I just received a very nice book that was just published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Black American Portraits. I seem to have missed the publication deadline as none of my portraits appear to be in the book.
So to keep you up to date I will be publishing an African American portrait every Tuesday. See you on Tuesdays!
Sironka and 20 plus artists sharing their stories and visions. Come to the Carl Maxey Center at 3114 E. 5th Ave on Saturday April 9th. Youth can meet with the artists in the exhibition from 12 – 3 pm. Have wine and Lébakes cheesecake with the artists from 5 – 7 pm.
I am Nicholas Sironka, (I go by Sironka) a Maasai batik artist, with a God given talent. I was born and raised in Kenya, a country in East Africa. We have 42 different tribes in Kenya. Each tribe speaks a distinctively different language from the other. There is however a national language that helps all these tribes communicate with each other – Kiswahili. (Remember ‘Hakuna matte” in the movie Lion King?). I am Maasai, a small pastoralist tribe living mostly in the southern plains of Kenya known as the Rift Valley.
In the year 2000, I was awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence Award from the U. S. Government to com teach batik art and Maasai culture at Whitworth University in Spokane Washington.
Ever since childhood I was always fascinated by my Maasai culture, a culture that was very much misinterpreted and misunderstood. It is then that I made it my life’s ambition to find a way to tell the truth about my people and to do so with dignity and truth. With my God given talent I determined that batik was the medium I would use to make good of this quest.
Today I sell my original art and enjoy teaching batik art classes and also continue to hold lectures on the Maasai culture whenever I am invited to do so.
My passion to speak on the facets of my culture portrayed in my pieces has many times been impactful emotionally for those buying my art or simply coming and listening to my explanations of deeper meaning for the paintings. Many asked if I was a counselor, and after much thought, I decided to go to school. I am happy to say that today I hold a degree as a certified substance abuse counselor!
This is a picture of my friend Tom, Carpal Tunnel Blues Band musician, bird house designer, guitar collector, filmmaker, conceptual artist and ordained minister and spiritual counselor, The Reverend Dr. Pi. Quite a few years ago Tom gave me a studio photograph of himself. At our regular coffee and restaurant chats he often shared his website ideas and art works. This is an illustration from our conversations. One conversation was about his trip to the South to be tutored in the blues. He stayed in a shotgun house near a Mississippi juke joint. He wanted us to return. I would film his pilgrimage. We would stay in one of the rented shotgun houses with walls so thin the wind blew through them, covered inside with the posters of the musicians who had played at the juke joints. If anybody is looking for Tom he is probably playing at one of those juke joints and this poster is up on the wall.
Thomas “Tom” Daniel Dukich was a multifaceted artist, researcher, musician, teacher and creator of things, ever curious and dedicated to making connections with how the world works. He passed away on January 5, 2021, and will be remembered by the wide range of people he met throughout his many endeavors, as well as by the art, music and ideas he gave to the world.
Born in northern Minnesota in April 1945, Tom grew up in the small town of Pengilly, where he survived polio as a toddler, swam on the high school team, played golf, and once hitchhiked to Chicago to attend a Ray Charles concert. Earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in Duluth, he then moved with his wife, Marlene Allen, and daughter Cynthia to attend graduate school at the University of Montana in Missoula. In the Northern Rocky Mountains, he realized his love of the outdoors and backpacking, hunting and fishing. After having a son, Steven, and earning his PhD in Psychology, he moved from Missoula to Spokane with his family to teach psychology at Gonzaga University. As a professor, and throughout the many stages of his life, he established deep and meaningful friendships, and one of these friends might speak for many when stating: “There is so much I could say about his curiosity, creativity and humor, how principled he was, his integrity, but a lot of my caring for him can be summarized by him being the only person I ever had a 5 1/2 hour lunch with. Needless to say, I was never bored as he veered from one topic to another that day.”
