Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Lavalas is a Haitian term meaning a washing away of things that are either of no use to the person or blocking one's blessings. It's a term that was also used during the period when then priest and later President of Haiti, Bertrand Aristide came to power as The People's Leader cos of the gangsta way he lead his nation. Gangsta in the sense that he pushed Kreyol as our official language (since 99% of us speak it, anyway) and stepped to the UN podium calling out France on reparations that were never given to Haiti. Not that the French give a damn--and this should explain why they look embarrassed whenever they show up to help flood and earthquake survivors--but it was the principle of it. Saying what needed to be said.

By the time the world witnessed a three-alarm earthquake crack Port-au-Prince wide open, Aristide was history, exiled by his haters. It seemed like a different type of lavalas had hit the capital. This time with rocks, trees, cement blocks and flying cars. It's an unfortunate way to do away with the old in order to allow the new in, though the 'new' was uncertain, what with poverty and corruption still standing strong among the rubble. And while folks on the island and those abroad are asking Haitian officials where all the cash went, another type of cleansing is on its way, threatening to shake the country some more. I'm talking about November 28th when Haitians once again head to the ballots. If you're a cynic like me, you're thinking it's gonna be the same o; another puppet leader to ensure Haiti's dependence on foreign aid.

Enter Hip Hop icon and Haitian activist, Wyclef Jean who made Haitians all over the globe proud when he and fellow fugees held up an oversized flag of Haiti at the Grammy Awards. For those of us who remember coming up in da hood and being picked on for being Haitian, it was a well-deserved heads up for all of us, together; and we've been having big love for Wyclef ever since! So it's no surprise to see the 62 candidates running for Haiti's 2010 Presidential elections start running scared at the mere idea of a no tin-tin-nad (that's bullsht in kreyol) kat who not only has the respect of the people but also the ears of world leaders. Even the most imperialistic officials know it's better bizness to develop fair trade agreements with Haiti. They see that exploiting poverty is, in the end, bad bizness because it only breeds criminal activity and limited movement, not to mention a bad rep in relation to international economic standards that make way for boycotts and sanctions. At this point, it's just not cool anymore to sht on people who can't fend for themselves. Customers won't buy if they know the product comes from bloody hands and soiled water for drinking and bathing.

Of course, just as there's a washing away, there're also forces that want to keep things the way they are. Sounds insane but wicked, ego-driven people are often crazy. Or they become crazy after being seduced by stupid money and the illusion of power. Anyone who knows their Haitian history will tell you that after L'Ouverture and Dessaline, we stopped seeing brilliant leaders come to pass; strong and proud men who loved their nation and people, and what the blue n white without the white means symbolically. Duvalier senior began as a good guy when he took politcal power away from the mulattos to end light-skinned domination over darker-skinned people. A standard that both the French and the Spaniards left behind before abandoning Hispaniola altogether. It was a well-needed readjustment of societal mindset until Papa Doc shocked the country by announcing he was Prez for life, dismantling his police department and replacing them with thugs who brutalized anyone who didn't honor their new leader. Like I said, it takes a certain amount of insanity to turn on your own. And this turning on your own has been the tradition of Haitian leaders decades after, supported by those who benefit from self-destruction. It's almost as if that's all they know. Corruption. Greed. Corruption. Greed. Ego/Power. Corruption. Greed. And an acute hatred for those who may look like you but can't afford even a bucket of clean air! In French, it's called 'haire-tien'-- Hating yourself. Of all the post-slavery psychosis, hating one's self is the saddest.

The Arawak called Haiti A-yi-ti to give name to high mountains. But high mountains can't force a man to do the right thing. All a mountain can do is rumble and hope he falls. Because now we got yet another fool. Another president who lead on paper and is now trying to postpone the upcoming presidential elections. Haitian law won't allow Preval to run again. Not that he was gonna win. The earthquake was one last reason to replace him. Everyone from county badges to fanfan next door is on the ballot. Enter again, Wyclef and his announcement that he's considering running as well. It tipped the electoral boat so much that the rest of the runners got shipwrecked! Not necessarily cos Wyclef's such a superstar already, but cos he's known for doing away with the politics and ego-trippin and simply throw bags of rice n beans where it counts. He also brings with him famous international friends who want to see Haiti rise again and be the pearl she used to be. But this takes a more universal lavalas; high mountain lavalas. Voodoo forces will have to either place the victory on Wyclef's divine path or put a woman in charge. At least sistas would be more protected. Ti-tid already had his time. Plus, he didn't part the seas like he was supposed to. But now, the same rumors that Wyclef may run are the same people saying if he does they'll kill him. And 'they' depends on where you stand politically. Either you're eating or starving. If Wyclef decides to answer the call--and the people are calling--then that would place him on mantle level for sure.

New runners got until August 7th to register. And because half the population of Haiti is under 21 young people, especially, are paying close attention to the election. Meanwhile, water keeps pouring over your head and mine; and together we let go and let God....

