A writer must write, must harness words and ideas and string them together (an isolated venture) in order to be productive, but a writer must also participate in the life that is being lived (a public undertaking) around her, must often go to it, be in its middle and become a recorder, a witness of daily events – help shape the way history is written, wielding words to do her bidding.
I visited Haiti on August 14 for the first time, and can offer no explanation of why it took me so long since I have long admired its history of being the first country in the new world to stake out and secure its freedom in 1803. However I went to see what has happened since the great earthquake in 2010 that killed over 200 thousand people; I went in solidarity with the people; I went because I needed to go.
The history and the hegemonic determination to suppress Haiti and its people for having the gall to secure its freedom is more complex than most take the time to unearth, and the exploitation after the great quake follows a similar tributary. Of the reported $5.2 billion that was raised to re-build Haiti since the earthquake, only a small portion of those funds reach an even smaller % of the people. NGOs are very visible there, driving in their marked vehicles, some making as much as $10,000 monthly, plus car and house allowance, plus staff, the crumbs remaining get tossed to the people. Droves of Euro-American companies, some of the same ones that were in Iraq, are there now, having formed non-profits, many using a local Haitian as a front to bid and secure $25 million clean up contracts. Exploitation and corruption is the order of the day. What has changed? The country is still in shambles. Most children are still not back in school. The university has no library or books.
Then there is Egypt, one of my favorite places in the World, and its people showing and reminding some of us what a resolute collective force can achieve. The power resides in us; and that it is really true that we can move mountains and get rid of a dictator. Yet the more daunting task lies ahead, how do Egyptians move forward and ensure that they elect a leader who truly represents them and who is committed to building their nation for the good and the benefit of the majority.
In teaching writing I invite my students to be in the World and be its eyes and its nose. I am just completed editing the 25th issue, the silver anniversary issue of The Caribbean Writer that is dedicated to Ayiti/Haiti and freedom – freedom to be and love and live the life we are given. I am grateful for the relative ease of my life. I am grateful that words always come knocking, sometimes so many I trample over them. As writers, we must feed our muses; we must gather, we must read. I also attended the AWP conference in DC.,and apart from the freezing weather I was totally juiced and inspired to be among 5000 writers, to have had the opportunity to launch Caribbean Erotic, and to browse through 1000 different publisher booths. Writing and books are alive and well and that requires an hoorah! Hurrah!
More images of Haiti:
Images of AWF Conference/ Caribbean Erotica Launch:
Causes Opal Adisa Supports
California Poets in the Schools
Homeless Shelter for Pregnant Women