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I am a Creole, but not the kind that you are most likely thinking of. I am not from Louisiana, nor do I resemble Beyonce. I speak Kreyòl, but I was not born in Haiti, and neither were my parents, or my grandparents. So why do I claim a Creole identity? And what does Haiti mean to me? My answer might surprise you. I believe that our world is comprised of both visible and invisible forces working together to create our experiences. In the visible world, my skin color, hair texture and body shape are the phenotypical identifiers of a Black woman, yet Blackness is not a homogenous, fixed social category. My ancestors are European, Native American, Asian and African. At my core, I am and continually strive to be a vessel of Light, sprouting forth and filled daily with the love of God. Because I am multicultural, multilingual, and multireligious, I am a Creole.
From birth to my early twenties, my experience was that of an African American girl from Savannah, Georgia who was raised in the West Indian neighborhood of Flatbush, Brooklyn. My step-father, God-bless-the-dead, was Jamaican, and my best friends were Haitian, St. Lucian and Trinidadian. On holidays, we ate jerk pork, griot, candied yams and macaroni and cheese. We also sipped on rum punch, carrot juice and cremas that sent us straight to sleep while the adults socialized through the night. We listened to R&B, Rap, Reggae, Soca and Ska. Although culturally rich, my neighborhood was no utopia. In a city as diverse as New York, inter-ethnic prejudice is no secret, particularly among the international Black communities. Insults such as “Haitian or African Booty Scratcher” were common in my childhood, and the internalized racism was rarely addressed by adults, and sometimes encouraged. It is true that too many of my family members would whisper disparaging things about the habits of “foreigners” who were taking over New York. As a smart and well-mannered African American girl, I was an anomaly to many of my West Indian peers whose parents had cautioned them that Americans were lazy and were jealous of them.

The author in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

Khadeidra in Prospect Park, Brooklyn

The author in Lafayette Square, Savannah, GA

Kahdeidra in Lafayette Square in Savannah, GA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Black children developing our self-concept, we objectified ourselves and each other in manners that, as bell hooks writes, “were compatible with existing images and ways of knowing, constructed within the social frameworks that reinforce domination” (Ford and Dillard, 1996, p. 233). Painstakingly, I tried my best to use such prejudice as a motivation to work harder in school and in extra-curricular activities, as I not only had to counter stereotypes of my race, but of my class background and ethnicity, as well. In the space between high school and college, in a search for myself, I began to challenge my notions of work and pleasure, choice and obligation, assaulting myself with a barrage of doubts and hypotheticals. Gradually, everything that I thought that I was sure of had become a waste of time, and I questioned whether I truly had earned the privileges that I enjoyed—acceptance at elite institutions of learning, scholastic and public speaking awards—or whether standards had been lowered to accommodate me. I grew tired of having to prove my worthiness to others because the work came to easy, or too hard, or because I switched like I had diamonds between my legs when I had been expected to apologize for the sight of my voluptuous booty and thighs amidst the stellar student-athletes.
During my sophomore year in college, after a Spring Break Learning Expedition to Ghana, I decided that I was not going to comb my hair anymore, and after several days, it began to naturally sprout dreadlocks. They were different sizes and shapes and absolutely beautiful. They started in the back of my head and worked their way around the sides, but the very top and front of my hair refused to lock. These strands were too straight and were what Black people referred to as my “good hair.” In all of my efforts to be “pure” African with the distinctive strong, tightly coiled hair texture to match, my own truth was literally staring me in the mirror. I joked that the behavior of these strands could be traced to my maternal Irish great-great-grandmother saying to me, “You better respect me, too! You ain’t all African.” My elders tell me that she was very light-skinned with long red hair and freckles, so I assume that she shared the Scotch-Irish heritage of several White Americans in the South. Across my cheeks and nose are both freckles and moles, which my mother refers to as “Black people’s freckles.” If I was not all African, and clearly not all European, then who was I? Why do I often find similarities between myself and people from the Caribbean when others claim that we are “totally different”?
I turned to God. I called on my ancestors for guidance, and they served it in a huge way. The more I prayed, the more I dreamed, and listened, and witnessed, and loved. It was revealed to me that somewhere in my lineage, I had Haitian ancestors. Moreover, they had been priests and priestesses of the Vodou religion. It was my path—the African American girl from Savannah—to initiate into the religion, as well. This news entirely changed my life. It shocked me and at the same time anchored and fortified me. I believed wholeheartedly in my connection with God. I believed wholeheartedly in my connection with my ancestors, so I trusted my messages and began my training in the theology and liturgy of Haitian Vodou. I deepened my cursory knowledge of Haitian culture and began to learn prayers and songs that were in French, Kreyòl, Fon, Yoruba, Kikongo and other indigenous languages. This process affirmed my whole being, and I began to develop what Ford and Dillard (1996) referred to as the “critical social consciousness” that allowed me to deconstruct notions of race and religion.

