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January 06 2014

#ShamlesslyHaitian on Haiti's Independence Day

January 1st is special for Haitians not only because it is the first day of the new year but also because it the date Haiti declared its independence. To commemorate Haiti's 210th anniversary of independence, Bertin Louis (@MySoulIsInHaiti) started the hashtag #ShamelesslyHaitian as a way for Haitians to express pride and educate others about their history and culture. Global Voices spoke to Louis to find out more about the hashtag and his academic work.

Global Voices (GV) : Let us know more about your background.

486882_10151399159407592_721448874_nBertin Louis (BL) : My name is Dr. Bertin M. Louis, Jr. and I am an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies at the University of Tennessee.  I am also the son of Haitians who migrated to the United States in the mid-1960s. Growing up in Staten Island, New York I didn’t really identify with my Haitian heritage until I went to Syracuse University for my undergraduate studies. In the first semester of my junior year, I took a course called “Caribbean Society Since Independence” taught by Dr. Horace Campbell, a Political Scientist of Jamaican descent and a Pan-Africanist. The first book we read was “The Black Jacobins: Toussaint Louverture and the San Domingo Revolution” by Trinidadian labor historian C.L.R. James. The book had a deep impact on me. When something has a big impact on you, we say in Haitian Creole “Li frape m fò (literally “it hit me hard”). To know that the only successful slave revolt in human history was part of my heritage made me confident in who I was, at the time, and I became more interested in studying more about Haitian history and culture. It really put on the path that I am on today researching and studying the Haitian diaspora and Haiti.

GV:  Were you born in Haiti or are you part of the diaspora? How much of a difference do you think it makes?

BL: I am part of the diaspora who was born in the United States. This makes a big difference because I live in the Colossus of the Western Hemisphere, which has its advantages and drawbacks. For example, I currently study religion (Evangelical Protestantism) and statelessness in the Haitian diaspora of the Bahamas. I interviewed many Haitian migrants as well as their children, who were trying to find a way to live in the United States, where they had family and better prospects for employment and better opportunities to lead dignified lives. My American citizenship is a privilege that they don’t have. Since I am in a privileged position, as a University professor and an American citizen, I feel that it of utmost importance to use my voice, to use my privilege to speak up on the behalf of those whose voices are silenced, like Haitian migrants and their stateless children in the Bahamas, in order to draw attention to their plight. So it makes a big difference as to where I was born because if I was born in the Dominican Republic, I would be stateless and unable to take advantage of the opportunities I currently benefit from as an American citizen.

 

GV: Could you please tell us something about your academic area(s) of interest?

BL: My teaching and research interests span the African diaspora and I interrogate the concept of diaspora through my transnational study of the Evangelical Protestant movement among Haitians in the Caribbean (Haiti and the Bahamas) and the United States.  Specifically, I combine multi-sited ethnographic research (in the United States, Haiti, and the Bahamas) with a transnational framework to analyze the practice and growth of Evangelical Protestantism in the Haitian diaspora of the Bahamas.  This research has resulted in my first book, My Soul is in Haiti: Migration and Protestantism in the Haitian Diaspora of the Bahamas,” which will be published by New York University Press in 2014.

My next research project is about stateless Bahamians of Haitian descent, sometimes referred to as “Haitian-Bahamians.” Statelessness refers to an individual who is not considered as a national by any state and affects an estimated 12 million people worldwide.  Stateless people do not have a country that they can call their own, lack access to basic political and social rights, such as the rights to vote, marry, and own property, and are also denied access to employment, educational services, and health care. My research will produce a book and articles that should advance theory in citizenship, diaspora, human rights, and statelessness studies and contribute to current Bahamian public policy debates.

GV: What particularly inspired you to create this hashtag #ShamelesslyHaitian?

BL: On December 21st, I participated in a hashtag called #ShamelesslyCaribbean and people tweeted interesting and funny comments about the shared experience of being Caribbean/being of Caribbean descent. As the days drew closer to Haitian Independence Day (January 1), I thought about doing #ShamelesslyHaitian to draw attention to Haiti, which is not respected by other nations, and people of Haitian descent, who are not treated like human beings in other nations, as the Dominican Republic’s recent court ruling demonstrates.

Much of the news we learn about Haiti and Haitians is wholly negative. We learn on the news that Haiti is in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with no explanation of how it got that way in the first place. Haitians are denigrated, excluded, and, in some cases, criminalized in the Bahamas, Canada, the Dominican Republic, and the United States (remember the AIDS crisis in its early years in the U.S. and Haitians were one of the 4Hs identified by the CDC as HIV-carriers?). And I thought that there was some potential in creating and circulating a hashtag that gave people of Haitian descent, and their allies, the opportunity to present a different and informative narrative about Haiti and Haitians, that didn’t focus on natural disasters, coup d’etats, governmental instability, stark poverty, AIDS, etc.; a narrative that celebrated Haitian achievements, recuperated the importance of the Haitian Revolution to humanity, and also as a way to educate people about a place and a diaspora that has been grotesquely distorted, demonized, in some cases, in Western history and Western media.