He loved taking his young kids to listen to bluegrass night at a local pizza place, where they would often fall asleep under the table to the sounds of guitar, bass, banjo, fiddle and mandolin. Teaching himself to play the banjo, he enjoyed playing in regular bluegrass jams. He also loved Volkswagen bugs and Emmylou Harris, and after leaving Gonzaga, accepted a position at Washington Water Power (now Avista), where he was known for his convictions and determination to make decisions based on research, data and common sense. In 1986, he married Carolyn Schmitz, with whom he continued his adventures, travelling to Europe and Japan, and many other places both far and near. Applying his creative drive to drawing, painting, and conceptual sculptures, he became involved in Spokane’s art community and served as Chair of the Spokane Arts Commission from 1988-1993, where he helped coordinate projects to revitalize the core of the city. He also served on the Artist Trust Board of Directors from 1990-1992 and moved to the edge of town where he sought always to sustain balance within the natural world. Creating an art and wildlife haven around their home, he also served as president of the Bead Lake Clean Water Association, becoming a water quality expert as he fought to keep the lake pristine.
While enticing birds, racoons, deer and an occasional moose to frequent their property, his artwork expanded to include video, sound, and multi-dimensional pieces he called “assemblies.” Later projects include the three-hundred arch-top guitars he rescued and repaired through a labor of love, refurbishing these undervalued classics to get them back into the hands of music makers, and a documentary on the artist Harold Balazs, that when it sold out on DVD, he uploaded to You Tube: “to honor an artist, mentor, colleague, friend, and humanist,” traits he valued in others and embodied throughout his rich life. His memory will serve as an inspiration, motivation and blessing to many, and he will be dearly missed by his loving wife Carolyn Schmitz; daughter Cynthia Dukich, son-in-law David French and grandson Cooper Dukich French; and son Steven Dukich and daughter-in-law Aubrey Summers.
Those who wish, may contribute to Tom’s favorite charity Music Makers Relief Foundation https://musicmaker.org/ and may also visit his online Tribute Wall through Pacific Northwest Cremation (PNWC) of Spokane, www.pnwcremation.com where you can view pictures, stories, comments, and post your own memories.
To plant a tree in memory of Thomas Daniel Dukich, visit the Tribute Store.
Community organizing is emphatically bottom-up. It is the community members who select the issues, proffer the solutions, and drive strategy and execution. Most advocacy is fundamentally top-down, even if the work is authentically undertaken on behalf of community members. Advocates speak for others, while organizers inspire community leaders—everyday people—to speak for themselves. Tellingly, the so-called Iron Rule of organizing is, “Never do for people what they can do for themselves.”
Community Members Can Be Experts
Organizers and leaders also believe that community members can be experts, and that expertise is not the sole domain of policy professionals. A low-income mother with little formal education can be an expert on local educational needs just like a senior think tank fellow, through her own experience or by conducting community led action research in her neighborhood school.
Leadership Development is a Central Concern
The leader-focused lens also points to another difference from advocacy. In organizing, leadership development is a central concern and a key outcome in addition to policy change objectives. This has major implications for priorities and goals. It makes capacity development look different in organizing than in advocacy, since the capacities to attract and develop leaders are a top priority in organizing.
Organizers Operate in an Oral Culture
Finally, certain logistical aspects of organizing differ from advocacy in a significant way. Organizers operate in a predominantly oral culture, in contrast to the more archived, written culture of advocacy. Organizing often places a premium on process and ritual, particularly as it concerns base-building and direct actions. In addition, organizing takes place in a more diffuse setting: in homes, churches, schools, or community venues, rather than in a central office or the corridors of the state house.
How much of this is relevant to people of color in Spokane? Black Lives Matter has opened up a small window of opportunity for change. In order to measure our progress we will need a Baseline. Not an expensive study, but a discussion of YOUR personal needs and OUR needs. Let us know so we can plan strategies to take actions.
Send comments to email@example.com and the list of all comments will be passed on to the Spokane NAACP and The Black Lens News.