The Rural We: Pamela Badila
Pamela and her son, Young Paris, from the Badila Family Facebook page
Pamela Badila is perhaps best known as the matriarch of the Badila family and co-founder, with her late husband Elombe, of the Diata Diata International Folkloric Theatre. The longtime Hudson, New York resident is, in her words, “involved with the dynamics of community” through her work with Kite’s Nest, Long Table Harvest, Berkshire Pulse and other local organizations. You can find her leading “Folktales & Stories for Children & Families” at the Hudson Area Library (where she’s on the programming committee) on Sundays from 1-2 p.m. and performing with her family in a free theatrical work on July 20 and 21 at Hudson Hall.
I was born in New Rochelle, NY, but I’ve traveled to 11 countries and lived in France for 10 years — I’m a citizen of the world. I’ve opened my mind and soul to try to be more empathetic to what other people are going through, even though I don’t live their struggle.
I’m involved in the dynamics of community. I have 10 children and many grandchildren, and we’re a closely knit family of artists who use that to try to heal our divided world. What I do is try to use our influence to impress upon people that we are a world family and need to be compassionately related. Everything else I do comes from that. I use my presence at events, meetings and public forums to give voice to what can make our community stronger, in terms of policing, mental health, climate change.
I love Kite’s Nest, because the people are there to learn because they care about knowing. There are so many organizations in Hudson that care about children, like the Hudson Youth Center, mental health services and after school programs. The Hudson Area Library is consistently trying to make this community thrive by guiding and mentoring, and thereby protecting young people.
Long Table Harvest is wonderful, too. Because food is a right, not a privilege. A lot of people don’t know that we have more than 16 farms offering gleaning, where you can get free or low-cost food.
We live a society where we’re taught, erroneously, that we have an edge on other people, but that’s because of the forceful and violent position that we have toward everybody else. People are abject but they wouldn’t be if it weren’t for us. These cultures brought civilization to us, but imperialism is leaving them with nothing. Then we add insult to injury and blame them for not having anything! I can’t be prideful of my nation when it has potential but it hasn’t been realized. With power comes responsibility, and empathy has to be associated with that. I tell people to look at your neighbor and care about your neighbor, not with the glossy eye of patriotism. If you love your country, help your country do right.
I teach a chronological truth of history, so folks know how we got to where we are. Like Mexicans always say, “I didn’t cross the border, the border crossed me.” They’ve been living in the same place for centuries. As an instructor, I try to be as humble as I can, listen to people and understand what we might have in common, and try to be more open-minded. When I’m mentoring young people, I remind them to be more compassionate, that in a world community, there’s no bullying and no one is an outcast.
I’m 63, and my children have taught me that I’m not always right. I’m sure about how I feel, but how do other people feel. I’ve been around the barn and there’s different entrances to it. Every problem has different ways to get in and out of it.