Posted on

Some Thoughts on Racism

I’m sure this may sound naive, but I mean it: after 68 years of life, I don’t understand racism. Yeah, I know it’s real; I just don’t know how someone can think they are superior to others because of their own race, or skin color. And it can be a complex phenomenon. While we usually associate racism here in America with whites feeling they are superior to blacks, it is also the reason the Europeans tried to commit cultural genocide against the over 500 Indigenous tribes they found in the “new world,” starting 500 years ago. “The deeply rooted racial prejudice of the Anglo-white Americans against the Red Indians, virtually a national psychosis, is one of the strangest and most terrifying phenomena in all history. It has no parallel throughout the Western Hemisphere.” (Frank Waters, Book Of The Hopi). I also know racism exists in other parts of the world as well, but it’s not a subject I have studied. The reason I’m writing this as the 2nd Stick Speaks is, of course, because of the recent explosion of protests and riots, following the murder of George Floyd. I watched some of the video; very difficult. The scariest part, for me, was how nonchalant the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck looked…he wasn’t breaking a sweat, and seemed rather uninterested that he was killing him. I don’t believe anybody could have predicted what would happen because of this killing, and it’s spread all over the world, surprisingly enough. Obviously, this was the straw on the proverbial camel’s back. There are many years of pent up anger and frustration being expressed through the many protests.

I always like to understand root causes of things. With racism, I’m not sure just how/where it started, but here’s a couple of ideas to consider. There is a strange concept in Christianity, referred to as “The curse of Ham.” This involves Noah, from the Old Testament. His son, Ham, apparently found him in a drunken stupor; Noah took exception to this, and cursed both Ham and the land of Canaan. “Although there is no mention of Noah’s actual spell, it was somehow decided in the Middle Ages that the curse of Ham conferred dark skin. This became a justification for enslaving those who were not white.” (Betsy Quammen, American Zion). I have heard of this for years, and plan to look a bit closer. Since the Europeans who were slaveholders were mainly identified as “Christian,” this seems to make some sort of sense, bizarre as it sounds. Of course, many European nations went around the world, taking the lands of dark skinned people, killing many, and trying to also convert them to the Christian religion. This is well documented. “We must, with unquenchable ardor, propagate our sacred religion.” Pigneau de Behaine (Stanley Karnow, Vietnam, A History). Behaine was a French priest who spend decades in Vietnam in the 18th century. “He had come to France to lobby for an ambitious scheme-the creation, under French auspices, of a Christian empire in Asia.” (Karnow). Indeed, everywhere the Europeans went, they tried to destroy Indigenous religious beliefs, and convert them to Christianity. The results, as we can see around the world today, were disastrous, and were responsible for misery and horror on an incomprehensible scale.

Perhaps there are other deeply rooted reasons for racism. My own personal spiritual beliefs lean towards the idea that racism is the perfect way for the dark forces that exist (lucifer to me) to cause the biggest ruckus they can among the human race. And it has certainly done that. Without racism, there would have been no slavery in the south, or destruction of Indigenous people. The whole world would have evolved in a much different way; we can only wish that would have happened…and it could have. I am not racist, and my daughter is not racist. Her kids will also not be racist. Because of this, we have broken the chain that keeps racism alive. When I see old footage of the many racial protests in the south in the 1950’s, the insanity on the faces of the white people is astonishing…they were really really crazy. The problem is, many of them had kids, grandkids, and on and on. Who, I am thinking, were most likely raised to be racists as well. Maybe some pulled away from it, that would not be surprising. But, racism must be taught; we are not born that way. Which brings us to an interesting crossroads, as far as the current situation with the protests. Yes, statues are being torn down; police departments are possibly going to be re-organized, although I believe that’s going to be more difficult than people are realizing. And there are many discussions going on about how we as a society can best deal with the institutional racism that defines America. There are good things coming from the protests (and some bad ones as well).

