Write-in Winslow mayoral candidate Robert Carr participated in two major contests last month. Though he did not achieve the title of Mayor, Carr sees both journeys as victories.
Carr wore out two pairs of walking shoes as he logged in a total of 284 miles with John Tsosie’s “Walking the Healing Path” march from Window Rock to Phoenix.
The purpose of the walk was to bring awareness to the problem of domestic violence and substance abuse.
“I am a victim and perpetrator of domestic violence,” Tsosie said in an interview on May 16 in Leupp, Arizona. “As I went through the recovery process, I was amazed to see the lack of services for our people on the Navajo Nation.”
Carr, who walked a total of 284 miles and wore out two pairs of walking shoes, called his own effort in the walk as a personal journey.
“I took it step by step, mile by mile and city by city. Through the pain, thirst and blisters that I experienced through the walk, I actually closed a painful chapter of domestic violence from my past.” Carr said. “But [the pain of the walk] will not add to the amount of suffering that I see every day of mothers and their children who are experiencing the traumatic effects of domestic violence.”
Tsosie and other members of his family, along with friends and supporters, began their “healing path” on May 10. Carr joined the walk shortly afterwards, and despite the Winslow City Election on May 18, walked on into Phoenix.
“We were met by most of the members of the Arizona State legislature including Senator Albert Hale and Representatives Jack Jackson, Jr. and Sylvia Laughter,” Carr said. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr. and his wife and Jesse Thompson, Navajo County Supervisor, walked with us for 44 blocks in Phoenix.”
“I know in my heart that it has made me a better human being—a better spouse and father for my children,” Carr said of the walk. “It had nothing to do with my running for mayor.”
It was while he was struggling through the physical challenge of this walk that Carr learned he had failed to win the mayoral election.
“I wanted to make a difference in my community,” Carr replied when asked what motivated him to run for the office of mayor.
Carr has spent the past decade of his life in Winslow, working as a substance abuse counselor and advocating for services—such as an alcohol recovery center—in this city.
Carr has actively addressed the homeless problem in Winslow, both personally and through his work for the City of Winslow as a Community Relations Coordinator from 2000 to 2002.
Carr is a member of the Intoxicated Street People Task Force, which has been meeting since December of 2003. Carr describes the group as concerned citizens of Winslow seeking the best possible solution to what city-wide surveys have indicated is the number one problem in Winslow at this time.
The task force, organized by Mayor Jim Boles, needs momentum and consistency, as well as dependable and reliable individuals, according to Carr.
“In my personal opinion, the city of Winslow has a negative mentality against the street people, and the majority of them are Native Americans. The city of Winslow is in self-denial. We do have a problem, and as a matter of fact, it is a major problem. It is like an elephant sitting at your kitchen table,” Carr said, “not knowing that it is there.”
Many residents of Winslow, Carr said, see the street people as someone in dirty clothes, begging for coins. That’s what they see from the outside—but I see them as human beings. Just like us, they have a heart, they have feelings, they cry. Their blood is red, just like ours. All they need is a chance to become productive individuals in their communities.”
Cause and effect
After countless hours of research, Carr has documented a pattern among Native Americans that contributes to the problems of alcoholism and domestic violence.
“They grow up with no self esteem, without a positive self-image and without confidence,” Carr said. “Through relocation and the boarding school experience, I have recognized three main causes for the problems we see today—and they are related. Number one is being separated from their loved ones at an early age by being put in a boarding school. Number two is the feelings of being abandoned and not being able to talk with others in their own language, and finally, the loneliness that they have experienced. All of this leads up to the creation of a grieving process,” Carr added.
Many of the street people seen in Winslow have come to town in search of work, Carr said.
“They come to look for better things, to provide for their families. Many hitchhike into town from the reservation. If, by the end of the day, they are unable to find a job, they try to catch a ride home. If they don’t find that, they turn back into town and end up drinking to self-medicate themselves against the pain and shame,” Carr said.
Native Americans who have been raised on a reservation also experience culture shock when they are removed from their homes—either through forced or voluntary relocation, or by other conditions beyond their control, Carr pointed out.
“I really do believe that the city administration needs to get 100 per cent behind the problem of the street people. I really don’t think that gating the alleys is a solution. By fencing off the alleys, all that will be accomplished is moving the street people to other parts of the town,” Carr said.
Carr also rejects suggestions that the street people be forced to “just leave.”
When asked to state three major goals his administration would have worked towards had he won the seat of mayor, Carr answered without hesitation.
“One, I would have put in my best effort to work towards establishing a shelter for the street people—the so-called number one problem of Winslow.
“Two, surveys have also established that there are no jobs available. I have heard that the Payless Shoe Store is now closing. There used to be a Coca-Cola bottling plant here, a western clothing store, a golf course—where are they now? I would have city council members out visiting other cities and big corporations, telling them how great Winslow is. I believe we can bring in jobs and business—this has been long overdue.
“And finally, I would seek equal representation for citizens from all walks of life helping to find the means for all to live well here in Winslow.”
Carr admits that he really does like Winslow.
“My family calls this their hometown,” Carr said. “My wife went to school here, my kids are going to school here—I just had a daughter graduate from high school. Education-wise, Winslow is really good.”
At the end of this second journey, the race for mayor, Carr stated that “even though I lost that election, in reality, I came out a winner. I gained a lot of friends and supporters who believed that I could be the voice for them.
“I would like to personally thank the wonderful, caring people who voted for me and believed in me. I have nothing to be ashamed of in losing the election, and I will be back in two years—this time on the ballot,” Carr said with a smile.