 

Veve are sacred drawings representing the Lwa

Veve are sacred drawings representing the Lwa

 

An offering that will be shared with visitors after the ceremony

An offering that will be shared with visitors after the ceremony

Historically, ‘Creole’ has been used to refer to people with mixed African-European parentage, but not always. ‘Creole’ also has referred to people with a mixed cultural experience, who were often multilingual. I contemplated what it meant to be a mixture of different skin tones and cultures. Supremacist narratives of any kind would undo me. Did my African and Native American ancestors truly worship the Devil in their indigenous religions? If so, then their historical enslavement and decimation at the hands of Whites makes sense. Yet, if the Devil seeks enslavement for his followers, then God must seek liberation. I must credit God for all triumphs against enslavement and institutions of oppression. I must credit God with the success of the Haitian Revolution on January 1, 1804, which formed the first independent Black nation in the Americas and provided a beacon of hope for all others who remained enslaved.
Haitian Vodou is a religion of Creoles, of people from Senegal, Nigeria, Benin, Dahomey, the Kongo who called on every name of God that they knew of to escape death and persecution. Powerful ancestors and forces of nature known as orisha, vodun and bisimbi in Africa (Ginen) became zanj and lwa in Haiti. Male and female, husband and wife, mother and child, they united to lead the Creoles in their fight for liberation. In reconciling the religious customs that he was taught with his emerging critical social consciousness, B. Kanpol (1997) writes, “I must challenge traditional Jewish ways, or even social efficient systems, as I did as a boy, and read for myself the New Testament or/and create possibility out of a simple and mechanistic mindset” (p. 30). What Kanpol describes in challenging religious norms and seeking truth for himself is precisely the kind of “leap of faith” that strengthens my belief in religious plurality and my commitment to practicing the beautiful religion of my ancestors.

 

Mambo and houngan marching at a ceremony

Mambo and Houngan marching at a ceremony

Ten years since I first received my call, I have become a Mambo, an initiated priestess of Haitian Vodou, and my husband Hermann is a Houngan, a priest. He initiated at 19 years old and has been active in supporting and preserving Vodou sacred traditions throughout Haiti and the dysapora. I am a Southern girl at heart, and he is as country as they come, so our movements are often synchronized in some way. We meet over stewed turkey wings and white rice, mayi moulen and grits, lima beans and sos pwa. We meet over Kongo square and Neg Mawon. We meet over loud talking and bay blag, all day, toujou. Through the practice of Vodou, I have learned that only God has wisdom, and it is precisely our arrogance, or frekan-ness, that keeps us from moving forward. My spirituality is my defense against oppressive social practices. It is the critical lens through which I see the world and make sense of its infinite multiplicities. I am a Creole, a Savannah Creole, and I could never be more proud.

 

 

 

The author and her husband in ceremonial dress

Kahdeidra and her husband in ceremonial dress

 

 

 

The author and her husband on their wedding day

Kahdeidra and husband on wedding day

 

 

The author and her husband at a ceremony in Archaiae, Haiti

Kahdeidra and husband at a ceremony in Archaiae, Haiti

 

An offering that will be shared with visitors after the ceremony

An offering that will be shared with visitors after the ceremony

 
References
Ford, T., & Dillard, C. (1996). Becoming multicultural: A recursive process of self-and
     social construction. Theory into Practice, 35(4), 232-238.
Kanpol, B. (1997). Establishing a criticality and Critical pedagogy and the multicultural
     project. In Barry Kanpol & Fred Yeo (Eds.), Issues and trends in critical
    pedagogy (pp. 21-32, 49-63). NJ: Hampton Press.

