Chris Brown 4

Chris Brown and Haiti’s Silver Lining

Chris Brown 4I used to be an optimist. When things were bleak, I used to look for the proverbial silver lining. Not today.

When I see what is happening to Haitian people in the Dominican Republic today, I don’t feel particularly hopeful.  That another part of the world would rather self-destruct than heal is not surprising. Xenophobia is universal.

I wonder what would happen if the United States ruled to purge itself of every person of Dominican origin born after 1929. How would the rest of the world react?

Thousands of Dominicans with Haitian blood have lost their right to exist in the DR. They are forbidden to attend schools. They are denied birth certificates. They are stateless. No word yet on what will happen to the buried bodies of Haitian-Dominicans who died between 1929 and now. Perhaps they will be exhumed and deported.

Chris Brown 2The Haitian government’s plate is more crowded than usual. Yes, it is. It hasn’t been easy, but progress is evident. There are more paved roads on which the barefoot and thirsty majority may sleepwalk. It’s refreshing to see coats of colorful paint on the sprawling shanties. The Caribbean sun dances a new dance on those spellbinding chrome and glass edifices. Flying air-conditioned automobiles carrying VIPs strike fewer pedestrians than before. Farmers marvel at the ultra-modern grocery stores from which they cannot afford to buy vegetable they once grew. There has been so much progress since the earthquake, I should be ashamed of myself for not being more optimistic. When situations like ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic arise, I should seek the silver lining.

After all, we get new silver linings in Haiti all the time. Why, just the other day we had a mile-long silver lining sewn to drapery for a brand new, albeit tChris Brown Flag 3emporary theater. The awestruck audience cackled like children at the circus. Imported entertainers contributed to the advancement of the Haitian people by spewing profanity and grabbing their glow-in-the-dark, frowning-clown-face-covered crotches.  The ring leader led the audience in a chant that mocks a mother’s private parts. Haiti’s private parts.

While Haitian-Dominicans sleep in fear of violence, foreign-born entertainers arrive in Haiti to use the Haitian flag like a rag to wipe sweat off their backs.  I can’t say I blame them. They are invited guests. VIPs. Maybe I’m just jealous. I’d always wanted to meet the president of my country. I’d always wanted to sing for my country. Perhaps one day I’ll get to hold the flag and sing a new song for Ayiti. Who knows? I used to be optimistic. Not today.

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micheal jackson 2

Blood on the Dance Floor ~ RIP Michael Jackson

100_5197I was at Staples, getting 300 pages of a book copied for a full read. The cashier asked, “Can you believe Michael Jackson is dead?”

“Which Michael Jackson?” I answered.

“The Michael Jackson,” she said. “MICHAEL JACKSON from The Jackson Five. You know, ‘ABC. Easy as 1, 2, 3. . .  Billie Jean. Thriller. That Michael Jackson.”

Smooth Criminal Michael Jackson? Janet Jackson‘s brother?”

“Yep.”

Imicheal jackson 2 was sure it was just another tasteless joke about a despised man.

“He is dead-dead,” she enphasized.

I owned a few of his CDs. I liked “You Are Not Alone” and some others songs. I had heard the rumors about his personal life. I didn’t know the man, so I had no opinion. The man was a genius musician period. “Michael Jackson is dead!” the cashier repeated, while other customers filed in, saying the same, shaking their heads.

Everyone seemed to be in shock–as if they had lost a member of their own family. The air grew somber. Time moved slower than normal.

Later when I reached home, I checked the Internet to see if it was true. It was. Michael Jackson was gone.  An era had ended. That much everyone knew for sure.

This post is dedicated to Rachelle Coriolan, a die-hard Michael Jackson fan.

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Haiti’s Long Lost Children

poverty michelle fievreI look forward to a day when all of us can write different stories about Haiti. I may not see that day in my lifetime, I know. Perhaps my daughter will see a thriving Haiti–a Haiti that is respected; a Haiti that serves and benefits her people–not just those who use poverty as a tool to accomplish their covert agenda. Perhaps one day the enduring class line will loosen its knot a little. It is burdensome to know that 200,000 stateless Dominicans of Haitian origin will be tossed across the frontier. Many of them do not even speak the language. Many of them have never been to Haiti. I worry about how the country will receive the newcomers. Maybe Haiti will open her arms and create resources to aid her long-lost children.  We’ll see.

 

Tragedians, by Katia D. Ulysse

Poverty is like an engagement ring: expensive but obligatory. Necessary. The world would be bleak without it. Poverty gives birth to thriving institutions that are immune to failure. Poverty is a lottery with the largest payout in history. Poverty is exotic.

Poverty, like clean water, is indispensable. The engineers of this flourishing institution will kill to maintain its integrity. Tragedy brings shame and hopelessness to those under its crushing hooves. To others, it brings pleasure and conceit. Tragedy is an insatiable lover that rouses lust like dust in a storm, choking the air, clogging nostrils, and blinding eyes. Tragedy is irresistible.

