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?

I'm listening.



Anonymous said...

I have been a silent reader for some time now and I really enjoy reading your posts. I am a white adoptive mother of two Haitian children (boy and girl). They are 7 & 9 and have been home with us in the states now for 7 months. Our adoption process took almost 3 years. In that time, we went to Haiti 7 times to work at the kids' orphanage in Port-au-Prince. It would be hard for me to adequately describe how blessed WE were to have gotten to know Haiti and her people. How blessed WE are to get to be with two such wonderful human beings as our two adopted children, day in and day out.

Every time I went to Haiti, I felt energized in the presence of such faithful, joyous people. The people of Haiti may not have much material wealth (at least most of the people), but they have great, strong spirits. I never once felt fear, only felt humbled to be with met so much friendliness and generosity. On one of my trips, I took a really nasty fall. I was immediately scooped up by some boys that barely knew me and pretty much carried back to the guesthouse. They made sure I was taken care of, they asked for nothing in return. There is a saying in Haiti, "bonjour is the passport to friendship", and it is absolutely true. I am in agony over their situation now. We love Haiti and pray for all of our friends there every day.


Heather said...

"What do you know about Haiti that doesn't begin with devastation or end with despair?" --
It is where my precious ones' roots are -- deep deep roots that make them the brilliant, beautiful, boisterous, benevolent, bounce-back-up boys that they are. Haiti is their place, it is our place.
There is nothing devastating or despairaging about *that*. And for that, I am eternally grateful and never forgetful.
Thanks for posting about Haiti- I was wondering when you would.
Right now the "Haiti Earthquake" story is just beginning.

Anonymous said...

I am always proud to say I have been to Haiti, but only in a touristy area. I wish I'd seen more!

Park AVenue said...

I know that French and Kreyol are languages spoken in Haiti!

JBH said...

@Lara and Heather:

So glad to hear about your adoptive families and your experiences in Haiti! Thanks for sharing. It makes me feel great as an adult adoptee to hear that they have great parents who appreciate their Haitian homeland:-)

LT said...

Thank you for outing yourself and thank you for sharing your very positive experiences in Haiti and your personal connections with the country. It's so wonderful to hear from people who have real connections with Haiti.

I would have expected nothing less from you. As always, thank you for sharing your shining spirit. And btw, love the t-shirts.

Hey, it's a start.

Park Ave.
that's more than a lot of people know :)

So sweet!

Heather said...

Dear LT:
I love ya and we need to meet in real life sometime!

Currentsbtwshores said...

Some Haitians helped their American brothers and sisters and fought in America's civil war.

Haiti is considered the pearl of the Antilles.

Haiti is a country rich in folktales, fables, wise words and many, many proverbs.

Haiti is full of gorgeous beaches, waterfalls, vibrant flowers and dreamy cliffs!

currents said...

Uh. . I mean, the American revoltionary war . . .