Friday, July 23, 2010

Typical Day

One of my sons was telling me to be ez on obama; that 8yrs of bush and another by his father, and now having to clean up after all that. then you got the republicans who are doing everything they can to block his agenda. he fucked up when he took boston for granted. maybe thought uncle kennedy was enuf. but i couldn't find a job. and if it wasn't for his extending unemployment i'd be fucked. but he opened up some programs and this is how i got my emt job. you just gotta apply yourself. do you know he offered nyc public schools $20mil for reform and they said no, thank u? but he reached out. he set up some fair standards on wall st. battling obesity and post-war trauma. put haiti back on the spotlight. as far as i know, first u.s. president to address racism. women now have equal pay, health care reform and now he's pushing new energy. kept the nation safe each time somebody tried us. and it's the military that's stalling on getting rid of 'don't ask, don't tell'.....

Is our generation impatient?
Maybe some of us were thinking more like messiah instead of politician?

Do young people see what we don't see?...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Uncommon Sense or How To Un-Learn Racism?

Every now and then, race in America comes up; and when it does, all sides tend to panic. We're so accustomed to avoiding honest discussions about racism and race relations that when the opportunity knocks to show how much we've matured as a country, we instead dig our heads deeper into denial. And if we do show a willingness to start a conversation it ends up being more of the same show of ignorance and misinformation. Take our latest embarrassment over the whole Shirley Sherrod fiasco, for example, the Black U.S. Department of Agricultural official who used the murder of her father by racist Whites some years past and how she struggled to assist White farmers but decided on focusing on poverty rather than skin color to present a teachable moment for all Americans. At the time she was probably just sharing, not realizing that her N.A.A.C.P. speech was gonna turn into a media/White House frenzy. But some White hater had spliced her words to make it look like she was promoting anti-White sentiments then sent the tainted video clip to her supervisor and boom, she was fired. She got the bad news while driving and had to pull over to hear she had to resign. She did, not knowing for sure what had gone down. Just imagine your supervisor saying they heard or saw something inappropriate about you and so now you got to go, as in right now! You're so dumbfounded at the time that you haven't found all the pieces to the puzzle yet cos you're too busy processing.

Fast forward to when uncommon sense sets in; when N.A.A.C.P. Prez, Benjamin Jealous and Black CNN commentator, Roland Martin blast Sherrod for being part of the problem and not the solution. The solution being N.A.A.C.P.'s upcoming march in October to address racism in the Tea Party. In other words, we'tryina make this sht pop and there you go fucking it up for us! But it doesn't stop there. Conservative White House officials also called for the firing of the sista. (And she is a sista when you listen to how she breaks it down!) Then of course once the media got a hold of the video it was for all the world to see how this ugly American just had to go, even after the elderly White couple said they had nothing but love for her. But Sherrod didn't put up a fight. She just cleared her desk and kept her composure. And that's when God stepped in or common sense, at least. Cos someone with a brain found the clip in its entirety and discovered the malicious editing. You'd think Jealous himself would've paid closer attention, since the speech was given on his turf. You'd think a smart reporter like Martin would've remembered his journalistic oath and checked his facts. And tell me this-- If The White House can't detect the tampering of a simple blog, how are we to trust them with homeland security?

How foolish all these so-called 'educated' people must feel now, after truth prevailed; and how rewarding it must feel to be vindicated! Cos that's the story behind the Story, to me. How you're tagged inappropriate one minute and brilliant the next. So now everyone from Jealous to Sherrod's supervisor who went ghost have had to backtrack on their words and premature ejaculations, while USDA is begging her to take her job back. Plus, Obama had to make that apology call after a few days of procrastinating. Not bad for a sista who was getting ready to be hung out there dry for merely speaking openly and honestly about racism in America. Not a bad place to be when you can tell The White House and it's new tenants, Thanks but no thanks. Not bad when you can show America just how stupid she looks by not having the guts, if not the grace, to move out of the 19th century when it comes to un-learning racism. Not bad at all; and a right on, sista!

What Sherrod initially did, most of us do it every day. Just that we tend to keep our voices close to our bellies and only share with our own. Me and my anglo-saxon friends welcome honest convo on race. They admit they benefit from racism just cos of their skin color yet do their part to tackle it, while I admit our post-kidnapping/confinement syndrome yet do my part to heal from it. That's what makes us true friends and not merely diplomats.. But most Americans can't handle that type of realness. We'd rather make jokes and watch baseball instead. It's the art of avoiding. They teach it to us in our public schools and we teach it to each other at the family table. Unfortunately, even if sista finds another great job or writes a book, this bizness of kneejerking every time someone addresses race will continue as long as we keep talking around the issues. And though Obama made that memorable speech on race last year, a first time for any U.S. President, we're still using the same formulas; still avoiding, still denying. We had out chance back in the 1970's when pioneer of racism awareness, Jane Elliott introduced her 'blue-eyed/brown-eyed' exercise. But White folks just couldn't handle it. They even cried on Oprah's shoulders, 'Please, super Black lady. No more feeling feelings of oppressed people, okay? It's just too hard! But can't we all get along?!?!' The whole point of the exercise was for the audience to experience how it feels to be something other than White.

