Friday, August 27, 2010

Hurricane Katrina Commemoration and Report Back Radio Show Special

Friday, August 27, 2010: Hurricane Katrina Special with an all-star panel of Southern Writers: Robert Hillary King, "From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther;" John Thompson, subject of "Killing Time: An 18-Year Odyssey from Death Row to Freedom;" Jordan Flaherty's "Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six;" Orissa Arend, "Showdown in Desire: The Black Panthers Take a Stand in New Orleans;" Parnell Herbert's "Angola 3: The Play."

Katrina Survivors in the Diaspora Panel are our next guests: CC Campbell-Rock & husband, Raymond Rock; Ms. Diane Evans; Safahri Ra, bandleader, teacher, filmmaker, Ellen Gavin, director.

We close with Multi-Ethnic Theatre director and cast: Lewis Campbell, Charles Johnson, Fabian Herd, Vernon Medearis, Stuart Hall, from August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean," currently on stage in San Francisco at The Next Stage, 1620 Gough Street (near Bush), 8 PM Thursday-Sat. Sun, at 7 PM. Visit

For those interested in helping Katrina survivor, Diane Evans keep her home call: (415) 786-4773 or email: She needs help paying Sept. 2010's rent for herself and her grandson $1900.00.

At the Black Dot Cafe1195 Pine St., Oakland, Safahri Ra is hosting a Katrina commemoration event, Sunday, AUG 29, 7-10 PM (doors open at 6 PM). Call (510) 355-4929 and

Earlier, Sunday, August 29, there is a healing event with Zimbabwean Traditional Healer & Peace Carrier, Mandaza Kandemya, for Elders and Youth at Peralta Hacienda, 2465 34th Street, @ Coolidge, Oakland, AUG 29, 2010, 12:30-6 PM. Call (510) 535-2144 or Bring drums, rattles, instruments, chairs and blankets.

"A person is a person because of others" (Shona proverb.) We close the show with: Liz Wright's "Lead the Way" from SALT.

We will have another prerecorded Special Broadcast, the day of, August 29, 2010, 6 AM PST. The annual Katrina report back and fundraiser will be in October this year, stay tuned. Sunday also would have been Michael Jackson's 52nd birthday. It is also my friend, Karla Brundage's birthday and y favorite cousin, Jeffrey Lewis's birthday--Happy Birthday to all Leos (smile).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Sky is Falling

Chicken Little ran around town screaming the "sky is falling" and it was. It is falling down everywhere: in Oakland and Haiti and Senegal and San Francisco.

It is falling in places where little girls are raped to bring shame on their families or to cure incurable diseases.

It is falling in empty cups, the debris crisp and hard like candy, except it's no t sweet. Sky has no taste. Sky is an optical illusion--it's fantasy.

It is falling into sewers, where at night people disappear forever.

It is falling and when I look up there are holes--round empty black holes where once there was light. It is falling and even when I stand on a ladder and raise my arms, empty my pockets, think hopeful positive thoughts, I feel weighted down, crushed, unable to stand.

As it falls I wonder how large is it and will it ever all fall down and how do you plug up a hole in something you can't explain. I tell Chicken Little to keep sounding the alarm. Perhaps if more of us lifted our arms to hold up the sky, then maybe it might stay above where it belongs.


My friend is dying. She is aware less and everything hurts so holding her hand or rubbing her swollen feet is hard. Sometimes the journey to the next realm is lengthy, even when one can no longer eat and get out of bed, speak or stay conscious long. I am sick, so I can't visit. I don't know if Vivienne will be around when I a well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I am sick now. Caught a cold. I was tired last night and instead of going to bed early, I was up late trying to email photos for a proposal and they would not send, and then I took a cold shower and I don't know...all the germs floating around in airports--one got me (smile).

What does one do with the grief? It is really bad in Haiti. Is the reason why recovery is so slow because the government wants the people to die? Is this WW2 concentration camps and Japanese internment all over again? What were the lessons of Katrina good and bad as we approach the sixth anniversary?

It is a slow and merciless death those camps.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back in California--Oakland, that is. The flight from PAP to Miami was okay except for the security person who took my scissors just becasue they were scissors--never mind the blunt edge all of 4 inches if that in length, never mind that since 9/11 I have been carry these scissors in my backpack and no one has asked for them until this point and this included Haitian security as well, just five months ago. I really liked my scissors, they had a lavender handle.

