Why Kickstarter is Good for you

I launched my first Kickstarter Project last week.

I’ve raised money before- to put on concerts, to fund a cultural exchange, to start a business.  But this is different.  It’s more personal.  I knew that Kickstarter was a powerful tool to engage with one’s community.  I even expected to learn some things–about marketing, and the art of persuasion.  What I didn’t expect was that this would turn out to be one of those life experiences in which the benefit winds up being as much or more in the process as in the result.  Don’t get me wrong.  I want my project to fund.  I’m going to work to that end.  But I can also see that this experience has the potential to change me-maybe even profoundly.  I know it has just been a little over a week, but here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from Kickstarter.

1. Kickstarter says it is ok to ask for help.  The first thing one has to do to launch a Kickstarter project is to find a way to say clearly, graciously and articulately: “Help Me!” Kickstarter requires that I practice  humility, that I set aside the facade of self-sufficiency – my customary “I can handle it on my own” posture – and announce for the entire world to see that I need other people.

Yes, I imagine some would say that you could use hype.  That you sell your project on how exciting your rewards are, and how cool people will feel to be associated with you.  But I have looked at several projects on Kickstarter, and that is not what I see.  I see people saying honestly, humbly. “Hey. I really want to do this thing and I need your help.  If promoting that model were the only good that came out of Kickstarter, it would still be a very powerful thing.

2. Kickstarter asks that I consider that I am enough. No raffles, no contests, no cash prizes, no free airline tickets, just things you make or provide yourself.  As artists, we are not accustomed to thinking that we are enough. That our creativity, our imaginations, our quirkiness, our ideas, our real selves is what people really want-not the bells and whistles.  Kickstarter suggests that I re-examine what it is I actually have to offer.  The most common “reward” on Kickstarter is…gratitude.  And it isn’t expensive. Even one dollar will get you a heartfelt thank you.  And then there is the art given away in every variety one can imagine: samples of the art, previews of the art, details about the art, an inside look at the art, outtakes of the art, rehearsals for the art, and the most valuable premiums: a personal connection with… the artist.  That’s it.  And time after time, this is what seems to get projects funded. Could it be that this is what people really want? My gratitude? My Art? A connection?  Kickstarter requires that I explore that possibility.

3.  It doesn’t take much.  Six hours after I launched my Kickstarter, I had my first dollar- from someone I didn’t know. Maybe I’ll feel differently on future projects, but I have to say that first dollar gave me jolt like an electric charge.

Somebody backed me!

Maybe this thing might actually work.

I wanted to know who this person was and why he or she donated to my project?   Turns out she is an entrepreneur and business coach in Florida.  She has funded 845 Kickstarter projects!   How cool is that?  And I’m betting that this is what she has figured out: that the first dollar makes a huge impact.  It’s an acknowledgement that you are not crazy, that the famous quote is actually true. “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”

That dollar gave me a lesson in effective philanthropy and a strategy for empowering people that I’ll never forget.  Every dollar does count. It doesn’t take much- to give hope, to get someone started, to say, “Carry on,” and to start the ball rolling.

4. Kickstarter is all about faith.

Faith in myself- that what I am after is worth doing, worth others caring about, and worth supporting,

Faith in the generosity of other people.  Kickstarter’s genius was to create a conduit for people’s generosity.   Every tick of that backer meter is an indication of the willingness of the people around me to give.  People I know and people I’ve never met.   I don’t believe one can experience that generosity and not be changed a little bit.  Can not have just a bit have more faith in the incremental.

I don’t know how this project will play out.  Maybe I’ll get the big gift, the superhero save that will lift me to my goal in one fell swoop.  I certainly daydream about that.  Maybe someone will be moved to give a major gift of $500 or $1K. But while I’m waiting for that, the days tick by, and the house is getting built brick by $5, $25, $50 or $100 brick  And that is the lesson I really need to learn- to have faith -not in superman or Santa Claus but in the possibility of many human-sized hands getting the job done.

“Crowd-funding” is really just fancy way to say that many people working together doing small things can make something happen.  I don’t know about you, but I forget this all the time.  I think: I’m not Bill Gates or Phil Knight or Warren Buffett –somebody who can make a real “dent in the world” as Steve Jobs used to say.

But Kickstarter begs to differ. If I’m willing to be patient. If I’m willing to ask for help.  If I’m willing to believe that people care.   If  I can understand that I don’t have to solve the whole problem, just lend a helping hand, then dents will occur. Many little dents, adding up to something.

It only took a week for Kickstarter to teach me all these things- which I realize that  so many people already know.  Whether my project funds or not (I’m choosing to believe it will), I have a chance to be a better person for taking this leap, more hopeful, more optimistic and more willing to risk giving it away.




PowellsIf you were to stand on the corner of 10th Avenue and Burnside you’d be right beside Powell’s.  The coolest bookstore in the world.

If you walked north for about 3 blocks, you would arrive at one of America’s top jazz clubs- Jimmy Maks at 221 NW 10th Avenue, between Davis and Everett.jimmy-maks-1


If you had walked this same three blocks just over one hundred years ago, you’d have found yourself in the heart of Portland’s fledgling African-American community.


In 1900, the US Census said there were 1105 African-Americans living in the state of Oregon.  Most were in Portland, and most of those lived in an area on the west side between SW Montgomery and NW Kearney, bounded by the Willamette River and 12th Avenue.  The North Burnside District, as it was known, was one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Portland.

As you walked down 10th Avenue, you would have passed a pillar of that black community, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, which had moved from its original meeting place on SW 6th and Stark to 68 N. Tenth (near Davis Street).  The Reverend Davis and his wife had purchased an old Japanese Mission Building with the profits from a boarding house they operated for the black men working on the railroad.  They held services in this location until 1916, when they, like many of Portland’s black community, migrated across the new Broadway Bridge  to the east side in search of better housing stock and less discrimination.  There they build a new church, which  stood until urban renewal created the Memorial Coliseum, but that is another story for another time…

Back in1910 you could look just across 10th Avenue from Bethel A.M.E and sTemple 1910 (312) NW Tenth Ave Portland ORee a new three-story building going up.  The Oregon Buddhist Temple, heartbeat of the city’s Japanese community was just coming on line.  You can still see a little sign there today.

If you had walked three blocks east on Everett in those years, when you reached 7th Avenue (now Broadway) you would have arrived at the communication hub of the African- American community for almost 30 years- The Golden West Hotel, the largest African-American owned hotel west of the Mississippi.

OrHi 81806 Built in 1906 by black entrepreneur W.D. Allen, The Golden West served the Black railway porters, cooks, barbers and waiters recruited by the major railroads.  It provided “all the conveniences of home” for Black workers denied accommodation in Portland’s white owned hotels, and was a center of African American social life until it closed in 1931, another victim of the Great Depression.

You could get a shave and a haircut in Waldo Bogle’s Barbershop, feed your sweet tooth at  A.G. Green’s ice cream parlor and candy shop, and relax in George Moore’s Golden West Athletic Club featuring a Turkish bath and gymnasium, and word has it, other enjoyable entertainments.  Barbershop

Freddie Keppard’s Creole Jazz Band played there in 1920.  Black entertainers, athletes, and civic leaders all found a welcome at the Golden West.

The building is still there, as are the echos of the era…

The Territory Mvt. 7: Sunday’s At The Golden West

Just step around the corner.
One block from Union Station’s sign.
There’s more than a hundred rooms to choose, and no color line
to give you the blues

The best accommodations-
that’s why our reputation grows-
a place where the darker hues
are respected…

Sunday dinners, fifty cents
Shoeshine, haircut, short-term rents.
Kick your feet up take a rest
Step in to The Golden West.

Fine dining in the parlor
Turkish sauna and a good cigar.
a seat in our own saloon, or get a
trim and a shine  and hear all the news

You’ll find the city fathers
round Mister Moore’s Athletic club.
Finest game on the coast, so you just…

Have a gin and ease on back.
Leave your bizness cross the tracks.
Portland’s only black and tan
Choc’late kiddies bring your man.

On Everett and Broadway.
there’s nothing like it anywhere
The heart of the social scene
A place to mingle and mix, dress up and be clean.

We’re open to all comers’
Pullman porter or celebrity
This joint is always jumpin’
Come in and see…


More Words

Japanese_intern_lgIn Portland, the exclusion order issued on April 28, 1942, required all Portland residents [of Japanese descent} to report by May 5 to the assembly center in North Portland. Other orders followed around the state, with those from Hood River and Marion counties sent to Pinedale in northern California. Because people could only take what they could carry, families had to dispose of their businesses, furniture, and personal possessions. They had no idea where they were going or when they would return. It was a time of doubt, fear, and confusion.
-Oregon Encyclopedia

I was trying to imagine this.  You may have lived in Oregon your entire life.  You’re given one week to leave your home, your friends, your whole existence.  I wondered what kind of impression these events would have made on a young child.   I have an eight-year old son.  How would he make sense of this?   What would I tell him?  In the CMNW video my friend Nola Bogle, the wonderful jazz vocalist, talks about her personal experience.  She was four years old when her family was removed to Minnedoka Internment camp.

The Territory Mvt. 6: Stones into Blossoms

Mama where’s my room in this cold gray shack so far from home?
Patience daughter, sheltered in the lee of the cedar trees heavy with snow…

is a tiny bird, they have clipped her wings and she’s all alone.
Still her singing whispers on the wind
like the rain that falls on these dusty stones.

Mama what’s this fence?  This does not make sense. What did we do wrong?
Patience daughter, listen to the breeze through the cherry trees by the temple pond.

All the things we packed will they give them back? When do we go home?
We are drifting blossoms scattered to the ground like the stones that fall from the garden walls.

We are people without place.Girl @ Minnedoka-16
Tossed like stones on a riverbed.
In a promised land with a foreign face
for our heritage denied.
All our dreams stuffed in one suitcase
sink like stones to a river bed
“Shi kata ga nai” there are stones in our hearts.

Mama where are my friends? Will this nightmare end?
When can we go home?
Patience daughter ,gather up your tears lest this dusty land turn our hearts to stone.

We are people without place.
Tossed like stones on a riverbed.
They ignore our deeds and condemn our race,
for our heritage denied.
All our dreams stuffed in one suitcase
sink like stones to a riverbed.
“Shi kata ga nai” there are stones in our hearts.

We are people without place.
Tossed like stones on a riverbed.
In a promised land with a foreign face
for our heritage denied.
All our dreams stuffed in one suitcase
sink like stones to a riverbed

Close your eyes turn stones into blossoms, stones into blossoms

Internment memerial

(The phrase “Shikata ga nai” translates as “it cannot be helped,” and was an oft heard refrain in the face of this injustice.)


Chief_JosephI did an interview today with radio host and Portland writer Lynn Darroch on the jazz radio station KMHD.  Lynn posed the question of how I went about trying to capture the idea of territory in music.  The process for me is threefold.  First I need to find a story that I want to tell, a seed of inspiration.  Then I sit and listen to for the musical seeds that might come from reflecting on those stories.  The fun part for me is then looking for a point of view, much like a writer or a film maker would do.  Trying to find a place from which to tell the story.  For me this place is often discovered through words- whether text of lyrics I’m inspired to write, or  those of others.

This post has  some words that found their way into The Territory.  It has the practical purpose of letting whoever might be interested see the lyrics to those vocal movements of the piece, since there was not room for these in the concert program.

One figure whose words inspired me was the Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph.  Whether or not  Joseph was a great leader of the native people, or a prop of the US government is a matter for debate.  I think we are fortunate, however, that many of his words, which resonate with some profoundly wise thoughts, have been preserved.

One statement that inspired me was made to him by his father, Joseph the Elder, on his deathbed.  As is so often the case, the father charges the son with taking up the burden that he can no longer carry. I knew when I read these words that I wanted to use  them in the piece.  They provide the text for the verse section of Part 3: Chief Joseph’s Lament.

“My son, my body is returning to my mother earth, and my spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.”

I was also inspired by Joseph’s famous Surrender Speech from October 5th, 1877

“Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are, perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

Together these two statements provided the impetus for the refrain of this movement.  That this man, whose spirit was broken, might in giving up have sown the seeds for the future.

Chief Joseph’s Lament

wallowaSo many miles
into the long ago…
All that was wild
courses below the ground.
So many hands
take what they do not own.
Scatter for years
all that our blood has sown

So many miles
into the long ago…
When we were wild,
rising to run the ground.
Sky father smiled
down on these bleached bones
Taught us to fly
carried away one by one.

The House We Live In


I live  in a 103 year-old house in a historic Portland neighborhood.  I know that in Portland this is not unusual.  These houses were built to last.  There is rarely a day that goes by, however,  that I am not struck by the thought of a century’s-worth of lives lived under this same roof, looking at these same walls, sitting down to supper in this dining room, gazing out at Mount Hood from these front windows.

After 14 years in this house, we are still discovering remnants of those lives: a sock full of foreign coins buried in the backyard; an old plastic toy lodged in a heating duct, crumbled newspapers in the attic, tantalizing scraps, clues to lives long gone.  Each time I see one, I want to know more.  I want to know about the conversations, the hopes, the arguments & reconciliations, the political discussions.  I want to know about the arrivals and departures, the guests, the Sunday dinners, the birthdays, the graduations, the new jobs, the plans big and small.

I want to know about the conversation in which it was decided to take out the kitchen stairs going up to the second floor. The house next door – a twin of ours, built in the same year by the same builder – still has them.  Who took ours out?  When and why?  Was it during World War I or II? Earlier? Later?

There is plumbing in the back bedroom on the 2nd floor.  Somebody took out the fixtures  and put up wall board to make a bigger closet.  Was was the idea there?   Paring down a master bathroom (not by our standards?)  taking out a small kitchen or maid’s quarters?  Moving out the mother-in law?

In my house we still have the original gas light fixtures in the front hall & living room.  Somewhere along the line somebody had to decide to put electric in.   I wonder if that was an easy decision. Did someone say electricity was “a needless modern extravagance,” or was it a “let’s get with the times?”  Was it a spouse’s demand, or an anniversary present?

