Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Housing Rights... or Forced Evictions?

So last week wasn't all birthday parties. On Monday the 23rd, the mayor of Delmas (a municipality amalgamated with Port-au-Prince) sent his security forces, BRICOR - trained by a sketchy American security company - and national police officers to destroy a displaced people's camp in Carrefour de l'Aeroport, or Kafou Ayopo, where people have been living in tents and makeshift shelters since the earthquake. More than 100 families were threatened, some residents beaten or arrested, and evicted from the public plaza. 

Ben got there about 2 hours after they smashed the tents but the BRICOR were still there pulling stuff into the street so that a bulldozer could scrape it into a dump truck. He was told by an officer that they don't want any abri proviswa (temporary shelters) in the Delmas area because they needed to clean up the streets for tourists. While Ben was there, about 100 people were trying to salvage their belongings.
One woman that he spoke to, 52-yr old Yvonne Andre told him, "I've been here since the earthquake. We don't have anywhere to go - if we had homes, we wouldn't be here." It infuriates me that a popular narrative regarding Haiti's IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples) camps is that people want to live in them. Want to live under a tarp, in rainy season, in unsanitary conditions, with no privacy, and almost a year after food aid has ceased being distributed. A newspaper ad just months after the earthquake featured a picture of a tent camp with "No to squatters and anarchists!" stamped across the photo. Can you imagine?

Evictions continued throughout the week, increasing in intensity, and some Haitian human rights activist friends trying to hold a press conference in a camp were victims of attempted assault by police and BRICOR armed with machetes and shovels. They were protected by the camp residents.

Pressure from concerted national and international efforts have resulted in a halt in evictions, for now. Nigel Fisher, Haiti's UN humanitarian coordinator, sent a letter to the Haitian president, Haitian grassroots groups and activists mobilized, several Congressmen and women issued a statement and many concerned individuals reacted (thank you if you responded to alerts on facebook asking you to call your representative or to call or write the Haitian embassy).

You can read more about what happened on CommonDreams.org, and on Bea's blog, or see more photos taken by Bri Kouri Nouvel Gaye.

In stark contrast, we had the privilege the week before of attending a 3-day forum on housing rights, organized by FRAAKA (Fòs Refleksyon ak Aksyon sou Koze Kay). Since she has already written about the forum so eloquently, I'll quote Other Worlds' Beverly Bell:

"Two days before the Delmas camp demolitions began, several hundred displaced people rallied against evictions in Camp Karade. The event was part of the International Forum on the Housing Crisis, held May 19 -21 and attended by hundreds. More than 40 grassroots and Haitian non-governmental organizations from throughout the capital region and five other towns, as well as 35 displacement camp committees, were represented. In the first broad-based gathering led by impacted people since last year’s disaster, Haitians strategized with each other and with housing activists from elsewhere in the Americas about how to win their guaranteed right to housing.

Sanon Reyneld from FRAKKA, the main organizing group of the forum, said in the opening address, “The right to housing is a debt that the government has toward the poor for the responsibility it never took on housing that caused so many people to die.” The toll from the earthquake, an estimated 225,000 to 300,000, was in large part this high because so many inferior quality houses collapsed.

The final declaration of the forum read in part, "We ask: [1] for the authorities to stop the violence that is accompanying evictions…; [2] for the authorities to arrest and bring to justice all those engaged in violence against those living in camps; [and 3] for them to take all measures to help people find permanent housing so they can relocate out of camps." "

The last day of the forum, a rally in Caradeux.
According to Bell, "Displaced persons are protected by both Haitian and international law. Article 22 of the 1987 Haitian constitution guarantees “decent housing” for everyone. Article 25 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees every individual a “standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including… housing.” Many sections of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs declare protection from displacement, notably for victims of disasters. In a ruling last November, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights directed the Haitian government to stop evicting IDPs unless it provided them safe alternative shelter." Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration reported in April that nearly 170,000 displaced people living in camps are facing the threat of imminent eviction.

