Concert brings flood of support for monsoon victims

By Terry Bowman
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, Sept. 26, 2013

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(Special to the Times - Terry Bowman)

Artists and comedians volunteered their time and performed during the "For the People Navajo Nation Flood Relief Benefit Concert" Saturday night to benefit those affected by the recent floodings across the Navajo Nation.

Laughs and cheers are not something you would expect at a benefit show for flood victims, but for the artists and comedians who performed during the "For the People Navajo Nation Flood Relief Benefit Concert" Saturday night, the crowd responses were a sign of relief.

"I wanted to be here tonight because my heart is here, my heart is with the Navajo People," said Navajo comedian Pax Harvey, who alongside Herman Cody, Michelle Cook, Darren Yazzie and Radmilla Cody performed in front of a crowd of 30 people here.

With surprise appearances by comedian Ernest David Tsosie III and singer/songwriter Billy Crawley of Kayenta-based metal band Ethnic De Generation, the audience of around 30 got more than they bargained for.

With severe thunderstorms and heavy rains hitting the Navajo Nation in recent weeks, severe floods across the reservation in towns like as Chinle, Ariz., Dennehotso, Ariz., Crownpoint, N.M. and Lake Valley, N.M. have caused many people to evacuate their homes and left dozens of volunteers working 24-hour days.

People who attended the concert donated money and necessities that included canned foods, toilet paper, and soap.

"That was a good show, it should have been a $30 ticket," said Martha Benally of Navajo, N.M.

Saturday night's flood relief concert is one of three concerts that are scheduled. One is scheduled in Shiprock, N.M. on Oct. 5 and one in Tuba City, Ariz. the following week (date is not yet finalized).

The Beginning

With no donation links to send money for the Navajo flood victims and little help from the Navajo Department of Emergency Management because of their 24-hour shifts, Native American Grammy-nominated recording artist Radmilla Cody wanted to get involved as soon as she saw images of the flooding online.

With little time and last-minute phone calls, Cody was able to set up the concert with the help of her friend Brendon Benallie and the Navajo Division of Health.

"I called all of my friends who are entertainers," said Cody. "Brendon worked on the flyer and once we got the flyer completed, we put it on Facebook and we got a lot of feedback from people."

More support

According to Benallie, who MC'd the concert, they decided to plan a series of shows instead of one because a number of entertainers were willing to help out, but could not attend the concert in Window Rock.

"We had artists in Shiprock, so we decided to schedule a show in Shiprock," Benallie said. "Then we had artists in Tuba City who couldn't make the Shiprock show, so then we decided to do another one there."

Another reason why Cody wanted to do a series of concerts instead of one is because of the last-minute planning of the event, which she said started 48-hours before show time.

"We had meetings with them," said Sonlatsa Jim-Martin, who works with the Navajo Division of Health. "We met with families and found out what resources they needed so we assisted with that. It's a good way to connect."

Benallie, who is the director of a computer forensics company called EnCE in Phoenix, is originally from Crownpoint, N.M., where his grandmother and family have been impacted by the recent floods. With his willingness to help, Cody knew they had to act fast.

"My clan is affected by this flood -- The blessing is what I like to call it," said Benallie. "It's unfortunate we happened to build houses in previous floodplains, so my family is directly affected."

Opening the show, Billy Crawley sang three songs on his acoustic guitar, recalling to the audience that he happened to be in town when he received an invite to come and play for the flood victims.

Performing a mix of country music, University of New Mexico law student Michelle Cook sang and won over the audience with her voice. She credited her father for her Virginia accent.

Herman Cody sang traditional songs and performed side by side with his niece Radmilla. She has often said her uncle is a big inspiration for her music.

Comedians Tsosie and Harvey made the audience erupt in laughter, as each comedian performed his own half-hour comedy routines and brought more fun to the event.

"I appreciate all of you coming here today, thank you for bringing food for our people in need," Harvey said near the end of his skit.

Musician Darrin Yazzie of Chinle, Ariz., aside from running sound, performed three acoustic songs and told the audience he has friends and family who were affected by the floods back in Chinle.

"This is like an all-star event, I'm happy to be a part of it," said Yazzie on stage.

Ending the night was Radmilla Cody, who performed with Yazzie, singing and showing her support for the victims and the people who attended the concert.

"I thank you all for having that compassion and love for our people," Cody said at the end of her performance.

"This is a time where we are about coming together as a people," added Cody. "They're strong and this storm will pass. This why we're doing what we're doing here tonight."

With the Window Rock concert being the start of the For the People Navajo Nation Flood Relief Concert series, Martin hopes to receive more donations for the Navajo families in need.

As for the donations received, Martin's next task will be getting the donations to the families in need.

According to the Martin, the donations received will be collected by the NDOH, which will then send them to CHRs in the areas where residents are in need.

Information: visit For The People Benefit on Facebook or call the Navajo Department of Health.