Poverty dances on some tongues like bubbles in fine champagne. Poverty builds empires. Poverty drips like precious oils from silver spoons. Poverty is a magic wand. Sex, power, and fame are the crop poverty yields in abundance; however, when those ingredients come together, they form a potent and highly addictive drug. One hit and you’re hooked. You become a poverty-junky.

Poverty junkies need like-minded people. Junkies congregate in hemispheres of infinite supply. Good actors they are! Everyday they feign battles against hunger, homelessness, violence, disease. They ad lib and improvise with the internally displaced. They show death at its rawest. Children with distended bellies and flies around the mouth make excellent props. Tragedians win golden awards for their recurring roles in the never ending play.

Tragedians itch and salivate when they smell the kind of rain that causes houses to slide like molasses from above. The audience loves them.

“One hit and you’re hooked. You become a poverty-junky.”

Tragedians come from faraway places to act in this play. They fly in planes that look like gigantic vultures from afar. The minute tragedians complete the “Reason for Visiting Form,” something inside crawls out of a ditch, does handstands, back flips, figure eights, and all kinds of fancy tricks. No matter how grim and abysmal their prospects back home, by the time the plane lands on the blistering tarmac, they believe themselves so exceptional that they start to levitate.

One minute on the stage, and they are infused with the sort of boldness that makes one man swear he can carry a thousand on his head. They strut like peacocks. Starving audience members applaud them. After all, they sacrificed plenty to come perform here. Here.

Tragedians and their traveling theatre companies wear the same masks and costumes. They memorize the same scripts. The lead actors could be sets of twins; their understudies have the same twinkle in their eyes when it’s their turn in the spotlight. All of them are junkies in need of a fix. They scour the countryside, looking for dope. No other stage in the hemisphere satisfies their craving faster.

Everyday more actors arrive to star in the never-ending drama. They bring suitcases full of mosquito spray, tanning lotion, bathing-suits, secrets, joblessness, broken homes, broken loves, brokenness. They bring their broken selves; their ignored, back-home selves. The audience cheers and cries for encores. How splendid they look in their roles of savior, rescuer, knight in shining neon t-shirts!

“They bring their broken selves; their ignored, back-home selves. The audience cheers and cries for encores.”

Feed the hungry. Cure the people of their memories. Cure them of their drum rhythms. Fix them, for they are broken. Cure them of their beliefs. Rid them of that darkness in their hearts. Rescue them from their arid land and build hotels. Show them what is possible. Don’t bother explaining why they won’t be welcome in those hotels built on their own ancestral lands; they’ll see those buildings and understand that they don’t belong. The entire country is like a open air market; open for business twenty-four hours a day. It’s an all you can eat buffet.

Children treat Tragedians like canonized rock stars. Beggars beseech them as if they were patron saints. Please, please, throw your change down on us. Let your coins fall on our heads like hail in a storm.

Tragedians study their lines. They rehearse daily, even in their sleep. When a scene requires the sort of verbal acrobatics only a native can do, they hire one or two. Otherwise they don’t share the spotlight, lest they’re upstaged by some stagehand who wants to rewrite the script.

Tragedians fear stagehands. Although they don’t show it, they fear the audience even more. Poverty junkies live in constant fear of the supply running out. So, morning, noon, and night, they keep the audience spellbound. Enthralled. Enchanted. Entranced.

Tragedians improvise and ad lib without deviating from the proven plot. The show must never stop. The curtain must never fall on this greatest show on the cracked earth.

***

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Katia D. Ulysse was born in Haiti, and moved to the United States as a teen. Her writings have been published in numerous literary journals, including the Caribbean Writer, Meridians,Calabash,Peregrine, and Smartish Pace, among others. Her work has also appeared inThe Butterfly’s Way and Haiti Noir. Her first children’s book, Fabiola Can Count, was published in 2013. Ulysse lives in Maryland with her husband and daughter. When she’s not reading, writing fiction, gardening, or teaching, she blogs on VoicesfromHaiti.com. Drifting is her first book of fiction.

Doll Party in a State of Emergency

Baptême de Poupée ~ katia d. ulysse

100_5175Forget the curtain of fire, the curfew, the quiet streets, and those greedy graves.

Forget the glint of pear-shaped bullets, the watchmen cuddling polished riffles.

Forget.

Forget the nameless heroes silenced for sowing seeds of peace. Forget the bloodstained rope binding their wrists. Forget the defiance streaming from their swollen eyes.

Forget everything until we’ve christened the new doll.

The women will cook white rice, fry good meat, and bake a yellow cake. The men will bring drinks, ice cubes, and light bulbs: Red, blue, maybe green.

When the children’s tongues turn cola-champagne orange; when the riffles begin their pop-pop-pop lullaby, lulling the babies to sleep, the single bulb will cast a gentle glow.

The grownups will lock their bodies together, and sway to sweet slow songs sung by singers who once died here but lived elsewhere.

And everyone will be

Happy.

Baptême de Poupée was originally published in 2003, in NYU’s literary journal, Calabash, in a slightly different form. NYU.  http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol2no2/0202138.pdf

 

We are Beautiful and We Are Here