Tuesday, June 5, 2012
I Am So Honored
Today the Rasmuson Foundation announced that their 2012 music composition fellows are Karina Moeller, who sings and writes for Pamyua, and me. Karina is going to write and produce a solo album. I'm going to collaborate with Diane Benson on a version of her tribute to Alaska civil rights icon Elizabeth Peratrovich, for narrator, children's chorus and orchestra. It will be based upon Diane's monolog about Elizabeth's 1945 testimony to the Alaska Territorial legislature that shocked them into granting civil rights to Native Alaskans and other minorities.
Diane and I are headed to Juneau Wednesday, so that she can tutor me in Tlingit culture, as we enjoy the 2012 Sealaska dance-and-culture Celebration. Having known Diane now for ten years, and having volunteered for her on three consecutive political campaigns, it is probably past due for us to create something together more lasting and uplifting than political action.
Diane Benson's artistic odyssey was cut short in late 2005, as she was preparing a new dramatic work for Out North Theater in Anchorage. She interrupted her self rehearsal at home to take a phone call. It was the Department of Defense, telling her that her son, a U.S. Army paratrooper, had been seriously wounded near Baghdad. They flew her to Germany, where he was hospitalized, because he was not expected to live.
He struggled, fought and overcame incredible injuries. Diane's visits to Latseen in hospital near Washington DC, and interaction with Rep. Don Young related to his concern for wounded veterans, led to her 2006 campaign against Young for his seat in congress.
Diane may be the most important living civil rights icon in Alaska. A lot of what she has achieved is in the realm of working with women who have been victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, so the products of her efforts have rarely become public.
I've held her hand as a sister in the past when she cried after hearing horrific stories from abused women in Alaska.
Now she will hold my hand as I try to understand the depth of her magnificent Tlingit heritage, so we may create art that might cause people to cry out for justice.
image - Diane Kaplan, Executive Director of the Rasmuson Foundation, and Diane Benson - Monday evening at the Brian Davies Gallery in Anchorage