FRAKKA and other grassroots organizations trying to deal with the housing crisis have advocacy activities planned for the coming weeks to raise general awareness and put pressure on the government and NGOs to take these issues (and the basic rights of displaced people) more seriously.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's My Party (and about moving on...)

Nevermind that my real birthday is in August, on Friday I got to have a party! We do a great job at MCC of celebrating birthdays, but in 2009 Ben and I were in North Carolina for my birthday and in 2010 I was traveling with our regional policy analyst. So, when I was asked what I would like to do for my going away party, I decided that instead of going away speeches that would unavoidably make me cry, I wanted a birthday party. Here's how it works: if it's your birthday, you get to choose what you want to have for lunch AND what kind of cake you want. Since I chose tchaka for lunch (pumpkin soup with corn, beans and carrot), and that is apparently not fancy enough for a birthday meal, we also had cookies in the morning.

When I walked into the office first thing, I was greeted by choruses of "Happy Birthday!" and was basically treated like a princess all day. It was a perfect, hilarious send-off (especially since Ben and I will be back in Haiti in a month and I'm sure I'll still be hanging around MCC a fair bit). The only sad thing is how many people couldn't be there: Kettly and Kurt are both sick; Margot, James, Simon Michel and Herve were all out; Ben had an assignment and Anne is in the States for a wedding. And of course, the whole Desarmes team is out in the Artibonite Valley (where Josh and Marylynn JUST had an itty bitty baby girl named Vienna!).
posing with Loulou
 cookies and fresh passion fruit juice in the morning
Eklan, manman vant nou (the mother of our stomachs)
Jim serves up the tchaka
my favorite Haitian meal: meatless tchaka and fresh cherry juice
my all-time favorite: cheesecake
cheesing it up over cheesecake with Meagan
the office I'll be leaving behind
my corner (how I wish I had taken a picture before I took down my bird mobile, pictures and the rest of the mess that has made this space "mine")

Tuesday is officially my last day. I realize that I haven't explained yet in this public space why I'm leaving MCC and what we'll be doing next. It was not an easy decision for me to move on. I think highly of MCC and have loved (almost) every minute of my job. I'm not sure I will ever work for another organization that blends and matches my own social values, faith, and perspectives on "development" so well. Based on my experience, MCC's commitment to working towards real peace and defending justice and dignity for all of god's creation (even when that means speaking out against the status quo, ie. very powerful governments, corporations and institutions) is somewhat of an anomaly for relief and development organizations, even among many that claim to work in advocacy. It's been an honor to spend 3 years with MCC and I am truly going to miss my MCC family. But, with Ben wanting to keep working freelance, it is time for us to have a little more financial stability and for me to have health insurance. (Not to give you the wrong idea, MCC does provide full health coverage for all of its service workers. Our situation is a little different because when Ben left MCC last year, I had to switch to being national staff and lost those benefits.)

And, well, the stars aligned themselves just perfectly for us (as they so often seem to do, wink, wink) and I was offered a salaried, part-time position with Other Worlds. Other Worlds is a cool group of creative and energetic women social activists whose perspective on and work in Haiti I have long admired. Beginning in July, I will be co-coordinating their Another Haiti is Possible program and happily continuing to work with many of the same folks here that I have been working with for the past 3 years. Other Worlds is based in New Orleans, and they graciously agreed to let us keep living here for now so that Ben can continue with his work AND offered me full health benefits.

In the meantime, we'll be in North Carolina and Virginia for the month of June where we have a backpacking trip, photography festival, camping, and visiting with friends and family on the agenda. We're also looking for a way to get our hands and knees as dirty as possible on someone's farm or vegetable garden (consider that an offer for free labor, Mom Depp, Karen Kovach & Alyssa Rudolph!).