After getting to the airport three hours early--we were on the road at 6 AM, I almost missed my flight. The airline didn't announce PAP to Miami and then the sign on the board was wrong.

This time when my phone alarm went off I went and asked the attendant when the 9:40 was boarding and he said, right now. To say I was flabbergasted, is putting it lightly. After that the flight part of the morning was fine, as was immigration--the lines were long, so I kept shifting right until I was in line 1. We then had to get our luggage, recheck it and then go through customs (?). I was not going to miss my flight.

I got worried at the carousel; our luggage took almost 25 minutes to come down from the plane. The man standing next to me only had ten minutes to get to his connecting flight--his friend volunteered to ship his luggage to him, but he decided to just get a hotel and spend the night in Miami.

American Airlines had really messed up his connecting flight schedule. Miami airport is crazy large. I had to walk a mile or so to get to the gate for my flight. I almost had a fight with a man in the security line. He was holding up the entire line while he took his shoes off, belt, computer out of his case...while I had four bins on the floor and when I finished I put my bins on the belt in front of him. He asked me what my problem was the wrong day and the wrong moment for that question.

He told me he was going to tell security about my attitude, when he was breaching airport security line etiquette. Then when I finally get to the gate and it's time to board, I get pulled over for a random security check. I haven't had one of those in years.

No I am not saying I feel honored.

On our way to the airport this morning we picked up Rev. Wilbert Blanc who was flying to Oregon. He took more photos of encampments near the airport which had UN security standing armed in the front. I'd never seen armed military in front of any camps. I wondered if they were providing security for inhabitants.

I'd picked up breadfruit and plantain and banana chips. I'd wanted boiled eggs and bananas for the journey, but that didn't happen. They are easy to find on the street, but I don't think Rea is keen on buying eggs and bananas when she has eggs and a banana tree at home, but in this case, no one was up to boil eggs and my yogurt was warm--the electricity went out, so at an airport with no concessions just a bar and a coffee shop, I didn't get any food until I got to Miami at 2:15 where I found a turkey sandwich. I finally got the egg when I got to San Francisco. It was expensive--$1.50 for the egg and I don't know how much for the banana, but all together it was $3.13 (smile). But it hit the spot.

On the flight from Miami to San Francisco, the plane was one of those big ones, with three sets of rows. I was stuck in the middle in a seat that didn't recline. Talk about uncomfortable and the film didn't have captions, I don't know how anyone can hear on an airplane.

Back to Haiti. I was thinking on Marcus Garvey's birthday about Bookman, how he was Jamaican, so the Haitian revolution was Pan African--as was the nation that the revolution developed 208 years ago. If African people could remember this, that the revolution is the same battle just fought on multiple fronts, this is why Dessalines provided sanctuary to escaping Africans and provided training for Africans in neighboring countries who wanted independence.

The lessons, the philosophical lessons or values Dessalines represented...his unflinching and unapologetic belief that nothing good could come from a relationship with the former slavemaster, has proven correct--it hasn't. I think the Haitian nation should forget this and stop relying on the West to save it, befriend it, offer guidance when all the west wants is profit and for any relationship to be profitable for it, not necessarily for the nation.

Look at what happened to Toussaint when he tried to patiently wait out the French in the hopes that they would come to respect the African as they respected themselves. It never happened and later on, the French let Toussaint starve in their prison cell.

Jacob H. Carruthers's The Irritated Genie: An Essay on the Haitian Revolution is a must read for all Pan Africans, especially Haitians. I'd also include James Baldwin's essay, Notes of a Native Son.(Baldwin is a Black August baby, born, August 2, 1924).

In Notes, Baldwin cautions African Americans against trying to use those that abuse them as the standard for what's ethical, decent or right. A beast is not a great role model.

It was a struggle for Dessalines to keep the class divisions from imploding the new nation and ultimately he was killed; Christophe committed suicide, and I'm not certain if Petition lived a long life. Note I didn't say animal. I think animals are great role models for human beings.

