19th Annual Conference of The Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance; Croatian Tamburitzan Performance
On Saturday morning, April 7th, we decided to drive to Baldwin-Wallace College to attend a small part of the 19th annual conference of the "Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance" whose mission is to promote "dignity and respect for indigenous peoples." It also advocates "for indigenous cultures and heritage through education, activism, and grassroots organizing."
We listened to the keynote address of Mr. David Narcomey (who served in the United States Navy for 18 years and is now a successful private investigator) who is very actively involved with the General Council of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma which largely concerned the need for increased awareness regarding the social injustice of the Native American mascots used by sports teams and/or the names of the teams themselves.
To be sure, this is a controversial topic and one that stirs a great deal of debate even within various Native American communities but there is noteworthy evidence that claims that such mascots and names do contribute to an indirect or implicit bias against Native Americans.
Mr. Narcomey contended that findings show that the most harmful damage is done not by the sports team employing the name/mascot but by their opponents who make use of such utterances as "Kill the Indians!" "Kill the Braves!" and the forthcoming "a Trail of Tears".
We conferred with Mr. Narcomey for a couple of minutes and he impressed us as being a person with strong, genuine convictions who is willing to listen to all sides and engage in meaningful discourse. He is certainly not a man with a hateful grudge against the sports teams; instead he seemed like a very conscientious individual who sees a wrong being committed (perhaps unknowingly) and is doing his utmost to make things right. As such, he has established solidarity with other ethnic groups and emphasized the need increased collaboration.
We were glad to hear that, due to the efforts of Mr. Nacomey and those who believe as he does, approximately 60% of the U.S. schools and universities that once made use of Native American mascots have changed or stopped using them all together.
(For more information see http://committeeof500yearsofdignityandresistance.com/history.html)
On a less tendentious note, that evening we went to the Croatian Picnic Grounds on Mulberry Road in Chardon to watch four Croatian Tamburitzan groups perform which were the American Zagreb Junior Tamburitzans (Cleveland), Cleveland Junior Tamburitzans (Cleveland), Nova Nada Tamburitzans (Auburn Hills, Michigan) and the Selo Tamburitzans (Columbus, Ohio).
This event took place to raise money so that the American Zagreb Junior Tamburitzans could travel to Croatia this summer. Needless, to say we were impressed by the energetic skills displayed by all of the dancers and their commitment to preserving their heritage.
After the groups had performed, we were treated to the of "Zadnja Stanica" which is a Croatian band from Steeltown, Pennsylvania. Of course, we got up and danced for a while ourselves and then watched as the seasoned attendees enjoyed partaking in some folk dances.
Sitting at an adjoining table was a young woman from Cleveland who told us that she has been dancing with the Tamburitzans for most of her life. In fact, she met the man who would eventually become her husband at a dance exercise when they were both around five years old. And now, carrying on the family tradition, their son is a Tamburitzan too!
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC