Tuesday, January 19, 2010

When Doves Cry: The 2010 Haiti Earthquake

Photo by Daniel Morel

I was in the middle of writing my letter to the First Lady regarding her husband not taking OUR concerns more seriously, since they've been on-going prez after prez, whether Democrat or Republican. Figured she has his ear the most, especially after mentoring him all them years. Then a massive earthquake hit Port-au-Prince. And just like that, we forgot about Tiger Who! The earth rumbled, making Haiti her latest tsunami. This time cement blocks for water, as hundreds of thousands still recovering from hurricane Ike got burried alive. Some losing their footing on runaway sidewalks and staircases. Some whose bodies got cut in half or smashed under fallen ceilings...

Photo by photo; scene after scene, and between the sighs and the tears of helplessness you can hear the screams of those who are still struggling to free themselves out from the confines of concrete shackles...

Others flung onto cars and trucks, or the vehicles got to them first...

While laying next to them are the bloodied parts of faces and familiar faces who are already on their way back to the ancestors where they will be put back together again ever so effortlessly and lovingly...

Photos by Associated Press

We're not saying it, but most Black folks are thanking God that this unfortunate act of nature happened under Obama's watch. We saw how Bush and his people handled Katrina. We have an idea of how McCain would've handled this, being that he represents the last state to honor Dr. King's Day. And it's the way it got carried out. Urgently. Priority. Putting Machines together front and center. And without apology for the history lesson. Leadership Blacks can be proud of. Be better for...

Two days into it and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton who spent her honeymoon in Haiti met with President Rene Preval to review our terms of agreement with Ayiti. The Arawak Indian word for Land of Mountains...

Even Immigration had to make way for change by extending residency for Haitians with visas or even facing deportation. Might have added to Massachusetts' senate elections upset. But it's a welcomed turn of faith, considering their usual policy of open arms to White-skinned Cubans and closed fists to Haitians...

This is what's so ironic about this crisis. It's happening to a people who give everything to the world but never get anything back. Haiti's not cursed. It's the other way around. A human catastrophy has forced the international community to admit that duk tape and peace meals won't stop the guilt. Reparations will; and we'll take it however we can get it!

Meantime, gray bloated corpses line up the streets and fill up open lots, alleyways and parks where there used to be children playing and sunday strolls after church, now being lifted onto bulldozers and thrown steadily into dumpsters where they will no doubt be too unrecognizable to identify; too foul to even get close to but you have to, if you want to make sure the dead and gone is not one of your own...

Nevermine the sickracist jargon the Rush Limbaughs and Pat Robertsons are throwing around, and that female negro standing by 'her man' (I'll tell you what the word negro really means later)...

And nevermine the pictures you see of people looting, and U.N. guards firing tear gas and fake bullets into crowds. That's what happens at a food riot. That's what happens when you deliver the food without planning on how to effectively distribute it. People who haven't eaten nor drank in days, who've been traumatized by all of what they've seen--young and old--will snap. Not a Haitian thing or a Black thing but a human thing. Like Eva Peron throwing money out of a moving train and creating glamorous chaos or the way Israel treats its Ethiopians. The media never shows that side of the story. Just the side that scores higher ratings. The side that goes better with the lies little White boys and girls learn in public school. Why do you think they didn't show Castro and Chavez as the first to come thru? Just doesn't fit into the American scheme of things...

As much as we Haitians, on and off the mainland, appreciate the genuine assistance from liberal Whites, truth be told they wouldn't have jobs if Haiti was self-reliant. And the Catholic Church wouldn't have our loyalty if it wasn't the only way to get to God; to get to food and water...

Resilience is something you can only comprehend when you know the makings of a natual-born champion, whether it's a brotha who managed to climb out of a rock pile and create a new life for himself or a sista who's talking through stones and believes...

The trouble with Haiti goes way back to Napoleon days. When a Carib slave rose to power and helped create the first free Black nation. To make a point to France, Spain and England, Haitians chose as their flag the white taken out of the red, white n blue. In turn, as punishment for our independence, France took the money and gold, and said Fuck You! See how you do without! Then a trade embargo was placed on Haiti. And a bill up the yang yang for bailouts (that means getting fucked over!). And then another type of slavery set in. Dependence. All the U.S. had to do to ensure that this dependency was solid was to add in their puppet Haitian leaders whose hunger for greed and power was ripe for baiting, including the latest eunich who announced to CNN that he has nowhere to rest his head. Out of all the things he could've said to the media and to his people, President Preval chose to whine about not having a bedpost in his own room. It took the Haitian Ambassador to the United States, Raymond Joseph to provide the kind of response that our beaten down country deserves, reminding racists that it was Haiti's out-sting of the French that led to the U.S. doubling its territory by the stroke of a pen. This after France sold the Louisiana Territory to the Americans. In modern terms, this meant New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oaklahoma, Nebraska, Minnesota, Colorado, the Dakotas and of course, Louisiana all in one!

Photo by Eduardo Munoz

Haiti's problem is multileveled. Dictator after dictator. Occupation after occupation. Slam after slam. Dis after dis. To understand how all this becomes a way of life; to understand Haiti and Haitian people, you have to carefully pull out each cement slab one at a time--

1. We have a class system problem where 95% of the country is dark-skinned but the 5% mulattos, Whites, Arabs and East Asians run sht;

2. We have a skin color code problem that was established by Europeans during slavery to divide, control and ensure permament self-image issues among the Blacks, especially;

3. We have an economic problem that began with France running off with the country's holdings after declaring our independence, added by a trade embargo, then international bailouts and debts, and grimy power-hungry puppet leaders to complete the task of keeping Haiti in dependence mode;

4. We have a victim and guilt mentality problem generated by decades of subjection, encouraged by the Catholic Church;

5. We have a figurehead government problem that begun after the last of the great Haitian Presidents, Alexandre Petion who not only designed the first free Black nation's flag, but also helped Latin America fight off Spain. Since then it's been nothing but minstrel shows, the worst being Francois Duvalier or as he's known to Americans, Baby Doc, as in Papa Doc's fumbling son who allowed the U.S. to use Haiti as a playing ground for gangstas and wealthy White tourists who got treated to the very best of Haiti (resorts, mansions and beach front bed & breakfasts. Yes, we have those too!). The kind of best that Haitians themselves never even got to see;

6. We have a language problem meaning 99.9% of Haitians speak Kreyol (creole with a 'c' is a Louisiana term), while French is the supposed official language; meaning folks greet one another in French to show that they're 'educated' and then switch to the native tongue to show their realness;

7. We have a generational poverty and corruption problem, because when all you know and see is struggle n hustle that's what you learn to get better at until someone shows you another way;

8. We have a restavec problem . That is, orphans who grow up in modern day slavery. The concept is a good one-- Each family takes in a child. Problem is a lot of families tend to mistreat these children who have no other choice but to tolerate the abuse. And since we suffer from class-ism, it's an opportunity to treat someone other than us like a slave;

9. We have a Dear Neighbor problem with the Dominican Republic from centuries of resentment, rivalry and skin color politics. Resentment for being in control of the entire island of Hispaniola before it got split into two separate countries; rivalry for our resilience and our supernatural ability to create many things out of nothing; and Dominican parents teaching their kids not to marry Black. Have fun with them, but not to marry down;

10. We have an image problem from all the racist propaganda against our ways, our culture and African-based religions. And because we still have Toussaint Louverture in our blood, and therefore are naturtal-born rebels, we get mad slack for refusing to bow down to those we can run circles around;

11. We have a Green problem because when you're destitute your priority is to survive, not to decide which goes in what container; if you even have a container;

12. We have a health care problem because our government's version of HIP is those who know someone in the military or got money to bribe with get treated while the rest just shut up and deal;

13. We have a women are treated like second class citizens problem, unless you're the wife of a politician or well-known suit n tie, or you decide to join a women's empowerment group without the men's permission and do you;

14. We have an art collectors exploit Haitian artists problem, if you haven't already noticed. When you're hungry and depressed you'll sell your most precious artwork for a mere dollar, while the art pimp sells your hard work for thousands of dollars which then allows him or her to live the glamorous life as you scratch the ground for pennies just to feed yourself and your fam;

15. We have a censor on free speech problem because the ones in charge gotta answer to the U.S. who pay for their salaries. We can talk about how impoverished we are, how our illiteracy rate is sky high or to make the story even juicier, how mothers wash their children in puddles filled with feces and trash. But we can't talk revolution, people uniting against injustice and the same hand that feeds us being the same hand that's keeping us down;

16. We have a fear problem that goes back to that fumbling prez' dad (Papa Doc) who used terrorism to divide and control the people. Our parents and grandparents also listened to shady religious fanatics who taught them to wait for that White Jesus to come save them and in the meantime to fear anything African, including themselves. Because they know once we make the connection between Benin and the first free African slaves we make way for yet another Toussaint;

17. We have a France refuses to give back our money problem, even after our last Toussaint (Aristide) tried to demand reparations from France. Ti-tid, as he's affectionately called, got mad international respect for daring to stand up to U.S. and European imperialism until he said the reparations word. Suddenly he was a problem, a radical and got kidnapped by the U.S. and shipped to South Africa. Jamaica wanted to make a home for him, but the powers that be wanted Aristide as far away from Haitian people as possible. And then they created propaganda about him to turn us against him, and it worked;

18. We have a messiah will come fix everything problem, so we expect White folks, especially, to come save us. And so that's why we cater to them hand and foot, just in case Jesus turns out to be Bill Clinton or Brad Pitt;

19. We have a child abuse and look away problem when mothers blame their daughters for inticing the men in the house or next door. Or when sons are molested but it's considered taboo to even bring it up;

20. We have a kidnapping for ransom problem where the difference from Mexico is that drugs and turf wars aren't the reasons but just plain poverty. If the target can't be a politician's wife, grandmother or child then they'll pay someone to let them know when your cuz from NY or Miami or Chicago or Boston, or better yet, Paris (je-je, vous-vous means more money and quicker response), plans on visiting so they can snatch them from the airport or right in front of your house while you pretend to be busy doing something;

21. We have a not being allowed to choose and keep our own leaders problem, since local leadership still gotta go thru the White House;

22. We have a tourists use our youths for sexual favors problem but we don't talk about that either because in some sick way it actually helps the economy;

23. We have a gotta show Castro and Chavez love on da low problem, so we accept free fuel and free medical attention without making too much noise about it to avoid pissing off U.S. officials;

24. We have a we're 'bout to get occupied again problem. But maybe this time around they'll let the women lead the way. And when I say lead, I don't mean another Eva Peron wanna-be walking around in furs while the rest of us starve. I mean Antonia Pantoja type of leading;

25. We have a religion that's not really ours but we need to eat problem!

Photo by Roger LeMoyne

Barely a week later, and right when the medics and peace meals were under way, another earthquake hit Haiti while Guatemala got a rumble as well, causing Bible readers to start passing around invites to the Second Coming and ignoring the scientists' explanation for these recent activities that obviously don't care about skin shade, language or point of reference. Just what it is. Sometimes it's just what it is, and we make more of it than necessary by adding our presumptions.

And yet a lot of us are considering the mere possibility of a spiritual intervention. God Power over indoctrination. As in Lavalas. Causing nigga to act like brotha.

For those who follow basketball but didn't know we had a Haitian NBA star named Samuel Dalembert of the Philadelphia Sixers, he helped put together an NBA disaster relief fund for us and inspiring other fugee stars to do the same...

If you're Danny Glover-- You already know!

