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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Thursday February 22nd 2024

DanDan- Still Teaching

Remembrance submitted by MARY ELLEN KALUZA
I did not know DanDan. I became aware of his existence at the community meeting on September 12th with the Nenookaasi Camp. Residents and supporters of Nenookaasi Camp spoke about DanDan with great affection, clearly grieving his passing. Their sadness filled the room, and opened my eyes to their humanity.
DanDan had lived in the Hiawatha camp that was torn down by the State and led to the establishment of Nenookaasi Camp on the 2300 block of 13th Ave. I learned that DanDan had received other housing while living in the Hiawatha camp, but he returned to the camp because he missed his community. He was lonely. The camp residents were his family and friends. He died suddenly on the sweltering day the camp was demolished.
While I never met DanDan, I gained vital lessons thanks to his walking this earth. The first is that humans are very good at dehumanizing other humans. It is what allows us to enslave people, conquer people, steal from them, kill them, ignore them. If we look at others knowing that they love and are loved – no different from ourselves – we can’t treat them with any less kindness than what we ourselves would want. We are all capable of falling into that dehumanizing mode and have to be ever mindful of what is in our own hearts and minds.
The other important lesson is how vital community is to our happiness and wellbeing. I can take my stable community for granted but too many people do not have that luxury. Instead they live a life of a cruel whack-a-mole game, suffering a painful loss with each eviction. Tearing down an encampment filled with folks without a home in the absence of plans to house that community intact elsewhere is undeniably inhumane.
As we are all capable of dehumanizing others, we are also capable of empathy, generosity, and love. Let’s work on the latter. To honor DanDan.

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