Three Days




  • Canon EOS 7D
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  • Peace


    Nuptials


    Nuptials


    Nuptials

    Nuptials

    Nuptials


    Keith Powers

    Unfurling Poppy, 2018

    Five Genders


    s who were accepted and well respected in many Native American societies. The term “Two Spirit” comes from the idea that everyone has both a male and female spirit within their body, and a person’s identity comes not from their physical form, but from whichever of the two spirits is more dominant within them. Sometimes, the two spirits were equals, or changed which one was dominant many times, and it’s important to note that being Two Spirited is an observation on gender, but not sexual orientation.
    Different Native nations had different words for Two Spirit individuals, and not all of them can be easily translated into English. In the Cherokee Nation, for example, the word asegi is a blanket term, with more specific words to describe male-assigned and female-assigned people. In Inuit culture, the term sipiniq roughly translates to “infant whose sex changes at birth”, and in the language of the Lakota, winkte is the term used for male-bodied people who live as women, and bloka egla wa ke is the term for Two Spirited people born female. In Navajo society, the term isnadleehe, which means “one who is in a constant state of change” or “one who is transforming”.
    Although everyone calls them something different, the concept is similar across many Native American cultures. Before point of contact with European colonizers, it is thought that all indigenous societies in North America recognized five distinct genders amongst their people: Male, female, transgender, Two Spirit female, and Two Spirit male.

    A Gift from The Creator

    Some Native traditions tell the story of the spirit of a child before it is born. The child’s spirit stands before the Creator, who holds out a bow – which represents male – and a basket to represent the female role. The child’s spirit reaches for one or the other, but sometimes the Creator would switch hands, and the child would choose the opposite gender’s role. Other traditions describe Two Spirits as the perfect balance between male and female, just as dusk balances day and night.
    Regardless of differences in stories, there is one major note of consistency: the ability to look at the world from the perspectives of both the male and female spirit was generally looked upon as a gift, something to be valued. Two Spirit people were traditionally well respected within their society, and held all manner of illustrious positions such as healers, mystics, keepers of oral tradition, and warriors. Female-bodied warriors were well documented by European settlers in the form of “Hunting Women”, and there are several well known Two Spirit people throughout history, such as We’wha, a Two Spirit woman from the Zuni Nation, or Osh-Tisch from the Lakota Nation, a Two Spirits person who was born male and married a woman, but lived life as a female.

    Persecution

    It’s important to note, however, that as idyllic and accepting as this sounds, Two Spirit people were not accepted across the board. There is some historical evidence that suggests certain native American societies treated Two Spirit people with disrespect, and discouraged their children from taking on that role in life, but more often, Two Spirited people were well respected in their societies until the point of contact.
    After Europeans arrived on the scene, it’s a well-known fact that what followed was nothing short of genocide, and unfortunately Two Spirit people were some of the first to experience that tragedy. Spanish missionaries threw Two Spirits into pits of vicious, starving dogs, where they were literally torn apart. George Catlin, a prominent white artist who became famous for his painted portraits of Native American people, said in the early 19th century that the concept of Two Spirits “must be extinguished before it can be more fully recorded.”
    As their cultures and very ways of life fell victim to colonization, Two Spirits were forced – by missionaries, governments, and even their own communities – to conform to binary gender roles. Two Spirit males were forced to cut their hair, Two Spirit females were forced to wear dresses, and Native children were sent to government schools where they could not even learn about their own culture. Indigenous communities were forced to publicly renounce Two Spirits for fear of being slaughtered. Many Two Spirit people went into hiding, and others committed suicide.

    Taking Back the Narrative

    Over time, Two Spirit people became known by European settlers asberdache, a French term which carried offensive connotations. But in 1990, in Winnipeg, Canada, LGBTQ Native Americans officially began their use of the term Two Spirit, as a way to recognize not just their gender identity or orientation, but their cultural heritage which for so long had been oppressed. The term Two Spirit was coined not to replace individual tribal names and terms, but as something to be shared across all tribes and nations of Native Americans, a symbol of pride and unity that could be used by all indigenous North American people to reclaim a long-lost place in their culture.

    Photo Credit: Newsmaven.io, The Guardian, BNF

    Soul Unseen


    Stop Look


    Weight


    Harmony Boucher


    Tour of Duty




  • Canon EOS 7D
    EF-S18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • ƒ/8.0


  • 100.0 mm
  • 1/320


  • 100
  • Flash (off, did not fire)


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  • Date and Time (Modified) - 2011:08:08 13:58:29
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  • Camera Type - Digital SLR
  • wells spring


  • Canon EOS 7D
    EF-S18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • ƒ/8.0

  • 100.0 mm
  • 1/320

  • 100
  • Flash (off, did not fire)

