Photo courtesy of: Radmilla Cody
Oct 19, 2011
By Heather Burnett
Traditional Navajo recording artist and domestic abuse advocate Radmilla Cody will speak and sing in observance of Native American Heritage Month at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, in Baker University Center Theatre.
Born and raised in the plateaus of the Navajo Nation, Cody was raised by her grandmother in a traditional Navajo tribe. Her mother is Navajo and her father is black. As a biracial person, she communicates positive messages about her dual identity. She says children who are biracial or multiracial still bear the brunt of prejudice.
In 1997, Cody won the 46th Annual Miss Navajo pageant. She is the first and only Miss Navajo winner with African-American heritage. Controversy followed her nomination due to her biracial heritage. It was questionable as to whether she was truly of Navajo heritage. The pageant extensively focuses on Navajo traditions and fluency in the Navajo language. After the pageant, Cody began her career as a recording artist.
She spent most of her childhood herding sheep on foot and horseback and carding and spinning wool. She says the highlight of her sheep herding days was standing on the sheep corral singing at the top of her lungs with the sheep and goats as her audience. Cody credits this, as well as the influence of Christian church choirs, as to what sparked her love of singing.
In 2010, she was selected as one of NPR's 50 Great Voices, a yearlong series featuring singers from all over the world. She is also the subject of a documentary titled "Hearing Radmilla," produced and directed by Angela Webb, which further explores her journey as an activist and performer. This film premiered at the Pan African Film and Arts Festival in 2010.
Cody is an Indie Award Winner, Multiple Native American Award Nominee and international performer. She performed the Navajo version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Kennedy Space Center in 2002, to celebrate John Herrington becoming the first enrolled member of a Native American nation to fly into space.
In 2003, Cody pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony after she failed to report her boyfriend's drug dealing. She credits the domestic abuse she endured in this relationship as the reason for not reporting the crime. She now lends her voice to help other victims of domestic abuse by using her own personal experiences to
advocate strongly against the epidemic of violence.
The event is sponsored by Multicultural Programs, Black Student Cultural Programming Board and Native Peoples Awareness Coalition.