There are similarities between Baldwin's Notes and Carruther's Irritated Genie, the essay's name referencing the spirit "called forth during the celebration of Ogun's ceremony on August 14, 1791. Ogun was the personification of the Voodun Spirit of Warfare and Iron. The event took place in a forest near what was called Cape Francios, the colonial capital. Bookman, a Voodun priest, timed the launching of the revolution with Ogun's celebration in keeping with the time tested tradition among African people that human events must be coordinated with cosmological forces and ancestral spirits (21).

Though I wasn't in Milo at Cape Francios, now Cap Haitian, for Bwa Kayiman, this past weekend, I'm sure there was a renewal of spirit to Ogun to get the nation and its people back on track.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dropped by BAI this afternoon to pick up a suitcase and say so long to folks. It was an intense experience that I wouldn't trade. I really enjoyed my short time there. The office is like a staging site for the launching of too many projects all equally important. It must certainly take a particular kind of person to juggle all the needs --pressing needs at that of the people BAI interfaces with from the women who have experienced violence to the Haitians in rural prisons who need healthier living conditions.

Day 7: Journey's End

My last day in Haiti, I started out from San Francisco a week ago and now it's time to return.

I am tired. My neck hurts and I am just weary. I don’t think I have ever been anywhere before where the misery is so unending one wonders how anyone can survive, let alone find a joyful moment. I can’t get the child’s face out of my mind who was raped. I think she is 21 now, first year in college. I think she said her fees are $50 a month. As she sat in her tent, eyebrows arched, hair groomed—beautiful ready to go out and be anything she wanted –money was all that was stopping her from moving ahead. Her father paid her fees and now he was gone.

I just reflect now on how many girls in East and West Oakland saved by programs like Oral Lee Brown Foundation, Omega Boys and Girls Club, the Mentoring Center, SPICE Girls, Girls Inc., who have no one to help them or keep them safe.

Safety is a key issue for women and girls throughout the world. The safety is connected to food security and housing as well as education and employment. In Africa, people stuck in the cities are not really stuck, they can go to the country and live on family land; it’s just the idea of the agrarian lifestyle is not attractive to youth who see America –Western culture and values, that is, the MTV, CNN, BBC, as the objective. Social Entrepreneurship and mentoring such as what Badara Jobe does at his organization (name) is what is needed. However, unlike Gambia and Senegal, I don’t know that Haitians have land. I think many people in the city are stuck without means in a place where unemployment is extremely high. Everyone seems to be selling something or begging.

So when things are as dismal as they seems what can one do? Well of the women I met a few stood out in terms of what support I can provide. I can’t help everyone. I figure the leaders are going to be provided for, but the women in the community—the ones on the periphery of the radar, these are the one who might get lost, so I started calculating how much it would cost to support the girl’s school fees for 4 years at $50 a month, pay for the woman’s heart medicine, provide one time shelter for the grandmother and the pretty lady. I am leaving my too large tent for the pretty lady. I forget how many children she has, but it will be a start. I hope someone can help her with sleeping bags. I am leaving her three. The elder I am going to see if Rea has any tents left from those I sent and see if Chris can give her his inflated mattress since the ground is so hard. She can have my sleeping bag and pillow. Finally, I want to give the mother of the child who has a rash that is eating him up money for the hospital visit, the medicine, and soap and ointment to clear up his skin and keep him well.

I am interested in seeing if men can be trained to patrol the camps and given uniforms and wages for the jobs. Also other men can be hired as escorts. This security would be unarmed, yet trained in self defense—I was going to see if Michael might be able to help in this.

Hopefully the government will start looking at relocating people to permanent housing. I didn’t see any rebuilding going on anywhere. I wonder where all the people came from and how much on a family by family case would it cost to rebuild their homes so they could return to a normal life? Like Habitat for Humanity, if the government allowed multinationals to come in and rebuild…that is, give us land at cost, slowly we could help Haiti rebuild in a economically and environmentally sound way. This would provide jobs to the unemployed and skill development to youth, as we could encourage community development and leadership in the process after the land and the resources were identified.

If several corporations adopted a region in Haiti hit by the earthquake for this task, it wouldn’t cost as much to actually make this happen—I don’t think. I learned of college professors who are paying for afternoon and weekend English language classes for women victims of sexual assault. In Palo Alto a class raised $10,000 to help rebuild a school. College students visited Rea recently this summer to help complete the wall around the new school which is she is getting ready for September 2010. They are working on the temporary bamboo walls now.

