Dear citizens of Homer,
Thanks to Michael Armstrong and the Homer News for his outstanding news article titled “Homer Debates: Where To Place Brother Asaiah’s Statue” posted Jan. 26. It was this important article, along with other communications, that prompted me to write this letter. I would like to thank everyone who has been thinking about the spirit of Asaiah represented by a real live statue to remind us of those great qualities which Brother Asaiah would claim are there, though sometimes dormant, in each one of us.
I was and am still a close friend of the late Brother Asaiah Bates since 1961, as well as a past member of the W.K.F.L (Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, Love) movement of which Brother Asaiah was a member and leading supporter.
I have consigned a large bronze statue of Brother Asaiah, by the Homer artist and sculptor Leo Vait, as a donation to the city of Homer. I have done this to emphasize that his spirit and ideals are not dead, but live on.
Asaiah’s dead physical body has been well hidden and guarded. My gratitude goes out to those responsible for honoring Asaiah’s wish that his physical body should return to the soil of Mother Earth and left unmarked. Having closely known Brother Asaiah, I feel that he would wish that his living spirit should remain vibrant and breathing and carried forth into the life of modern day Homer and all those who carry that spirit out into the larger world. Having a sculpture of Asaiah would remind us of Asaiah’s thoughts, words and actions through a living memento of his great spirt.
Let me ask some rhetorical questions: Would those of you who knew Asaiah agree that he was both an illuminated person as well as an illuminator to others? Was he not like a lighthouse which guides sailors through darkness and storms towards a safe harbor of the light?
Would you place the lighthouse in a museum or mausoleum, or would you place the source of light, hope and community pride in a place where all can see and be nurtured and inspired?
If it were up to me as to where the statue of Asaiah should be placed, I would recommend the following:
l. WKFL Park, the park that Asaiah graciously donated to the city of Homer; or
2. On the plateau above Homer’s entrance where there is a sign stating “Homer: The Halibut Capital of The World.” (This is the top-of-the-hill spot where newcomers ﬁrst catch that awesome glance of our “Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea,” the term coined by Brother Asaiah.)
Brother Asaiah ignited that sense that Homer is our community, and whatever our thoughts were about it, we were free to express them, as long as we listened respectfully to other views. As I have traveled over Alaska roads, speaking with whomever crossed my path, I noticed that Homer travelers, unlike travelers from other communities, are proud of being from Homer.
So, in the spirit of Brother Asaiah, I invite Homerites to share your views as to where Asaiah’s statue should be placed. I thank the former mayors of Homer, both Jack Cushing and James Hornaday, for supporting placement at WKFL Park. Another close friend of Asaiah’s, Ken Landﬁeld, suggests a wider community discussion as to where it should be placed, and in the spirit of Brother Asaiah, I also support that.
Having been inspired by Asaiah’s spirit and wisdom: “Ask not what Brother Asaiah would do for you, but rather what we should do for Brother Asaiah?” Where shall we keep Asaiah’s living statue which would embody his message and example amongst us for both now and future generations? For we are the citizens of the “Cosmic Hamlet By The Sea” and if we truly know Brother Asaiah we would know that he did not think or act in the conventional way, but with an open and loving heart, and a cosmic consciousness whose end has no limits, especially if we carry the torch of his memory forward.
I thank and acknowledge the Homer City Council, the Public Arts Committee and the Parks and Recreation Commission for voting and approving the submitted proposal for the statue of Asaiah Bates as the people discuss about where. I also thank the following journalists for their articles about Asaiah’s statue: Martha Wagele for her article titled “Asaiah’s Thoughtfulness Lives On,” posted Jan. 29 and Lee Post’s article titled “A Sculpture of Asaiah Fitting,” posted Feb. 6. This is a very “well said” piece, in my opinion. I also thank both Michael Kennedy and Brad Hughes for expressing their views/opinions in the Armstrong article noted at the beginning of this letter.
For those of you who did not have the privilege of knowing Asaiah in person, I recommend reading his biography, “Brother Asaiah” from the library or bookstores, as remembered by MarthaEllen Anderson and many, many other Homerites who knew him when he walked with us in the ﬂesh in our “Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea.” Here you will catch a great sense of the being that Brother Asaiah was and the spirit that he still is.
With love for all,
John N. Nazarian