The oft-linked to Evan Narcisse, sent a note on his thoughts:
I haven't said much, because I don't know much. Maybe I'll speak more in the next few days. Anyway, I'm betting that people want to talk about this. Here's your space. The tavern's open.
I'm still kind of numb on how to respond to the earthquake in Haiti, and am waiting to hear more details as it relates to my extended family. The images coming out of the island remind me of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina: black people suffering through a natural disaster without the resources to deal. Of course, the lack of infrastructure in Haiti makes the crisis all the more grim. I'm a broke-ass freelancer, but I'll try to scrape some money together to donate and will definitely give blood and clothes. Of course, that still feels like all too little.
The most meaningful thing I can think of to do is write about what Haiti means to me.
First a bit of comparison: I went to St. Lucia in December for my first real vacation in about five years. That island was a colony of both the British and French, seven times served under each empire. They speak their own kreyol (creole) dialect there, but it shares some similarities to Haitian kreyol. My command of Kreyol is terrible. Still, I could understand about 70%-80% of what was said and that-along with the tropical climate and friendly people-made me feel like I was in an alternate reality version of Haiti. I imagined what my ancestral homeland could be like with investment, infrastructure and international support. The trip to St. Lucia set off a yearning to go back to Haiti, which honestly was the last thing I was expecting to feel.
I haven't been to Haiti since I was in college. My dad's people are from the south, near Port-au-Prince, and my mom's family is from Port-de-Paix, way up in the north. So, I'm kind of the product of a city folk/country folk relationship, which means family members drove me all up and down the barely paved roads to meet distant relatives. The memories are mostly sensory now: the throbbing of drums in the forest and how that wasn't scary at all, a lagoon with water so clear I could see the fish swimming around my ankles, the amazing taste of just-picked mangos and avocados.
The most vivid mental snapshot remains the image of the National Palace. I was 11, maybe 12 years old when I first saw it. It's tough to put into words how symbolically important that was for me. There goes our White House, I thought. A White House for black people. Hell, the first White House for any black people anywhere.
Now it's a crumbled wreck.
It's chilling to watch the news reports with their constant mentions about Haiti's poverty (which ain't nothing new). That meme-true though it may be-doesn't do any justice to the island's cultural significance. From the revolution that made it the first free black republic to the great intellectual and spiritual movements, Haiti represents a vital example of black diasporan will and creativity. It's a hotbed of fusion and syncretism, a place where art forms, musics and religions go and get mixed up with other things. Arawak and Taino meets West African and European, jazz meets drums, mushrooms meet rice. The results come out in new, nearly unrecognizable forms and that's what beautiful about Haiti. Haiti's a shining example of the processes that have enabled black communities all around the world to survive and thrive. We need to remember why it's important to help Haiti recover.Everyone reading this, do what you can, even if it's just sending positive thoughts.