She just told me that she started making micro-loans to women and is planning to help more women start businesses. One woman during the tour talked about Haitian women as the backbone of their nation. I think women are the backbone of any nation—they are the providers and primary nurturers. Men provide protection and when all is working well additional support such as wages and balance the energy in the home and community. However, throughout the world black men are being targeted or allowing themselves to be duped and then disillusioned by golden calves which are just gold plated bovine that don’t even produce edible milk.

That we’re still here is encouraging. There is a lot of work and one problem isn’t more important or compelling than another. All the work is necessary whether we’re in Haiti or Dakar or East Oakland. It’s cyclical and similar. The enemy is the same and the fight is the same as well, just more urgent on some fronts than others like Haiti and New Orleans and the gulf region. In the US we have laws that are suppose to prevent such catastrophes as the British Petroleum spill, but how is that possible when people—plant and animal life, are placed second to monetary gain?

People do not make the world go round and this is why, if we aren’t careful, there will not be a world left to profit from. In the meantime, we can’t wait for the governments to get their stuff together, there is much that can happen under the radar in the midst of chaos from sponsoring a college student in Haiti and the Dominican Republic (even the US) to providing health care and food to helping get small businesses off the ground with micro lending programs.

Under the gaze of the great generals Dessalines, and Petion and Christophe sit their people in abject misery. The fountain which once gave respite to the weary traveler and thirsty bird lies fallow filled with scum bordered on all sides by tents and other temporary shelter so tightly packed one can barely walk between them if at all.

Where is the glory of a nation, the second black nation, however the most celebrated and popularized in the Western Hemisphere to gain its independence—buried under debris? The January 12, 2010 earthquake is not the first earthquake—it’s just the most tangible evidence of the major and minor tremors occurring in this country for the past 200 years—what 40 coup de tats and only 4 or 5 democratically elected presidents in the 202 years?

I was just musing to myself as I fly here how when I go on vacation it’s to work. I return tired and overwhelmed and jump back into the fast paced day to day movement that is my life and can barely find time to complete all my tasks let alone add new tasks to the ones left to complete like follow through on the tasks I haven’t completed for the incarcerated women I am advocating for.

Time doesn’t move any faster or slower…it moves the same.

I woke up at 3 AM this morning. It’s 5 AM now and the barnyard choruses now compete with the early morning crickets and misquotes –roosters singing solos, while the dogs carry the bass lines, goats filling in the melody. I like this time of morning. I woke up at 5 AM yesterday…my phone is dead. I forgot my charger at BAI. I hope I remember to get it later on and charge my phone.

I haven’t completed my syllabus and I start work on Wednesday. I hope Vivienne is still alive. I am looking forward to a long bike ride. One thing I like about these visits in the Diaspora is coming home. I might not have as much land, as big a house, or even a husband for protection, but when I turn on the faucet, I can drink the water. I know where I can go alone and if I need to get somewhere that isn’t as safe I might be able to get an escort or I don’t go.

My water gets contaminated when it hits the iron pipes, but the water only makes my skin dry and I can filter out the rest with a Brita. I don’t have to worry about Malaria or typhoid. There are a lot of hungry people in my community, but I am not one of them. The American government is not providing adequately for its citizens but we do have recourse. It’s hard getting what one is due and the answer is no and no and no and no and no and no and then perhaps or pending before yes, but there is a yes, because constitutionally citizens are guaranteed certain rights and we are organized enough to have people in place, organizations in place to help citizens secure these basic rights.

So I can’t complain, won’t complain, will not complain.

I am trying to let the ill treatment roll off my back like the water on a duck’s feathers. I am trying to let the ill treatment go the way irritable sick people don’t bother me. They are sick and when you’re sick it’s hard being pleasant. I think people in the trenches get sick too and they don’t know they are ill until they act out of character and realize they need a vacation or a break—time to regroup.

Easy to say, harder to do, but I am getting better at it (smile).