So I floated the idea of contacted some people of Haitian descent to some Twitter friends, asked them if they would participate, and chose the 210th anniversary of Haitian independence to launch #ShamelesslyHaitian at 12 noon Eastern Standard Time.

GV: What has been the impact of social media on the issues you are most concerned about?

BL: I find that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter offer opportunities to learn about issues that are important to me. It’s also a way to be part of a larger community, albeit virtual, based on similar interests and ideas, as these Twitter hashtags demonstrate.

GV: What is your reaction to the way the hashtag took off? Were you surprised by the way it grew? What does it tell you about the Haitian Diaspora?

BL: I was hoping for some participation with the hashtag and I am glad that it took off in the way that it did. I was mildly surprised but not shocked by its popularity. Based on my research and work in the Haitian diaspora, there’s a sameness of experience, a similarity of experience among people of Haitian descent that forces them to draw on their heritage in the face of discrimination and prejudice. Many tweets dealt with being proud to be Haitian despite the discrimination and teasing kids in the Haitian diaspora experienced growing up.

I think the popularity of the hashtag demonstrates that whether it is in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, the United States, Canada, Haiti, or anywhere else we find Haitians, 210 years after Haitian independence, after the Haitian Revolution, Haitians are still trying to lead dignified lives and that they are struggling to do so.

 

The image in this post is courtesy of Bertin Louis.

December 17 2013

Explaining the Evergrowing Tradition of “Chanté Nwèl” (Singing Christmas) in the French West Indies

Between late November and December 25, a unique tradition is taking place every year in the Francophone Caribbean islands, especially in Martinique and Guadeloupe. “Chanté Nwel” [fr] is a time when people come together to not only sing traditional Christmas songs but also share a meal as a community. Although the tradition of singing Christmas carols has slowed down in France, it has grown stronger than ever in the french west indies [fr]. Hélène Clément explains the sad origin of the tradition that has been turned into a festive celebration [fr] :

L’article 2 du Code noir promulgué par Louis XIV en 1685 prévoyait « l’instruction religieuse des esclaves ». Les jésuites, chargés de poursuivre cette instruction religieuse, enseigneront aux esclaves à jouer de certains instruments dans le but de former des choristes pour les offices religieux [..] Le « chanté Nwèl » dans les Antilles françaises reste un moment de partage et de solidarité.

The article 2 of the Code Noir [Black Code] promulgated by Louis XIV in 1685 stipulated that “religious instruction be provided to slaves.” The Jesuits taught slaves through the religious instruction to play some instruments in order to assemble a choir for religious services [..] The “Chanté Nwèl” in the French West Indies is first and foremost a time of sharing and solidarity

Here is a video of one of the most known carol :Joseph mon cher fidèle (Joseph, my dear faithful) [fr]:

Daniel, from Martinique, explains the drinking tradition during “Chanté Nwèl” [fr]:

Autrefois, lors des ces « chanté Nwel», on servait en dehors du traditionnel punch, du sirop d’orgeat aux dames, ainsi que du chocolat à l’eau épaissi au toloman pour se réchauffer du « froid piquant » des nuits de décembre… dès la fin du mois de novembre, on prépare le  schrubb avec des écorces d’oranges que l’on fait macérer dans du rhum au soleil.

Back in the days during “Chanté Nwèl”, the traditional cocktail punch and chocolate water thickened with toloman were served to warm the “sneaky cold” December nights; orgeat syrup were reserved for the ladies … at the end of November, the schrubb is prepared with orange peels that has been soaked in rum and exposed to the sun. 

 The following video shows how residents of Gros-Morne, Martinique are celebrating the tradition today [fr]:

August 01 2012

Haiti: “Dear Ayiti”

The Fanm Kanson Network posts the first video from its “Dear Ayiti” project, which asks a simple question: If Haiti were a person, what would you say to her? Two Haitian Americans, one Haitian and a Grendadian share their thoughts.

June 20 2012

St. Lucia: Our Own Stories

Nkrumah Lucien reviews Davina Lee's debut feature film The Coming of Org: ”It is indeed important for us to tell more of our own stories, too reflect adequately on ourselves not to reproduce images of ourselves tailored by others and to steer away from cliché and the narrow uncritical Hollywood stereotypes.”

April 30 2012

Martinique: Where has Creole gone?

On Martinican collective blog Montray Kreyol, a recent post [Fr/Fr Cr] wonders why Martinique 1ère [Fr], which is the local relay of the French National Broadcast Network, Fance Television [En], has almost no Creole language spoken on air.

October 17 2011

Poetry Slam Activism in Francophone Africa

In the past 10 months social movements have sprung around the world at an impressive pace. It all started with an act of despair in the town of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, and has now spread across 87 countries and 951 cities around the world according to the organizers of the United for #GlobalChange (October 15) Movement.

Demonstrating outside institutions is one way of expressing a desire for change in a society.  However, other forms of activism have existed for a while now and are now rekindled all around the world as a show of protest against the status-quo. Poetry slam is a well-known channel of expression for many activists in North America but the rest of the world has now embraced this unique blend of poetry and rhythmic oral story telling.

