Tag Archives: Haitian American

Joyeuse fête des mères

The benefit of being a Haitian Mom living in the United States of America is we get to celebrate Mother’s Day twice a year.  Staunch nationalists expect their “Joyeuse fête des mèresbouquets on the last Sunday in May. Today is a sort of dress rehearsal for the real thing: remembering the generations of women who birthed us and birthed in us the memories and customs we must impart to our children with their shiny, hyphenated cultural identities. Happy Mother’s Day anyway!

Last week, a friend adopted two children who had been in foster care far too long. What a joyous Mother’s Day this must be in that house! Another friend traveled thousands of miles—over the course of many years—to adopt two orphaned children who had stolen her heart. Happy Mother’s Day, Ladies! You have changed the trajectory of your babies’ lives.
On the other side of happiness is the grief that comes from losing a child. I know women who have yet to stop crying. Friends and families do their best to pretend Mother’s Day is insignificant, but facts are hard to ignore. You are still Mom, even when your child is gone. Your babies love and remember you. They are with you today.

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms whose children are incarcerated. They made bad decisions or were in the wrong place at the wrong time, leaving you to wonder where you went wrong. You are still Mom. Keep on being the pillar you are.

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms who genuinely regret mistreating their children when they were young.  May your children forgive you; may you learn to forgive yourself!

Happy Mother’s Day to elderly Moms whose adult children now cast them aside. You’re in your seventies and eighties today. The children for whom you would have died a thousand times now believe they are too sophisticated to be associated with you. You did your best. That manual about how to be the perfect parent burned the day the sun came into existence. Keep on living, Dear. They’ll come around. And if they don’t, oh well. . .

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms who are no longer with us. May your children trust that you do look upon them constantly! You loved them then and always will.

I inherited my grandmother’s Bible, after she passed away in 2012. She used the Book as a sort of safe deposit box for treasured pictures, scraps of papers with telephone numbers scribbled on them, and the Mother’s Day card I gave her when ten thousand years ago. That card depicts a bouquet of bearded irises—like the ones in my garden that I have to divide constantly, lest they take over the yard and every inch of our house. I must have chosen the card because the flowers were like nothing I had ever seen. Finding that card in her Bible explained my obsession with irises. They are delicate and yet unrelenting as a grandmother’s love.

It’s been five years since my beloved Grandmère passed away. We are closer than ever. Happy Mother’s Day, Nennenn! She would be proud to know that irises which I cultivate now adorn one public park, the median between a pretty lake and its admirers, as well as several private gardens.

Earlier this week, I forbade my daughter, Pititfi, to join her friends in the park until she cleaned her room. She was miffed. To express her displeasure, she handed me a Mother’s Day card she had made, saying: “I was saving this card to give to you on Haitian’s Mother’s day. But since you won’t let me play with my friends, I want you to have the card NOW!”

I cried tears of joy.  Don’t you dare tell her that her punishment didn’t work.  Happy Mother’s Day and Joyeuse fête des mères to you!

Haiti Everywhere

Pumpkin Soup Collage - Katia D. UlysseI went to the grocery store last night, in search of a particular item. The place was packed with people shopping for New Year’s parties. The lines were endless. The shelves were almost empty; people were stocking up—in case some unexpected event forced them to barricade themselves inside their homes for all of 2016. I can’t blame them; the world is full of crazy surprises nowadays.

I decided to try my luck at a nearby 7-Eleven. I asked the cashier if they carried the item I needed. He said, “sure.”

“Fantastic!”

The guy said: “I detect an accent. You’re not from here, are you?” You know I welcome every opportunity to say “I’m from Haiti.”

Catherine Flon, Dessaline's goddaughter- sews Blue and Red to create an independent Haiti's first (and current) flag

Catherine Flon, Dessaline’s goddaughter- sews Blue and Red to create an independent Haiti’s first (and current) flag)

The man’s eyes widened. “Sak pase? Nap boule!” he said. Now, it was my eyes that popped open. “You speak Creole,” I asked, with the excitement of a kid on Christmas Eve.

“Of course, I do.”

“How did you learn to speak my language?” I wanted to know.

“I lived in Haiti for many years. I taught English at a school there. I was in Saint Marc.”

haiticoatofarmsA line of shoppers formed at the checkout counter. We both looked at the people, and returned to our conversation. He needed to get back to his post. I went with him. As he worked, we talked in Creole. “I’m so happy to meet you,” he said. “I don’t have anybody to practice Creole with.”

“Neither do I,” I wanted to say but didn’t.

“Where in Haiti are you from?” he asked.

“Petion-Ville.”

“I know Petion-Ville very well. Where in Petion-Ville?”

“I went to Anne Marie Javouhey,” I began.

“Oh yes, that’s right next to Lycee Petion.”

“Yes!”

Do you know Eglise Saint Pierre?”

kdu photo, taken near a pile of post-quake rubble.“Of course. It’s a beautiful church. I used to go to the park across the street all the time. It was peaceful there. I want to go back someday, Incha Allah.”

“You have an accent, too. Where are you from?”

“Ethiopia.”

“Now, that’s a place I want to visit one of these days.”

The man continued: “You will, Incha Allah. God first. Everything comes after that. People say Haiti is horrible, but that’s not true. It has a lot of problems. The government needs to figure itself out, but Haiti is a beautiful place. The people are genuine and generous. Forget about the food.”

“Ah, you ate too much griyo?”

“No griyo for me. I’m Muslim.” He reached for my hand to shake it. “My sister, you made my day.”