Reflections on Haiti in no particular order, just chronological

Daddy died this weekend and I am in Haiti—Delmas now with Rea Dol and her family. I am so happy she picked me up first before she ran her errands. Her house is almost finished outside and inside it is a mansion—oh my goodness! I was sleeping on concrete and happy I had Chris’s air mattress last night and today I am in bed with a mosquito net—I have arrived. We went to check on her account with a building supplier—Arnold Azolin, a black man who lets Rea buy on credit when she doesn’t have the money up front—she is preparing to open the Sopudep 2 site for the older kids in temporary classrooms made from bamboo this September and keep the younger children at the old site where some people are still living since the earthquake because of the shortage of shelter. Her family members, the larger two have their own places now and some of the younger people who were also here do as well. She is getting ready to adopt another child—a girl whose parents died during the earthquake and her neighbor who has been keeping her can’t feed her. Rea is also taking care of a neighbor who is so weak she can’t stand—she showed me a photo. Her legs are a thin as twigs. After taking her to the doctor, she said the diagnosis is starvation, the women just needs to eat, so Rea takes food by her house for the children to cook. One child dropped by the house this evening.

We stopped off at another supplier, a woman whom Rea purchases beans and rice to feed the hungry children in the neighborhood where Sopudep 1 is. After she found out why Rea was buying beans and rice, she told her she would extend credit to her as well. Rea stopped by to pay her, and the woman didn’t want to take her money.

The last stop was the grocery store where we got sodas and water. The bill was $129.00 gouds I thought. But I paid with two $500.00 goud notes. The change was $200.00. Yes. I am confused. I have to figure out what that means in Haitian dollars.

Today was a long one—I visited three Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps this morning and afternoon. We walked down with Giselle who introduced us to women who’d all suffered sexual violence, from the young girls barely out of their teens to their mothers and grandmothers who often suffered such violence as well. When one thinks about a generational traits, rape is not one that comes to mind, yet, for those women who speak up like Malya A. Villard and Marie Eramithe, two women I met who lead KOFAVIV: Komisyon Fanm Viktim pou Viktim, to young girls and other women who are targeted because they don’t have anyone to protect them, which is certainly the case in many of these women’s lives since the earthquake in January.

Women have been beaten and raped often brutally or with multiple partners, as a warning to stop being politically active. In many cases, women become pregnant and as abortion is illegal and women can be incarcerated—these women are left with a living breathing reminder of the trauma. Most women cannot hold a job if they are the leaders and they need protection getting to and from their tents.

BAI offers this kind of support and there is even an advocate on board to helps the women act more effectively and to facilitate their work with resources. Avon just gave the women a grant. I don’t know for how much. A BAI volunteer, Christopher Eaves, who is completing a Masters in Social Work in Chicago, also translated for me and filled missing information when requested of her knew.

I wanted to visit the National Museum and it was closed—it has been closed since January. So we’re strolling towards an artist marketplace and Chris ran into a friend who invited us to visit his home which is across from the French Embassy which is guarded gated. We could see the official looking building from afar. These IDPs seemed to have a better situation than those I’d met in the morning, mostly women –all the ones I met victims of sexual violence. At Place des Artistes where Jude Jean Pierre, Chris’s friend stays, men patrol the camp and even resolve disputes which I witnessed as we were departing. Jude pulled one of the young men away from the other. There is a camp director, a position Williams James Marc Else fell into after the earthquake when so many people found themselves displaced.

I guess the similarities and differences can be equated with degrees of heat in hell. One woman in the second camp had a tin roof so at the time we visited it was almost unbearably hot, the roof cooking the interior. But, there were no leaks so unlike others nearby, when it rained the family didn’t have to awaken drenched and then stay wet the rest of the night. The rugs which covered a dirt surface below would get wet, clothes, bedding, and if unable to adequately dry would get molded. Williams and Jude are both members of the organization that meets at BAI—it seemed that if anything was happening in PAP around policies or policy development, one was connected to Mario Joseph’s BAI. It was great to be a part of a hub of important activity such as this—too bad I didn’t fully comprehend the extent of all the activities like the eight of so men and women who filed down the hall into Mario’s office to change as I was leaving. Several well-dressed men came back with Mario from a funeral –I presume of an important person in the community—Delude mentioned she was attending a funeral and Mario hadn’t seen her, so it must have been huge.

