I don’t use this blog nearly enough. This year, I hope to change that. If there are specific topics that you might be interested in me posting about, please contact me (andezo at gmail dot com) and let me know! I’m collecting ideas to make this a much more regular space. Social media, which is useful for short-term and breaking news, is becoming increasingly less useful for talking about bigger subjects, and it’s time to return to the long form.

Today marks seven years from the major earthquake that killed many people in Haiti, including some of my own family members. Time continues its march forward. Some things change, some things don’t change. Haiti has (yet another) new president, but no less controversy. The US continues to meddle in Haitian affairs. The UN, which suddenly issued an apology for its causing the cholera epidemic post-earthquake (but most likely only because the outgoing secretary is thinking about a presidential run in Korea and wants to look good), sent more peacekeepers to the country this week, but didn’t bother to vaccinate them against cholera until a public outcry was made – and now only they are treated. (Nothing at all has been done for the Haitians who live where they are).

It’s heartbreaking and frustrating and rage-inducing to know what’s going on in Haiti (to be fair, we’ve got those feelings about places outside Haiti currently as well, don’t we?). It becomes a serious effort to stay focused and not let it get you into a pit of despair and anger that does nothing at all except feed on itself.

But that effort is important. It is perhaps even more important when the stakes are this high. Stay informed. Read from many sources. Check your sources. Check them again. Learn about what’s going on behind the clickbait and the headlines. Get out of your comfort zone. To borrow a phrase from the justice movements in the US: stay woke. Remind yourself and your world: we’re here. We’re not going anywhere. We will continue. Strength makes them see.

 

PS: I’ll be appearing at Paganicon 2017, and am also one of the sponsors of the Pagans of Color & Allies suite that will be open during the event. We’ll have Vodou programming among many other things. Join us if you can.

Nels at Pagan Newswire Collective Minnesota interviewed me last week, in advance of my appearance as one of the guests of honor at Paganicon in Minneapolis, March 18-20, 2016.

It was a long but very positive conversation. We got to talk about Vodou, what brought me to it, and how I think Haitian Vodou is the most valuable Western Hemispheric spiritual experience for many reasons other than why one might want to practice it. We also chatted about cultural relations, the problems and challenges of appropriation and privilege in such relations, religious experiences in a multicultural society, how activism and religious practice are and aren’t related, and other deep subjects. I enjoyed the interview thoroughly – it’s not often I get to talk about all those things at once! – and hope that you will enjoy reading it.

You can read a transcript of our discussion at the PNC website. I’m looking forward to meeting many new people and having a good experience at the convention. Hope to see you there!

Another New Year’s Day is upon us, and it’s time for soup joumou. (Why? You can read about that in a previous New Year’s post, here.) You can also sing the Joumou rap with Haitian Jonas, here. These two things always make me smile.

What also makes me smile, is the knowledge that I’ll be in Haiti again in a week’s time. It’s been ten years, even before the quake that changed everything. Some things of course haven’t changed much – suspended government and a “president” ruling by emergency decree, MINUSTAH still not taking a damn bit of responsibility or concern for causing a cholera epidemic. But I’m sure others have. All the little kids in the lakou will be teenagers now. I won’t get to see my godmother (who died in the quake) or my maman hounyo (who died later), and a few other people who have passed. Coming home is well overdue, bittersweet, but good. See you soon, Ayiti.

And I’ll be back to post about it sooner than I did last year.

It was five years ago today that everything changed for Haiti. How is it now? The idiom, m’pa pi mal, couldn’t be more appropriate. Though this is usually what you say in Kreyol to the question koman ou ye or “how are you,” it doesn’t exactly translate as “I’m fine.”

Literally translated, it means: “I’m not any worse.”

Good things have happened, and bad things have also happened, since that terrible afternoon. I can’t say that there is much change in the grief for me, beyond that its jagged shapes are now known rather than lurking and unknown. I don’t wake up from nightmares of bodies under concrete as often as I once did, but it still happens. And I was thousands of miles away at the time. I can’t even begin to imagine how much more intense these feelings are for those who were in Haiti five years ago today.

Five years on, there is still far too much to be done. For those who lost family or home, or often both – and for the 80,000 (!) people still living in “temporary” shelters, tonight will not be magically different from the last five years of nights. Other than a day on a calendar, it is no different and things must still change. There is so much to be done still, and the pace at which my country and the rest of the world has offered its assistance, yet again, is shameful. So too is the response of the United Nations (don’t even get me started) and of Haiti’s government itself. As if there weren’t enough problems with thousands of people needing somewhere safe to live, there is still much political disruption to contend with, including a (potential) return to dictatorship as early as tonight, if Haiti’s parliament can’t get its act together in time.

How do you know what’s happening, if you don’t have family you can call? Here’s an aggregation of various reports on what’s going on, good and bad, in the Land of Mountains. Be aware of context. I’m trying to avoid the worst of the “disaster porn,” but I want to make sure I cover different contexts and angles.

Today’s news from Haiti Libre – many articles here.

Today’s news from the Haitian Times (aggregated from many sources) here.

ABC: “Five Year Anniversary Approaches” video (from 2010) and story here.

Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates): “Haiti Pays Tribute to Quake Tragedy’s Dead” article here.

Boston Globe: “Hope links Haiti, Boston 5 years after quake” article here.

Fusion: “Five years after the Haiti earthquake: protests, voodoo, and rock and roll” article here.

Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates): “Haiti Pays Tribute to Quake Tragedy’s Dead” article here.

Miami Herald: “Tens of thousands still living in tents 5 years after Haiti earthquake” article here.

NBC: “What Does Haiti Have to Show…” video and story here.

Reuters: “Haitians learn to live with disaster upon disaster” article here.

For my Haitian family, I have nothing but love. I miss you every day, but especially today when some of us – far too many of us – went to the angels.

Despite my attempts to have something smart and useful to say concerning current events most of the time, my friends and family have probably noticed my conspicuous absence of late on the Michael Brown and Eric Garner killings.

I’ve not been quiet because I had nothing to say about it. Far from it; I have plenty of thoughts about many aspects of these horrible situations, from police brutality to systemic racism, from media coverage to our “justice” system in the United States. I’ve been involved in activism since my teen years, and most of that in the civil rights category. Not just letter writing or the “slacktivism” of the Internet either. I’ve chained myself to a door; I’ve been detained during a protest (though passing for white and being a girl were probably why I didn’t end up getting arrested, like the black girls or the men who were also part of those protests). I’ve been part of various protests and even led them on occasion. So I am no stranger to any of this.

What I am today, however, is cognizant that the last thing that anybody in Ferguson or on Staten Island really needs right now is for me to add to the pile on of white and white-passing people offering their “advice” or explanations or ideas on this. A big part of the way that systemic racism continues to do its invisible and devastating work is the ease with which black voices are silenced. This doesn’t happen just through the ranting of outright racists, or by the lack of response from white people whose silence is louder than any words. It also often comes from well-meaning people trying to talk about being “colorblind,” or making assumptions and statements about black life in the United States that are simply not theirs to make.

The only thing I want to say is that I am listening, and I will do whatever I am asked to do, to help. It may be that there isn’t anything I can do personally to help. It may be that there is. But I am listening, and waiting for direction from the people who are directly involved, instead of deciding that for them. As a mixed-race person and a woman, my experiences, varied and sometimes distressing as they might be? – will never be the same as those of young black men. I will not speak for them, nor will I speak over them.

I will only speak long enough to say I’m listening, and I am hoping that others will shut up and listen too.