i am graffiti.

“i am graffiti” by Simpson - originally published in The Walrus, 2015

What does living and embodying freedom look like? For multidisciplinary Métis artist, spoken word poet, and educator Moe Clark, embodying freedom is the act of creating a sonic landscape that is intuitive, sensual, and improvised that sounds like a sensory overload of soul, gospel, folk, and spoken word. To understand singing and songwriting as repeated instances of personal and collective freedom that transcends colonial geographies and state-drawn national boundaries is to demonstrate the ways in which music is Indigenous resurgence. As a Métis educator, her work spans international borders and creative disciplines.

I find grace in the simple things that live within the waking dream – “I Find Grace” from Clark’s album Within

The Rialto Theatre, situated at 5723 Park Avenue in Montreal, played host on September 29th, 2018 to a lively and spirited conversation between Simpson and Clark, followed by an evening of musical performances. Simpson performed songs off her most recent album, fittingly titled F(l)ight, that poetically interweaves themes of storytelling, land, spirit, and body while Clark performed pieces from her second album, Within. The event was presented by POP Montreal, an annual international music festival that occurs every autumn. They organize similar events throughout the year for film (Film POP) and art (Art POP).

Note by the author: I am a settler woman who self-identifies as ally to the Indigenous Resurgence Project. I do not pretend to speak for Indigenous peoples as they are fully capable of doing so themselves in ways that demonstrate their strength, resilience, and defiant nature as human beings. I write about Simpson and Clark’s poetry and music from the position of appreciative reader and listener.

By Nicole Harris


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