-Alexis from Ben's account

Friday, May 20, 2011

Working for human rights in Haiti: A struggle with wide scope and deep roots

Published in the Peace Office Newsletter, April-June, 2011, Vol 41, No 2 (Note: Obviously since the presidential inauguration took place on Saturday, the context in Haiti has changed a bit since I wrote this piece. Still, I think the fact that voter turnout was so low - 16.7% - and that the OAS basically reversed the results of the election's first round without conducting a ballot recount - which is what allowed Martelly into the second round - makes the discussion of the right to vote every bit as relevant).

“Until the first time I went to do an interview in a prison, I didn’t think it was possible to break the Haitian spirit,” recalls Meagan Peasgood, an MCC worker seconded to RNDDH, Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains, or the National Human Rights Defense Network. “It’s that spirit that attracted me to living here—the pride and strong sense of history that prevail over Haiti’s difficult reality.”

Meagan found herself waiting in a hot, foul-smelling room. The back door opened and a prisoner shuffled in, head and shoulders down, back bent. He didn’t make eye contact and never once raised his head. He barely answered her questions. He was nineteen years old, and had been in prison for more than five years after being accused of stealing a telephone. Two years after his arrest he was taken to court, but the judge never saw him. He was transferred to this particular prison after the earthquake in January, 2010, and did not know if his family was still alive.

“I had to tell him that I wasn’t there to get him out of prison. I didn’t know how to show him that I think he is a human being, so I offered to call his family for him.” Meagan left the prison having absorbed the despair and brokenness of the place. When she returned to tell the prisoner that his family now knew he was alive, she experienced a redemptive moment—he finally looked her in the eyes and thanked her for treating him like a person.

This experience was key to Meagan’s understanding the importance of RNDDH’s work: the tedious but important work of interviewing prisoners, the advocacy work carried out by legal staff in connecting with prosecutors, and following up to make sure that case files exist for each prisoner. Meagan draws hope and energy from the human to human interactions that she believes sets RNDDH’s work apart from other human rights organizations in Haiti. “How we understand dignity and respect has much to do with how we understand who we all are as created in the image of God. We are all deserving of basic human rights. That’s an applicable concept even when you’re sitting across from a prisoner that might be charged with raping a minor.”

While Haitians have been fighting for their rights since Haiti’s inception as a nation of freed slaves at the beginning of the nineteenth century, their ability to exercise political and civil rights has been limited. Indeed, human rights organizations could not function openly for the twenty-nine years that Haiti was ruled by the brutal dictatorships of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier between 1957 and 1986.

Nonetheless, even under the Duvalier regimes, clandestine groups of rights advocates fought to regain public freedom. One such advocate was Antonal Mortime. “On February 6, 1986, Haitians once again proclaimed our liberty in the document that is our constitution and that we call the Maman Lwa, or Mother Law, of our country. That’s what tells us that we have our sovereignty.” Mortime is now the director of another MCC partner organization, Plate-forme des Organisations Haitiennes des Droits Humains (POHDH), or the Platform of Haitian Organizations for the Defense of Human Rights, a collective of eight of Haiti’s leading human rights organizations (including RNDDH). MCC Haiti began partnering with Haitian human rights organizations in the early 1990s.

Mortime stresses that from 1987 up to the past decade, “everyone concentrated on the promotion of our civil and political rights because we had lost them; that’s why these rights are historically considered more important in Haiti.” And yet he notes that Jean Jacques Dessalines, the hero of the Haitian revolution, asked the question, “‘How will these new Haitians live?’ and started promoting economic rights through equalized land distribution.” As Mortime puts it, “That’s the same question we need to be asking today.”

Thus Haitian human rights organizations have increasingly shifted their focus to rights categorized as economic, social and cultural (ESC). According to Mortime, “Since 2000, Haitian human rights activists have realized that if we don’t promote our ESC rights, our civil and political rights are also menaced. This is why, today, it’s necessary for us to work towards all—the rights of people to food, to housing, to education, to healthcare, to live in a safe environment—all of this is the package that makes up our sovereignty, that makes up a country where every person is a full citizen.”

