Friday, January 22, 2010
What Do You Know About Haiti?
I have deliberately refrained from posting about Haiti, because I didn't feel like I had anything substantial to add to the national conversation. I wept at the devastation and seeming injustice of natural disasters. I passed along information about my friend Rose-Anne's website, Curretns Between Shores, so if you were inclined to donate to relief efforts you could. But not writing about Haiti doesn't mean I don't care about it.
In fact, I've spent a lot of time in the last few days thinking and caring about this island nation. I've researched their history. Listened intently as pundits discuss the nation's dramatic past and potential for a better future. And I've reached out to all of my peeps who claim Haitian heritage. All told, I know a lot of people with connections to Haiti. My auntie married a Haitian. I have two Haitian friends from graduate school. Both of whom live in Europe. And, believe it or not, my publicist for Kinky Gazpacho is also Haitian. So, for me, I can't say the earthquake "hit home," but it was definitely very close to home. And because of that, I felt myself bristle with the way Haiti is portrayed as such an impoverished, hopeless place. I was listening to NPR when one of the experts said, Haiti is the only country with a last name, "the poorest country in the Western hemisphere." It's like you can't say Haiti without mentioning how horrible the place is.
Well, I'd like to open up the comments to hear what people have to say about Haiti in a positive light. I am one of those people who believes that focusing on the positive is always the best way to push through the darkness. Perhaps more people will stumble on this post and read about all of the positive images of Haiti we carry and be inspired, enlightened and more thoughtful in how they perceive this island nation.
And to kick things off, here's some things I know and love about Haiti.
1. Haiti is the birth place and setting for most of award-winning author Edwidge Danticat's books.
2. Haiti is the country that gave Black people hope the world over after their slave population successfully overthrew their French colonizers. It is the birthplace of the original Black Superhero, Toussaint L'Ouverture.
3. The artist, Jean-Michael Basquiat, although a nice mix of Haitian and Puerto Rican, pulled heavily from his Haitian heritage to fuel his work.
4. Haitian food is really, really good.
Okay. Your turn. What do you know about Haiti that doesn't begin with devastation or end with despair?