Many have found it difficult at times to relate to a form of expression that is often wrongly perceived as limited to the urban youth of North America. Poetry slam is however now firmly entrenched in the culture of many countries, especially in Africa because it incorporates the African tradition of oral story telling. Here are a few examples of poetry slam across the African continent and the context in which they were expressed.

The Arab revolution

King Bobo on UniversalSlam wrote a tribute to the youth of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya entitled ‘Liberté chérie j’écris ton nom‘ ( Beloved freedom, I write thy name) [fr]:

Liberté chérie j’écris ton nom
Ecoutez ce vent de liberté qui souffle dans toutes les langues
La jeunesse tunisienne s’exprime sur les murs
Avec des slogans tracés à la peinture
Liberté, liberté, liberté
La jeunesse égyptienne grave sur les sépultures
Des hiéroglyphes modernes inscrits pour le futur
La jeunesse syrienne ne voit que des balles perdues
Qui ricochent un peu partout et qui tracent sur les murs
Les poètes libyens de Benghazi murmurent
Des poèmes satiriques comme des caricatures

Beloved Freedom, I write thy name
Listen to the wind of liberty that blows in all languages
Tunisian youth write on the walls
With slogans drawn as paintings
Freedom, freedom, freedom
Egyptian youth etch on the graves
Modern hieroglyphics inscribed for the future
Syrian youth only see stray bullets
That ricochet around and leave marks on the walls
Libyan poets in Benghazi murmur
Satirical poems as caricatures

Algeria

Fodil Belhadj, an Algerian author, poet and blogger on Regards Africains (African eyes) [fr], slams about the promise of Algeria's independence [fr] and makes an analogy with his own story and his exile from his homeland [fr]

Fodil Belhadj also posts on his blog an open letter to the Algerian army [fr] :

.. Cela s’appelle l’autodétermination Chère Armée Algérienne. L’aurais-tu par je ne sais quel crime oublié ? Ah oui j’avais oublié que les Algériens s’étaient « trompés » en mandatant 188 députés du Front islamique du salut. Oui c’est vrai z’avaient qu’à pas voter pour de méchants islamistes, alors que toi tu es tellement, tellement sympathique. Chère Armée Algérienne. C’est tout ce que tu as trouvé comme argument spécieux, s’il en est, pour écraser ton propre peuple et rassurer « ta » communauté internationale…!
Sache donc grande muette puisque tu feins de ne point le comprendre, et à défaut de l’admettre, que démocratie signifie : Se soumettre au verdict des urnes.

.. it's called self-determination, my dear Algerian army. How could you possibly forget? That's right, I forgot that Algerian “made a mistake” by voting for 188 MPs [Members of Parliament] of the Islamic Front (FIS). It's true that they should not have voted for the bad, mean Islamists and that you are so much more sympathetic. My dear Algerian army. Is that all the argument you have left to keep oppressing your people and reassure “your” international community.. ?
You ought to know, oh great silent one [nickname given to the army in many francophone nations], even if you pretend not to get it, that democracy means accepting the verdict of the voting poll

Republic of Congo

Abd al Malik is a well-known singer and poet who grew up in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. Socially and politically engaged, most notably on the perception of Islam in France, he created with other artists the group ‘New African Poets' (NAP) [fr]. In his poem, ‘Soldat de plomb' (Toy soldier), Malik describes the struggle of a disaffected youth trying to fit in:

Soldat de plomb, soldat de plomb
Bien sûr qu'un sourire nous aurait fait plaisir,
Juste un peu d'attention et peut-être ça aurait été autrement.
Nous aurions été des enfants normaux et pas des enfants soldats,

Toy soldier, toy soldier
Of course a smile would have been nice,
A little bit of attention and maybe things have gone differently
We could have been normal children instead of child soldiers

Morocco

In Morocco, the independent news portal Mamfakinch described how the February 20 movement voiced their desire for change a few months ago in a different manner [fr]:

Nous sommes jeunes, nous sommes capables d’innovation ! Pour ne pas tomber dans la banalisation de nos formes de protestation, et au vu de l’essoufflement que peuvent ressentir nos concitoyens et principalement les jeunes par les sit-in répétitifs, la coordination de Rabat des jeunes du 20 févier a décidé de diversifier ses formes des contestations.
C’est dans cet esprit nous avons choisi, après un long débat, de faire un Flash-mob: Plus précisément, un Freeze ( on explique plus bas le principe) et un petit concert de musique et poèmes contestataires.

We are young and we are capable of innovating! For the protests not to grow stale, and since we've seen citizen movement, especially the youngsters grow tired by the repeated sit-ins, the coordination committee decided to diversify its way of protesting.
After a lengthy debate, we chose to do a flash-mob, more precisely a freeze, a small concert and some activist poetry.

Here is a video of part of the protest:

Madagascar

Some may argue that the original seeds of peotry slam were sowed in Madagascar. Malagasy culture has always incorporated Hainteny (Malagasy for “knowledge of words”), a traditional form of Malagasy oral literature and poetry involving heavy use of metaphor.

