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Before the Diaspora Represents Haiti…

July 29, 2010

Today I drove down the street heading back from Bas Gormand.  Perhaps its the breeze of the hurricane season, inhaling too much dust, or simply the people.  I woke up with an energy that exuded love and beauty this morning.  The ups and downs of the day have become a simple norm in the midst of the bigger picture.  That drive back from Bas Gormand was peaceful and for the first time, I was aware of how deep our beauty and culture goes.  I fell in love with the dust for the first time.  I fell in love with the lumpy graveled road of Bas Gormand, consoled by the fresh air and greenness surrounding me.  I fell in love with the stern looks of people of the city who with one polite gesture will smile and greet you with open arms.  I felt peace, in the midst of what looks like war.  Perhaps this is a step.

The reality of Haiti is something that is difficult to communicate.  Its not as simple as the rich and the poor because all of you who are reading this are living in a system that is unnatural too.  Modern world individuals may be able to build and buy cushions for their lives but make no mistake- someone created this system that has led to Haiti being Haiti and those  opportunities in the lands of those who are “free.”  This leads me to the layers to the reconstruction effort, which is something to be witnessed and to participate in because in a way- this is history being made right now in Haiti.

When you look beyond the filthy screen there is something there.  Something that I see often in the community work that I do- that many never talk about: Haitian community organizations or individuals leading efforts in their own communities.  HAITIAN COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS LEADING EFFORTS TO REBUILD THEIR COUNTRY BY STARTING WITH THEIR OWN COMMUNITY.  I don’t see many Haitian Americans coming back to Haiti outside of setting up a business.  I don’t see many of the diaspora reclaiming their beloved country and investing in the communities of Haiti that are underrepresented.

I’m going to make a statement that may be interpreted or judged however one would like and it is important that it is said:

Before we represent the diaspora and before the diaspora represents the people of Haiti…  Before the diaspora becomes the voice in Haiti; becomes the acceptable, “familiar” middleman between the unseen and the seen.  Before we (diaspora) decide we know what is best We (diaspora) need to help Empower the people of Haiti with voice and ensure that they have the ability to participate just as much as we (diaspora) can.  The people of Haiti need to be able to have voice enough to represent the people (and I’m talking about the 80% people).

The people of Haiti need to be able to communicate what is best.  The people need to stand a chance and it begins with empowerment and education.  The people of Haiti need to be invested in directly…

14 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2010 12:16 am

    I don’t get what you mean. When you say ‘we’ does that mean you are part of the diaspora or are you part of the 80%? Your voice is the voice of – who?
    And what do you mean “outside of setting up a business and so…” ?
    I know you know what you mean and have to say but you have to tell me for me to know, too. Thx.

    • July 31, 2010 7:35 pm

      done! i made a few revisions that reflect your comment. thank you!

  2. Steve Rusch permalink
    August 1, 2010 6:19 am

    Men, wi!

    The opening of this post is simply beautiful, and the second half is simply true.

    Truth and Beauty in one post… (That’s gotta stop. Cain’t be doin’ that! 🙂

    Though it may be a little late, take this mention as a compliment on the piece you collected from a nurse for posting 17 Apr, 2010, regarding that which is most needed and wanted in Haiti (as in so many other places.) for those who might want to reread it. From it I quote:

    “Holding her hands and telling her that I loved her seemed to work miraculously, more miraculously than ibuprofen three times a day for pain.”

    Yes, this is what’s most necessary there, as elsewhere, as everywhere! And apropos of the current post, if this simple attitude of regard — a ready and easy, genuine human respect and admiration — call it love if you will — if this were the attitude of approach of all those who would go there to help, whether with purely charitable intentions or with ethical profit-motivation, “empowerment of the people” would be a given, a non-issue, a “done.” …

    …Because real empowerment comes from within. “We” can’t empower “Them.” But “We” can sure as hell stop tryin’ to DISempower “them” all the damn time! 🙂 There’s been a few hundred years of that. And in the long run that dawg don’ hunt. Call it “spiritual blowback” or just ol’ fashion “bad karma”…

    That said, sometimes, after so long a time on the down-and-outs, a someone or other might need a little “reminder-motorvation,” a good natured poke in the ribs. If done with a broad smile and a good heart, only the most nearly lost will fail to respond positively.