Kurt Hildebrand, MCC Haiti’s country representative underlines this point. “In recent years, the problems Haitian organizations identify stem more often from an unresponsive government than a repressive one.” This is increasingly the case after the earthquake on January 12, 2010, that killed over 200,000 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes and buildings. As a report by POHDH put it: “It’s normal for the earth to shake, but not normal for it have the results it did here; and the way that the State has responded has been even more catastrophic than the catastrophe itself.”

It is not only the Haitian government, but the international community—foreign governments, non-governmental organizations, and multi-lateral institutions—that has inhibited the human rights of Haitians in the wake of the earthquake, according to both POHDH and RNDDH. The fundamental issue they highlight is a lack of sovereignty or self-determination—the need to allow Haitians to decide what is best for their country and themselves. Pierre Esperance, the executive director of RNDDH, believes that one of the largest challenges to human rights work in Haiti is that “the international community doesn’t work through Haitians or Haitian civil society to try to reinforce key state institutions. They don’t consult Haitians [in order] to correct any of the structural problems in Haiti.” With MCC’s support, both organizations are currently monitoring international assistance to ensure that it is carried out through a human rights framework that truly takes into account the needs of the people.

The most recent challenge has been Haiti’s presidential and legislative elections, marred by irregularities, incomplete registries, charges of fraud, and widespread protests. According to Esperance, this was the most undemocratic election in Haiti since 1990. After having reviewed RNDDH’s election monitoring reports (including those of MCC staff) from each of Haiti’s ten departments or regions, Esperance says that the polling deprived people of one of the most basic civil rights of a democracy, the right to vote. “These elections have been a step backwards for Haiti.” As three-quarters of the cost for the elections was provided by the international community, he believes that it is a failure not only of the Haitian government but of the UN and the Organization of American States, who are both present in Haiti with a mandate to support the electoral process.

“We’re ready for democracy. It’s the institutions here to accompany us that aren’t able to help us get there,” says Mortime. “We’re so ready that people in the countryside walked for miles and miles to vote. In the city, they came out in spite of violence.”

For this very reason, human rights education is an important component of both organizations’ work. Systemic change in Haiti, the kind of change which would afford all Haitians access not only to the right to choose their leaders, but also to secure housing, adequate food and clean drinking water, requires change from the bottom up. It requires that Haitians are aware of their rights and of how to fight for them. In addition to measureable improvements that can be linked to the work of RNDDH such as a marked decrease in prolonged pre-trial detention and rights violations in prisons, Esperance says that Haitians have a better understanding of their rights. “Many citizens now know their rights and responsibilities. And they are also aware of the international conventions in place to protect those rights.”

Both RNDDH and POHDH are active reminders that, as Mortime reiterates, “There are many Haitians that want to fight for change. They believe in change. They may just need help in making their voices heard.” And so, through funding, material aid, and staff secondments, MCC assists in giving voice to our partners. “We’re honored to stand alongside these brave organizations that are defending the rights of all Haitians, especially the most vulnerable and disenfranchised among them,” says Hildebrand. But MCC supports human rights work in Haiti in many other ways as well. Esperance reminds us that “It’s not just in partnering with Haitian human rights organizations” that MCC supports human rights. “MCC’s work in agriculture—that’s human rights work. Everything that MCC does in Haiti, directly and indirectly, helps to uphold human rights.”

Alexis Erkert Depp is MCC Haiti's Advocacy Coordinator.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fèt Drapo

It's Flag Day, y'all! Last year I celebrated with Bryan and Sharon by paying some beautiful pink birds a visit. On the way out to Trou Caiman we chanced across several parades (including a boyscout march. Scouts in Creole are "scoots," which is just so endearing).

