The Legend of Kapo
May 1, 1850
Dearest Sister Annie,
I am writing to you from Kona Hawaii on my third week as governess to her Highness Emma Rooke, whom most people call Emmalani... I have never seen Emmalani run, at least not on land. She skims from her beach chair to the ocean water, slides in, and then she is simply grace incarnate. Clean even strokes, and at last in the waves, without hesitation she covers miles swiftly and surely. As governess, I remain on the beach, where the thought the idea of me rescuing my ward is laughable at best. I leave heavy footprints, each toe discernable in the concave shallows, but in spite of walking right behind her, I see no trace of Emmalani’s passing. To my thinking, the Mermaids are a Western invention akin to Centaurs of Greek myth. Lost fishermen and missing sailors gave rise to half human creatures and sea goddesses. Here in Hawaii, each family honors simpatico creatures, their aumakua. These beings are not half human, half animal, stuck in between species. They know they can transform. I myself have witnessed the elders standing in the waves close to shore and CALLING to their aumakua, chanting in their musical way, raising their arms, an outstretched welcome, and Annie, I tell you, the sharks COME...
These Hawaiians are great athletes, though their sports would terrify our polo players. Years ago, a great slide or Lua was built down the slopes of Mauna Loa (the Long Mountain) all the way to sea. Daring boys and girls lay down upon heavy boards and rode many kilometers, picking up speed and once in the ocean, they take to riding the waves. Honestly, Annie, mermaids are a pale and fragile myth compared to these ocean loving natives...
On the island of Hawai’i, there is an active volcano which one can visit and see molten lava up close. It is like seeing God at his most awe inspiring to witness the creation of new land, Annie, reminiscent of those days when we saw God in the clouds as we laid on the grass in our favorite meadow...
At the Talk Story, I learned that their goddess Pele had sisters, one of whom was called Kapo. This goddess
had a most unusual talent. I am struggling to convey what I heard at that meeting in Waipio for it involves a woman’s’ private parts. I shall forge ahead and relay that in this story, Kapo’s lady parts were, shall we say, detachable. There are wild boars in the island, another animal that transforms between human and beast. They call this the Pig God. This Pig god is possessed of an insatiable lust, and Kapo, tiring of the constant pursuit, and declaring “is this what you want?”, detaches her lady part, throws it up into a tree, goes about her visits and errands, only to retrieve it later when the Pig God has finished his business. I know you must be blushing fiercely, and I tell you Annie, it was all I could do to keep from covering my ears....
Harriet Tubman Twenties
I have been stamping Harriet Tubman's face on my twenty dollar bills for a couple of years now. Most vendors don't blink an eye. A great number of them, especially servers in restaurants and small businesses, are excited to see them. In Las Vegas, I waited for twenty minutes while the Cashier examined the bill and my handout explaining it. The women bartenders and servers waited with me and let out a small cheer when the properly faced twenty dollar bill was cleared. Once in awhile, there will be a refusal to accept it, even when assured the stamp violates no counterfeit laws. So, I put my purchases back on their shelves. It is long past time for Harriet Tubman to be the face of our twenty dollar bills. In 2016, the Obama Administration hired an artist to do the engraving, and things were lined up for the change. Then came Steve Mnuchin, who as the twice impeached former president's Secretary of the Treasury, halted the presses, so to speak. The enlarged visages of America's white men have been on our paper money for more than a hundred years. Enough. Andrew Jackson was not a hero. He was just a President, and an angry one at that. As recent events have proven, American Presidents can be the opposite of heroic. He authored the Indian Removal Act, resulting in the Trail of Tears, the taking of ancestral lands and thousands of deaths. His farm "The Hermitage" required the unpaid labor of over 100 enslaved people.
Originally designed by New York City artist Dano Wall, the Harriet Tubman Stamp has become the new "face" for artistic activism. The final design for the new $20 bill was originally set to be revealed in 2020, marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. But after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a congressional panel in May of 2019 that the government would be pushing back the plan to replace Jackson with Tubman on the bill to 2028, Wall has set a goal to stamp as many $20 bills in circulation as possible.. The original image for this stamp comes from a carte-de-visite portrait of Harriet Tubman taken by Benjamin Powelson in Auburn, NY in 1868. Harriet Tubman was born a slave named Araminta Ross (“Minty”) around 1820-1823 in Maryland. Of Ashanti blood, descendant of tribal chiefs, she possessed an unconquerable spirit and immense physical strength, surpassing that of most men. To avoid being “sold south” in her youth, she followed the north star of freedom, but soon was back teaching other negroes the road she had trod. Rewards amounting to $40,000 were offered in Virginia and Maryland for her arrest. While in this work as an “underground railroad” agent in the north she led the group that rescued Charles Nalle, a fugitive slave, in Troy. Though beaten upon the head by policemen’s billies, she thrashed two of them and aided the rescue with her mighty muscles. She became known as the ‘Moses of her people.’ Appointed as a nurse to Colonel Shaw’s famous negro regiment in 1863, she soon appeared in a new capacity as a scout for the union troops. She also helped free more than 700 African-Americans during an 1863 raid in South Carolina, which earned her another nickname: General Tubman. In 1894, she founded the Harriet Tubman Davis Home for indigent aged negroes, at Auburn, NY, where she herself died at the supposed age of 98.
Note: Pursuant to 1.1.18 U.S.C. § 333, stamped currency is fit for circulation so long as its denomination remains legible
If Catherine’s writings were expressed in one color, it would be yellow, bright as sunlight, highlighting the salient portions, deconstructing air brushed stories, and finding humor and courage in the unloved corners.