The real issue is, though…the people that are racist are most likely still going to be just as racist after the protests die down. They aren’t going to magically change because of what’s happening. I heard a video of a crowd chanting “1-2-3, fuck the police.” Ok…do people really believe that is going to help with serious change? Hey, that’s deja vu for me…folks started calling the cops pigs in the 1960’s, and yet…here we are again, with the same infantile chants. The same with the $500 million in damages to buildings. I’m sure many younger folks are thinking they’re onto something; but again, I remember the Vietnam protests, Watts, the destruction after MLK was assassinated, and many more such events. I’m watching the Ken Burns Vietnam series; if you wanna see some serious protesting, check it out. I surely understand the anger behind these actions; I just don’t believe, overall, it’s going to do much good. The Denver City Council was overrun a couple of weeks ago by protestors. They actually cancelled the next meeting out of fear it would happen again. Meaning, they capitulated to a mob of angry people. And again, there’s plenty to be angry about. Coming up with long term, meaningful change though…that’s perhaps not easily done by destroying things.

And of course, there are other profound issues besides racism. Economic equality is certainly another deeply entrenched issue that has also affected millions and millions of people over the years. While folks at Amazon struggle to pay the bills at $15/hour, the stock market is enjoying record profits, and Jeff Bezos has a $165 million mansion. He could easily pay his workers $30, but does not. Health care in America is a disgrace, and rents are soaring ever higher, making landowners a very wealthy bunch indeed. This situation too is old news; the founding fathers were mostly white, wealthy slaveholders, so the template for what America is today was set from the beginning. And be assured that many millions of Americans like things exactly the way they are. I am not so sure many of the protestors and their allies are taking this into account, either. For every statue toppled, I believe there are many folks becoming very angry about that. And I do fear a backlash may be on the way before long. A statue of Frederick Douglass was also toppled recently.

Completely by accident, a whole new door opened up for me about the protests the other day. A FB friend posted a short video of the founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, Patrisse Cullors, talking about her political beliefs. The thing is, although I had first heard of BLM some years back, when it first started, I had no knowledge of who started it, or what they were like. Ms. Cullors started BLM in July of 2013, along with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, after the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. In this 36 second segment of the video the host, Jared Ball of Morgan State University, asked her about her political beliefs; she responded “Myself and Alicia in particular are trained organizers, we are trained Marxists.” I didn’t know anything about her of course, but I thought that was a pretty strong statement. I decided to look a bit deeper into who Ms Cullors is, and found a few things. She was a Fulbright scholar, and has a degree from UCLA. She has been an activist for many years, and has formed numerous organizations and won awards for her activism. In another video (a site called Dazed; April 5 2018, Rianna Walcott interviewer), she stated “I identify as an organizer versus an activist.” She also said she was at the National School for Strategic organizing for a year studying with a man named Eric Mann. Mann has a long resume, ez to look up. He was an SDS member and also part of the Weather Underground; he did two years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder. Ms Cullors also said ” We spent the year reading, anything from Marx to Lenin to Mao.” She told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now (Jan 16, 2018) “Yes Eric Mann, that’s my mentor.”

I think all of that is very significant, for a number of reasons. First…because of her Marxist leanings, is BLM then a Marxist front for her political beliefs? I wonder how many people carrying BLM signs and wearing the shirts know of this? Would it make a difference? Should it? Well, what if Ms Cullors was to be on CNN/Fox or another national network, being interviewed, and spoke of this? I’m thinking it may well start a very large discussion…perhaps it should. I tried to read a bio of Mao, and could not finish it. He was one of the most horrid human beings I’ve ever heard of, and that was long before he took control of China, where he was responsible for the deaths of many millions of his own people, perhaps up to 70 million. Marxism didn’t work out too well for the Russian people either…also many millions of innocent deaths. None of this has been mentioned, as far as I know, in the national news outlets covering the BLM movement. In fact, I was surprised that Ms Cullors, or one of her associates, did not make an appearance over the last month to give a speech. That’s rather unusual for such a large movement. Are there individual BLM chapters, under her supervision? Who controls those? Hey, I do not know…and that’s why I’m asking these questions. Ms Cullors also self identifies as “queer,” and is a big supporter of the trans-sexual movement as well. I was starting to see those signs in the protests too.