Kabary is the the spoken public discourse of the Hainteny and the earlier form of Kabary dates back to the 18th century. Kabary are often used during social gathering such as engagement parties or wedding where the speaker for each family would engage in verbal jousting. Usually declined by men, here is a rare instance of a Kabary spoken by Malagasy women [mg]:

Mauritius

Poetry slam has also taken a foothold on the island of Mauritius. Stefan Hart de Keating also known as StefH2K is one of the pioneer of poetry slam in the Indian Ocean. StefH2K explains that the presence during the slam is just as important as the quality of the text.

Fictif discusses the identity crisis that the Asian minority can sometimes feel in Mauritius [fr, kr]:

LE Sino-Mauricien

Aujourd’hui
Je veux slamer
Pour tous ceux
Qui comme moi en ont marre
D’être mis à l’écart
Car je ne suis pas qu’un petit Chinois
Mais un Mauricien
Comme toi… comme toi… comme toi
Oublie mon accent chinois
Ma langue maternelle, c’est le créole
Ki to ti kroir toi ? Mo pa konn koz kréol ?
Même si je regarde Jackie Chan à la télé
Ou pratique le kung-fu
Fou, hein ?
Ma danse préférée reste le séga

The Chinese-Mauritian

I want to slam
For those like me
Who are tired
Of being ostracized
Because I am not only a small Chinese guy
I am also a Mauritian
Like you, like you, like you
Forget my Chinese accent for a minute
My mother tongue is Creole
What did you think? That I cannot speak Creole?
Even if I watch Jackie Chan on TV
Or practice Kung-fu
Fooled you huh?
My favorite dance is still séga

There are many causes for which people protests in the streets or engage in political discourse. What has come to fruition is that the manner in which we do so tend to feed into one another more rapidly. Similarily, poetry slam has moved beyond borders to reach as a unique channel for self-expression and social activism. In fact, the rise of social media probably played a role in the quicker dissemination of poetry slam as a universal voice for the oppressed.

October 15 2011

Global Handwashing Day: Changing Behaviors through Song and Dance

Logo for the Global Handwashing Day

Do you know how to properly wash your hands? Through songs and dances, people from different parts of the world are teaching others the right way to wash their hands to promote health.  October 15th 2011 is the Global Handwashing Day and with the slogan Clean Hands Save Lives, it puts the spotlight on a simple action that helps decrease child mortality due to preventable diseases.

Through Hip Hop,  Grammy Winners Chocquibtown from Colombia, tell children when to wash their hands and how to do it.

This group of young people in a rural community in Honduras also use Hip Hop to sing about the importance of handwashing in  this video aired on local television.

In this next BBC world trust ad for handwashing in Cambodia, a young boy who is excluded from childrens' games  until he washes his hands asks a very important question: what if he doesn't have soap? The answer? Just use ash.

Many different organizations are promoting handwashing in different parts of the world.  In the next videos we see the Red Cross' efforts in Haiti to promote handwashing through songs in Creole, Food for the Hungry in Mozambique shows us a handwashing station that uses a gallon plastic bottle as a water source and shares the song Mozi's Water, which lasts as long as handwashing should. Foundations Surtigas and Promigas in Colombia have empowered children to express themselves through writing, painting, poetry and singing, with some of the children composing pieces on handwashing and singing in the traditional regional style of Vallenato.

This video from Mexico, bases itself on UNICEF's 2009 Japanese Handwashing Song and names the steps so they are easier to remember: the mountain, the guitar, the motorcycle, the snake, the butterfly and “kamehameha” show that handwashing is certainly much more than just rubbing palms together!

Beyonce's Single Ladies is used as the soundtrack to go through the 5 different steps of handwashing for health practitioners, as shown in this video and dance by Public Health students in Mexico. First removing rings, watches and bracelets, then regulating water flow, wetting hands and using enough soap, washing backs, fronts, sides and tips of fingers and then drying hands with paper towels which are used to close the faucet afterwards.

Health practitioners in Iligan City, Philippines also made their own choreographed handwashing video to the beat of Jai Ho, from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack.

Let's go wash our hands!

September 24 2011

Comoros: Blog monitors Fuel Shortage in Anjouan

In his blog, Dafinemkomori documents fuel and power shortage [fr] in the Comoros. He explains that fuel shortage has greatly impacted greatly many other aspects of the economy on the island of Anjouan (rise of the price of tuna and power shortage).

April 08 2011

Video: Checking out the BOBs Video Channel Nominees

Written by Juliana Rincón Parra

The Deutsche Welle International Blog Awards, known as The BOBs are one of the most important awards for content producers online. One of their 17 categories is the award for Best Video Channel and today we'll get to know a bit more about the 11 nominees you can vote for.