    And an approach to the problem full with admiration and respect kinda tends to eliminate the “We” and “Them” distinction. I don’t make that distinction with any rigidity in my daily life, so, when I was there I only noticed it when it was comin’ back at me, and there wasn’t much of it. And it’s not the sort of thing that’s difficult to overcome… with a little persistent respect and admiration. (I’m startin’ to sound like a broken record…)

    Also, I find that the photographs you include in your posts are almost always unusually fetching.

    I Thank You, Regine! for helping me to keep slightly in touch with a place that I hope to see again before too long. I’ve thought about nothing half as much as I have Haiti since last January. (Yours ain’t the only blog I visit regularly, hey! 🙂

    Steve Rusch

  3. August 1, 2010 6:21 pm

    Thank you for this post. I wish more people realized this.

  4. sunshine permalink
    August 1, 2010 6:53 pm

    I believe in my heart that the only way to success has to come from the people. I stand behind you and them in this process.

  5. August 2, 2010 2:49 pm

    There is no progress without education. The people has to know what to fight for and how to fight for it. Most of what goes on is propagandized and the people buy it. In the end a different group orchestrates a power grab and the cycle continue. It’s always been like that. Yes I agree that It has to come from the people, but the people need to make informed choices.

    • August 3, 2010 4:15 am

      absolutely and informed choices start with information and education. in my opinion, the role of government is to serve the people, which is not what exactly is happening here. we all owe it to the people to work with them and share information and assist in their participation. its not a perfect world and the least we can do is start…if not now than when?

      • August 3, 2010 2:39 pm

        Touche….Change is pragmatic and interactive, yes. However, ideological changes are difficult. To change how people think and view the world is a daunting task…Now is the time to start but it’s an intergenerational project, which will take years. I recommend fitting the people for now because no will give a hoot about info if and when starving. “Sak vid pa Kanpe & Chien grangou pa jwe.”

  6. August 3, 2010 2:39 pm

    Look me up @ the Foreign Policy Association.

  7. August 6, 2010 11:40 am

    I read this because of the title. There’re some diaspora, like you, who’ll return to do community work, there’re others who will return to open businesses. Haiti needs both. I’d go as far as saying it needs diaspora to open businesses, more. Much of the community work that’s needed now is required only because heads of households can’t find employment.

    When I’m in the camps, I’m floored by the number of people looking to an NGO (which we on this page knows survives by begging for donations and does not make nor sell anything) for employment. But this lack of information about what aid is, how the foreign aid system works and its limitations, applies to the diaspora, too. For example, if you give me $10 and allot that $10 to your friend to spend the money on my behalf, is that really “aid?”

    Haiti needs businesses. Some of those business owners will do community work. Others will not. But one thing is sure… nearly all of the diaspora will plug some of their earnings back into the Haitian economy. Int’l NGO employees send their money home.

    • August 7, 2010 5:05 pm

      Thanks for the comment Carla. Yes, we need businesses and jobs- the reality is we are living in a capitalist society, so I understand your viewpoint.
      Haiti can be a rabbithole and its easy to get sucked in to the privilege of having means. Hopefully the balance of community development and capitalism is achieved and we don’t have a repeat of the past where privatization rules over all.

  8. August 7, 2010 5:29 pm

    Re: privatization, word. When I speak of businesses, I’m thinking the mom-and-pop kind that the diaspora’s more likely to invest in, not sweatshops outsources by int’l conglomerates.

    • August 7, 2010 6:06 pm

      I’m not sure that Mom& Pop business model is still an effective mean to create job. That was pre-industrial revolution. We are in a post-modern world with a global economy and any preindustrial business model cannot provide job on the massive scale that Haiti needs. It would be better if they could form partnerships, which would target specific industries with specific plans to bring the country into the 21st century. It’s essentially the same idea but on a much bigger scale and would require formal business models proven to work in other successful economies. I think that could work to the benefit of the people. This web of individual investors is in application in the diaspora right now and the result is a bunch of less than stellar, non-professional one to two star business. Think of what we could do together, but as we know that in itself is an insurmountable barrier.

  9. August 9, 2010 11:39 pm

    Mom and pop=small businesses. Is that still not workable? I’m not sure what you mean by partnerships, could you give a very specific example?

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