Tag Archives: Voicesfromhaiti We Are Beautiful. We Are Here!

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!

One World

HEAT photoA country cannot be defined solely by the catastrophic events it endures.  One cursory glance at today’s world yields inumerable instances of man-made autrocities and natural disasters:  earthquakes, avalanches, floods, and temperatures so high that roads melt. There’s no need to go to the movies for a horror flick nowaways. Certain sub-human groups are hellbent on delivering the most terrifying images to your front door and via mobile devices. However, as long as artists continue to deconstruct the evil and render it somewhat digestible, life, love, and light will triumph.

Check out this poem by Leslie Sauray. He wrote it days after the earthquake tried but failed to destroy Haiti five years ago.

AFTERSHOCKS  by Leslie Sauray

As the ashes clear and we move away rubble

You see my people still standing

Still running, even if we stumble

We’ve been down worse roads
We have broken many chains
Shaky grounds have been around
Long before the earthquakes came

The aftershocks are the souls
of those in the after life
trying to wake us all up
so we can continue to fight

The television can’t show
the smell and the screams
So you only got a small picture
even on a big screen

Photo credit: AFEF D.

Photo credit: AFEF D.

Love and Light ~ Remembering 9/11/01

It was one of those events that would forever change the way we tell time.  In these post 9/11 years, not a day has gone by that we are not reminded of that hellish Tuesday morning.  Our prayers remain with those who perished.  Love , Light, Comfort, and Strength to the ones who lost their beloved.  We remember.VoicesfromHaiti/9-11

Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: New book by Gina A. Ulysse

Why Haiti Needs New Narratives“Mainstream coverage of the catastrophic earthquake of January 12, 2010, reproduced longstanding stereotypes of Haiti. Aware that this Haiti is a rhetorically and graphically incarcerated one, the feminist anthropologist and performance artist Gina Athena Ulysse embarked on a writing spree that lasted over two years. Her trilingual book (English, Kreyòl, and French) contains thirty pieces and includes a foreword by award-winning author and historian Robin D. G. Kelley.” – From Brooklyn Public Library.

Gina A. Ulysse will read and discuss her work. Don’t miss it!

Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle

Saturday, September 19, 2015 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Central Library, Dweck Center

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT  Ulysse’s  new book: Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle

Gina Ulysse from her webpage“Ulysse’s clear, powerful writing rips through the stereotypes to reveal a portrait of Haiti in politics and art that will change the way you think about that nation’s culture, and your own.” (Jonathan M. Katz, author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster)|

This is a beautifully written and profoundly important work of engaged anthropology. Gina Ulysse steps bravely into the public domain bringing a nuanced and sophisticated analysis of things Haitian to a large group of general readers as well as to a broad audience of scholars. Publication of this book marks a kind of ‘coming of age’ for anthropological bloggers and public anthropology.” (Paul Stoller, author of Yaya’s Story: The Quest for Well-Being in the World)

“This compilation is the gut-felt testimony of an insider/outsider that resounds like a thunderclap in the desert. Trapped in the alienating context of sterile academia, a neoliberal political economy, populations displaced, shock therapy and general geopolitical shifts, the author uses the gift of polysemy to open horizons. Through thought, action, word, poetry, song . . . flow yet-unbounded prospects.” (Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, professor, Université d’État d’Haïti)

Taking us through entangled and liberating possibilities, Gina Ulysse introduces us to Haiti, the kingdom of this world. Embedded in the interstices of words and of aesthetic sensibilities that summon the past into the present, the powerful promise of a people is revealed. Ashe.” (Arlene Torres, coeditor of Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean)

“Five years after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, Gina Ulysse smashes clichés, defends Vodou, and reminds us of her homeland’s complex history. Her compelling as-it-happened reports and analyses are crucial to our understanding and empathy for the republic and its people.” (Katherine Spillar, executive editor, Ms. magazine)

Gina UlysseAbout the Author

Gina Athena Ulysse was born in Pétion-Ville, Haiti. In 2005, when she became a U.S. citizen, she gave herself the name Athena. She is the middle child of three sisters – who had migrated to the East Coast of the United States in their early teens. Her family has lived somewhere around there ever since.

A feminist artist-anthropologist-activist and a self-proclaimed Post-Zora Interventionist, she earned her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She is also a performance artist, poet and multi-media artist. It was during the early years of her graduate career that Ulysse began to seriously actively perform in part to pursue a childhood dream of wanting to be a singer and to ground herself and allow her creative spirit to breathe through this restructuring process that threatened to desensitize her.

Spokenword became her chosen medium. She deploys it to both explore and push the blurred border zones between ethnography and performance. She considers these works “alter(ed)native” forms of ethnography constructed out of what she calls “recycled ethnographic collectibles” (raw bits and pieces that seem too personal or trivial) through which she engages with the visceral that is embedded, yet too often absent, in structural analyses. Her ultimate aim with such works is to access/face and recreate a full and integrated subject without leaving the body behind. An interdisciplinary scholar-artist, Ulysse weaves history, statistics, personal narrative, theory, with Vodou chants to dramatize and address issues of social (in)justice, intersectional identities, spirituality and the dehumanization of Haitians and other marked bodies. With her performance work, she seeks to outline, confront and work through the continuities and discontinuities in the unprocessed horror of colonialism. Or to put it another way, Ulysse explores the complex ways the past functions in the present and is disavowed as both Michel-Rolph Trouillot and Sibylle Fischer have aptly put in Silencing the Past and Modernity Disavowed.

A dynamic performer, described by artist Evan Bissell as “a powerhouse and a whirling storm,” and historian Robin D.G. Kelley as “a one-woman aftershock” Ulysse has performed variations of her one-woman show Because When God is too Busy: Haiti, me and THE WORLD and other works at conferences, in colleges and universities throughout the United States and internationally.

She is currently developing an avant-garde meditation, VooDooDoll What if Haïti were a Woman: On ti Travay sou 21 Pwen or An Alter(ed)native in Something Other than Fiction. (10), the first installation-performance from this work, which was curated by Lucian Gomoll, had its debut at Encuentro in Montreal in 2014. Her latest project, Contemplating Distances – explores the exchange value of black bodies in the Transatlantic slave trade and the 18th century grain shortage in Saint Domingue – was presented at the “Spaces, Scales, and Routes: Region Formation in History and Anthropology conference.”

She is currently Professor of anthropology at Wesleyan University.

———————————————————-VoicesfromHaiti: Nou Bèl. Nou La! (We are Beautiful. We are Here!) Click HERE to purchase your own  Nou Bèl. Nou La! T-shirt.

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