While Haitian American photographer, Ocean Morisset stands by for word from U.S. medical teams to do what he did in Desert Storm-- Cover wounds and stitch fingers back together. Initiatives like these that make us proud to carry our red and blue, now that every kid in da hood knows what Sak Pase means and to answer, Map Boolay!!!...

And Nevermine, too, all the hatin' on Wyclef's Yele Foundation, because he's been at the frontline of Haiti Support since his first solo cd. So all this fuss about scams is just a way to deter us from not only supporting his organization, but to keep Blacks from supporting Black. The bruh was doing this before it became cool to help Haiti. Plus, the Red Cross practically went bankrupt after Katrina, so why not create a scare over Yele to redirect the monies? It worked before. Why not try again? And with every other mother competing for donation money, why not single out the most grassroots organization first? In other words, brothas n sistas, Don't believe the hype!!!...

But something of good will come out of this. It's already begun. Like Senegal's President inviting Haitians to come live there. He didn't even ask Europe or the U.S. for permission to lookout for those who look like him. He just put it out there and asked Akon to pass the word. Because that's what progressive, conscientious Black leaders do. They speak through the youth and not the ol'timers who usually want to keep things status quo. Because formula is all they know, whether it actually works or not. Just easier to stick to begging than standing up for something. That's why they're so afraid of young people cos young folks got vision. They figure if a Haitian like DuSable founded Chicago, then what da fuk are the grown-ups waitin' for? So other fugee rappers like Dooblay, Sista Eud, Dez, and Yayo from G-Unit are making sure water and food gets to the real hood (wanna-be thugs think they're gangtas. You ain't gangsta 'til you wait a whole week for water and a food bar while climbing up rocks and metals just to see the sky again!). This is what I mean by God Power over religious indoctrination. Doing for self. Thinking for self. Taking action. Making history again by calling out the ones who keep getting in the way of progress and setting the goalpost to our standards, as opposed to someone else's. Remembering why we paint such beautiful colors, in the first place. That's what my haters don't understand about me; about us. It's that Shango in all of us that keeps coming back and coming back after every knockdown. The same Shango that enters Matt Damon's body to give him the courage and stamina to help out. Same spirit that brings Haitian American firefighters together to go find survivors still breathing underground...

See how she shakes
But Haitian people don't break!--Wyclef Jean

...Same spirit that brings forth, out from the slums, yet another Wyclef; another me, another you...

...Because we have to keep trying, keep creating, keep reaching so the truth can be told, no matter how deep it's buried.

You'll hear how not enough countries invest in Haiti; that we'd do better if, let's say, China, tapped into our natural resources like they're doing in Nigeria. Business men and women from all over the world already invest in Haiti, including Iran (Who do you think live in them mansions up on them hills?). Problem is they're used to going by a policy of taking and not trading; exploiting and not respecting. Degrading, not remembering. So that when they see doves crying they see it as a mere side affect for another lucrative season...

When I was a kid in Crooklyn, NY it wasn't cool to be Haitian. Forget about Sak Pase? It was more like Go back where you came from. And stop wearing brown and purple together!!! So we had to quickly assimilate by making sure we dressed according to the latest trend, kept our keds clean and fros symmetrically acceptable. We also had to learn to talk Black, act Black, and say things like Yo! and What'up nigga?...My nigga... and Nigga, please! Or else we couldn't be niggas! This was crucial. More important than learning standard English. Because we knew from the moment we got off the plane or picked off from the raft that being Black American was far more important than just being American. And yet as hard as we tried to fit in, as much as our American Haitian kinfolk taught us to be-bop, that label was there-- blackie, ugly, African, immigrant, AIDS carrier, Haitian. And this from people who looked like us but felt they were better than us. It wasn't until The Fugees displayed our flag at the Grammy Awards for all the world to see that everyone in the neighborhood wanted to learn Kreyol. We were finally accepted, thanks to Wyclef, Lauryn and Pras. So that by the time U.S. Immigration put us on the AIDS watch list, the propaganda had already backfired, beginning with Al Sharpton getting all his peeps together, along with the general Black Family and those we consider our allies, and shut down the Brooklyn Bridge in the middle of business hours. The next day we were off the list, and a statement was made in place of an apology. Our bad. We didn't think y'all were paying attention!