Yaqoob in Japan is the videoblog of Jacoub Al-Slaise, a Bahraini living in Nagoya, Japan. In his video posts he tells a bit about his cross-cultural experiences: sightseeing and feeding deer in Nara, walking around the city, flower arranging, sumo and even a guide to having babies in Japan. This next video [ar] has Yacoob showing us around his apartment:

From Bangladesh comes Unnayan TV, an online TV channel featuring many documentaries on the topics of development, cultural issues, education and human rights. For example, this short piece speaks about rickshaws, explaining their cultural importance and how new legislation is affecting rickshaw pullers' who now have an even harder time making a decent living. Or this next video, showing how although there are laws and embargoes to products made using child labor, this is still pervasive in Bangladesh:

Stands with a Fist is a nominee from Iran, selected due to the channel's importance during the Green Revolution in Iran. The most watched video of his site is We are all Majid Tavakoli. After the police detained student leader Maji Tavakoli, the media showed pictures of him dressed in female garb, the police said he had put on the hijab to be able to escape arrest. Iranian citizens believed that he had been dressed that way to ridicule and discredit him so to show their support they took pictures and made videos of themselves wearing head scarves as well:

Shawn Ahmed of The Uncultured Project has been featured several times here in Global Voices as well: his humanitarian work in Bangladesh has inspired many. Whether it is doing disaster relief with funds raised through online activism, working to get people clean water or helping build schools, his heart is in the right place and his videos help bring the message home. In this next video, he tackles the important subject of “eve teasing” and how this sexual harassment is, in a girl's own words a terrible psychological torture that makes them weak:

Grani.tv [ru] is from Russia, and according to the description on the BOBs' website it is the place where people get together to see and discuss investigative reports, interviews, human rights issues, opinions from opposition politicians and more. In this video, naturalists try to stop the cutting down of some trees in Moscow:


Грани-ТВ: Химки: новые бои

Isla Presidencial (Presidential Island) is a web series by Venezuelan animators of false news outlet elChiguirebipolar.net, who decided to see what would happen if presidents from different Latin American nations ended up in a deserted island after a presidential summit. The Presidential Island is quite successful not only in Venezuela, but also the rest of Latin America. In the latest episode [es], after fixing a radio they overhear that poverty, debt and other issues in their countries have been eliminated after their disappearance the information gets interrupted by a mayday call from a plane which crashes on the island. They decide to check out the wreckage and later meet with other heads of state who appeared on the island as a time vortex forced them to cross themselves in the past and future… and then we see a mysterious character who may just be the mastermind behind this all.

Lao Hu Miao (Tiger Temple) videoblogs from behind the Firewall of China about life, culture and human rights in China. Citizen journalism, interviews and road trip videos showing the sights around Beijing fill the channel. Like this next video showing the Dongyang Hill Temple:

After the Haiti earthquake lots of media focused on the region, but as the time passed, foreign interest began to wane and advances in the reconstruction of Haiti stopped making the international news. That's where Goudou-Goudou [fr] comes in: with a team of journalists and media specialists they've managed to keep people informed about what is going on in Haiti, and what the situation is like more than 1 year after the Earthquake. For example, this video on Plas Timoun an initiative that is using art to help support the psychological health of kids still living in the tent villages.


L’art, une réponse au cauchemar des enfants… por AsianProjekt

Engage Media focuses on the Asian Pacific region, and curates video content submitted by people in the region who try to bring attention to their issues, concerns and causes. Like this documentary done by an artistic group which is painting murals around Yogyakarta in Indonesia, for example:

Project Germany follows two filmmakers as they travel around Germany and interview people they meet along the way until they reach the 50 interview mark. So far there are 9 interviews on the site, and this is the latest one:

Rodrigo Leitão from Brazil has previous experience as a cultural reporter, and he uses it to his advantage in his YouTube channel where he showcases the lives of Brazilians. In this video [pt] he visits Sebastião Martins Vieira, a pen salesman who has been in business 53 years and who obviously is passionate about what he does as he shares his fountain pen collection and his thoughts:

These are all 11 nominees for the Best of Blogs Video Channel Award: did you like one in particular? Let them know your appreciation by voting for them and getting them closer to winning the audience award. Voting closes on April 11th, and you can cast one vote each 24 hours.

[disclosure: Jacoub Al-Slaise is a Global Voices contributor who has been very active in reporting the recent developments in Bahrain]

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

March 22 2011

Caribbean: Caribe Wave 11, the first simulated tsunami alert

Written by Claire Ulrich

On Wednesday, March 23, the first full-scale simulated tsunami alert exercise will take place in 33 countries in the Caribbean to test the effectiveness of alert, monitoring and warning systems (Hashtag on Twitter: EXERCISE - NOT REAL #CW11) . Open Street Map France [Fr] and Crisis Camp Paris [Fr] will join this exercise to encourage awareness and use of social media tools during emergencies in the French speaking West Indies.

