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Posts Tagged ‘kreyol’

The battle of the Caribbean islands was on!

Flag-Pins-Haiti-Trinidad-and-Tobago

 

It all started when my in- laws coordinated a trip to their country of origin, Trinidad and Tobago.  They wanted their grandchildren to see and get to know their life journey. It was great trip with lots food, fun, and of course being with family.  It got me to thinking that it was equally important for my kids to get to know my parents’ country of origin, Haiti.

So what does a fully assimilated Haitian-American do to make that happen?

I booked a cruise, of course.

 

Now, I had set my expectations of Haiti very high. I was 6 years old the last time I had visited. I mean on a scale of 1-10, it was on one million.  What life has taught me is that the higher the expectations, the more likely you are to be disappointed.  I brought it on myself and that is exactly what happened when we docked in Labadee, Haiti. As we approached Haiti on Day 3,  I was struck by the beauty of the mountains and how picturesque the scenery was. Then out of nowhere a dark cloud appeared over us and began a torrential downpour, an ominous sign indeed.

So back to the cruise, before I get into the nitty gritty and you may feel the need to comment about how I went about it all wrong. You are right. Who asked you anyway?  The lesson in this is NEVER take a cruise line to a country if you really want to get a feel for the culture. That was my biggest mistake.
 So we arrive in Labadee Haiti, a privately owned island, sanctioned by the cruise line in a torrential downpour. I figure since we had been on that boat for 3 days, We ARE getting off.  We are greeted by a group of men singing “Guantanamera”. I did one of those gestures where you look back and then in front of you a few times, like “What in the world? Is this for real?” I understand Haitian music is a unique blend of African, Spanish, and French rhythms but I anticipated compas/kompa upon my arrival.
 We just continued on our way but that experience was just the tip of the iceberg. However, I made sure to make eye contact as if somehow they could read my mind.
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There were signs directing us to a marketplace area where we could buy from the locals. Prior to departure, it was explained that the vendors were “cruise line” approved. In other words, you had to go through a vetting process in order to work on Labadee.  As we strolled through the marketplace, I am accustomed to vendors trying to get my attention, the other guests of the cruise, weren’t so pleased. I almost wanted to yell ” Stop it, we are better than this!”.
I wanted to pick a bottle of rum, so I stepped into a small store and begin to peruse the merchandise. I don’t know who decided it would be a good idea to put a picture of Bob Marley on souvenirs with the caption ” Labadee, Haiti”.  I love Bob Marley like the next person, but I also know he is NOT Haitian.  This was not isolated either, it was everywhere.  There is so much more to Haitian culture that there is no reason to culturally misappropriate individuals.
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We have so much we could be proud of as outlined in : https://cornbreadandcremasse.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/telling-our-story-3/, but here are a just a few facts to share.
Native Haitians were pre-Columbian Ameridian named Taino/Arawak both meaning the good people.
Haiti is the most mountainous country in the Caribbean.
Haiti has the second longest coastline in the Caribbean after Cuba; 1.100 miles. Over 70% of its beaches are still virgin.
Haiti was the second country in the world to issue a Declaration of Independence, only 33 years after the United States of America.
The first and only country in the history of mankind whose independence is the result of a successful slave rebellion.
Haiti is the first Black Republic in the World.
The first country in the Western Hemisphere to abolished slavery; it would take the United States of America another 65 years to follow suit.
The first and only Black Nation to have successfully defeated a major world power in a war; under the command of Jean Jacques Dessalines, Haiti defeated the world mightiest army at the time, France’s; on November 18th 1803 after 14 years of battle.
-The only country in the Western Hemisphere to have defeated three colonial armies for its independence. The powerful armies of Spain, England and France.
-Haiti is unique in history, going directly from slavery to nationhood.
The National flag of Venezuela was created at the sea port of  Jacmel, a city in  south east Haiti.
Upon Independence, Haiti became the first country in the American Continent to constitutionally grant all Its citizen full rights regardless of gender or race.
Haiti occupied the Dominican Republic for 22 years. From 1822 to 1844, holding the entire Island of Hispaniola under Its jurisdiction. Today’s Dominican Republic was called Spanish Haiti at the time.
Haiti is one of the only two countries in the American Continent having French as an official language. The other is Canada.
Haiti is the only country in the world with Vodou as an official religion.
For much of the 17th and the 18th century, Haiti was responsible for 60% of the world’s  coffee exports.
 Even though, things were not perfect or realistic for that matter, it meant a lot to me to be able to share the experience with my family. Clearly, I need a trip to Haiti do over and when I do, you will be the first to know.
Have you ever visited a place that didn’t quite live up to your expectations? How did you reconcile your expectations with the reality? I would love to hear your comments and ideas for my do over trip:).

