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This blog post was written and submitted by DJ Hard Hittin Harry

Tuesday January 12, 2016 marks 6 years since the devastating earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that crippled my beautiful island of Haiti on January 12th in 2010. It is a tragic day that I will never soon forget…and no one else should either.

The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake, with an epicenter near the town of Léogâne (Ouest Department), approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.  The shaking started on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 4:53 p.m. EST (21:53 UTC)

By the 24th of January, at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded. An estimated three million people were affected by the quake. Death toll estimates range from 100,000 to about 160,000  (Haitian government figures ranging from 220,000 to 316,000 have been widely characterized as deliberately inflated by the Haitian government.) The government of Haiti estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged. There has been a history of national debt, prejudicial trade policies by other countries, and foreign intervention into national affairs that contributed to the pre-existing poverty and poor housing conditions that exacerbated the death toll.

I will never forget that day. Since it actually occurred on a Tuesday afternoon, I had just finished spinning my online mix show (The Global Jam Session) at a studio in Newark, New Jersey at 4:00pm EST. I vividly recall commuting via the subway back to Brooklyn. By the time I arrived in Brooklyn, the Haiti earthquake was “BREAKING NEWS”. I began receiving a multitude of texts to turn on the TV. From that moment I, nor anyone, will never soon forget the events and images plastered all over the TV screen on every channel. Mayhem, death, sadness, and devastation emanated from Haiti to the horrified world via news outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN, and others. Phone lines and cell phone service to and from Haiti were shut down and as you can well imagine, panic ensued. Unspeakable chaos followed as family members here in the United States (as well as all over the world) desperately tried to contact loved ones, family members, and friends via news and radio stations. Local Haitian radio stations such as Radio Soleil, tirelessly operated by Mr. Rico Dupuy became the hub for the Haitian community to desperately attempt to locate their loved ones 24/7. Haitian businesses such as Savoir Faire Record Store in Flatbush were flooded with medical supplies, clothes, and food to help our people. The world continued to watch and wondered how they could help and donate monies. Yet…as the death toll and the number of displaced Haitians continued to rise…you couldn’t help to begin losing hope.

The impact of the earthquake affected me personally here in the States. The day of the quake I received word from my mother that her elder sister, my then-84 year old aunt, Marcelle St. Jean (A United States citizen and New Jersey resident) happened to be in Haiti at that time. Every year Tante Marcelle or Ti ManMan (Lil’ Mama), as we affectionately call her, travels to Haiti to celebrate her birthday as well as deliver toys and gifts to a school that her son, Rev. Marcel St. Jean (my cousin), has there called Sam Haiti. When the earthquake occurred, my aunt was one of the victims buried under the rubble, and went missing for 3 days.
Marcel1
Thanks to a concerned neighbor, my aunt was found in the streets and her children were contacted stateside.  Then came the daunting task of how to get to her and bring her back to the States. My cousins Bernard and Catherine flew to the Dominican Republic and retrieved my aunt in Port-Au-Prince. She was subsequently flown to a Miami hospital for treatment. On Tuesday January 19th, 2010, exactly one week after the horrific events that claimed lives and displaced thousands of Haitians, the Good Lord answered our prayers and my aunt arrived at JFK Airport bruised and battered,  yet alive. Fox 5 News even covered the story and cameras documented her safe return.  Six years later, and undaunted, my dear Tante Marcelle (Ti ManMan) will be in Haiti to celebrate her 90th birthday on January 16, 2016. She is a true warrior and survivor…and very blessed I might add!
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We were extremely fortunate with our situation, however our hearts and prayers goes out to families deeply affected by this unspeakable tragedy. It’s been 6 years since the Haiti earthquake and although the island is on a recovery mission, there is still a long way to go. Let us never forget that day and the victims and their families.
MarcelleHHH2015
Here are the tolls according to CNN:

  • 220,000-316,000: estimates of the death toll vary
  • 300,000: number of injured
  • 1.5 million: people initially displaced
  • 64,680: displaced people remain as of March 31, 2015
  • 3,978: number of schools damaged or destroyed by earthquake
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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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This blog post was written by Nadege Fleurimond, a caterer, event planner, and event strategist working in the corporate and social sphere in NYC. She is a published author and public speaker. Her recent book, Haiti Uncovered: A Regional Adventure into the Art of Haitian cuisine, is a coffee table culinary travel tour of Haiti’s food and culture. Those who know her label her the Culinary Curator for her love and knowledge of all things culinary and events related. For catered events, planning or speaking engagements, please contact nadege directly via email at Nadegefleurimond@gmail.com 

 

When I decided to write Haiti Uncovered : A Regional Adventure into the Art of Haitian Cuisine, it stemmed from a selfish place of me wanting to know more about the cuisine of where I was born, yet not have the pleasure of being raised. It stemmed from me wanting to broaden my repertoire of culinary knowledge to satisfy both my Haitian and non-Haitian clients in the realm of my catering business. But never did I imagine that, to so many people, it would serve as a connector of holding on to their Haitian identity and childhood. 

In the summer of 2013 upon releasing the book’s initial campaign a young woman called me almost in tears asking for where she could get a copy. I explained to her that the project was still in the developing stages that the book wouldn’t be available be available for about a year. She got so emotional. She went on to explain that her mom passed from such an early age, and she later was raised with a non-Haitian family. Thus for the past few years, she had been trying to recollect the meals that her mom cooked. She explained all her fondest memories of her mom revolved around food in some way and it has always been her dream to cook like her mom and replicate some of those dishes.
The food stories didn’t stop there. Others went on to explain the meals they remembered from their grandma’s kitchens, or visits to certain family members. Stories came from mothers who had been looking for a way to ensure that the Haitian culture was passed to their kids. And to them, food was the way to do that.
It was sort of a surprise, but it wasn’t. As I think about it, even when you look at other cultures, Italians that have been here for years, and Greeks, while they may no longer speak the language or know much about their mother country, food reigns supreme. As long as they eat and cook those meals, their ethnic identity stays in tact…or so they feel. True or not, nothing beats being able to make a meal like your mother or grandmother made it.
I hope, with this book, I can help people achieve at least that.
 
 
 
Twitter Page: NadegeCooks
 
Check out the trailer to Haiti Uncovered: A Regional Adventure into the art of Haitian Cuisine
Your can pre-Order Haiti Uncovered at a discounted rate by visiting her website at
chicken fish

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This blog entry was submitted by artist Gelan Lambert, an artist Haitian descent, versatile in all art disciplines who has been blessed to have graced the stage with legends.  Learn more about Gelan at http://www.facebook.com/GelanLambertJr

 

haitiusaCornbread & Cremasse!

What a fantastic name for a blog! A homage to two great cultures birthed through Mother Africa!

When I’m homesick for Haitian cuisine, one of the things you’ll find me doing is combing the streets of NYC for Lambi, an aromatic concoction of stewed Creole tomato sauce and conch perched on a bed of pillowy steamed rice. Unabashedly, its my foot stomping Hallelujah go to meal of the day. When its done right, expect a savory festival in your mouth and to be left in a state of culinary euphoria. Legend says that it also has amorous properties; however, that’s another story for another time! Now back to the subject at hand!

After doing some research on cornbread, I discovered that Native Americans created the first
prototype from corn meal. Corn, originally known as maize was the foundation for a plethora of nutritious corn based foods such as corn syrup, corn pudding and succotash, a mixture of beans and corn meal. Subsequently cornbread became an integral part of African American cuisine incorporating various parts of animal scraps, leftovers and root vegetables eventually known as ‘Soul Food’. Symbolic in nature, there is also a direct correlation between traditional African food and Soul Food which speaks to ancestral memory passed down from one generation to the next. On the other hand, Cremasse, is a Haitian beverage that consists of Barbancourt rum, coconut, carnation milk and spices. Usually its imbibed on special occasions and celebrations. In a recent conversation with my mother, I found out that she made Cremasse for her very own wedding! Who knew? My first experience with this special libation was several years ago. I can recall vividly when it touched my palette it reminded me of candy with a strong hint of vanilla ice cream, coconut icy and alcohol. It went down smooth and warmed my entire being. When it ‘Hits’ you, be prepared to R E A L LY feel it!.
I generally don’t take alcohol, but with Cremasse, I always make an exception. LOL!

