Amala Kirtan Das performs in Panama. Photo courtesy of Chant4Change.
Amala Kirtan Das performs in Panama. Photo courtesy of Chant4Change.

I was raised to believe “This land is your land.” Each of my four grandparents was an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression. They came to this country seeking freedom of religion, and expression. As a child, my mom took me to human rights rallies. She was known as a very vocal public advocate for freedoms beyond our borders. In my house, we were taught to open our arms and minds to people of all colors, religions, and ethnic backgrounds.

The original residents of this nation, the Native Americans, were not all clones of one another. Some estimate that there were 300 languages spoken by people belonging to nearly 600 tribes, when the Europeans landed. And, lest we not forget, Spanish was spoken in Texas long before English.

Emma Lazarus’ words, “Give me your tired, your poor” always rung deep in my heart. Isn’t this the foundation of the United States of America? If we are to be the greatest nation in the world, we must be the kindest. The most welcoming and understanding. Welcoming and understanding of individual differences. Differences in race, creed, gender identification, and sexual preference, religion, and political views.

Having witnessed subtle prejudices fueled by ignorance most my life, it pains me to see the subtlety explode into blatant hatred and intolerance causing physical and verbal viciousness. We cannot ignore that there has been a resurgence of bigotry in this country. What happened to “One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?”

I moved to San Antonio from Miami in 1998. I choose to reside in cities in which “minorities” were the majority. I enjoy being surrounded by people of different cultures, beliefs, languages, and colors. Just as the peacock is beautiful for all its colors, so is our nation.

I am outraged when I hear anyone, but particularly influencers, speaking like a cloaked white supremacist. The American way should condemn any and all hateful expression and instigation of violence toward anyone.

Chant4Change 

That’s why I was inspired to bring Chant4Change to San Antonio 30 days prior to the presidential elections. Chant4Change is a volunteer-based rally cry to uplift our nation, and put a halt to racism and terrorism. Chant4Change unites people from all political and religious beliefs to make a statement: Our nation is best served through peace and unity. A 10-hour national chantfest is attracting musicians from across the country to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The San Antonio edition will be a three-hour chant-a-thon at The Union Yoga Studio, located at 18130 San Pedro Ave. in the Northwoods shopping center, on the same day as the D.C. event, Saturday, Oct. 8, from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Jagadeesh Das. Photo courtesy of Chant4Change.
Jagadeesh Das. Photo courtesy of Chant4Change.

Carlos Gomez, director of Yoga Day nonprofit and a yoga teacher at The Union, is one of the co-hosts. He says that chanting is “a very powerful tool that brings out extremely positive emotions in people from all walks of life.” He invites even those who have never chanted or sung in unison to give it a shot and “enjoy a fun-filled evening with a beautiful goal: bring together thousands to raise their voices in the rhythms, languages, and styles of different traditions, sending a message of unity and hope that will reach all 50 states and influence the world.”

One of the beauties of this event, for me, is to see people from all different cultural and religious backgrounds come together for Chant4Change. Gomez, a native of Mexico, is fluent in three languages: English, Spanish, and French. Advaita Acharya Das, another co-host and the director of the Institute for Applied Spiritual Technology in San Antonio, also known as Bhakti House, was born and raised in Croatia. As is the norm for most Europeans, he too is multi-lingual. He says all you need is an open mind and an open heart to participate.

“Chant4Change is a communal effort that opens infinite possibilities of a more unified, yet diverse world in which we live,” he said. “It will invoke common denominators through the universal language of sound and music that impacts our consciousness, the place where all our values are defined. Chant4Change reminds us that patriotism has little to do with pride, and a lot to do with love – pure love of all living beings. This experience of sacred sounds unlocks in our hearts the infinite ability to expand loving consciousness, perhaps the greatest deficit of times we live in.”

Other local community and spiritual leaders sharing their messages of unity include Unity Temple’s Rev. Linda Martella-Whitsett, Celebration Circle’s Rudi Harst, spoken word poet Yuriy Grigoryants, and Orisha priestess Jo Anna Hunter.

Isaac Cardenas will give the opening invocation and meditative chant. A life-long San Antonio resident, he is the son of an Apache/Comanche mother and a Coahuiltecan father. For more than 20 years, he has lived and worked with young men, raising their values through Native traditions

“The drum is the heartbeat of all First Nations’ peoples,” Cardenas said. “The drum is the center of the universe for the tribes. It’s the heartbeat that brings about rejuvenation, healing, and uniting in those that have a relation to the circle. The circle doesn’t have an end, and doesn’t have a beginning. It helps us remember our identity that connects all human beings to the first drumbeat they heard: their mother’s heart.”

Texas ChantMasters Unite

Harst and Cardenas will each add to the spiritual and musical nature of the San Antonio Chant4Change. Advaita will be drumming non-stop accompanied by several other local musicians. Joining from Dallas will be versatile Chris Interrante, the former leader of Shadow Tones. For four years, he toured as bassist with Shelter, a hard core punk rock band, before focusing on mantras with tinges of reggae, blues, Southern rock, and jazz.

Brazilian born and raised Amala Kirtan Das has been performing around the world. Now based out of Austin, he comes to Chant4Change fresh from touring and recording in Australia. Jagadeesh Das has been chanting since he was 16. More than 30 years later, Jagadeesh continues to traverse the globe sharing his love for chanting. Currently, he is working on the third album for Dust of Vraj to be released in 2017 with a tour of India.

In Grigoryant’s book, Love, Hip-Hop and Tchaikovsky, the Russian-born San Antonio poet says, “While the sun is still shining…give everyone what they need…and please, please, don’t forget about me. Give courage to the coward…Forgive all who have offended thee. And please, don’t forget to forgive me.”
#ManySongsOneVoice

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Top image: Amala Kirtan Das performs in Panama. Photo courtesy of Chant4Change. 

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Deborah Charnes

Deborah Charnes, of The Namaste Counsel, is a certified yoga teacher with advanced training in Ayurveda and yoga therapy. A San Antonio resident since 1998, she also owns The Write Counsel providing marketing...