In the aftermath of 2010’s devastating earthquake, I noticed that authentic Haitian voices were ignored by the media. It was madness, but there were good things happening too. Artists, especially, were creating as never before. I wanted to know what people were thinking and feeling. I wanted to offer positive energy, while aftershock after aftershock shattered parts of my birth country. So, on Haiti’s Flag Day (May 18, 2011), an awesome American lady, Brigitte W., helped me change Myownprivatehaiti.com (January/2010 – May/2011) to “VoicesfromHaiti: “Nou Bèl. Nou La!” For this I will always be grateful. Brigitte stopped holding my hand several years ago, like the fantastic teacher she is. I’ve been on my own. But not alone.
Five years later, “VoicesfromHaiti: “Nou Bèl. Nou La!”is still beautiful. We are still here. If I’ve never thrown a single party to celebrate anniversaries, it’s because there’s so much work to do. Parties can wait. I am thankful for the thousands of people who continue to stop by and read the INNERviews and other posts/labor of intense love. But, like the song says: Hold on. Change in comin’.
A few years later, a woman I barely knew asked me—flat out—to let her have“Voicesfromhaiti: Nou Bèl. Nou La!” The person said: “I really like what you do. There’s nothing else like it out there on the Web. If people know you’ve joined me, then I can get more talent—to help me start building my conglomerate.” She added: “We’ll license Voicesfromhaiti: Nou Bèl. Nou La! I’ll pay you for your posts. I’ll edit. It’ll be hard work, but I believe in you. ”
I thanked her for her kind words; they were very nice, indeed. But I wasn’t sure I wanted to stop doing a work I loved only to get hired by her to do a job–for which I could be fired suddenly, if I didn’t produce the work I once did for the love of compatriot and country.
By licensing it, she meant her conglomerate-to-be would take ownership of “Voicesfromhaiti: Nou Bèl. Nou La!” Every word I write would belong to her. And if ever I had the itch to use a few phrases elsewhere, I would need her written consent. If I went ahead and used my own words without her permission, she would take me to court for copyright infringement. End of story. Welcome to America! N a wè Pita.
I considered her offer for quite some time, then decided it was not what I wanted. I said No, thank you with humility. I write “Voicesfromhaiti: Nou Bèl. Nou La!” from the heart. I don’t get paid for it. I don’t ask anyone to contribute a penny. It is free. It is a gift. Call me EGARE/foolish; the heart you break may be your own.
After I turned down Conglomerate-Lady’s offer, she became very angry. She unfriended me on Facebook, and directed me to address her as EDITOR from that time on. Now and then I come across something she does, and girlfriend makes it a point to pretend I’ve joined the ancestors. Once she dug around the soft spots of my personal life in her sneaky genre, but I looked the other way.
During the past couple of years, I’ve been very busy doing my best to make a living by writing books and teaching (I have to eat). DRIFTING and other works were published; I am grateful–It’s not easy. I have a lot more work to get done. I have not had a lot of time to write posts; but, hey, there are 5 years-worth of content on “Voicesfromhaiti: Nou Bèl. Nou La!” That’s enough to keep interested people reading for a minute or two.
In addition, a couple of amazing e-zines have taken root–among them Kreyolicious, which does such a fantastic job I could not be more proud of the awesome lady behind it.
Stay with me.
This morning’s “Share Your Memory” on Facebook is from 4 years ago. It is a post I wrote on “Voicesfromhaiti: Nou Bèl. Nou La!” called KSOL: Kreyòl for Speakers of Other Languages.
I explained MALFWENDENG, a word whose meaning is now synonymous with PLAGIARISM. Everyone knows when you use text written by someone other than yourself, you cite its original source. If you do not, you are a thief. A malfwendeng. And don’t act like you didn’t know.
PLAGIARISM is a global phenomenon; it’s not for Haitians only. What I want to know is: why? How can you do this? How can you be comfortable within your skin while stealing other people’s PUBLISHED and therefore copyrighted ideas?
I suppose the next thing you’ll do is make T-shirts to sell/give away with the words “Nou Bèl. Nou La!” on them. Perhaps now, you will sue me for copyright infringement. Why not?
To the people who have a Voicesfromhaiti T-shirt with the writings “Nou Bèl. Nou La!” continue wearing them, knowing I came up with those words years and years ago, and made them public in 2010—to counter the old maxim: “We may be ugly, but we are here.”
Plagiarism is ugly. Shame on you! It is unethical to steal artists’ hard work, and pass it off as your own. I suppose you were hoping I would be my regular self and keep my mouth shut. You were banking on my silence. No, not today. I’m telling.
You know copyright infringement has been one of Haiti’s biggest problems for generations: Great musicians die hungry, because not-so-great musicians take their songs and sell them. People make movies, and malfwendengs make ten thousand copies, and sell them. Meanwhile, the directors and actors keep right on struggling. Writers write their hearts out, and people like you come along and snatch their concepts and words ver-freaking-batim. I heard about an author whose entire book was stolen by this guy in Haiti. He took the woman’s work, signed his name to it, and went on his merry way.
Let’s stop this trend. Let’s try the other way. You are talented. You are ambitious. You can do it on your own. Get one of those self-help books you tell people about. I actually believe you will accomplish your goal–by hook and by crook. I know you are willing to burn people along the way, which that is sad–especially since you have so many unbelievably powerful characteristics. You could be an awesome example for so many. Do you doubt yourself that much?
Now, I am ashamed of you–you all wrapped up in my Haitian flag, pretending. Hatin’. This move put your true colors on display. Now, I am not the only one who can see them. Everyone will know you’re a real doll. I could go on, but I’m too disgusted. So, in the words of Christina Aguilara: Your act of plagiarism “Makes me work a little bit harder / It makes me that much wiser / So thanks for making me a fighter . . . ”
“Voicesfromhaiti: Nou Bèl. Nou La!”