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This year I was invited to lead the world famous Greenwich Village Halloween Parade with blessings. As the Grand Marshall, it was my duty and privilege to walk ahead of the parade and bless the streets, transforming them from their secular purpose into spiritual pathways. In addition, I was called upon to bless the participants of the parade as well as the inhabitants of the city.

This was an amazing opportunity to spread positive energy on an extremely large scale. About 30,000 people walked in the parade and two million more lined the parade path. The NYC Halloween Parade is one of the 10 biggest tourist events in the world! And of course, about eight million folks actually live here.

Joining me in this honorable endeavor was my magnificent Blessing Band of 30 wonderful individuals who are deeply earnest in their desire to extend blessings of peace and positive community spirit to New York City and beyond every chance we get.

We walked ahead of the parade for the entire route, blessing as we went. We were dressed entirely in white and silver to emphasize the purity of our intentions. Since this was not a performance, but a real ritual, we were not wearing masks or elaborate face paint, as we wanted our eyes and facial expressions to convey the sincerity of our serious, yet joyous, mission.

Our blessings were offered with smudge, or burning sacred herbs, which I call, “holy smoke.” In addition, we used bells, bubbles, glitter, and energetic chanting to spread our blessings. We shared blessings of peace, blessings of good will, blessings of community relationships, blessings of safety, blessings of protection, blessings of peace, and blessings of love.

The experience was amazing. As we passed by chanting “Blessings!” folks along the sidelines reached out their hands and bowed their heads so we could bless them! Monsters and devils, nurses and cartoon characters, ghosts and super heroes, alike, thanked us for the blessings and offered theirs back to us in the hundreds of languages and dialects spoken in New York. I blessed all the police in the street for their patience and good humor and was duly rewarded by hundreds of grins.

Such an enormous crowd. And so incredibly diverse. Yet there was only laughter and smiles and blessings and joy. Not one drunk or belligerent person. Not one incident. Not one disturbance of the peace. The only wild behavior was evidenced as creativity and ecstatic good humor. But that is typical here in the Big Apple.

Whenever I am away somewhere lecturing or leading workshops, someone will inevitably ask me why I choose to live in New York City where “there is no nature.” I always respond by saying that in New York, the wildlife is the people. And I mean that in every sort of respectful, positive way. Think of the mouth-watering variety of food, music, costume, and custom here. I just adore riding the subway, watching the folks read their newspapers and realizing that every paper along the line is in a different language!

People from nearly 200 counties, having a full palette of beliefs and backgrounds, manage to live and work together in New York City in admirable peace. As huge and diverse and broken down as it is here, everybody pretty much gets along. And I am pleased as punch and very proud to be part of it.

I have given programs on multicultural ritual celebrations in schools where there are 65 nationalities represented in the student body. In a typical classroom, an Egyptian boy sits next to a Korean girl who sits next to a Guatemalan boy who sits next to a pretty girl from Azerbaijan who was wearing a veil just months before. And they all get along very well. Their mutual immigrant experience connects them together and they relate.

And when they are old enough, they date. Those segregationists in the 1960’s were right when they said that if kids go to school together they will inevitably fraternize and worse. Hormones are color blind, you see, and they are responsible for a beautiful, brave new world that is developing right in font of our eyes. Living in New York City is an experiment in the future. And it works. What is more, if we can do it here, it can be done anywhere.

There is still a chance for peace on this poor beleaguered planet.


Mama Donna on the NY Halloween Parade
Aired 10/31/07

Photos by:
Heather Atemis, Josh Ellis, Jeanne Fleming, Ann Gaba, Gwen Goldsmith, and Carol Maugeri

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