April 10, 2015
From the desks of Cathy Elliott & Marilyn Field
Tragedy has a way of sticking to us, like DNA. We all have legacies that we are trying very hard to process. Pain is far too familiar. Some of us would like to forget it, some do succeed; but there are those among us who just can’t get past it until it is done, for good.
Like these two women:
DAREarts Cultural Leader Award recipients Jeanne Beker and Waneek Horn-Miller both saw their parents caught up in violent conflicts. Jeanne Beker’s parents were Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivors. Waneek Horn-Miller and her elders endured the Oka Crisis.
The legacy that these two Leaders share is that of generational pain. The way they dealt with that pain diverges – one is a broadcasting personality and the other is a sports figure – but where they converge is remarkable. Both are motivational speakers, both are beautiful, strong heroes with beautiful, strong voices.
Jeanne Beker started her career in show business as a teen actress in the 60’s and began her career in broadcast journalism in the mid 70’s. Most notably, she launched the groundbreaking series fashion television in the mid 80’s, a series that ran for 27 years and was syndicated in 130 countries. Besides launching her own fashion line, Jeanne has authored five books and continues to lead a high profile multi media career.
She is an Order of Canada member and currently writes for the Globe and Mail. She was recently named style editor at The Shopping Channel and has launched a new series called Style Matters With Jeanne Beker.
“Everyone’s life is about survival.” As she writes in her parent’s memoir, Joy Runs Deeper, “As a child of survivors, I’m keenly aware that I have been left with a legacy that’s as powerfully daunting as it is inspiring. Although our parents’ youth was shattered by unspeakable pain and profound loss, they still managed to determinedly pick up the broken pieces and stoically re-build their lives. Their tales of toughness and tenacity light our paths and teach us the kind of heroic fearlessness it takes to survive. Lessons learned from our parents inspire and challenge us to work hard, be successful and live out not just our dreams, but their unrealized ones as well. Their heroism drives us relentlessly.”
Waneek Horn-Miller’s Mohawk community was in the cross hairs of public opinion, the army, and the Quebec police during the Oka Crisis. Waneek narrowly escaped death when she was stabbed with a bayonet; the iconic picture of a fourteen year old screaming in pain is as relevant today as it was in 1990, and a reminder that when generational trauma hurts, future generations feel the pain.
Waneek’s single mother enrolled her into as many sport activities as she could afford. “Many of the people that went through the Oka Crisis tried to deal with the trauma by self-medicating themselves with drugs and alcohol. My form of self-medication became my sport. It consumed me.” Less than a year after the stabbing, this courageous teenager ran across Canada in the Sacred Run from B.C. to Ontario. A year later, she ran from Alaska to New Mexico. Today, she is an inspiration to young people.
Waneek co-captained the 2000 Sydney Olympics Water Polo Team, subsequently won medals in the World Games and the Pan Am Games. She is currently working with the Assembly of First Nations as the IndigenACTION Ambassador to develop a National Indigenous Sport, Fitness and Wellness Strategy. She is Assistant Chef de Mission for the 2015 Pan American Games. She is the spokesperson for an Indigenous Top 500 enterprise called Manitobah Mukluks, which brings First Fashion to the masses.
These two extraordinary women are the inspiration for another generation of strong females. A grade 9 student, Judith Beaver, of Webequie First Nation, will receive the DAREarts Leadership Award for her leadership. Judith’s parents’ generation is still very much dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the Residential School Legacy, with difficulties finding coping mechanisms, along with racism, unemployment, physical/mental illness and sometimes, suicide.
The impact on young lives continues to manifest itself in Judith and her friends. She is the next generation, the one who everyone is calling on to save the day. Judith loves to dance and sing. “I didn’t know how to cope with what was bothering me, now I know, because DAREarts helped me with it.” She feels that DAREarts has helped her come out of her shell. She is a strong advocate for youth in Webequie and everywhere. Concerned when her friends talk about suicide, even in jest, she speaks up in social media to assure her friends that teenage angst is a passing thing; that they all go through it. But she understands the underlying influences that make it difficult for teens to cope in remote communities. She plans on walking the winter road from Pickle River to Ottawa to raise funds for an arena for her community, to provide a gathering place for concerts, Pow wows and other cultural events as well as sports.
Our legacies follow us. It’s what we do with them that makes us amazing. Our cultures and the arts give us the tools we need to turn the negative narrative into a positive legacy for future generations. Jeanne, Waneek and Judith have taken on a huge responsibility – to arm themselves with as much experience and confidence as possible, to imagine the impossible and go for it. As Judith states, “Keep walking forward like a soldier until you find the real you.”
Join DAREarts at 5:30pm on April 16th, at the Allstream Centre in Toronto, to hear their stories of courage. Other legacies will also be presented by four young Leadership Award recipients at this year’s DAREarts Leadership Awards: Blake Perryman, Dante Royale Scholar, Michelle Khela and Kohilan Mohanarajan.
Congratulations to you all, Legacy Warriors.
The DAREarts Leadership Awards are presented by Northbridge Insurance, with Lead Sponsors, Guy Carpenter, Scotiabank, TD Financial Group and Noront Resources Ltd.
DAREarts is a Canadian charity that works annually with over 13,000 9-to-18 year old children in underserved urban and rural areas across Canada. As the children explore world cultures and paint, sculpt, sing, dance, compose, design, write, act and create alongside arts professionals, they experience a broader range of activities beyond what is available to them and learn to express themselves and problem-solve in positive ways. DAREarts students become leaders when they are charged with the responsibility of returning to their schools and communities to teach others what they’ve learned. Since its founding, DAREarts has influenced more than 190,000 underprivileged Canadian children. Visit www.darearts.com
For media information:
Cathy Elliott, DAREarts First Roots Program Associate T: 416-948-4128 Toll Free: 1-888-540-2787
Marilyn Field, DAREarts Founder & President T: 905-279-0097 Toll Free: 1-888-540-2787