One of the wondrous things about the digital age is that we can literally immerse ourselves in several cultures at one time, either as a voyeur, an inquiring scholar or student. Technology has made it possible for us to share our thoughts on a variety of different subjects that can be associated with history, art, food or trivia. As an American born Haitian, the journey of investigating my heritage and the constant desire to know more has been my personal mission since my teenage years. This quest has been daunting at times, and even downright frustrating, however the revelations have enlightened and transformed my life beyond words.

Metaphorically, my life in America with my family’s history in Haiti represent my own personal Cornbread and Cremasse. Its poignantly revealed in our collective spirituality, and the way we express ourselves individually and communally as we eat and drink. Each tasty mouthwatering morsel has its own profound story and legacy that speaks to our struggles, triumphs and undeniable beauty and creativity. As a recipient of this great gift, I am more than grateful for the sacrifice of the ancestors, for I always have a personal invitation to remember where I come from through each magnificent cultural meal.

 

Thank You Cornbread & Cremasse for creating this wonderful space.

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“Ms. Daley, I found out you have a special talent.”
“I do? And what might that talent be?
“I hear that you can speak another language quite fluently. Do you mind translating for a student?”

That’s how my relationship with Pierre began and his plight has reminded me of 3 things:
1. Kids can be very mean.
2. Those who are born in this country have no idea about the humiliation and degradation an immigrant endures to be accepted in U.S. culture.
3. There really is no time for adjustment when you’re new to this country. You better adjust quickly or you’ll be at the mercy of the crowd.

sadblackboy

Pierre arrived to the great U.S. of A in June of 2013 and has been trying to adjust for the past nine months. I guess that’s pretty hard when you have been forced to leave everything you have ever known and loved for a “better life”. “My boy” as some of my co-workers like to call him moved here from Haiti because he and his family had difficulties recovering from the earthquake in 2010. Pierre left Haiti with his father and sister to live here in the United States with his grandfather. Unfortunately, his mother had to stay behind. I’m sure when he boarded that plane, feelings of excitement and fear filled his heart. However, I’m sure he was reassured that this was the best opportunity for his family. After the school year Pierre has endured, I don’t think he’s so convinced.

I can only imagine how much worse Pierre’s school year would have been if he didnt have an adult in the building to connect with. In our conversations, I’ve learned quite a bit about Pierre’s school day. The kids run away when they see him. They tell him to go away when they realize he’s around. He tends to invade personal space when he’s interacting with other students (touching when he’s talking to you or getting too close). He tries so hard to be accepted by his peers. Unfortunately,  his efforts are in vain.

Our last encounter in the principal’s office inspired me to make him the subject of my latest journal entry and blog post. Throughout this school year, Pierre has been spoken to about touching the girls and play fighting with other students. According to the teachers and other students, Pierre is always the aggressor. The behavior seemed to be getting worse, so we called in grandpa. Before our appointment with grandpa, I informed the guidance counselors, and administration that I truly believe Pierre is struggling with cultural differences. The kids are not receptive to him because he’s different. Unfortunately, my opinion of the matter did not carry much weight. We agreed that there definitely was an issue with cultural differences. However, the issue could no longer be swept under the rug. At this point,  Pierre should have adjusted and should understand what is or is not acceptable.  I, on the other hand, disagree (to an extent).