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If tiger parents are “strict parents who demand excellence in academics and other extra-curricular activities from their children,” then I have TWO tiger parents. In fact, I know a lot of high achieving Haitian-Americans who are products of not Asian “tiger” parenting,but Haitian tiger parenting.

i am a tiger child

i am a tiger child

When the media was inundated with controversy about the whole “Tiger Mom” phenomenon, I didn’t quite know what the big deal was.  As an adult, I wasn’t traumatized by strict parenting.  I did know one thing, it’s not just an Asian thing.  Tiger parenting did not seem to be terribly different than how I was raised.  Although the Asian technique seemed to be even more strict than my parents’, the general philosophy seems to be the same. It apparently worked for me, and is really all I know. In fact, I still have Tiger in me, and it shows in my personal parenting style. I’m not totally opposed to western style parenting, but some of it is kind of weak to me. My parents didn’t always contemplate how I would react to their parenting style when I was a child. They assumed I was malleable and would easily adjust — which seemed to be exactly what happened.

Growing up, I knew my family was different. My parents were new to the country after all, so of course we were different. I figured when you leave everything you know and love, and move to a foreign country to raise a family for the first time, the stakes are high, and you don’t make silly mistakes like NOT trying – with every fiber of your being – to do your very best. My parents did their best to make it in America.  That was the example they set, and they expected no less from us.

And, yes, they were strict: I didn’t “sleep over”, I wasn’t able to stay up as late as I wanted, I couldn’t have a TV or phone in my room, I couldn’t come and go as I pleased, I had a curfew that I was never pleased with — and we didn’t even have call waiting!  All Haitian kids did not have the “pleasure” of tiger parenting, but I knew a good number who did. And although I know that strict American parents do exist, as a child, I personally didn’t know any American Tiger children. I hated being a tiger child as a teen, but in retrospect it taught me discipline, and helped me focus (because even I know how reckless I would have been with my very own phone), and I am still able to think back to my childhood with fond memories.

Education was, without a doubt, my most important “job” growing up since the first day of grammar grade. I learned early on that school was important and non-negotiable. Unless school was closed, I was going…and would do my best while there. The way I understood it, if I excelled in school, then life – back then, and in years to come — would be better. So that’s what I did. This didn’t happen without the help, encouragement — and sometimes the strong arming of my tiger parents. There were few times I remember that excellence was shoved down my throat against my will (like the time I had to memorize all the multiplication tables up to the 12 times table, and wasn’t allowed to go to bed until I knew them cold…and guess what, I learned them), but for the most part excellence was ingrained in me as something worth achieving. I was taught what the expectation was; I was taught that I was capable of achieving, and so I achieved (naturally, because that’s all I knew).

both my parents were involved in making sure i stayed on top of my work

Unlike the Asian tiger parenting style, I was not strongly encouraged to excel in extra curricular activities (it was all about education). However, because the lessons of striving for excellence and possessing the capability to achieve were so strongly ingrained in my psyche, I often did well in extracurricular activities too…so long as I was interested in that particular extra curricular activity.

The way I see it, Tiger parenting is based on two main factors: self-esteem and discipline. My Haitian tiger parents gave those two gifts to me… and I, a tiger child turned parent, will give them to my children as well. I have learned that achieving success has a lot to do with believing you can achieve. That’s half the battle. I expect my children to expect excellence of themselves, because I’m teaching them that they are capable, and I will give them the tools necessary to achieve that (one of which is discipline). If that makes me a Haitian-American tiger mom, so be it.

How did your Haitian parents’ “parenting style” differ from that of your American friends? How is your parenting style different or similar to that of our parents?

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gros morneOctober 29, 2014

by: Ashley Toussaint

She never talked about what had happened in Haiti. She never talked about why she left home. She did not mention her family much. As a result, I never met my maternal grandparents, my mother’s older sister or her younger brother. She had left Gros Morne, when she was in her late teens, for the Bahamas and then Miami, back in the early 1970s with my father….(Continue reading the original blog here: Gros Morne: The Other Side.)

 

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By: Militant Barbie, Blogger

October 13, 2014

Source: http://militantbarbie.com/post/99945133850/in-defense-of-history-frederick-douglass-manifesto-to

 

 

arawaks Arawaks were indigenous people of Caribbean islands, such as what is now present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic

We should not forget that the freedom you and I enjoy to-day; that the freedom that eight hundred thousand colored people enjoy in the British West Indies; the freedom that has come to the colored race the world over, is largely due to the brave stand taken by the black sons, of Haiti ninety years ago.”  -Frederick Douglass’ speech “Lecture on Haiti,” at the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition, Chicago.

As I’ve written in other publications, the African-American presence at 19th and 20th century world fairs and expositions, explores an important part of U.S history that didn’t make it into the textbooks. When I first learned about the Atlanta Negro Building, a 25,000 square foot black arts and cultural exhibition space that was the birthplace of the New Negro or Harlem Renaissance movement, I was dumbfounded. How did I, nor most people I asked, not know about this? Since then, the history of black people in world fairs and expositions has led me in many different directions and on this day, the one where we are forced to celebrate yet again, a man who committed the genocide, enslavement and pillage of dozens of indigenous groups in America, (by the way, Happy Columbus Day) it was only fitting that I travel back to another world fair, this time, in  Chicago.

On May 1, 1893, the city hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery,” of the “New” World. Blanketing more than 600 acres in mostly Jackson Park, the fair attracted many high-powered civil leaders, politicians and tycoons who hoped to bring economic growth and new opportunities to the White City. Its neighbors, New York City, D.C, and St. Louis contributed to the fair’s efforts, which presented an image of American industrialism, expansion and architectural beauty to the some 27 million visitors that year. Like Atlanta’s Cotton States Exposition two years later, Chicago’s World Fair was an important means of bringing people together to recognize and celebrate America’s growing regions.

The irony of celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage is that the World’s Fair Expo also made room for an exhibit hall called the Haitian Pavilion. A space dedicated to the country of Haiti, it was one of 46 international countries that participated in the fair. On January 2, 1893,  Frederick Douglass, a U.S Minister and Consul General to Haiti, delivered his riveting speech, “Lecture on Haiti,”  to some 1500 people inside the Haitian Pavilion.

But maybe it wasn’t ironic. After all, the island of Hispaniola was where Columbus first landed in 1492, when he thought he reached an island off the coast of China. Inhabited by an indigenous group called the Arawaks, the explorer described Hispaniola as a mountainous region with “plains and pastures, both fertile and beautiful… [and] many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals…”  But not for long. Soon after landing, Columbus built a fort, which historian Howard Zinn considers the first European military base in the West, and enslaved its inhabitants.

By 1497, 125,000 Arawaks were dead.

By 1550, 500 Arawaks were left.

By 1650, no record of the Arawak people existed.

Douglass made many visits to Haiti in his consulate position, and he had a deep appreciation for the country as the first and only nation to ever successfully revolt against slavery. As a former enslaved person himself, Douglass was inspired by Haiti’s revolutionary ways and credited its people as models for African-Americans, as they fought their own battle for freedom and equality. Douglass also highlighted Haiti’s beauty despite its fragile political and economic state, which he believed was capable of better days:

 “NO OTHER LAND HAS BRIGHTER SKIES. No other land has purer water, richer soil, or a more happily diversified climate. She has all the natural conditions essential to a noble, prosperous and happy country.  Yet, there she is, torn and rent by revolutions, by clamorous factions and anarchies; floundering her life away from year in a labyrinth of social misery. Every little while we find her convulsed by civil war, engaged in the terrible work of death; frantically shedding her own blood and driving her best mental material into hopeless exile. Port au Prince, a city of sixty thousand souls, and capable of being made one of the healthiest, happiest and one of the most beautiful cities of the West Indies, has been destroyed by fire once in each twenty-five years of its history. The explanation is this: Haiti is a country of revolutions.”

Douglass discussed Haiti’s evolution from a slave colony to a free black republic following 1804 Haitian Revolution. He encouraged the U.S to improve its relationship with Haiti because the country had great growth potential.

Haiti did more than raise armies and discipline troops. She organized a Government and maintained a Government during eighty-seven years. Though she has been ever and anon swept by whirlwinds of lawless turbulence; though she has been shaken by earthquakes of anarchy at home, and has encountered the chilling blasts of prejudice and hate from the outside world, though she has been assailed by fire and sword, from without and within, she has, through all the machinations of her enemies, maintained a well defined civil government, and maintains it to-day. She is represented at all courts of Europe, by able men, and, in turn, she has representatives from all the nations of Europe in her capitol.

Douglass understood the racial and political reasons why Haiti was having a difficult time creating partnerships with its European neighbors. The1804 Revolution was so fierce, so bold, so extraordinary, that enslavers across the globe imposed new laws to keep blacks from forming future uprisings. This small island forced whites to think harder about the foundation of slavery, as they watched it burst in flames throughout the deep mountains of Saint Dominigue. Despite the chills Haiti gave many white supremacists, Douglass unapologetically praised the nation and urged people to recognize its potential:

With a people beginning a national life as Haiti did, with such crude material within, and such antagonistic forces operating upon her from without, the marvel is, not that she is far in the rear of civilization, but that she has survived in any sense as a civilized nation…

Already she has added five hundred schools to her forces of education, within the two years of Hyppolite’s administration. [Applause,] In the face of such facts; in the face of the fact that Haiti still lives, after being boycotted by all the Christian world; in the face of the fact of her known progress within the last twenty years in the face of the fact that she has attached herself to the car of the world’s civilization, I will not, I cannot believe that her star is to go out in darkness, but I will rather believe that whatever may happen of peace or war Haiti will remain in the firmament of nations, and, like the star of the north, will shine on and shine on forever.

What might happen if schools also taught history from the perspective of the Arawaks? How would our views of Columbus Day change? My exploration into world fairs and expositions has challenged everything I thought I knew about history. The abridged narratives that were selected for me  in college and high school were mere half-truths, fluffy tales of great white knights, and stories of the good cowboy versus the bad Indian. By digging deeper, I learned that history is a collective effort, that involves more than just a “Top Ten List,” of people and places and things. More than just a simple tale of a Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Douglass teaches us in “Lecture on Haiti,” that every person, every group and culture, had a role in shaping the globe.

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haitaincreole

Creole lessons empower the Haitian diaspora in the small Two Moon Art and House Cafe in Brooklyn by the founder of the Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York, Wynnie …

via Creole, Haiti’s Mother Tongue, Brings People Back to Their Roots.

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This post was written by Wilkine Brutus.  Mr. Brutus is the editor-in-chief of The Vanguard Element: http://www.vanguardelement.com/
He is a poet working on a cross-genre book.  He is also a Vlogger from South Florida, USA and edits from South Korea.

Jean-Bernard-Etienne1-300x206La Misterieuse by Jean Bernard Etienne (Acrylic on canvas)

“Sak pase?”

As a Haitian-American, I grew up with a sharp concern for identity. The American dream, skewed like a broken mirror of slanted reflections or like the bewilderment of a weird nightmare. I’d wake up from it all with an empty stomach, hungry to understand what society was feeding me, fiending for a gluttony of knowledge. Like most inner-city youth, resources were limited. I was often times too apprehensive and distracted anyway–time in the inner-city was like watching a scary movie, buffering at the climax or at the scary moment of a scene. There is nothing more horrific than the constant depreciation of the human soul.