Unfortunately, there's no day off or parades for me this year. While I intend to write a blogpost soon about our upcoming plans, in the meantime I'll just tell you that May 31st is my last day at MCC. Suffice it to say, I have a lot to do between now and then. Today, for example: I spent the first part of the morning giving a really fun workshop on Canadian intervention in Haiti and advocacy for a visiting MCC group. The second part of the morning was my last conference call with MCC's advocacy offices (I think I just shed a little tear - what an amazing group they've been to work with!) and at 3:00 I have another conference call with some other people to talk about something else. Meanwhile, I am trying to deal with the invasion of mosquitoes into our home. We always have skeeters, but lately they've been unbearable. The strategy:
  1. Spray myself all over with Herbal Armor (it's one of the most effective DEET-free repellents we've found).
  2. Drink a prestige to compensate for blood loss. It's a holiday, after all.
  3. Find and empty all sources of standing water in our lakou. This will include cutting open some of the tires stacked outside for the planned expansion of our tire garden. Turns out, tires make great places for pesky mosquito larvae to grow...
  4. Burn eucalyptus leaves, incense etc (Mosquitoes hate the smoke and smell. We like the smell).
  5. Mix up a mosquito deterrent of thyme, lemongrass, lavender and eucalyptus oils and put it all over the house. (I use this book all the time and would highly recommend it if you're into natural remedies.)
  6. Take my 3:00 call in bed, under the mosquito net.
We've been asked a lot about malaria. We don't take anti-malaria prophylaxis because we would rather take a course of chloroquine when we get sick than be on an antibiotics full-time, which kills all the friendly bacteria in our bodies. Malaria mosquitoes (fancy name, Anopheles) are really only out at night, so we just sleep under a net. However, the mosquitoes that give us dengue (which we've both had here and it totally sucks) are daytime fliers... thus the concerted effort to repel them.

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    The Road (now) More Traveled

    The Inter-American Development Bank is funding this road project in the south of Haiti, aiming to cut travel time and transportation costs, and to improve living conditions in the southern provinces. This 50-mile stretch of road connects Les Cayes and Jeremie and several villages in between. A Brazilian company, OAS, is doing the construction. The road is far from complete, but is already transforming commerce and daily life in the area. Travel time has been cut in half; fewer trucks are breaking down, so less food is spoiled; and farmers are planting more crops in anticipation of more dependable farm-to-market transportation.

    All of this is great, but in reality the project's impact is a little more complex. I was hoping to find a solid development project to photograph that had a clear cut, positive impact (and perhaps cure some of my own disillusionment about development work). Instead, I came across locals displaced by the road who have yet to be reimbursed for their houses and land by the government. OAS is responsible for reimbursing those whose land and houses are unintentionally damaged by the construction and they have; but the government hasn't come through on their part of the deal. The road also improves transportation into the most forested part of the country, and the forests will probably diminish with increased access to the charcoal market in Port-Au-Prince. One of the heavy equipment operators told me he thought that the way the road was being built was terrible and it would wash away quickly.

    Time will tell what this road does for the region. Most of the folks I talked to were really excited about the improved road, but I'm not sure I've found my perfect project yet.

    -posted by Ben

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Prayer To Live Mercifully

    O God, teach me
    Not to envy, to hate, to justify, to imitate, to support, to ennoble, or to kill for,
    Those who take the food from the table of others and then teach contentment,
    Those for whom the taxes are destined, who demand sacrifice,
    Those who eat their fill, who speak to the hungry of good times to come,
    Those who lead humanity into the abyss, calling
    Hate, love,
    Unfaithfulness, faithfulness,
    Lies, truth,
    Slavery, freedom,
    Too much, not enough,
    Homicide, heroism,
    Evil, good.