During our conference,  grandpa informed us that he sent for his son, Pierre and his younger sister because the children became highly susceptible to disease and sickness after the earthquake. The family had moved out of Port-au-Prince, but things were not getting any better. I asked about Pierre’s mother and he informed us that he could not afford to send for her too, so she had to stay behind. He also told us that if Pierre didn’t get his act together, he would send him back to Haiti. At this point I happened to look over at Pierre and could see the sorrow and desperation as tears rolled down his cheeks. Then grandpa proceeded to yell at Pierre and tell him that the kids don’t like him, that he doesn’t need any friends and to get his act together.

All this kid wants, is to be accepted by his peers and live this “American Dream”, just like everyone else. That’s kind of difficult when the people around you don’t give you the time/opportunity to adjust. Pierre doesn’t have much working in his favor. There is a language barrier, cultural differences and the adults just don’t seem to be listening or understand. It doesn’t help that his peers make going to school a nightmare. It’s hard when everyone teases you because of the clothes you wear, run away and laugh when they see you coming, or blame you when something goes wrong. You can’t help but go into survival mode.

Sometimes I think I’m just overly sensitive because he’s Haitian and have had family members in his position. Maybe I remember how I made the foreigners in my class feel when I was that age. I was born here and at times would jump on the band wagon so I could insure acceptance from my peers. Maybe I’m just suffering from a guilty conscience of teasing Haitians or “just comes” to fit in. Either way you look at it, Pierre’s experience in this country shouldn’t be so difficult and he should be able to turn to someone in order to make the transition easier.

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This post was written by Christelle Louis, a 9th Grader in Haiti at Ecole Nouvelle Zoranje (ENZ); Essay shared with permission from MyHaitiTravels.com.  My Haiti Travels (MHT) is a New York-based boutique concierge firm that coordinates and produces high-quality travel experiences with a social impact for groups seeking to explore Haiti for leisure and business purposes.  My Haiti Travels (MHT) believes that one of the best ways to support Haiti is to visit, support local businesses and give back directly to the youth.  Learn more at http://www.impactweekhaiti.com.

“It is never too late to do the right thing”

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I was sitting in my classroom, and the director entered, greeted us and said: “today there is a group of “diaspora” who are going to visit our class. They will be talking about their careers. So you must welcome them well and give them all the respect they deserve, and please ask questions that will be useful to you in the future”. And he added “this is why I chose your class, so make me proud”!

At 11 am the “diaspora’s” came into our classroom with the Principal. There was a woman from the group who identified herself as the leader of the group. She introduced herself as Dina a Haitian who left Haiti since the age of 9, she also talked about her career speaking in Kreyol and English. But as she was speaking I saw tears swelling in her eyes, when I glanced at the others, I realized that they too were crying. I was very puzzled, asking myself why they were all standing in front of us in tears. But Dina must have understood that we were all a bit confused about the tears because she explained that this was an emotional visit for all them, she said we reminded them of who they were prior to leaving for the US.

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There was another one who was presenting, she could not even speak because she was crying so much, her name is Florence and she encouraged us to work hard in school, adding that this is what will secure for us a place in society. She told us to persevere and stressed again that she is who she is today because of education.  She said that she struggled and never got discouraged. But all of this was said extremely tearfully as she could not stop crying.

I would have personally liked to know why she was crying so much, unfortunately I am not a “heart reader”. But while I was thinking about this I too was crying…What shocked me also was that 2 of them stated that they left the country very young, they spent between 30-35 years out of the country and never came back, even after the earthquake. They said that when they came back they were shocked at the condition of the country.  Well I told myself that it’s a good thing they did not come right after the earthquake, they would have been more than shocked since the country was in such bad shape.

I did not despair too much when I realized that they all spoke Kreyol well and showed us that Haiti was still in their hearts since they spoke our language well and clearly gave it importance.

There was also an American among them who did not speak Kreyol, but they translated his comments. He also showed us that he loves Haiti and would like to help the Haitian people. They were all very proud, because they all felt that they were home, with family back in their country.

