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Dear friends, 

I lived in Australia for four years. Once, after speaking at an event in Melbourne, a man approached me and asked “Have you ever been Welcomed to Country?” 

In Australia, many public meetings start off with an Acknowledgement of Country, but only an indigenous person from that particular region can offer a Welcome to Country. The man speaking to me was from the Wurundjeri people, of the Kulin alliance. I was in Melbourne, his people’s territory. I was living as an uninvited guest. He was offering a welcome I’d neither requested nor deserved. 

He told me to sit down and spoke welcome in Woiwurrung, played the didgeridoo, invoked the totem, praised the land, the living and the dead, and spoke the word only his people have the place to say: welcome. Nothing prepared me for this grounding. When he was finished he said “Now you’re here, son.” I touch the ground in his honor every time I’m there. And I hope for treaties and reparations to tell the truth about the stealing of lands and languages across that great red earth. 

Our offerings from The On Being Project this week all mention place; how place can carry both celebration and lamentation, and how a recognition of the power and politics of place is vital. Krista’s conversation with Arlie Hoschchild touches, in many parts, on how place is a character in politics — some places are often in the news; other places often feel ignored, or, worse, abandoned. Hoschild, a sociologist from Berkeley, reflects on Louisiana, and how some of her colleagues’ words about it communicated disdain. Spending time in an area that’s used to disparagement meant she listened to, and learned about, the energy and shape of public protest in that place. It didn’t take away deep disagreement, but it did ground it.  

And in Poetry Unbound, we heard from James Wright, who in his poem “A Blessing” praises a field just off the highway near Rochester, Minnesota, as some kind of pilgrimage site to seek blessing from two tender ponies. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey’s poem “Miscegenation” locates itself in Mississippi, weaving couplets about racist laws with her own family’s story, moving back and forth across state lines and time to tell truths about places unattuned to the dignity or survival of Black Americans. 

In all of these offerings, we consider place: the acknowledgement of it and the recognition of the griefs and outrages that have been perpetuated and experienced on those lands. As Wangari Maathai reminds us, to ignore place is a political choice, and the tending of place is a tending of peace: for and between the peoples who share that place. 

We honor the peoples of the Dakota nations, on whose land we live and work, justice for whom we long for. 

We love being in touch with you, and hearing from you.


Beir bua


Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry Unbound




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This Week at The On Being Project


Our Latest Episode


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On Being with Krista Tippett
Arlie Hochschild
The Deep Stories of Our Time

Our stories and truths — what we debate as issues — are emotional, not merely factual. Why to do what feels unnatural: get curious & caring about the other side.

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Poetry Unbound

Monday 
James Wright
A Blessing

Off a highway, a poet and his friend encounter two shy, beautiful ponies.

Friday
Natasha Trethewey
Miscegenation

The poet recalls miscegenation laws that forbade interracial couples from marrying in certain states in the U.S. 

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Listen | Busy Being Black

Features conversations with those who have learned — and are learning — to thrive at the intersections of Black and Queer identities. In this episode, “Race in the Shadow of Law,” host Josh Rivers talks with Dr. Eddie Bruce-Jones, a legal academic and anthropologist.

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