March 20 2011

Haiti: Aristide’s return, the word “house” and today’s election

Written by Alice Backer

To say the twice exiled President Aristide is a mythic figure in the Haitian imagination is an understatement. To say he evokes strong emotions from Haitians, even less so. In a post titled “The Haitian Soap-Opera could not get any more dramatic,” New York City to Haiti, a Haitian-American living in Port-au-Prince,  describes it thus:

There are two kinds of Haitians, people who love Aristide “Titid” or those who despise him. Many believe he was the messiah of the poor people because before him, they were widely ignored, others believe he is the most malevolent force to ever preside Haiti because he incited violence and targeted the middle and upper class. Many believe that he still has the power to control the masses and disturb the current electoral process. This is something we will have to wait to see. Haiti is on edge, both with excitement and/or fear.  Grab your popcorn, folks! Things just got a bit interesting.

Obama, ostensibly not the biggest fan of the whole situation, apparently called South Africa’s President Zuma personally in an effort to delay Aristide’s return until after today's election. This, in turn, caused the (Boston-based) lawyers at Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, well-known Aristide defenders, to circulate a petition in favor of said return. Alain Armand, a.k.a. @theHaitian, a Haitian-American lawyer living in Haiti, objected:

The IJDH would better serve the Haitian constitution by helping it honor its commitment to free education for its children or prosecuting lawless and corrupt government officials like ex-presidents and corrupt customs officers. I, for one, reject this petition [in favor of Aristide’s return] on the basis that it supports everything that is wrong with Haiti today. It is an argument for more impunity, the one thing Haiti has too much of.

But Aristide did indeed return, to the jubilation of massive crowds who, for the most part, probably do not read, write, blog or even tweet; his main constituency comprises the most disaffected. His speech at the airport was broadcast live on all Haitian radio stations and the national TV channel. Flanked by his wife and two daughters, as well as celebrities such as Danny Glover and Venezuela’s Ambassador, Aristide, with his usual eloquence, expressed his happiness to be home. He mentioned the coup that overthrew him only in passing; instead, stressing the need for inclusion for Haiti’s poor majority.

When is a house just a house?
Haiti-based tweeters, including @Thirdworldgirl and @EmilyTroutman, an AOL news reporter, spent Friday watching and commenting on Aristide’s return: They wondered what it meant for Haiti’s future and for today’s second round election, in which the two main opponents are Michel Martelly, a right-wing singer [video: Kr] who has insulted Aristide and endorsed the coup in past concerts and Mirlande Manigat, a centrist professor whose election rallies have been violently disrupted by what she calls Martelly’s “Pink Militia”…

@ThirdWorldGirl: Does Lavalas still have pull? That is the question! If they do elections will not happen, if elections happen I can assume they don't.


@emilytroutman
: Many people told me they won't vote at all unless Aristide tells them who to vote for. #jba #Haiti

For many who’d spent the past month tweeting in favor of either candidate, one preoccupation was whether their candidate would garner Lavalas votes. @Durandis, who has tweeted favorably about Manigat, mused [Kr]:

Van vire nan eleksyon ak prezans yon sel moun..mwen we moun kap chire mayo woz, kap joure manman #tetkale..bagay yo pran yon lot dimansyon.

The wind has turned in this election because of one person’s presence. I saw people ripping pink t-shirts and cursing Martelly’s mother. This is a new dimension.

A vertiginous buzz ensued over whether Aristide’s many “house” and “home” references were a subtle encouragement for voters to choose Manigat over Martelly. (Manigat’s electoral emblem is a small house.) Aristide’s speeches are usually metaphorical; Haitians know how to decode his words and the many Creole idioms that pepper his speeches. Though his supporters say it is unlikely he will endorse either candidate, Manigat supporters have capitalized on the rumour:

@boukman2004: @2012writer #TITID:” Si kèm te ka tounen “KAY” poum retire pèp la anba tant!” Nap vote ti KAY la = #68 #TITID #MANIGAT #HAITI

Aristide said: “If only my heart could turn into a “HOUSE” to remove the people from under tents!” We are voting the lil’ HOUSE = #68 = Manigat.”

They were met with scepticism from the Martelly side, which found other ways to ride the Aristide wave:

@ThirdWorldGirl: Depi on moun di kay kounyen an se andose li andose madanm lan?

Since when did saying the word house automatically meant you endorsed Manigat?

@FutureHaiti: RT @etnos: Jean-Bertrand Aristide di “Roz la a la mod” http://twitpic.com/4avk3o #TetKale

Jean-Bertrand Aristide says “Pink” [Martelly’s campaign color] is in fashion.

Crowds as measure of popularity
Tweeters and bloggers also bickered over how many folks came to greet Aristide at the airport and joined the procession to his home in Tabarre, with his supporters seeing thousands and the rest seeing hundreds or less.

Le blog d’Elsie, a France-based Haitian native who favours Aristide, complained [Fr]  about the downplay of numbers by what French-speaking reports she could find, noting her disappointment in the silence of French-speaking mainstream media on the crowds who met Aristide. Could one explanation lie in France’s opposition to Aristide’s return, which Haiti-based @Mediahacker emphasized in his summary of Wikileaks cables about the issue?

This video, posted by Aristide supporter @gaetantguevara, allows netizens to judge the extent of the crowd for themselves:

Since his speech at the airport on Friday, Aristide has not addressed Haitian voters who choose between Manigat and Martelly today.