Nora Lester of California Newsreel writes, "Jane Elliott does not intellectualize highly emotionally charged or challenging topics. She creates a situation in which participants experience discrimination themselves and therefore feel its effects emotionally, not intellectually....she uses participants' own emotions to make them feel discomfort, guilt, shame, embarrassment and humiliation. Jane Elliott would say that protecting white people from the pain of racism only serves to perpetuate it." Because too often Whites say they get it by coming from the brain and not the heart. It's when they 'feel' how it feels like to be treated second and third class that they finally get it; and get us, and all the baggage that comes with that. Using reverse racism as a way of pointing psychological reparations back on you is just another way of avoiding the work. Elliott's exercise encourages Whites to take responsibility for racism, and again because they benefit from it. But this was way too radical at the time, and still is. Putting the blame on the victim is much easier, even if it means opening ourselves up for more embarrassing moments.

This isn't the first time I'm saying this but it's worth repeating-- White people have the luxury of never having to think about their skin color. They just live. And there lies the problem. Because for those of us with darker complexion, skin color is a constant preoccupation, whether it's worrying about being followed in a store out of an assumption that we're there to steal, racial profiling (especially if you're male) or being stared at whenever that damn subway terrorist message comes on (If you see a suspicious package...) It's not the package White passengers look at but your dark skin. And sometimes it's those who look like you who are giving the menacing stares because they've internalized racism so much that they become their own enemy.

So how do we un-teach racism? And not just decorating like coming up with a catchy South Pacific song or Black buffoonery sitcoms that merely distract the masses from inner transformation. Un-teaching begins with acknowledging that whatever we're used to has to change. Our mindset has to match our words. If we say we're not racist, we actually have to act like it by calling each other out on it. But here's the reality check-- we're all racists. Some more than others, but because this country--and to a certain extent the world--is based on the glorification of one group versus the exploitation of all other groups, we can't help acting out the psychosis implanted in our memory banks nor the competition for approval from the one who sets the standards. Racism is not only someone burning a cross on your lawn or calling you a dirty Mexican. Racism is also a Mexican President telling Al Sharpton that Black people don't matter. It's a dark-skinned sista wearing a Korean wig on her head just so she can by-pass Black and go straight to White. It's thinking all Muslims are terrorists and Timothy McVeigh a misguided young man. It's a White person owning African land and hiring Black faces to run it. It's looking at a Black man as merely a sexual object or a buy-product you paid stupid money for to win a stupid game, or adopting an Asian girl and treating her like a conversation piece. Racism is assuming that Persian, Arab, Ethiopian and Islam are one in the same and Latino TV networks only pushing White Hispanics in their shows. It's a Black homeowner hiring a White contractor because she thinks White means right and Black, get back! It's a bunch of Black kids calling you high yellow and your mama still saying sht like He got good hair. Race-ism is only showing Africa as a place where wild animals roam and negating her beautiful cities, beaches and resorts. It's reading skin of bronze and hair of wool, but seeing Greg Allman. It's also blasting a nose off a wonder so the world won't know the truth. It can be as subtle as not touching a customer's hands when you give him his change back and as loud as the rate of Carib girls getting skin cancer from bleaching.

At this point, we're all too far out into the schism. Only way back to any sense of normality is to break the current lines of communication and press reset; starting with giving Orem Akhet's nose back!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How To Not Start a Haitian American Writers Group

Those of you who've been following my letter tracks know that I've been trying to start a Haitian American Writers Group for some time now, with not much luck at getting the car moving, unfortunately. Two potentials had gotten in. But like the tap-taps in Crooklyn and Jamaica Ave, the driver doesn't feed his family 'til the van is full. There're many reasons why any group doesn't ever even come off the paper. Disinterest is the obvious one, of course. But then there's the matter of different people having different interpretations/approaches of and to what Haitian writing is or should be; how she's supposed to look and sound.

And then sometimes it's just timing...

As a last ditch, I got out of my van and started waving at the people who decided to wait for the bus instead--

Sak pase, good people! I said I'd follow-up in July, so here's where we are at this point. After putting the word out on facebook, craigslist, word of mouth and even binghampton university where there're a lot of Haitians, we still only have three interested new yorkers--four, if you include me--and three out of state. Also, I went to Haiti Cultural Exchange's reception last night honoring four Haitian authors and left some palm cards, so maybe I'll hear from a few folks. Still, I'm not sure if it's worth pursuing this with such low interest. Plus, I was thinking that perhaps we have different definitions of what Haitian writing is-- French, Kreyol, English; folklore, traditional, radical; euro-centered or afri-centered; hip hop or hip not; hetero, same gender loving, bisexual. So I'm reaching out for some feedback to see if maybe someone has any other suggestions. The other thing is that perhaps we ought to focus more on joining an already established group or organization to avoid fragmentation or should we stick to the idea of coming up with our own agenda?

And sometimes no response is the response; and that it may be the universe's way of telling me to focus on my male book. What with so many chapters to write, deadlines can become an issue. So I'm switching guears back to the male project with a pleased smile on my face for having made the effort!