All of the IDPs camps are called: Champ de Mars. One doesn’t wander through the camps unescorted –it is a “gated community” (smile). Unfortunately, the resources don’t seem able to get into each of them equally. Chris said the camp dwellers don’t control who gets the mobile health unit, which one has a school, who has childcare or preschool—but in Petion—the camp right behind the Palace with a fountain which used to work—the space is densely populated with not much room to move around. Tents and people literally on top of one another. I wish I’d had a before and after image. It’s sort of like people feel about New Orleans, pre and post-Katrina, now pre and post-BP spill. The polluted shoreline, the displaced and destroyed natural habitats and its inhabitants—birds, fishes, plant life and of course human beings –cultural decimation irreplaceable its cumulative impact impossible to calculate.

It is the same here in Haiti. With the timing of the election and the vote just two months away, one wonders what is in store for this tiny country with major karma in opposition to the lives and well-being of people, African people who just want to be left alone to live—really live.

There was high unemployment for Haitians, educated with skills and the unskilled as well, prior to the earthquake. For a government official to tell a BAI representative that the cessation of food was a way to motivate lazy people looking for a handout to get to work. Since when is physical hunger a motivation when hunger is not anything new to Haitians whom have had to deal with food insecurity for as long as President Aristide’s programs were effectively shut down?

Although he doesn’t have a clue on how to run a country, some feel that he is interesting Haitian youth in the electoral process for the first time because he is on the ballot. If he gets in he will be a perfect dummy for ventriloquist America, especially if he has the endorsement of President Barack Obama. He doesn’t speak Kreyol, the national language or French. It’s great he is proud of his Haitian heritage but it’s like a person who has been passing for white all of a sudden claiming his or her African ancestry for an associated perk. I don’t see any evidence of relief for any of those people I met who spoke to me Saturday. One young mother said, she was happy to see visitors but many people come through, but there is nothing that follows.

Can you imagine being homeless in a displaced persons camp? Kind of hard right? Definitely, but I met a grandmother who doesn’t have a bed and sometimes when she wakes up she can barely move. I knew exactly what she meant, having spent two days on the ground myself. I also met a woman who has several children who also needs a place for her children. Celeste, who was our tour guide, had to send her children away because it was too dangerous for them at the camp—their mother with a contract on her head.

Women wore their badges with whistles attached. I asked one woman to let me hear it. When blown a certain way help comes—if it is within earshot.

Jude is also an artist—a painter and when I met him he’d made some brew—green with ginger sediment at the bottom of the glass bottle (5th size). He explained that there were different flavors which had certain properties when ingested. Chris and I walked through an artist village area, which reminded me of the Ashby Flea Market, just less re: items and variety. An artist wanted to see me a painting on a canvas for just 500 goud, but I wasn’t feeling it. None of the art spoke to me; it was “I Love Haiti” key chains and bracelets and necklaces.

I saw a couple of elderly women begging and a clearly deranged man—he was so dirty his skin looked like it was covered in charcoal. If I wasn’t feeling so skittish, I would have given the women and the man an offering, but I didn’t have the money already in my pocket ready to pull out. With the money belt under my top around my waist tucked into my waist band—my passport getting a steam bath daily as I heated up, my waist pack on the outside with less money inside a baggie, my tape recorder, FLIP inside, my glasses case hooked to the fannie pack, and then my camera around my neck. I even had my TJ bag full of kid’s supplies—however, when I saw the older women and the man who looked like he needed a medical intervention—I had no more goodies.

I wanted to go to Les Cayes and to Jacmel this trip, but given the short stay, it is not happening. I ended up getting picked up by Rea that afternoon and today I am sitting in Delmas getting consumed by bugs. I am taking off now, more later.

Church services were great. You’d be surprised at how full the 6 AM service was at the Baptist church I attended with Rea and Bato and Awu and a few others we met along the way and gave lifts to. The live band was great and the soloists inspired. I stood when the first time visitors were greeted and then the one person whose birthday was today received a special greeting. There were a lot of kids out with their parents and for a Sunday morning many men were also present, some alone or with their children and spouses.

We finished about 8 AM or so and picked up some fruit and eggs on the way home, where we had a nice soup – called Soup Joumou, made from squash. I had a banana first, I was starved (smile). Rea and I then tried to take her photos from her card but my card reader couldn’t read it.

