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The following blog was submitted by Elikusa A.

As a middle school administrator in a very highly populated first generation American Community in Maryland, I am often reminded of many experiences of being raised as a first generation Haitian American  in Irvington, New Jersey in the late 80’s.  Here’s a comment  that my parents use to always say to my brother’s teachers when they found themselves in the school office for some disciplinary action, “If you do that again, I will send you back to Haiti.”  As a young child that meant something but by the time my brother got to middle school, he knew that wasn’t happening.  He knew it was just an empty threat but he continued to play the role in this melodrama.  He would act like he was scared (sometimes even cry) and that he learned his lesson and my parent’s walked out of the office feeling like they did something but of course they didn’t because within the next two weeks my parents were back in the school office.  I thought only my parents did this until I became the administrator who was calling parents from- Nigeria, Jamaica, Ghana and of course Haiti – and one after another they would say the same thing, “If you do that again, I will send you back to …. ” and their child would act like they learned their lesson but all I could do is laugh (inside) because I saw was my younger brother, who by this age knew what this meant.  For me I knew sooner or later I would see the same student back in my office.
What comments did your parents make to your teachers, to your principals or just to you when you got in trouble?   I would love to hear them.
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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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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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In this week’s blog post, I would like to pay homage to some of the memorable items in my Haitian household growing up.  They are what I like to call ” Haitian Home Must Haves” or even ” You lived in a Haitian house if..”.

My aunt recently passed away and she serves as the inspiration for this post.  It was the process of going through her personal effects that my family and I shared laughs and tears at all the “interesting” items that we realized that our parents had in common.  I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with me.

The mail holder- I had to google this thing to find out what it was made of.  I was thinking wicker, come to find it is made of straw.  In my house, you would find this by the telephone in the kitchen.  It was always full of envelopes of bills but never current bills, only bills from months or years ago.

The leather mask- If you walked into someone’s house and saw this mask and didn’t know they were Haitian, you knew then.  I am not sure of the inspiration behind the mask but what I do know is that I had one in my first apartment and just knew it was all that.

Plastic runners for the carpet- I get the whole plastic for the protection of the carpet but have you ever felt the bottom of one these things? Those plastic things that stick out are painful.  My brother and I used to flip the runners over and see who could walk on them the longest. The things you do when you are bored.

Avon deodorants- I am not sure what it is about this particular deodorant brand that makes it so popular but at any given time, my mother has at least 10 or more at her disposal.

Knick Knacks– It goes without saying, we love our knick knacks. We will take anything made of glass or porcelain and put in a china cabinet; the smaller the better. My mother has a collection of glass animals. I believe it’s the recreation of Noah’s Ark because there are pairs of everything. On special occasions, the overhead light in the china cabinet would get turned on to really highlight all the little trinkets.

Napkin holder with metal bar– This was a cool little contraption wasn’t it? It was noisy though and sometimes the bar would get stuck at the top. You could pile some napkins in it though.

Jesus- In our home it was an oil painting. The format can vary but white Jesus was a must.

JFK and Obama– These two men can sit in a house on the wall like family members. My mother has more Obama photos than she has of any of her children or grandchildren. I am talking inauguration plates, buttons, cards, etc.  My understanding this is not exclusive to Haitian people either.

Now it’s your turn to tell me what are some things I missed.  What are some things that bring back childhood memories?  Feel free to share your thoughts here.

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