“The more you learn about the dignity of the gorilla, the more you want to avoid people.”
Dian Fossey

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence… An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I salute the light within your eyes where the whole universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am at that place within me, we shall be one.”
Crazy Horse

“Nobody is as powerful as we make them out to be.”
Alice Walker

photo of Pamela Uschuk Chimney Rock. photo credit: Lucy Clark
Pamela Uschuk
Photo credit: Lucy Clark

In shaping this issue of About Place, CMarie Fuhrman, Maggie Miller and I chose work that addressed the question, what is dignity? We began with the premise that dignity is endangered during these times when public lies are condoned, when human rights violations against refugees and immigrants are perpetrated by our government, when the dignity and sovereignty of the natural world, including wild animals, forests, oceans, and mountains, are under assault by corporations who exploit natural resources for capital gain, when the idea of Climate Change, clean air, and clean water are dismissed by the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the President, when mass murders in schools, synagogues, and churches have become common place, when health care and assistance to the poor are constantly threatened by congress, when there has been a sharp increase in hate crimes, in violent rhetoric, and in crimes against the LGBT community, women, and people of color. What is dignity? Do we, as a culture, value it?

We were heartened and humbled by the vast outpouring of fine work submitted. In these pages, we are delighted to feature a community of powerfully conceived, courageous, and well-crafted poems, music, essays, memoir pieces, stories, hybrids, and artwork. This chorus of evocative and diverse voices confront public corruption, ICE arrests and the separation of refugee children from parents at our border, racism, bullying, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and the degradation of the natural world. Without relying on sentiment, self-righteousness or slogans, they remind us, as Rita Dove writes “Back when everything was still to come,/luck leaked out everywhere./I gave my promise to the world, and the world followed me here.” that individual acts of grace, dignity, integrity, spirit, and honor outweigh the negatives. Artfully, these pieces “tell the truth but tell it slant,” alchemizing injustice as in Linda Weasel Head’s poem, “Margins”:

I will not run away 1000 lines to write.
They hit her hand with a ruler to match
the vertical red guide printed on paper.
But she came from a woman born
premature, who survived on wild tea,
met a man who rode broncs. They headed
north, stopping to eat sunflower stalks,
where finite margins vanished in that
sunset’s blinding, spellbound light.

In doing so, these writings help restore and regenerate and remind us of the dignity in all of us. Hope is in the light of their creative truth.

My thanks go to my brilliant, hard-working, compassionate Assistant Editors, CMarie Fuhrman and Maggie Miller, who proved to me daily that dignity and integrity are alive and thriving in these precarious times. Working with them has been beyond rewarding. Without them, I could not have put together this issue.

Gratitude also to our esteemed contributors as well as those fine writers who submitted and were not published.

We offer you this feast of ideas, dignity, courage and heart.