STORY #2: Fly By Light — Five Years Later
When Hawah reached out to me to film the follow-up reunion film to the original FLY BY LIGHT movie, it was not even a choice, but an immediate jump! For the joy of reconnecting and reflecting and playing once again in the mountains with young people, I simply love, and for the responsibility to continue to show up for them, as family. That was the first feeling. The second was a more subtle belly breath of how important it is to capture and share stories that really show a longer journey. Which made me think about how rare it is that we actually get to see and feel people change over time, over 5 years. It hits on a deeper truth about the importance of continuity and commitment to each other.
The experience of filming these, now young adults, again, was like open-heart surgery. Even though I had been in touch with most of the youth over the years, it was soul-stirring to be back in the mountains, dancing around the kitchen, drumming at dusk, and holding space for them ~ to share openly about their lives, about the Fly By Light seeds that had taken root, and the cycles that still persist from systemic racism and violence. The weekend left me dreaming for more time, more resources, more ways to hold these retreats more often, but also left me landing on the simple truth that creating spaces that honor each person’s inherent value for however long you have is of immeasurable importance. And we need to share this work, the work that OCU does every day so that more young people can experience it. Also, I’m not gonna lie, I definitely cried in the closing circle.
We are in a moment of reckoning in our country where we are confronting the trauma of 400 years of racism and systemic violence, and needing to take action to fight for justice, for healing. Really f***ing hard work, forever work, with so many different paths for individuals and organizations and communities to take. Like so many others, long before 2020, One Common Unity has been doing that hard work, and it continues to do its particular and indispensable part of the collective work. It confronts the cycles of violence, which often stem from systemic racism, and seeks to heal them through love and community and vulnerability and radical sharing and collective strength. One heart, one life, one group at a time, Fly By Light is undoing the damage of racism and plantation capitalism, by showing us all, facilitators included, that we all have value and beauty that is worth shining brightly for the world to see.
It’s simply an honor that both our films FLY BY LIGHT and FLY BY LIGHT~ Five Years Later are the first two stories in OCU’s #20Stories20Years campaign. I’ve known Hawah for almost 20 years now and am forever grateful to him for asking me to hop on the bus with them to West Virginia. What unfolded during those 8 days and continues to unfold in the lives of those young people, in all the lives of the facilitators, in my life, is ineffable. It can’t be captured, and yet it was the honor of a lifetime to experience it, to try to capture it, to try to share some small part of it, as a reflection for those who were there, and as inspiration for those who are still looking to find their path.
~ Ellie Walton, Director of the Fly By Light documentaries. EllieWalton.com