I became very frustrated when one of them identified as Haitian even though only her mom is Haitian. I was shocked because, there I am fantasizing about changing my nationality, while someone else who is not really Haitian, is proclaiming her Haitian heritage. I think that I should change my mind about this.  It is also that same person who is telling us to put our heads together, to work so that our country can move forward, so that others can stop projecting only negative images about us, stressing that our country is rich in resources which we must protect.

We were also told that we also needed to be proud of our history and what we did for Blacks who used to be discriminated against.  One of them said that when she left the country at the age of 15, she attended a school where the students were humiliating her because she was Haitian and because she could not speak English well.  But what really encouraged her was that she was one of the best math students in the classroom. But the memory of the humiliation she suffered as a Haitian still makes her cry and that really touched my heart and made me sad.

They all made presentations about their careers and professions. We asked a lot of questions and they responded with great enthusiasm.

Overall, I felt really proud! I was among family and they gave us excellent advice. I told myself that God has sent this group to meet us, because I have more hope and I will never be discouraged in my life even when I want to lose hope. And I will make all efforts to work even harder in school.

I went home that day with a lot of love in my heart!

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http://www-myhaititravels-com.tumblr.com/post/77617335961/an-encounter-with-hope

 

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The following is an excerpt from Elsie Augustave’s novel, “The Roving Tree” a novel about the cross-cultural adoption of Iris, a five year old Haitian girl.  ELSIE AUGUSTAVE, a native of Haiti, graduated from Middlebury College and Howard University with degrees in foreign language and literature. Aside from her academic achievements, she trained as a dancer and performed at various community theaters prior to choreographing Elima Ngando, a major production for the prestigious National Dance Theater of Zaire. Novelists Edwidge Danticat and Lorna Goodison referred to her work as a milestone and to the author as an important literary voice worth listening to. “The Roving Tree” is Augustave’s debut novel. http://elsieaugustave.com.

Elsie Augustave-photo

After what seemed like a very long ride, John pulled into the garage of a redbrick house with brown-trimmed Tudor windows. I admired the slender drooping branches of a tree and the cut grass that was so unlike the wild weeds behind our mud-plastered house in Monn Nèg.

“This is your new home. We live in Westchester, New York,” he said.

Holding my hand, Margaret showed me around the house. Going from room to room, I wondered why there was so much space for only three people. In the kitchen, I inhaled an aroma that reminded me of the tea my great-grandmother used to make with cinnamon sticks and brown sugar.

At this point, I don’t remember every detail of the house when I first saw it, but later this is the way I came to know it. Built on a slope, the main entrance opened onto a foyer that divided the lower and upper levels. The spacious kitchen had a center island and a breakfast nook that led to an outside deck. Adjacent to the kitchen was a large formal dining room, living room, and a guest bathroom. The master bedroom suite was upstairs along with two other rooms: one was Margaret’s study, the other was John’s. A family room, three bedrooms, and two full baths were on the lower level.

A world of magic opened to me. Everything seemed so vast, open, and clean. There were no clothes hanging from lines outside, no pots and pans and calabash bowls stashed inside wicker baskets. I had to get used to a kitchen with appliances and food that I never knew existed. The days I spent in the Port-au-Prince hotel hardly prepared me for this new life.

About a month later, when the novelty of it all wore off, I began to think about my family in Monn Nèg and missed the aroma of smoke from my great-grandmother’s pipe. I missed the warmth of my mother’s dark, watery eyes, the sounds of my cousins’ laughter, and the taste of mangos that had fallen from the trees. This left me with a yearning for a familiar world. Sobs often rocked me to sleep when there were no tears left. One night, holding my doll, my sobs became so violent that I woke up Cynthia, who ran out of our room to get John and Margaret.

“What’s the matter?” Margaret asked, as she turned on the light.

“I want my mother!”

Margaret sat me on her lap and said with fondness in her voice, “I’m also your mom. John is your dad, and Cynthia is your sister.”

elsie gustave
You can purchase the book here:

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