Me 3yrsld in Port-au-Prince before my uncle in Morocco decided it was best that I skip the nigga smack and head to Paris, so later on in high school girls could flash their smiles and say, He got kultur!!!

"Coming from where he did
He was turned away from every door, like Joseph.
To even the toughest among us,
That would be too much.
He didn't know he was Black
'Til they gave him his change
But didn't want to touch his hand


My profound solidarity to and with my Haitian brothas n sistas either still coming up for air, on a stretcher and waiting their turn, running for the helicopter to drop some food n water, or already halfway over to the other side. We who are in the mainland and abroad feel your pains and want you to know that we will continue the struggle on your behalf and welcome with new heart all the love and respect being shown to us from all over the globe. We've already begun signing a petition to World Bank to eliminate Ayiti's debt. The goal is 150,000 signatures and as of today we have 138,185. I made the five. We're also not letting this become just the thing of the month and then go back to talking about Tiger Who all over again. Everything is in divine order to bring the country back from tragedy. And as painful as it is to lose a loved one, let's remember that we don't die. We merely move on to another reality and communicate with the living in a manner that's even more effective and not as sureal as we may believe. It's a Haitian thing.

To my friends who've lost their relatives and their beloved ones, I cry with you. I kneel with you. I sing at the alter with you.

To my students, you saw how the youth put Obama in office. And you see how Mass. showed the Democrats not to take their votes for granted. There's a saying, In France the government is afraid of the people but in America the people are afraid of the government. Y'all are proving that wrong!

Haiti will come back. That's just how we are. Earthquake. See how she shakes. But Haitian people don't break!!!. Like the 69yrld woman being pulled out of the rubble and coming out singing!....I don't care what you hear and what I hear; what you tolerate and what I keep having to come back from. Theres's nothing like the Haitian spirit!!!

Ayiti, cheri...Petit, mon amour. I'm not gonna leave you stranded. I'm not gonna leave you stranded. I'm not gonna leave you stranded...I'm not gonna leave you stranded...


Kevin McGruder said...


This is so powerful, both the words and the images. Thank you for adding more context to what's been happening.

Kevin McGruder

dondebar said...

yes, indeed!

K. Koromantee said...

Thank you for reading. I'm not the first nor the last to write about this tragedy, but you'll notice that most writers or commentators are playing it safe. Sticking to either tales of casualties or strories of miraculous rescuing and surviving. But the obvious is not being told. That is, how Haiti became impoverished, in the first place; how corruption became her middle name, and how ironic it is that the hands who are coming to offer assistance are the same hands who kicked her in the face after announcing her freedom from imperialism. This is the story I wanted to tell. Or else we move on to the next tragedy; the next news bulletin, without calling out those who need to be called out!

primamyrna said...

Thank you, for the excellent article, your heart felt view
was articulately expressed.
Reading it was like seeing those vivid colorful strokes on a
Haitian painting.

Best Regards
Myrna Rodz.
Puerto Rico

Anonymous said...

A salute to Haiti and her People.

Yes Haiti seems like it got flattened. Yet I know Haiti will rise again. Yes Haiti shall rise again. Rise and shine Haiti.
You are blessed and we pray for your speedy recovery. Haiti shall rise again. The people of Haiti will shine more than before. I do Pray haiti Rise and shine for the world to see. Rise Haiti Rise...
King Arthur NYC

Denise said...

I came across ur blog months ago when i googled the words to Sade's song tht u quoted.

While lengthy, I found the entry to be very informative. As a Caribbean national, I've always been very proud of Haiti for being the first to gain it's independence. I occasionally revert to ur article (as I've been debating with & educating ppl about Haiti's woes for years now & it has provided me with additional points to shore up my arguments).

Thx 4 a job well done