Malden Reads and Project Misiki Collaborate in River Healing Project

Like most years, Malden Reads has picked their book of the year, An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, the first Native American Poet Laureate in the Library of Congress. 

“It ignited a sense of hope and unity that we could restore this river to its former glory,” said an anonymous volunteer, as they recalled the blessings put on the Malden River. Words on the Water was the result of a collaboration between Malden Reads and Project Misik

The idea was created through a mutual desire to have an event at the Malden River, Malden Reads’ focused on the indigenous people of North America, while Project Misik is centered on the people of Africa. 

For over one hundred years the Malden River was used as a dumping site for many chemicals and other pollutants by businesses, which made the water difficult to use for water activities. 

Senior Katelin Dzuong who volunteers at Words on the Water stated, “you can see how dirty and devoid the river looks.” Luckily, in 2018, the city of Malden looked into the river with the help of the Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT)  to assess the safety of the water. The city concluded that people were able to boat, kayak, etc. but swimming is still uncertain. 

Words on the Water did not only hold Malden Reads and Project Misik but many other organizations as well as some small businesses came with tents and tables. 

However, the main allurement was the special guests from both the Wampanoag and Nipmuc tribes. Guests enjoyed free canoeing, food, poetry, reading, music, performances, the works of indigenous Wampanoag and African artisans, and more as they celebrated the river’s native spiritual and cultural significance.

With this, both artisans hosted a healing ceremony—a way to offer the river a traditional blessing and “take care of the resource we have,” shared Marsha Manong, a member of Malden Reads. 

The events not only highlighted the importance of the Malden River, but of preserving native lands. “Their land has been wounded; if the current climate isn’t enough to warn us to take care of our land, we are not going to have it,” Manong affirmed.

Overall, Malden Reads’ Words on the Water event proved successful in uniting the local community for a day of celebration and liveliness by the Malden River.



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