Haiti: The Entertainer, or The Professor?

Written by Georgia Popplewell

Ballot paper. Image by @2012writer: "My vote easy. Don Bosco school in PV was smooth at 11am and had opened at 6am. No lines."

According to the reports on Twitter about today's presidential election runoff in Haiti, the lines at polling stations are long, and voters at the Lycée Petion and the Lycée Croix des Bouquets were unable to find their names on voter lists, a problem that had also plagued the original election last November. But many are also speculating on the outcome. Opinion polls conducted in the weeks before have tended to show entertainer Michel Martelly leading his rival Mirlande Manigat, an academic and former first lady.

@sdarguin1906: "Who shall it be?"

@sdarguin1906: "Who shall it be?"

Voters coming into cast ballots Cite Soleil Lycee greeted by #tetkale screams,” tweeted Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles (”tetkale” is one of Martelly's nicknames, referring to the candidate's bald head), and images posted on Twitter showed the candidate being received enthusiastically by voters:

@MRSandell: "Outside polling station as Martèlly comes to vote"

@MRSandell: "Outside polling station as Martèlly comes to vote"

.@Telenoticiasrd: "Martelly saliendo de votar. Multitud en las afueras." [Martelly exits after voting. Crowd outside].

@Telenoticiasrd: "Martelly saliendo de votar. Multitud en las afueras." [Martelly exits after voting. Crowd outside.

@MRSandell: "'Sweet Micky' supporters stand to catch a glimpse of their man"

@MRSandell: "'Sweet Micky' supporters stand to catch a glimpse of their man"

@mhsaintluc, however, was unequivocal in his support for Manigat, posting the following:

J'ai pu finalement voter la personne la plus apte apporter le changement qu'attend Haiti!

@mhsaintluc: "J'ai pu finalement voter la personne la plus apte apporter le changement qu'attend Haiti!" [I've finally been able to vote for the person most qualified to carry out the changes Haiti's been waiting for."

The candidate herself is pictured here, arriving at her polling station.

@jacquiecharles: "#Manigat arriving to vote."

@jacquiecharles: "#Manigat arriving to vote."

One question likely to be on the minds of many is which candidate has the support of controversial former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who returned to the country on Friday, six years after being ousted in a coup d'état and forced into exile. This photo by @cliffchevalier suggests it may well be Manigat.

Flyers being circulated in Haiti showing Aristide calling for a Manigat vote. "Kay" means Manigat?

@cliffchevalier: "Flyers being circulated in Haiti showing Aristide calling for a Manigat vote. "Kay" means Manigat?" The text on the flyer says: "Aristide asks all Haitians to transform the heart of Haitian Chamber (of Deputies) into a "Kay" Chamber." The slogan of Manigat's party is "Ti Kay La, Kay Pep La".

Which might make sense, in light of this banner reportedly posted in Cité Soleil, the massive slum many of whose residents remain loyal to Aristide. The text on the banner says: “Mama is already here. Welcome, Papa!”

@etiennecp: "#Manigat trying to please #Aristide supporters in Cité Soleil w/ welcome banners."

@etiennecp: "#Manigat trying to please #Aristide supporters in Cité Soleil w/ welcome banners."

Haiti: Election morning in pictures

Written by Georgia Popplewell

Today, March 20, Haitians go to the polls to decide who will be the Caribbean nation's next president. This runoff election is being contested by Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly, the two candidates deemed to have received the highest number of votes in the controversial general election held last November. Reports posted this morning by Twitter users on the ground in Haiti pointed to delays in the opening of polling stations, while many outside the country fixated on an incident in which Haiti-born rap star Wyclef Jean, a Martelly supporter, was shot in the hand. Here's a selection of photos posted on Twitter of the scenes in Haiti as the polls opened—or tried to—this morning.

@melindayiti: Small crowd at Cite Soleil voting bureau, already open

@melindayiti: "Small crowd at Cite Soleil voting bureau, already open". The vast Cité Soleil slum is as one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in Haiti.

“] trying to get in"”]Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles (@jacquiecharles): Monitors [at the Lycée Petionville] trying to get in
@samaxyalaat: "Just taping up the electoral lists, lycee petion downtown. Already an hour behind."

@samaxyalaat: "Just taping up the electoral lists, lycee petion downtown. Already an hour behind."

New York Times' bureau chief Randol Archibold (@rcaNYT): "Voting materials finally arrive at #Martelly polling place, 2 hrs late, calming crowd."

New York Times bureau chief Randol Archibold (@rcaNYT): "Voting materials finally arrive at #Martelly polling place, 2 hrs late, calming crowd."

@Vladguerre: Members voting center at Lycee de Petion Ville counting the ballots before start the voting process.

@Vladguerre: "Members voting center at Lycee de Petion Ville counting the ballots before start the voting process."

@Vladguerre: "A voter outside the Lycee de Petion Ville asking for opening the voting center,people wants to vote."

@Vladguerre: "A voter outside the Lycee de Petion Ville asking for opening the voting center,people wants to vote."

