Monday, August 14, 2006

remembering jamie

Jamie "Sabah" Miller
May 13, 1942 - August 14, 1999

It is the 7-year anniversary of the passing of my mentor, Jamie "Sabah" Miller. I have missed her since she left us, but this past year more so than ever. Jamie had done some naked dance performances, and she had also lived in Hawaii for a few years and spoke of her time there often. I think it was her "real" home. I have felt her presence in my work with Dandelion Dancetheater this past season many many times.

This morning I intended to post a poem by Marge Percy that Jamie loved...but when I went to my room to get it, I ran across something else of hers that has had me weepy all morning.

Jamie was first and foremost a dancer, a performer, a teacher...but like many artists, she worked other jobs to sustain herself. There were many, but her last career was teaching English to inner city Middle School kids in Oakland. A good number of her kids were English as a Second Language kids...and in this Bay Area melting pot, that meant having kids with an array of primary languages.

Jamie used to come to our dance class every Thursday night with school stories...and even though I recall stories of success and joy, what I remember most was her venting frustrations with the school district, with the system, with the kids, the parents, and the general state of things. Jamie's rage and anger and her ability to use that power to create change and things of beauty were unparalelled.

What I ran across this morning was "Poems for Ms. Miller," a compilation from her kids at Roosevelt Middle School. It was printed in May of 1999, just after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and it was clear that she would not be returning to her classroom. The tumor compressed the portion of her brain that allowed her thougths and words to connect accurately. Jamie couldn't speak well...but she danced and sang all the way to very end.

What Ms. Miller Taught Us by Emi Dip

What Ms. Miller taught us...
was to just express yourself
Whenever we have to do some writing
she'll tell us, just try to imagine
how it will be like you're really there.
She taught us how to listen to the
things around us.
She'll tell us to listen closely
for they will tell you a story.
She taught us many exciting things
She'll always tell us to just aim...
aim for you goals.
She taught us to just be ourselves
And don't let no one control it.

Grow by Joe Everhart
You are the only teacher that are
nice to even care if I was
going to be dropped out of the school.

You Taught Me... by Andy Pang
You taught me to be a better poet.
You taught me how to be a better person.
You taught me that life is a treasure.
You taught me how the walls talk.
You taught me how to find the
dark side of the sun.
You taught me that all races are not
that bad, once I got to know them.
You taught me not to be shy or scared
but to be courageous.
You taught life could be bad and down
at one point, but sooner or later,
life could be happy and the best thing.
You taught me life is forever,
Even when you die.


jodi said...

There can't be any better tribute to a fine teacher than for a student to flourish in what she's been taught, and to live in those lessons always.

Anonymous said...

Sweet, Bonnie. I think she'd be really proud of you.

See, every time you dance, every time you teach, every time you go on one of your adventures, and every time you just keep going, you honor her. Yes, yes, you'd still be you without her. But as you know, and as you thank her for every time you write about her, she fed you part of what you are, and you honor her investment and even keep her a little bit alive by how you live your own life.

Brace yourself. I'm sending you another sloppy, gooey virtual hug. Deal with it.