Later we went for a six months after the earthquake tour with Rea’s friend, a pastor visiting from Oregon and his friend; he hadn’t been here before now. We took the usual route starting in Petionville which is where they were staying. I’ve been through Petionville many times, however Sunday afternoon about 4 PM the place was jumping, reminded me of Dakar in the various marketplaces especially where one catches the buses to other major thoroughfares.

For some reason I saw dilapidated homes and businesses and churches and schools I hadn’t seen before. We also saw tents and other temporary homes along the way down towards the capital where the Palace for those who knew it when it was majestic cause for sadness.

We drove around the plaza where all the camps connect and share common borders. I didn’t see anyone I’d met yesterday, but I looked for a faces in the streets and around the camp entrances. It is really a shame that in the twenty-first century human suffering can reach such magnitude –preventable human suffering at that has reached this magnitude and throwing money at it from afar is not the solution either. The money needs to be attached in certain instances to people with skills like doctors and teachers and architects and construction persons, engineers—all these people can collaborate with existing organizers, some community organizers born from necessity during the disaster.

Rea’s guests say they have seen enough and we head back to Delmas—I see a tag with the face of Michael Jackson, whose birthday is later this month, along with my cousin Jeffery and my good friend Karla and the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the anniversary of Wanda’s Picks Radio Show.

The police pulled François over to check his license and registration. All was in order. I forgot to mention that we go to a fast-food place which looks like MacDonald’s and Pizza Hut and a Safeway Bakery all rolled into one. It is packed. I wonder why they aren’t serving Haitian cuisine. Rea says all the fast food chains are owned by outsiders and there is a MacDonald not far from the place we went which sold items like crepes, steak sandwiches, burgers, hotdogs, pizzas, regular sandwiches—deli, and donuts, cakes, ice cream in a cafeteria style space with most of the people eating there, unlike the fast food places at home where most of the people use take out.

After purchasing the large pizza and drinks we left. I was finally able to give something to a person begging—it had started raining and a mother with a baby asked us for something at the RV window. Three of us chipped in to help her.

When we got back to the house the Billi had almost completed the sign he was painting with the new Sopudep address on it. Dinner was lovely as usual—salad, yam, beans and rice, chicken, and a vegetable platter—beets, carrots, cabbage, green beans, and other veggies I didn’t recognize. Water is always my preferred drink in Haiti, so I had that for dessert (smile).

After dinner we walked over to a neighbor’s who just had a new baby boy, Ricarlindo. The parents, Linda and Ricardo, are working on an immigration issue, Linda was born in the US of an American father and a Haitian national mother. When she was one her mother had a mental illness which incapacitated her for most of Linda’s life. Now Linda wants to get her passport and she has to reestablish her identity which is hard considering at one, how was she to hold onto her passport, but she has her birth certificate, her parent’s marriage license, her mother’s birth certificate, photos of herself with her mother as a baby and since. Immigration keeps asking for more proof. I think they are playing their usual –if the person is coming from a country we are unfriendly with—make it as hard as possible and maybe they will stop asking.

Ricardo, who works for a really wonderful organization, which teaches youth about their rights and laws in place to protect them. It also grooms them for leadership positions in Haitian society. There are teams of youth spread throughout the country on the ground going into the camps, schools and other places where there are young people to let them know about resources and rights they can assess. They have a weekly radio show on Planet Kreyol where they broadcast 4-6 PM. The central office is in Delmas 48, but as I said, most of the work takes place in the field with the person to person contacts and trainings the organization conducts.

They serve more than 10,000 youth; Ricardo is the person in charge of the social work aspect of the program. I told Ricardo that I wanted to connect him with the women organizers I met who are the leaders of the organization that supports women who have experienced sexual violence.

I just have one more day here. I hope I can connect with Jean Ristil. I haven’t heard from him and I need to deliver the money to him. I wanted to see his organization so I can tell the Social Welfare organization about it. Take photos meet the youth…etc.

On the eve of the presidential nominations deadline—Tuesday, August 17, 2010, Marcus Garvey’s birthday, the slate is definitely on the minds of many Haitians, even if not many are talking about it or maybe they are, I am not the best resource with my non-speaking Kreyol self (smile). I can recognize Lavalas when I hear it though and with the anniversary of Lovinsky Pierre’s kidnapping and the celebration of Bwa Kayiman August 14, 1791 in Milo, the revolutionary spirits of Boukman and Madam Fatiman are in the air, and with it the wave of people rising.