OK…here’s a thought. Are several differing agendas now being mixed together in the BLM movement? I can see where some people would be fine with supporting racial equality, but maybe not Marxism, or the sexual orientation. If they do, that’s their perogative of course. But…if the BLM supporters are not aware of their founder’s personal ideas, then there could be big problems in the future with this movement. Personally, I’d be up for some serious discussion around the views of Ms Cullors. It’s one thing to protest for racial equality…perhaps another altogether to change the political system in America to Marxist. But…if this isn’t brought out into the public view, then how will we know where BLM really stands? I also happened to see on Democracy Now a brief and very angry speech by an activist named Tamika Mallory. Also ez to look up, she was brought up by her parents as an activist, connected to Al Sharpton. In the Democracy Now piece, she said “I don’t give a damn if they burn down; I don’t give a damn if they burn down Target.” Wowie. First…who gave her permission to call for buildings to be torched? Then, if a Target, say, is destroyed, who will suffer? It won’t be the owners, whoever they are. Their insurance will cover it; hell, they may actually wind up making more $$$ off of it. No…it will be the hundreds of neighborhood people working there, for little money, who really need the jobs. If Ms Mallory is truly concerned for her people, then why would she want to take their only source of income away? In reality, she’s a pawn in the hands of the very people she claims to be protesting against. And seems to have no idea of this. Burn it? Her casa too? When the speech was over, one of Goodman’s associates commented on the “powerful speech,” but said nothing about the morality of burning down a Target.

And yes…these are rather negative issues connected with the BLM movement. And they need to be discussed widely. In the 1950’s and 60’s black folks were being killed, bitten by dogs, beaten in the streets, and hosed with giant water cannons…so they could eat at restaurants and send their kids to school. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and others were larger than life figures to me as a young white kid. I could not believe their grace, dignity, and unwavering commitment under these awful social conditions. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing any leaders in the BLM movement, as of yet, who come anywhere close to what these legends stood for. Maybe that’s not surprising; leaders like that are rare enough at any time. Where this all goes from here, I do not know. I believe there’s a possibility that, after all the protests die down, it may be back to business as usual. Again…tearing down statues and yelling at the cops are minor compared to changing the hearts of racists. We need to find a way to achieve that for truly lasting change. Maybe the current social unrest will indeed start something of great value; I would like to see that. We’re only at the beginning.

Thnx for reading…Hstick

“Our goals are not to gain political control, monetary wealth, or military power, but rather to pray and to promote the welfare of all living beings and to preserve the world in a natural way.”

Hopi Elder and spokesman Thomas Banyacya Dec 10 1992

Posted on

The Forgotten People

To all that are reading this…I have been planning on writing what is often called a “blog” for a long while, and this will be the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series. I don’t like the word blog, so we’ll just say Stick Speaks instead. If you don’t wish to receive these, just hit the unsubscribe tag, and you won’t see them anymore. I thank you in advance for your time.

Following my words here, you will see an email from my longtime compadre Martha Yordy. Martha is a keyboard player, a musical director for plays, and is one of the best musicians I’ve known in my career. We started working together at the Arvada Center in the early 1990’s, doing plays, and we always had a hoot. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and this letter follows a recent phone call from Martha. She read this to me over the phone, and it touched me deeply. I told her I wish I had written it, and I am glad she did write it. She was hoping to get it to Al Sharpton’s organization, as he’s very involved in the current BLM situation. She couldn’t reach him through email, so we’ll see if that happens. As I thought about it the last week, I decided I’d finally start my Stick Speaks series with her letter, as well as my own feelings about the Native American situation in the US. Martha and I feel the same about this. I’ll let her letter speak for itself. Here’s some of my thoughts.

I knew since I was a kid that I had an Indian great grandma; my mom mentioned her many times. Her name was Sabra, and she was Choctaw. The Choctaw lived in Mississippi, and were one of the tribes that walked the legendary Trail Of Tears, when Andrew Jackson (and the US govt) took their ancestral lands illegally. I only saw my grandpa once, when I was about 10. He came by our tenement to borrow some money; my mom slammed the door in his face, as she hated him. Before the door closed, I saw him, and thought “wowie, he’s Indian.” Which he was. She didn’t speak much of her dad, but I know he was a mean man, and treated his kids badly. Sabra was his mom of course, but I never knew much about my great grandpa, who’s last name was Penly (John Bell Penly), my mom’s maiden name. Throughout most of my life, I thought he may have been white…maybe he was. But, fast forward to a few years ago. My late cousin Ron, got in touch, and it turns out he was also very interested in his Indian background, and had done a great deal of research. It’s very difficult to get accurate info from tribes 150 years ago, but he did his best. My thoughts on this now are that John Penly was also Choctaw, making my grandpa a fullblood. It’s well known that the US govt forced the Choctaw to use white names for a while. And Ron told me he know of a Bell clan in the Choctaw. My grandpa’s death certificate also says Indian for race, so I’m going to go with that, unless new info appears. I also don’t know if my grandpa’s wife, Estelle, was Indian or white. So my mom was half tribal, possibly all. She never talked about that with me. I wish we had.