    And, O God, teach me
    when I have food, to remember the hungry;
    when I have work, to remember the jobless;
    when I have a home, to remember the homeless;
    when I am free, to remember the imprisoned;
    when I am without pain, to remember the suffering;
    when I am loved, to remember the unloved;
    when I am living, to remember the dying;
    when I am dead, to remember the living.
    And remembering, help me to destroy my complacency;
    bestir my compassion, and thereby
    spend my time and my eternity doing good upon earth,
    helping by word and deed, by prayer and sacrifice of self
    those who cry out for what I take for granted.

    Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, is a priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and a co-founder of Pax Christi USA. To receive prayers for peace from the Mennonite Peace and Justice Network: http://peace.mennolink.org/prayersforpeace.html

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Awash in Pink

    Port-au-Prince has been getting a new coat of pink paint in anticipation of the inauguration of Michel Martelly, Haiti's new, right-wing president, tomorrow.  

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    sometimes it's the little things

    ...like the first little tomatoes that appear,
    a homemade dreamcatcher,
    the golden color of fermenting honey mead,
    the banner for a campaign I'm helping with,

    or mango season.

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Istwa m melanje ak rèv mwen yo/My history, mixed with my dreams

    Reposted with permission from http://storiesfromhaiti.wordpress.com/ Check out the site for more writings from the Konbit des Jeunes Penseurs (Gathering of Young Thinkers) or follow them on Facebook for updates. Scroll down for English translation.

    Mwen se Ayiti. Depi lontan mwen ekziste, mwen te toujou gen gwo solèy ki t’ap klere m men sa pat enpeche m rete fre.

    Mwen te gen pye k’ap pile m, ki vle di mwen te abite pa yon bèl ras yon nasyon po wouj.

    Christophe Colomb ak solda li yo te vin dekouvri m kòm yon dezyèm paradi.

    Depi lè sa yo wè ke lanati mwen bèl yo wè bèl pye bwa, bèl plaj, yo tonbe de pale yo banm pot non hispanyola; ki vle di petit espay.

    Epoutan se blofe yo t’ap blofe m, yo te vle gaspiye m epi piye m.

    Aprè kèlke mwa yo retounen debake pa pil pa pakèt ak yon bann gwo bato pou yo ale ak sa manman yo ak papa yo te kite pou yo

    Yo te mete bèl pitit mwen yo nan esklavaj nan travay fòse. Yo fini pa mouri pase yo pat abitye, se kouche yo te konn kouche tout la senti jounen epi manje vyann boukannen.

    La frans tande gen yon ti île, yon ti peyi li batay ak espanyol jiskaske yo twouve yo antant.

    Yo siyen yon trete pou yo ka maltrete m.

    Lè pitit mwen yo fin mouri (endyen yo) yo debake ale achte nèg an Afrik yo rantre vini ak yo sou yon gwo bato ki rele Negriye.

    Nèg sa yo te vrèman imilye, maltrete, yo bay yo non esklav, ki se yon byen mèb, ki gen yon mèt. Esklav sa yo travay du lever au coucher du soleil, yo menm konn touye yo bay bèt manje.

    Tout byen m ak ekonomi mwen te repose sou do esklav sa yo nan travay nan jaden kann, nan sikreri, nan boulanjeri, kòm esklav a talan, esklav domestik.

    Se yon delivrans lè dwa de lòm te deklare tout moun fèt pou viv lib pa dwe gen kesyon esklav ak mèt.

    Sa pot enpeche yo kontinye.

    Sou abitasyon breda te gen yon ti nonm ki te rele Toussaint li lite jouk li kapab pou wè sil te ka delivre nèg sa yo men elas lit la te mal pase olye de dyalòg se te zam li te dwe pran.

    Mwen kwe dyalòg tap pi bon pou mwen paske ti rès richès ki rete yo tap ret pou pititi mwen.

    Dessalines repran lit la pou pi rèd ak yon sistèm koupe tèt, boule kay, aprè seremoni nan Bwa Kayiman anpil kay boule, anpil kout zam tire.