“Mine too.” We’re both smiling like diplomats.

“You have to come back to visit, Incha Allah. I’m here every day.”

SAM_0540“I will.” And I was not fibbing. I had to go. We shook hands again. I walked out, thinking how wonderful it would be if all of us in this crazy world could let people believe in whatever they choose. What a world it would be, if we could just shake hands and let one another live in peace.

It’s amazing how our side of the island tends to bring people of all races and nationalities together. I love that about Haiti. Happy Independence Day, my dear!

Nou Bèl. Nou La! T-shirts Get the T-shirt. Spread the message.

Nou Bèl. Nou La! T-shirts
Get the T-shirt. Spread the message.

 

Michelle Obama and Azaka Mede

Dream Haiti: Acrylic on Canvas by Jean Claude M.May is Haitian Heritage Month. It’s packed with holidays: Labor and Agriculture Day, Flag Day, National Sovereignty Day, and (the most important of all) Mother’s Day!

At home and in the dyaspora, compatriots commemorated Premier Mai (May First) in many ways, including dressing up like the patron lwa of agriculture: a peasant farmer who answers to the names Azaka Mede, Kouzen, Zaka, among several other affectionate monikers. If having a green thumb means that everything you plant grows, then Azaka Mede is green all over. Every seed he drops in the soil yields a bountiful harvest.

michelle obama gardeningAnother famous personage with a serious green thumb is First Lady Michelle Obama. For many years now, she has shown the public that cultivating land is hardly synonymous with poverty. You’re not a peasant for growing your own food. Au contraire . . .

Click on the link to read more.

http://www.voicesfromhaiti.com/2012/05/azaka-mede-and-michelle-obama/

pumpkin

 

 

A Haitian-American Planted in Two Worlds ~ Written by Brenda Fadeyibi

brenda 2When I was younger, I went through a phase where I would proudly declare that I was “American.” My father would pin me with his steely eyes and say, “You’re Haitian-American”; those two words have haunted me ever since.

For the past twenty-eight years, I have attempted to meld the two cultures in a way that is authentic. What exactly does it mean to be Haitian-American? In my mind, someone who goes by the label should have a firm grasp of both cultures; however, this was not the case for me.

I grew up in a culturally diverse area north of Manhattan where a large percentage of Haitians resided. I attended a large church where services were held in French and Kreyòl. My parents kept the radio on two stations: Family Radio and the local Haitian station. My father was determined that we become well-versed in every detail of Haitian history. I recall evenings when he would park himself in front of my friends’ houses as he finished lengthy lectures on history and politics . . .

Despite all this, I still struggled to master Kreyòl with a fluent tongue. Instead, I spoke with a hesitant and clumsy one, throwing in phrases of English where my grasp of my parents’ native tongue fell short.

From a very young age, I was thrust in the middle of two worlds. I learned quickly that I was the English ambassador for my non-fluent-English speaking parents. They would look to my siblings and me to translate important documents, or make their needs known to the moun blan. At the same time, I was ordered to speak Kreyòl when I met any church elders or distant relatives. When I uttered the obligatory “Kijan ou ye,” I was immediately ridiculed. I did not speak the language like a native.

Somehow, I existed with my dual roles. Many of my friends were also Haitian-American and we exchanged Kreyòl phrases like we used to pass sexy urban paperbacks in high school. This was also when I learned how to talk about people, in front of their face. Being bi-lingual had its benefits.

Although I suffered mild derision from native Haitians, it was nothing compared to what I experienced as a young adult. I could take their gentle ribbing or calling me “Blan” whenever I ventured to hold a conversation in Kreyòl. In turn, I would poke fun at their heavy accents or mispronunciation of English words. Rather, it was the natives who verbally stripped me of my heritage that really upset me.

I worked in a large inner city hospital where I had the opportunity to evaluate an elderly Haitian woman who only spoke Kreyòl and understood French. I was able to hold a conversation with her in Kreyòl; other than a few verbal stumbles on my part, we understood each other fine.

Another member of the hospital staff, who was also Haitian, heard that I was conducting the evaluation and doubted my authenticity. After leaving the patient’s room, she feigned a conversation with me about the patient’s status. Little did I know she was silently judging every word that left my mouth. At the end of our conversation she declared, “I give you a C. You speak Kreyòl like my daughters.”

That was the last time I spoke with her in our shared tongue.

I had another patient who was Haitian and, of course, there were no translators present. The woman was overjoyed to encounter someone who could speak her native language. When I looked in her eyes, I saw only gratitude, not judgment. Once again, I was the ambassador.

As soon as the hospital staff heard that I could speak Kreyòl, I became a translator. Suddenly, it did not matter how well I spoke he language, it was just important that I could. It was one of the few times I didn’t feel inadequate as a Haitian-American and it made me realize that despite all of my shortcomings, there was a place for me.

I do not know what a Haitian-American is supposed to look like. Am I an American who can trace her roots back to Haiti? Or am I a Haitian girl living in America? Maybe this is it. Maybe it is a woman who has her feet firmly planted in two worlds. Somewhat imperfectly, but in some twisted way, it works.

Brenda Prince Fadeyibi, Occupational Therapist and aspiring author.

“Haitian-American: Planted in Two Worlds” was written by Brenda Prince Fadeyibi.

She is a New York City based Occupational Therapist by day and aspiring author by night. She also maintains a personal blog: cakeandeggs.com, where she chronicles everything from daily life experiences to reviews of her favorite books. You can also follow her on twitter @cakeandeggs.