At age 12, the sudden realization of anger and confusion forced me to find an avenue to channel my erratic emotions. I was one of many 12-year-old Haitian-American boys and girls that generally weren’t embraced by Black-Americans. We were also depreciated by the American culture and its hypocritical foreign policy.

In the mid-90s and early 2000s, I use to swallow the stark contrast in treatment between Cubans and Haitian refugees, a double standard US immigration policy that favored the Cubans, which allowed Cuban refugees to stay on American land once they arrived, but would ship Haitian refugees back Haiti. This illogical and racist treatment sparked humanitarian debates, but Black-Americans never embraced or defended the Haitian diaspora, at least not in my neighborhood. There were also historical political and cultural animosity between Haitians and Dominicans, whom both share the island of Hispaniola.  Haitian-Americans were marginalized by black-Americans and Dominicans, hated, frowned upon—and I screamed during a fight, “I’m human, just like you. I’m human, just like you, I’m human just like you,” only to wake up, frantic, with a broken mirror, slanting my reflection—a sharp identity crisis.

It would take years for Haitians and Haitian-Americans to salvage their reputation as “equivalent beings.” I look back and ponder if that time period of injustice and hate was just a complicated era of culture clashes and miseducation.  I don’t know! Evidently, political and economical deterrents were to blame for the madness—a bit too overwhelming for a 12-year-old to understand. Despite my current wisdom, those feelings of neglect and cultural misfortune is difficult to eradicate, albeit moving on in life felt fairly easy. The morals and values that my mother instilled was like a watermark on video—my life, like all humans, has been a montage of trials and tribulations but I own them and I’ve managed to fast forward.

The earthquake that ravished Haiti didn’t create complete sadness, it was ironically another inspiration to uplift and represent the people. However, it was obviously painful to fly to Korea directly after the devastation.

There is a deep fundamental responsibility to understand humanity and the men that alter its very essence. We’ve reduced ourselves into categories and sub-categories and we’ve ignored the universal understanding of love and respect, cordial debates and solution. Our existence is often a battle to claim significance and human contribution, economical strength, fear, and power.  We are, in many ways, still lost in our desperate attempts to find meaning—a matrix of confusion. I am, however, beautifully found—as my purpose, as a Haitian-American in South Korea, is to navigate through preconceived notions and negative perceptions of black males and rectify them. I’ve been wonderfully embraced in doing so, as the universal rule of love and respect applies everywhere. Onelove! -Wilkine Brutus

 

 

 

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This post was submitted by Carmel Balan, CEO and Founder of Port Academie, an educational portal containing the latest trends and academic news on Haiti. 

blackcorporatewoman

Being Black in corporate America can be very damaging to one’s self esteem. For many, you did all the right things to leverage yourself: received an education, respect your peers and are a great team player, prove and improve your work ethic to land a dream promotion, only to be asked to train someone to supervise you or land the big promotion that you’ve worked so hard for.

You’re an afterthought. You’re the help.

One of my favorite web series on Youtube is “Unwritten Rules”, and I highly recommend you watch it. The main character Racy, allows us to comically follow familiar issues in the corporate world. It also illustrates her battle with other Black people in the office who perceive her as being “too fancy” because she eats things like “pink fish” during lunch. While I laughed through many webisodes, the realities at work are no laughing matter. Many people are struggling through this, and it’s inspiring when I witness their upward movement, especially as trailblazers. I am patiently waiting for Racy’s big break.

Being Haitian also has a profound effect on my psyche and ego while I go through these experiences at work. It’s frowned upon to let others walk all over you and berate you in most societies and cultures, but when you’re Haitian you almost feel like you’re indebted to your ancestors to follow in their footsteps when berated – “Pa kite moun ranse ave’w” even if its on a micro level such as this and has no profound effect on history and a country as a whole. Therefore, I do practice a level of resistance, when my “superiors” go too far. Just like my ancestors’ success, I know that I will have the last laugh when my time comes.

If you’re reading this article, and going through this, know that you are not alone. I hope you turn every bad experience at work into a motivating factor to work harder towards your own goals that will enable you to direct your life towards fulfillment. I personally can’t wait for that day myself!

Blessings.

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