    18 novanm 1803 nan batay Ravin Akoulèv anpil blan franse tonbe, anpil richès gaspiye.

    An 1804, mwen gen yon peyi. Yon peyi ki plonje nan kriz ekonomik, kriz politik, kriz sosyal.

    Kriz politik ak sosyal la fè anpil san koule. An 1805 Dessalines te touye ti rès franse sou pretèks yo se espyon ansyen metwopòl la.

    E poutan yo pral touye nonm an 1806 poutèt tè li te vin ak yon sistèm gran pwopriyete tèrèn.

    E poutan ti peyizan ki te libere m yo t’ap reklame ti lo tè, ti tè pa mòso misye te kont koripsyon administrativ li te sezi tout tè san papye.

    Nou konnen nèg milat yo tap mande tè papa yo te kite pou yo, milat sa yo te mete ak ti peyizan yo.

    Yo te rive touye Dessalines 17 oktòb 1806. Aprè sa te vin gen batay de Sibè mwen te vin gen 2 prezidan yon nan lwès ak sid, lòt la nan nò. Lè nèg sa yo fin mouri, Boyer pran la relèv, li peye dèt mwen yo li reyini île la ki te divize an 2 pati kanpay de lès e kanpay lwès.

    Si nou wè mwen rakonte nou tray ak tribilasyon mwen, se paske mwen bezwen chanjman.

    Chanjman sou tout pwen ke se swa politik, ekonomik, sosyal. Fòk nou respekte konstitisyon mwen an.

    Ki vle di:
    1. Fòk eleksyon onèt e kredib, òganize chak fwa yon gouvènman fin pran manda li.
    2. Fòk nou sispann sistèm gwo pòch sa kraze kès leta = ogmante plis soufrans.
    3. Fòk nou kraze sistèm chomaj, chomaj sa ki lage pèp la nan zak malonèt tankou nan fè manifestasyon pou yo ka dechouke.
    4. Fòk gen inivèsite ak lise pou jèn yo mwen ka edike.
    5. Fòk gen yon rekonsilasyon nasyonal pou tout moun egal e fòk ekzile nou rantre lakay pou kontinye ede m sitou nan kesyon rekonstriksyon m.
    Si nou fè sa map vin pi bèl, mwen p’ap debuloze, m’ap ka konbat siklòn ak tranblemanditè.

    Gen de bagay ki pase devan je m ki pa fè byen, tankou lè yon ap touye lòt oubyen lè siklòn ap fin pote pitit mwen na lanmè sa fè m mal anpil.

    Mwen vle sot nan eta mwen ye ya men sa depan de nou.

    Nan tèt ansanm, nan viv tankou frè ak sè, nan konn soufrans youn ak lòt n’ap rive rann mwen bèl.

    Lè sa tout lòt nasyon ap vle frekante m ansi nou menm tou être ayitien veut dire avoir un drapeau.

    Yon drapo ki senbolize lape, dyalòg rekonsilasyon, libète, egalite, ak fratènite.

    I am Haiti. Long have I existed, and I have always been shone upon by the bright sun, but it never hindered me from staying cool.

    Long ago, my land was trodden by many feet, which is to say that I was inhabited by a beautiful red-skinned race.

    Christopher Columbus and his soldiers discovered me and found that, next to heaven, I was the closest thing to paradise.

    From that moment they saw my beautiful nature, my beautiful trees and beautiful beaches, they christened me Hispaniola, which means Little Spain.

    And yet it was nothing more than trickery and lies — they wanted only to lay waste to me and plunder me.

    After some months they returned, they came on and all, with everything their mothers and fathers had left them.

    They enslaved my beautiful children, put them to forced work. And they all began to die, my children, because they weren’t used to that kind of work — they were used to lying around all the blessed day eating roasted meat in their paradise.

    They signed a treaty so they could mistreat me.

    When at last all my children, the Indians, had died, the foreigners left to go buy Africans. They returned with them on great ships known as Négriers.