Some of the clues about lives lived here are covered over by those that followed, like the layers of paint on these century-old window frames, (or layers of linoleum on the kitchen floor, of which we just added a new one last week.)

Every layer shiny and new, reminds me that I too will be gone someday, covered over. I  too am temporary.

And then there are the features that last, that I love about this house, but had nothing to do with. I inherited them.  They are the evidence that individuals over this 100-plus years cared.  They invested themselves in this house. Someone put in beautiful fir floors, probably from logs left over from ship building.  And somebody polished them.  Someone put in leaded glass windows that I can’t bring myself to replace with something more energy-efficient.  Someone more dedicated than I stripped the lovely built-in’s of an ill-advised mid-century paint-job and stained them to bring out the grain of all that glorious wood.

I don’t know who these people were.  I’ve done a little digging.  I try to keep some clues when I find them.  There is an etching on the wall by my friend and neighborhood historian Steven Leflar of Mabel, the octagenarian, who owned the house until the 1970’s. She was here a long time.  I bought a  ship’s wheel that I put in the upstairs hall to remind me of the man who built this house, and worked at the shipyards right down on the Willamette.

But these mementos are just echos of those who lived here.  Kind of like the place names that fill the territory that we occupy.  We see them everyday.  We rarely  think about what they mean,  the lives they represent,  and the fact that we are just inheritors of their home.

Here lived

The Clack-a-ma, whose river we call Clackamas.

The At-fal-a-tu [or Tu-al-a-ti], on the river we call Tualatin

The Mo-la-la, who lived from Mount Hood to Mount Scott and on Molala river, in Clackamas county, Oregon.

The Ya-quin-a, who lived about Yaquina bay and river, Lincoln county, Oregon.

The Al-se-a,  who lived along the Alsea river in Lincoln county, Oregon.

The Si-u-slaw, who lived along the Siuslaw river in Lane county, Oregon.

The Cay-use, who lived on the headwaters of the Umatilla, Walla Walla and Grande Ronde rivers in Umatilla and Union counties, Oregon.  Their territory also extended from the Blue mountains to the Des Chutes river.

The Nez Perce [Sahaptin or Chopunnish] who lived in the Clearwater River Basin, on the South and Middle forks of the Salmon River Basin and their tributaries.

The Klick-i-tat, who lived in Klickitat and Skamania counties, Washington.

The Um-a-til-la,who  lived on the Umatilla river in Umatilla county, Oregon.

The Klam-ath, who lived on the Upper Klamath lake in Klamath county, Oregon.

The San-ti-am, lived on the Santiam river in Linn county, Oregon.

The Till-a-mook, who lived in Tillamook county, Oregon.

The Si-letz, who lived on the Siletz river, Lincoln county, Oregon.

The Tlatskanai, who lived on the Clatskanie river, Columbia county, Oregon;

The Ump-qua, who lived on the Umpqua river, Douglas county, Oregon.

The Coquille, or Mishikhwutmetunne, lived on the Coquille river in Coos county, Oregon.

The Chin-ook, who lived at the mouth of the Columbia in Pacific county, Washinton. Their language formed the basis of the Chinook jargon and has given the name for the Chinook wind.

The Wal-la Wal-la, who  lived on the lower part of the Walla Walla river and on the east side of the Columbia river in Walla Walla county, Washington.

The Clat-sop, whose name means “dried salmon;” lived along the Columbia from its mouth to Tongue Point and along the coast to Tillamook Head in Clatsop county, Oregon.

The Dalles, resided at The Dalles, Wasco county, Oregon, and on the opposite side of the Columbia river in Klickitat county, Washington.

Was-co, or [Ga-las-go], which means “cup or bowl,” from a cup-shaped rock near the main village near the Dalles, Wasco county, Oregon.

Mult-no-mah, meaning “down river,” a tribe living on the upper end of Sauvie’s island, Multnomah county, Oregon. The term is also used to include all the tribes living on or near the lower Willamette river.

The Yak-im-a [or Cut-sah-nim], lived along the Columbia river and on the upper branches of the Yakima and the Wenatchee rivers in Benton, Grant, Douglas, Chelan, Kittitas and Yakima counties, Washington

The Pa-Loose, lived on the Palouse river and the northern side of the Snake river in Whitman, Adams and Franklin counties, Washington, and Latah county, Idaho.

And so many more whose names we have lost.

We inherited their homes.  We too will be gone someday, covered over.  I hope we leave some beauty worthy of remembrance.  The first movement of The Territory, “Hymn to the Four Winds” is dedicated to those whose house we live in.

IndianLands map

Thanks to the website “The Indians of Old Oregon for this history.