 

 

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This essay by Wynnie Lamour was first published in Haitian Times magazine. ht-haitiantimes_logotype-tm-02-01

Haitian Creole bridges the divide between generations of women in the diaspora

 

The night before my grandmother died, she came to visit me. It had already been a long journey. For my mother, the only child my grandmother had, to watch as her poto mitanbecame a frail and weak version of her previous self. For my brothers, full of emotion but unable to adequately express themselves. For me, her first grandchild, on the verge of womanhood and about to lose one of the most powerful women in her life. For everyone, it was essentially a journey of pain.

I could sense her presence but I wasn’t afraid. This was the woman who had sacrificed so deeply for my mother. This was the woman who had served as mother not just to my own but to countless others. This was the woman who, just the day before, had defied doctors’ orders, dressed herself in her Sunday best and walked on her own two feet to church. This was the woman who knew exactly which teas and herbs were best for every malady known — at least to me.

In the words of Mirlande Jean-Gilles, she was “…a magical woman…” — the epitome of a Haitian woman. Her silence spoke volumes as she watched me. Her love and gratitude for all that we had done for her poured over me. I wept knowing that her physical self was on its way beyond our reality. I weep now, knowing that I’ll never again hear her sing as she cooks mayi djon djon (cornmeal with mushroom root) and asks me if I want some zaboka(avocado) with it.

But my grandmother, like her ancestors before her, is very much a part of my present.

The magical women of our past blazed trails, and not just in the figurative way in which so many change-makers are engaged today. Instead, they laid down their lives, set aside their dreams, and got on their knees to implore the spirits for the courage to continue doing what they must for their families and their communities.

It wasn’t until years after her passing did it occur to me that she was the catalyst for my “return” to Haiti through language. Her journey with death and beyond shook something loose inside me: a desire to reanimate that which already resided in me.

For those of us who grew up in the diaspora, the enormity of what our mothers did has not been completely lost on us. To leave behind everything and everyone that you know and move to a country that is less than welcoming to a people that the world over constantly views as hopeless, is the epitome of sacrifice. How then can we bridge the divide that often exists between us and our mothers? How can we cut through the veil of misunderstanding that can sometimes lie between a mother whose being lives in one culture while her daughter toes the line between two cultures?

There is no better way to accomplish this than through language. Language is the mirror through which we can truly see the world through the eyes of another. Language is the scaffolding that supports our relationships and provides a structure that we all crave in our interactions with each other.

For Haitians worldwide, Kreyòl serves this purpose and so much more. It is the language that lives in us all; and to speak Kreyòl is to communicate in a language that elicits a deep and emotional response in its people.

Many young hyphenated Haitian women of the diaspora come to the Haitian Creole Language Institute via this pathway: wanting to reconnect with their Haitian mothers in their native tongue; wanting to understand more fully the meaning behind their words; and wanting to engage with their mothers in a more intimate way.

HCLI affords them the opportunity to learn not just the various nuances of the language but also the history and the profundity of what it means to speak Kreyòl. It goes beyond speaking the language of revolutionaries. It is to speak the language of not just the magical women of our past but also the magical women of our present — who continue to strive to do the best they can with the tools that they have in the hopes that our futures can be just a little bit more magical.

It has been through Kreyòl that I pay continuous homage to my grandmother, and her mother before her, and all the mothers of my past. Their spirits embody me every time I open my mouth and fix my lips to speak the same sounds that propelled their lives. It is our hope here at HCLI that we can provide others that same opportunity — to become one with what is, as Haitians, the very fabric of our being.

Wynnie Lamour is the founder of the Haitian Creole Language Institute.

For more information on the Elementary Haitian Creole course that takes place on Tuesdays from 7:00 – 8:30 pm in Brooklyn, visit haitiancreoleinstitute.com.

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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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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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My identity crisis began in chemistry lab. The class required a clean white coat and safety goggles. I was instructed to wash my hands for two minutes. The soap made my palms feel brittle while the latex gloves stiffened my muscles. My good eye would squint into a microscope that I could never figure out how to adjust properly. Slides covered in splotches of red and purple stains made me lose my appetite. All of this, three times a week.

