Director of Ushers
I’d like to tell you about another one of the unsung heros working behind the scenes of the All Souls Procession and the essential part that she plays in helping to make it the magical, community-wide celebration of mortality that we all love. Her name is Jody Holmes, and 2010 will be her second season with Many Mouths One Stomach directing the Ushers team that accompanies the Procession from start to finish. More than a mere security detail, the Ushers are invested with a special responsibility to help preserve the sacred time and place we create together at All Souls Procession. As Jody puts it, our Ushers are “more guide than guard”, ensuring that everyone remains safe and that the flow moves along uninhibitedly, providing information, and just generally being available for anyone who may have a need. For her part, Jody also acts as the liaison between the Ushers and the City Police, calling upon them if needed to assist in stabilizing any situation that would cause a disruption (we are indeed grateful that the need has never occurred!). From a more mythic perspective, the Ushers could also be considered in light of the psychopomp (from the Greek psychopompos, “guide of souls”), figures who provide safe passage to souls on their journey into the realms of the dead.
Jody arrived in Tucson in 1996 to pursue her master’s degree in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. Having moved here from Washington D.C., an area rich in public festivals and the arts, Jody made it a priority to investigate Tucson’s local events and happenings. One of her first discoveries was the All Souls Procession.
Says Jody, “ I ventured out on a Sunday night –when I should have been studying– to see it in 1996. From my first experience, I realized this ‘parade’ was much more than an entertaining public event. Every year, I eagerly watched the weekly paper for news of the All Souls Procession date to be sure I wouldn’t miss the event. For the first few years, I watched from the sidelines or walked along with the procession. I finally joined the Procession in costume in 2003”. Since then, All Souls Procession has become something of a time of reunion in Jody’s family, with her brother and his wife and children coming to Tucson from the San Francisco Bay Area to celebrate with her. This Procession is particularly significant for Jody and her family, with the loss of both parents and her father’s sister over the past two years. As Jody will be working the Procession and giving her personal time so that others are enabled to have their All Souls experience in safety and comfort, the family focus will turn toward the Procession of Little Angels this year, to commemorate their loved ones in a way that will be meaningful for her young nephews.
Jody continues: “As the years went on, I felt I needed to be involved in creating the event, but knew it had to be in a way that would match the talents I have to offer. I answered a call for Usher volunteers in 2008. Given my organizing and managing skills, this turned out to be a compelling match! From the very first meeting, I felt welcomed and included. They let me know how important the ushering job was to them and how excited they were to have me on the team. It was a surprise bonus to find out that the Ushers also end up with the “best seats in the house” for the Finale. My experience that year was exhilarating and the next year I was back for more. In 2009, I became Lead Usher heading up a great crew.”
As Procession attendance swells year after year, the need for ever greater numbers to bolster the Usher team grows along with it. Jody’s hope for this year is to attract a crew of 20 individuals to help her provide service for those in attendance, a number predicted to be upward of 20,000 living souls gathered in the streets of downtown Tucson. There are all kinds of roles to play in the production of our Procession, and all kinds of people to fill them. “I think there are a lot of people out there in Tucson who would love to do this work,” says Jody. “They just don’t know we need them.”
To learn more about how to become involved with the Ushers for this year’s All Souls Procession, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.