@melindayiti: "More security and observers than ppl on voter list in Corail".

New York Times bureau chief Randol Archibold: "Other voting sites in #Haiti were calm while opening late and ballots were being cast."

New York Times bureau chief Randol Archibold: "Other voting sites in #Haiti were calm while opening late and ballots were being cast."

.”]@mhsaintluc: "Anbyans tansyon devan sant vot Ernts Desir" [Tense atmosphere in front of the Ernst Desir voting centre].
@esfaceblack: "HNP (Haitian Nat'l Police) proudly voting."

@esfaceblack: "HNP (Haitian Nat'l Police) proudly voting."

November 28 2010

November 08 2010

Haiti: Renown Orchestra Tambou Combo on Tour

By Anna Gueye

Blogger Mémilnuche [fr] reports that renown Haitian band Tabou Combo [fr] has begun their new tour on Saturday, Nov. 6.  Their new album (in five different languages) will also debut at the end of the month. The band is also looking for a new  singer as seen  on their MySpace page

July 30 2010

Haiti: Displaced Women and Girls Victims of Gender Violence

By Juliana Rincón Parra

In the aftermath of the devastating Haiti earthquake, women and girls are still facing gender violence, as some of them not only experience rape, but then have to face an absent judicial system and less than adequate medical care.

Tent City in Haiti by Edyta Materka

Tent-City by Edyta Materka under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

In the Ms. Magazine Blog, Gina Ulysse wrote Rape a Part of Daily Life for Women in Haitian Relief Camps, where she points towards the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)and Madre's Report on Rape in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps as the source of terrifying statistics on gender violence.

Many women and girls have lost their support network as well as fathers, brothers and husbands or boyfriends who might've been able to protect them. So being in cramped quarters in the camps really cuts down on their privacy, many have to shower in public and sleep next to strangers or in locations where they are vulnerable to attacks.  Once the attacks take place, many of the cases being gang rapes, they have yet to face more ordeals: most have no way to receive medical aid from female practitioners and the justice system is almost non-existent,  leaving them to deal with corruption in the police and revictimization from authorities in addition to the stigma from being attacked and the knowledge that their attackers are still at large. Ulysse writes:

Women’s access to jus­tice has been even worse.  Women who reported rapes–and were already strug­gling with stigma­ti­za­tion and the psy­cho­log­i­cal effects of sex­ual assault–were often mocked or ignored by police. In some instances, these women have had to deal with police cor­rup­tion as well. More­over, cases have not been pros­e­cuted by the Hait­ian judi­cial sys­tem. Sur­vivors remain vul­ner­a­ble since they con­tinue to live in the same areas of the camps where they were attacked and their rapists remain at large. Sev­eral women reported that they’ve been raped on dif­fer­ent occa­sions since the quake.

The IJDH, Partners in Health and New Media Advocacy Program released a video a few months ago with testimonies from the victims. The footage was recorded by Sandy Berkowitz and edited by Harriet Hirshorn.

Even though women struggle to return to normalcy, it is unlikely their situation will improve as the temporary camps seem to be turning into permanent accomodations. Back in January, CARE USA interviewed Dr. Franck Geneus who coordinates CARE's health program in Haiti and asked him about the reasons why there is higher risk of rape in these camps, and he mentioned the characteristics that make the IDP camps a fertile ground for attacks: the lack of electricity that makes camps absolutely dark at night, badly organized camps and non-segregated bathing facilities and latrines so that males and females have their own.

Janet Meyers, Gender Advisor from CARE also put in her own 2 cents regarding how the camps would be established to make women safer in the earthquake aftermath, pointing out many of the same issues last  February. I wonder how many of these issues remain unresolved and if, as these camps turn into more permanent facilities, it will just pave the way for more assaults to take place.

June 21 2010

Martinique: Regional Reactions after Insult

By Fabienne Flessel

Martinican Bondamanjak [Fr] tries to explain the dismissal of Martinican native football player Nicolas Anelka [Fr] after he insulted his coach. Meanwhile, Guadeloupean B. World Connection has re-published [Fr] posts [Fr] about the latest developments.

May 09 2010

Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana: Nestlé Going Local

By Fabienne Flessel

Blogger Anba pyé mango-la [Fr/Fr Cr] is sharing skeptical opinions about the new moves of multinational food company Nestlé towards the adaptation of local products and recipes from the French Caribbean.

April 27 2010

French West Indies, Haiti: Immigration then & now

Indiscrétions tells the story [Fr] of a Haitian girl deported from Guadeloupe by the French customs authority, for allegedly presenting fake identity documents at the airport, while Gwakafwika announces [Fr Cr] a conference about Guadeloupean immigration in Haiti from the 1800s to the 1900s.

March 21 2010

Haiti: Reconstruction for Haitians or with Haitians

Haitian Alterpresse republishes a letter [Creole] from Haitian social organisations which openly criticise the Donor's Conference which took place in the Dominican Republic on March 17th. According to them, it will not lead to a long-term development project nor include the population in the reconstruction scheme. Here is the French version.

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