I know there is Choctaw DNA in my system. Perhaps that’s why I’ve grown up to be very interested, and deeply concerned, about what has happened to the 500 or so Indigenous tribal nations since 1492, when Columbus arrived in the Western Hemisphere. I read “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee,” by Dee Brown, in 1976. I was enraged for months after. This book looks at the takeover, and colonization, of what is now called America, by the Europeans. It is a very difficult book to read. It is very well researched and annotated, and is essential reading for anyone that wishes to know how we got where we are today in relation to Indian issues. It’s actually really simple; this continent is Tribal land, all of it. There are over 400 treaties that the US govt has largely ignored, not enforced, or just blown off. Treaties are legally binding on a government; so America is basically breaking 400 of it’s own laws, to this day.

As far as racism, here’s a quote from “Book Of The Hopi,” the masterpiece by Frank Waters: “The deeply rooted racial prejudice of the Anglo-white Americans against the Red Indians, virtually a national psychosis, is one of the strangest and most terrifying phenomena in all history. It has no parallel throughout the Western Hemisphere.” What has happened to black folks, since they were brought here against their will as slaves, is a tragedy of untold proportions, and it’s about time that ends. What Martha is saying, and I agree with, is that the Indians need to be included in this process as well. They have had all of their ancestral lands taken, and have been forced to live on what we know as “reservations,” which can also be called concentration camps. Conditions on reservations are usually very bad. They are often very poor lands that the white people didn’t want, because they thought they were useless. Of course, later on when uranium, coal, and other resources were discovered on these lands, the story changed. That’s the subject of another article. Indians are, as Martha says, the forgotten people, overall. Most Americans know virtually nothing about them; most of their impressions of Indians were formed by Hollywood movies, which were rather biased towards the white man, to say the least.

But, they are a helluva resilient race of folks, and are still here, right now. I watch the FNX TV channel a lot (First Nations Experience), and around the country, many tribes are rediscovering their ancient traditions, and passing them onto their young people. This gives me great hope for the future. But, a lot more needs to be done. Namely, their cause needs to be as widely recognized as that of black people, and Americans need to realize that we indeed live on their lands; every one of us, black and white alike. We also need to realize that the racism against Indians is as bad, or worse, than towards blacks. They were thought of as subhuman by many whites through the years, and if you’re interested, there are many many books available on this subject. What to do? Well, we all do what we can. I am writing this to get things started for myself, and Martha. Feel free to forward this, or just Martha’s letter, to anyone you think might be interested. Will people ever march in protests in support of Indians, as they are doing now for black people? I would like to see that day happen, hopefully very soon. Just to get folks to be aware of the problem is a great start. The Hopi, and other tribes, have numerous prophecies. One of deep significance is referred to as the Great Purification. The Hopis (and others) speak of previous civilizations on this Earth that became very corrupted, and were destroyed by Creator to start over. The Hopi say this is the 4th world, and that there is the possibility that this world, too, may need to be cleansed as well. I personally believe that is not out of the question. I’ve also considered that the Covid pandemic may be the door opening towards this. I hope not. Perhaps if we realize our responsibility towards the original inhabitants of this continent, and take the proper action, things could change much for the better. I also include tribal people all over the world in this prayer, from the jungles of S. America to the Aborigines in Australia. Thnx for your time in reading this. Perhaps it can interest you in starting to think of what we are saying; maybe there’s a way to move forward in the race discussion, including the Indigenous people around the world as well…go safe and wise with Creator…N. Haverstick


My name is Martha Yordy, and I reside in Littleton CO. I grew up in Espanola NM as a white minority. My father was a doctor, and my mother an artist. When I was three years old, my parents adopted a newborn Navajo. We were good friends growing up, then during the teenage years we rebelled, and during our adult lives, we grew apart. In 2003 when our mother died we reconnected, and sadly he
died of acute alcoholism in 2005.

In these “dark night of the soul” times, we have been forced to review our relationships with humans of a different skin color. We have also had to review how we as white people have always felt superior to those humans. Speaking for myself, there have been many times in reviewing our history that I have to say I’m ashamed to be a member of the white race.