    These men and women were so humiliated, abused. They were calles slaves, which is like being an object, a piece of property with a master. These slaves worked from sunrise to sunset, and could even be slaughted and fed to the beasts.

    All of my wealth and economy rested on the backs of these slaves, working in the sugar cane fields, in the sugar factories, making bread, as “slaves of talent,” as domestic slaves.

    It was salvation when the Rights of Man were declared, saying that everyone should live free, that there would no longer be slaves and masters.

    This was the beginning of the end of slavery in Haiti.

    On Breda’s plantation there lived a man named Toussaint. He fought as hard as he was able to deliver his countrymen from slavery, but alas, the struggle was greater than his ability to create dialogue, and in the end he had to take up arms instead.

    I think that dialogue would have been better for me than armed struggled, because what remained of my riches would have been better preserved for my children.

    Dessalines, again, took up the struggle for a better system. He beheaded, burned houses. After the ceremony at Bois Caiman, many homes were burned; many shots were fired.

    On November 18, 1803, at the battle of Ravine-à-Couleuvres, many French fell, and many of my riches were destroyed.

    In 1804, I was born a country. A country plunged into economic crises, political crises, social crises.

    The political and social crises made a lot of blood flow. In 1805, Dessalines killed what remained of the French on the pretext that they were spies of the former métropole.

    However, he too would be killed, in 1806, because of his land reform policies.
    And nonetheless, the small peasants who had liberated me claimed my land as their own, and Dessalines was against administrative corruption and seized all the ownerless land to be controlled by the state.

    We knew the mulatres would demand the land their fathers had left for them, and those mulatres joined forces with the small peasants.

    They killed Dessalines on October 17, 1806. After that, there was the Battle of Sibert, and I had two presidents, one in the west and the south, and one in the north. When they at last died, Boyer took advantage of this respite to pay my debts off and reunite the island that had been divided in two.

    If you see that I am telling of my trials and tribulations, it’s because I yearn for change. Change in all realms, political, economic, and social. You must respect my constitution.

    Which is to say:
    1.  Elections must be honest and credible, organized every time a government has finished its mandate.
    2. We must stop this system of politicians filling their pockets from state coffers; it only leads to more suffering.
    3. We must break this system of unemployment. Unemployment leads people to commit dishonest acts, to protest in the streets, to engage in violent dechoukaj.
    4. We must have universities and high schools so my young people can be educated.
    5. We must have a national reconciliation so everyone can be equal, and the dyaspora should come home so they can help me, especially in this period of my reconstruction.
    If we do all this, I will become more beautiful, I will not fall apart, I will be able to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes.

    There are things that pass before me that hurt me — when people kill one another, or when hurricanes carry my children out to sea, this hurts me greatly.

    I want to escape from this state I am in now, but that depends on you.

    In putting your heads together, in living as brothers and sisters, in knowing one another’s suffering, you will make me more beautiful.

    And when that happens, other countries will flock to me, your desires will be realized, and being Haitian will mean having a flag.

    A flag which symbolizes peace, reconciliatory dialogue, liberty, equality, and brotherhood.

    – Wescando DUVERT

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011


    I just started selling prints which is exciting for me. A few will be up for sale in Mennou Gallery in Petionville in the next couple days. I'm also trying to market these pictures online...

    Monday, May 2, 2011


    : we haven't actually dropped off the face of the earth.

    We have, however, made blogging less of priority as we deal with life and work and some major decision-making... (as well as taking some family/community time and time on the beach in Port Salut). Some big changes are in the works, which we will share soon.
    surprise pak choy coming up in the oat grass

     surprised that a pineapple can be growing in a small pot

    Last Sunday the truck broke down as were coming back from the South. We found a mechanic in Miragoane whose shirt read, "SURPRISE" on the back in block letters. Underneath was an advertisment for a funeral home. Surprise, indeed.


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