My Microbiology professor, a Brooklyn native with a thick Puerto Rican accent recognized my struggles early on but judging from the red marks all over my assignments, had zero sympathy for me. But thanks to Rita, my lab partner, I still passed. Her penchant for getting high right before class made her overlook my incompetence and she gleefully did all the work for the both of us.

Rita’s ability to breeze through each assignment despite her marijuana-induced brain was all the more proof that I was not fit to be a dietician.

I switched my major the next term.

Growing up, the common images of Haitian women in the workplace were in hospitals, nursing homes and medical offices. My mother was a nurse. My aunts were medical practitioners. And almost all my Haitian peers were planning on going to medical school upon high school graduation. Unbeknownst to me, I made a life decision based on an internalized cultural stereotype.

Many people of different racial and ethnic groups will internalize positive and sometimes even negative stereotypes about themselves, even when those perceptions limit their worldview. Although I preferred writing and literature over the periodic table and scientific method, I felt tied to the cultural specific labels placed upon me as a Haitian-American woman. Not to mention that I aimed to please my parents who saw an education in medicine much more respectable than one in liberal arts.

I, like many second-generation Haitian-American children, faced conflicts with my identity. The crushing stigmas, stereotypes and careless media reporting about Haiti and its people played a huge role in this. But my desire to be “outside the box,” or separate from the norm conflicted more with my dual identity. Pressure from my parents who I wanted to please and peers who I wanted to prove my authenticity to, all made me struggle with my identity. But my contention eased when I finally left home.

In  2002, I moved from Florida, which boasts the highest population of Haitian immigrants in the United States, and relocated to Georgia. Once there, it slowly became easier for me to define myself. While my nationality is and will always be a part of who I am, I no longer feel tied to all the cultural norms and traditions typically associated with Haitian-Americans.

Living alone and surrounded by mostly non-Haitian people, I rid myself of the “model minority” mystique. My Cringlish could fall off my tongue without embarrassment. I could dance badly to kompa without looks of confusion.  And despite my below average griot, it was still a hit with my American friends.

The most important lesson I learned is that I can never be one without the other. I am very much Haitian as I am American and both components make me who I am today.

annabella

Annabella Jean-Laurent is a Haitian-American writer who explores race, media and culture in society. Her current project surrounds an important but little known exhibit called the Negro Building at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition. Follow her @militantbarbie on Twitter and Facebook. 

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The following blog post  was submitted by Mr. Ashley Toussaint: www.brothertoussaint.wordpress.com

social-identity1

 

“Identity Crisis” is an excerpt from a book that I am currently writing. It’s a coming of age story about a Haitian American boy named Johnny Baptiste who grows up in Miami, Florida. The book addresses the common struggles that inner city youth face, such as poverty, crime, peer pressure, school life and identity. “Identity Crisis” exposes the depth of how some Haitian Americans struggle to publicly acknowledge and embrace their Haitian heritage. 

Therefore, as Johnny continues to deny his own heritage, he continues to buy into an idea that he is inferior. Our identity is what makes us unique and authentic. Unfortunately, the stigma of being Haitian will not allow Johnny to embrace who he truly is.
Excerpt from the upcoming book authored by Ashley Toussaint:

“It was a sad sight, but not surprising, at least not to most of the students in the class (95% of the class was Haitian). Ms. Gomez however, was flabbergasted. She could not believe it. She was so excited and eager to share a piece of literature with them, especially sense it was written in their language. But she was sadly mistaken. It was the exact opposite of what she had expected. Instead of excitement, there was lethargy in the room. Instead of pride, there was embarrassment. The looks on their faces and the silence of the classroom infuriated her. And suddenly, the petite soft-spoken Filipino woman ripped them all a “new one”.

“Why don’t you want to read in Creole?!” Why are you ashamed of your culture?!” No one answered. “You should be proud of your heritage, you should be proud of where you are from!” she exclaimed in her Filipino accent. How embarrassing. There stood a 4 foot 6 inch nun from the Philippines teaching a group of black, Haitian-American children about being proud of their race, their heritage and their history. Her words were so precise and simple, yet heavy and sharp. They cut right through Johnny’s heart.

She continued to lecture them about how she had come to America, but was not ashamed of where she was from. By the time she was done with them, they were all humiliated, but for the right reason. “Now who wants to read the third page?” Just about every hand went up. They were strong, proud, black hands of young Haitian-American children, who had never felt like they had a reason to truly be proud. And though Johnny struggled to read his mother’s language, it didn’t bother him. If anything, it was the most beautiful struggle he could ever endure.”

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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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