There is thankfully a new world on the horizon with (hopefully) true equality among whites and African Americans. This nation will accomplish unheard of things in all areas when this is achieved, and the fear on both sides will slowly turn to trust. I am grateful to be a part of this change in history.

However, we have forgotten a whole race of people that need acceptance, and compassion. White man hasn’t just mistreated them, he has killed, maimed, raped, and displaced the indigenous people of this country. We continue our cruel acts by ignoring them during this pandemic. Yes slavery is completely unjust,
but taking a whole population (if they survived) and transplanting them where we don’t have to deal with them is a continuing atrocity. We put them on land where there is no running water, or fertile soil, and we perceive of that as fair?!

It is my feeling that we need to make extreme reparations to our native Americans. Our speeches across this country need to include them.I would hope that the changes coming to our country will help them, but it looks to me that we are ashamed of our conduct, and trying to forget our injustices to them.

In closing, the new world needs to include us all. We need to ask these people what would fix what we’ve done to them. Whether it be monetary compensation, relocation, or both, we need to fix this in order to be on a true loving path that includes us all as equals.

Respectfully submitted,

Martha Yordy

Posted on

New CD Available: Radio Waves

Radio Waves

At long last…I’ve had this CD sitting around for over 3 years, and it went through numerous changes along the way. I honestly feel this collection of songs represents who I am as a musician better than any others I’ve done. A wide range of music indeed…quite a ride if you let it take you along. It’ll be available from my site at or if you’re in the Denver area, I’d be glad to meet up and get one to you. I’ll be having a CD release show at Swallow Hill on January 25th, playing a lot of the music from the CD, hope to see you there. Thnx for all the support over the years…much more to come…all bestest…Hstick

Posted on

Vote for Neil!

Hey folks,

I’m delighted to have been nominated in the 2019 Westword Music Showcase for the avant-garde category. Don’t know how this happened, but there I am. So… if you have a minute, I’d really appreciate your vote. Here’s the link:

The deadline for voting is 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 30th.

If you want to strike a blow for Microtonality, now’s your chance!

Thanks a zillion.


Posted on

Hopelessly Microtonal Reviewed in Exposé Magazine

Then, there’s a nice review of “Hopelessly Microtonal” in the new Exposé mag…they’ve been around a long time, and focus on the more extreme side of the music biz…which I guess means me, ha, woulda never guessed. He described what I did in the book very well. Nice to get some press, artists gotta have it. I’m always grateful when people are interested in what I do; having this and the Now&Xen podcast come out at the same time is good timing.

Hopelessly Microtonal featured in Expose Magazine

Okie, all bestest from Englewood…till next time…Hstick

Posted on

Now&Xen Podcast

Neil on the Now&Xen podcast

Hey all… I did a nice Skype interview for the Now&Xen program. A couple of my micro colleagues have started this show, this is just the kind of thing we need. Informal, wide ranging, and lotsa fun. Yup, an hour plus, so if you are stuck in the casa from this “bomb cyclone,” you know what to do.

Check out the podcast:

Posted on

Hopelessly Microtonal Featured in Westword

Hopelessly Microtonal Featured in Westword

Hey all…Jon Solomon did a great job capturing the essence of our phone conversation, and the ideas we discussed are well presented. This is not an ez topic to write about, but it sounds like the way I actually talk…God help us, ha…hope you can check it out…Hstick

Posted on

Upcoming Events

Hey all…a few things coming up…

  • Tuesday January 8th, I’m on the KGNU Kabaret show, 7-8 Denver time…we’ll be talking about my new book “Hopelessly Microtonal,” and I’ll be playing several different instruments. Dan Willging, aka Big Daddy, is the emcee…we go way back, and he’s a great host…hope you can tune in…then…
  • January 29th I’m at Dazzle with the Bill Hill Quintet, a remarkable band. Bill is a great percussionist/composer, and he keeps us all on our musical toes…early show, so old folks can be tucked in at a decent hour (me included)…
  • February 10th, the Quintet is at Rockley’s Music on W. Colfax…another early show, we’ll also be doing a workshop with area students beforehand, which will be a lotta fun…
  • And sometime in May (most likely) we’ll be doing our annual benefit for the Evergreen Chamber Orchestra, for which Bill is the musical director. I’ll be posting more updates as they come in…hope to see you folks at some of these…