  • JFIFVersion - 1.01
  • X-Resolution - 72 dpi
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  • Viewing Cond Illuminant - 19.6445 20.3718 16.8089
  • Viewing Cond Surround - 3.92889 4.07439 3.36179
  • Viewing Conditions Illuminant Type - D50
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  • Measurement Illuminant - D65
  • Make - Canon
  • Orientation - Horizontal (normal)
  • Software - Aperture 3.1.2
  • Date and Time (Modified) - 2011:08:08 13:58:29
  • ISO Speed - 100
  • Exif Version - 0221
  • Date and Time (Original) - 2011:08:08 13:58:29
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  • Camera Type - Digital SLR

  • Refugee Family Making America Great

    Disneyland may tag itself as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but according to a recent Reader’s Digest contest, the “nicest place in America” is a falafel restaurant run by a Syrian refugee in the unsuspecting town of Knoxville, Tennessee. While the food itself is nourishing and delicious, family-owned Yassin’s Falafel House offers up a lot more than just a tasty hummus—it serves a platter full of peace and community.

    An American Dream

    Yassin Terou was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. In 2010, Terou was interrogated daily by the police for a month, forcing him away from his job at the local Kia dealership. He had been a public critic of the government— a freedom not granted to citizens in Syria. Terou applied for asylum in America. With the revolution leading to a war in which over 500,000 people have been killed, the likelihood of Terou returning to Syria anytime soon was close to none.
    In 2011, Terou and his family successfully fled from Syria and found refuge in Knoxville, Tennessee. He recalls the difficult transition to life in America. His family spoke little English and knew nobody. For months, they relied on fellow members at their local mosque for food and clothing. He began selling sandwiches at the mosque after prayers. “This was my small dream,” Terou says in the award-winning film Yassin Falafel, produced by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, “selling sandwiches and juices like we do in Syria.”
    Quickly, Terou’s small dream grew into an even bigger one. After tasting Terou’s fantastic falafel, Nadeem Siddiqi—an imam at the mosque—approached Terou about opening a restaurant and offered start-up capital. Yassin’s Falafel House was born. Now, he has two restaurant locations in Knoxville (with two more planned for 2019), and has become an inspiration for those chasing the American Dream.

    Dishing Out Peace and Love

    On the menu at Yassin’s Falafel House, you’ll find juicy chicken shawarma, garlicky sauces, homemade tahini and hummus, and of course, made-to-order falafel patties. Something else is served here, too—and it can’t be found on the menu.
    The first thing you notice when you enter Yassin’s Falafel House is the sign on the door. Bedecked in rainbow letters, the sign reads: “All sizes, all colors, all ages, all sexes, all cultures, all types, all religions, all beliefs, all people, safe here at Yassin’s Falafel House.”
    In a town where he is likely the first immigrant/refugee/Muslim that many of the residents have ever met, Terou hopes that his shop’s welcoming gestures serve as an example for others: “When you love and give your love to people, you are stronger than one who gives hate,” Terou said. Everyone has to eat, right? Why not send a message of peace and love with that pita, he thought.“Breaking bread is not only food inside your stomach, it’s love you feel.”
    Terou’s restaurant has been a source for goodwill among the Knoxville community and beyond. In 2016, following the Gatlinburg wildfires, Yassin’s Falafel House was the site of a massive bottled water drive to donate to victims. Terou also advocates for the acceptance of immigrants and all people frequently on local and national media. His passion for his community has not gone unnoticed, and in May, the Rotary Club of Knoxville showed their appreciation for Terou by presenting him the 2018 Peace Award. What did Terou do with the $1000 prize? He paid it forward to Seeds of Abraham, a nonprofit that encourages youth from different faiths to come together and become leaders for understanding and peace. 

    And the Winner Goes To….

    The Rotary Club Peace Award was only the beginning of the recognition and attention that would come Yassin’s way.
    In April, Reader’s Digest posed the question, ‘What’s the nicest place in America?’ Nominations came streaming in, resulting in over 400 entries to choose from. After deliberation from six judges and the editors of Reader’s Digest, 10 finalists rose to the top, including the city of Katy, Texas; the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, and of course, Yassin’s Falafel House.
    After 62, 795 votes were cast by RD readers, the results were unanimously decided in early October: Yassin’s Falafel House was truly the Nicest Place in America.
    Proving his compassion once more, Terou urged that he could not take all of the credit for the win. “America is the winner. Knoxville is the winner. Tennessee is the winner. It’s not me. I think this is what makes us the winner, is the people in this country, not us.”

    Building Bridges

    There’s still a lot of work to do to build bridges between Americans and eliminate hate, but Yassin’s Falafel House is a central site where that work is happening. Terou says, “The people who decide they don’t like refugees, Muslims, immigrants, we have to change their ideas about it. This is our job. This is our message.” Terou has an optimistic outlook on the future for immigrants in America. And he’s not the only one. 11% of Syrian immigrants in America are business owners, more than triple the rate of U.S. citizens by birth.“We are going to keep this country great,” he says, “and we are going to build it together.”
    Photo credit: Reader’s Digest, Yassin’s Falafel House (Facebook)