Letter from the Editor:
Well, the last few months have been a “roller coaster.” This magazine endorsed Bernie Sanders and his progressive ideas for the Presidency of the United States. Since then, nothing positive has come to light about the way he was treated, yet, we’ve had to move on for fear of even worse. The disaster of the “Standing Rock” protests at the reservation that straddles North and South Dakota give us pause and make us realize that now is a ripe time for a resurgence of “The American Indian Movement.” (As of today at least 2 policeman have turned in their badges telling their bosses that this was not what they “signed up for”). I could not help but think as I watched this incident “unfold” over the last few weeks what the iconic Tom Laughlin would be thinking about now. Truth is, if “Billy Jack” had not died in 2013 at the age of 82, chances are, if he had any strength left at all he would be with them. Delores too. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, representing the “old guard” of “activism” did make it there on a horse and was greeted by actor Mark Ruffalo.
The crisis goes on beyond damage to “Native” artifacts, in fact it threatens the very water people drink. (Coming on the heels of all of this is the ridiculous verdict that the perpetrators of the armed “takeover” of the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are innocent. In other words, if they were a First Nations people or black they would have never made it to trial, they would be dead). Also, it has not been but a couple of years since those of us with a heart were horrified at the cruel treatment of “Baby Veronica” and her Cherokee military vet father Dusten Brown. It seems to be “open season” once more on native rights.
Another hero of mine that stirred the pot of “Activism” in my heart was Tom Hayden, and hearing of his death several days ago brought back memories of reading his autobiography “Re-Union” when it came out. Tom Hayden was another champion of “Civil Rights” whose bravery took him into dangerous places in the 1960’s South where some did not return “alive” as well as the protests at the tumultuous Democratic Convention of 1968. In fact, our Bernie Sanders saga was similar to the “fractious” 1968 Democratic Party divisions when 80 percent of primary voters had voted for “Anti-War” candidates yet delegates crushed the “Peace Plank” of the “Platform” resulting in the “shut-out” of Senator Eugene McCarthy.
Discovering heroes like Tom Hayden and even Ceasar Chavez and Martin Sheen was sort of a part of the 1960’s nostalgia that started up around the late 1980’s. The twenty and thirty year mark of some important achievements were coming up around that time and it was actually a time to reflect-on what went “right”- and what went “wrong” with our “idealism.”
I do know that if Tom Laughlin and Tom Hayden were brought to life and made young again, they’d be right there on the front lines of “Standing Rock.” In their spirit “Egyptian Chick Magazine” “Stands with Standing Rock!”
Gifts from Eleni
by Aziza Al-Tawil
I was thrilled to meet with my former dance pupil and longtime friend Eleni upon her return from a trip to NYC a few weeks ago. My mother Johanna and I had trained Eleni when I was a child during the heyday of belly dance and we re-connected a few years ago when I returned to Charleston, WV to live while a film I’m in was being shot here. Eleni had reminisced about while in NYC several years ago she managed to snag a private class with Serena, my mother’s old pal from her years at the “Egyptian Gardens.” They had a great time and Serena complimented Eleni’s skill at dance as learned from Johanna, etc. Eleni was therefore touched to hear of Serena’s death not long after the private lesson.
When we first met Ellen she had gone out into the world at college age to experience new things. Her adventures saw her from everywhere from a dairy farm in Virginia to cocktail waitressing in New Orleans. She remembers the first time she decided to look into belly dance classes, “I saw an article in Cosmopolitan about it and said, wow that looks like fun-I want to do that!” She reminisced with me about a lot of different things that Johanna shared with her in conversation. Even that “Arab men think a woman looks sexy in black.” I can remember working a Greek Church function with “Eleni” when I was a child and she was excited to report to my mother that I had shown her how to get tips. Ellen’s parents were nice too-having us to dinner one time-I remember her mother gave me a long string of pearls like flappers wore. I even danced the “Charleston” wearing them when we did jazz dancing with the “Strawhatters” Dixieland Band.
Back then Eleni had a boyfriend that dabbled in drumming and they had spent time on an “Ashram” at one point. One time Ellen and Michael met us at the Charleston, WV Amtrak Station. They were floored that my mother had “14 suitcases and a baby.” I might have been seven on that trip back but I was still considered a “baby!” By the time we returned to Charleston again when I was a teen, Ellen, who had become a registered nurse, had married a young, local lawyer who shared her passion for championing “rights.”
So when I heard that Eleni was headed for NYC this last time, I told her about the Serena Museum at “Showplace” gallery in Chelsea. Eleni stayed in Astoria, Queens but made sure to go over to Manhattan to catch the exhibit. Even though she went on a weekday when the exhibit is only viewable from windows, she still said it was a marvelous experience. She enjoyed the exhibit so much that she was kind enough to bring me some souvenirs and gifts. She brought me pamphlets and cards from the Serena Exhibit and to my delight a stunning, vintage, “Art Deco” style mesh choker with onyx accents, and also a delightful and educational postcard from the “Ellis Island” museum. This is how thoughtful “Eleni” is and has always been. Just knowing her is a “gift in it’s own right.”
Shelley “Yasmela” Muzzy – Founder of “Bou-Saada Troupe”- Passes Away
By Aziza Al-Tawil
I had the pleasure of knowing Shelley Muzzy on Facebook through a now defunct group “1970s Belly Dance.” Shelly fought a long hard battle with Ovarian Cancer and it was inspirational to see her continue her love of life and colorful things in the world for as long as she was able. She was the founder of the “Bou-Saada” dance company along with fellow dancer “Cassima” that toured the Pacific Northwest, Western states and Canada in a bus living a very enviable carefree and artistic lifestyle that looking back seems the epitome of the “Hippie Era.”
In fact before moving to Bellingham, Washington she was in San Francisco studying from Jamila Salimpour and then performing in Nakish’s dance company. In recent years I know that Shelly went on a few pilgrimages to favorite places in the world including not just foreign countries but the old “Haight Ashbury District” of San Francisco. After retiring from dancing in 1990, she kept up in her later years her love of exotic textiles, jewelry, and beads running the “Bijoux Trading Company” on Etsy and I enjoyed talking with her a time or two about ethnic beads, etc.
Her dance instructors included Jamila Salimpour, Nakish, Rhea, Aisha Ali, and Mardi Rollow of “Aman Folk Ensemble.” She was a contributor to Ibrahim “Bobby” Farrah’s groundbreaking magazine “Arabesque” in the 1970’s/1980s and was also a staff writer for the original “Habibi” Magazine.
Since their marriage in the 1970s, Shelly had the love and support of the man she called “Mr. Muzzy,” a fellow with an interesting background himself having appeared in some of the “Our Gang Comedies” as a child.
You can learn more about “Yasmela” and reference her articles at this page of “The Gilded Serpent” magazine website.
I know many people are already missing this special woman.
“Vintage Belly Dancers” for November:
Aziza Al-Tawil and Billy Jack Watkins Halloween Short film “Dark Gathering 2: The Hunt for Pristinia” has arrived on “YouTube.” If you like Mel Brooks, Monty Python and Hammer films you will love this little film. It is a sequel to last year’s “Dark Gathering”.