I don’t I will ever forget the Haitian bicentennial celebration. I was teaching at Laney college then and I hosted a forum on Haiti on the eve of its bicentennial –we had a film clip from Kevin Pena, Maria Labossiere spoke, Congresswoman Barbara Lee sent someone from her office to talk about US Haiti policy to date and a couple who’d been in Haiti for that historic day spoke about the mood of the people the festivities planned which were co-opted and sabotaged, eventually culminating in the kidnapping of the newly reelected President Aristide.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Sit-in meets Lovinsky Pierre Disappearance Anniversary

Thursday, August 12, 2010 between 11-2 at the National Palace, women and men and children protested the illegal evictions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) currently being enforced in the many camps in Haiti, post-January 12, 2010 earthquake and the subsequent tremors.

As the protesters assemble across the street from the Palace, Mario Joseph, attorney, activist and head of BAI, plays with one of the younger leaders.

All photos taken by Wanda Sabir.

Day 2: More interviews

Interview with organizer: Delva Marie Eramithe at the National Palace, Haiti, Thursday, August 12, 2010.

Day 2 in Haiti: Protesting Forced Evictions from the Camps and Remembering Lovinsky Pierre on the third anniversary of his kidnapping

Speaking is organizer: Delourdes Joseph.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Black August: Haiti Six Months after the Quake

I was there today at the peaceful, yet powerful demonstrations for justice held by the many women and men and children who are being evicted from tent encampments. It gets so crazy that one camp site is evicted to make room for another evicted campsite where these dwellers -- all earthquake victims, have more sonority. Can one imagine such?! This is history made in Haiti, that's for sure.

Called by Force for Reflec­tion and Action on the Hous­ing Cause (FRAKKA), Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI), Batay Ouvrière (B.O), KOOTK, OVS, COSEM, Immac­ulé, Deplace, CUSLG, Camp Mezyan, Babankou and other Inter­nally dis­placed peo­ple under threat of expul­sion, I read the press release later, so I wasn't aware of the multiple agencies present at the palace this morning into the afternoon. It was really cool being at a protest rally in Haiti. I have heard so many reports, thanks to Kevin Pina's reporting on Flash Points (KPFA 94.1 FM). Most of the time, what one hears are wails and cries as the people's resistance is met with brutality. This time, the police were observing at a distance in a jeep, while uniformed police with riot type face masks stood on the other side of the gate which blocked off the palace which is earthquake damaged.

I got so caught up in interviewing folks that I lost sight of Mr. Mario Joseph, civil rights attorney and director of BAI. But I'd made a friend, Mr. Harold Valentine, also a prominent member of the BAI team and after no one came back for us, we walked through the neighborhood back to the organization site, where I am camping out.

Night one was difficult. Sleeping on concrete is hard, plus somebody was playing their music really loud--the only consolation was that it was good music. Re: the concrete mattress--I can't imagine how it must be for those who have had to endure this for the past eight months. I walked past many such families as I went to get breakfast this morning--an egg and some bananas.

The stores in Haiti, look just like those in Senegal and East West and any neighborhood black-Oakland (maybe San Francisco Bay Area...maybe America)--Lebanese or Arabs run them. Black people just work there. How is this? When did disenfranchisement become a global issue? Well I guess it always was, we just didn't know it. If there are global franchises, then certainly there are global monopolies, but why do black people stand for it?

Haitian money is another trip. 39-40 gouds to one US $1: $10,000 US is $400, 000 Haitian. Okay so the quick lesson is $250 Haitian is $25 US. 5 gouds is $1 Haitian dollars. In tips, $2 US is $10 Haitian dollars. If you feel like giving more fine, don't feel pressured. I didn't, despite the looks. I'm like, I am not a rich American. My money has to last me, so I can give away more to grassroots organizations not that it's much: $200 is the most, the range is closer to $100 and in-kind like a $80 tent, three sleeping bags, 20 leather work gloves, the soon to be mentioned --keep reading... art supplies and clothes.

There are a lot of people (NGOs, non-profits and individuals) posturing hope--but Allah says in the Qur'an that one wants to give so the recipient keeps his or her dignity. Black people are still underrepresented in the giving, and it sometimes shows in the reception. Black people here and elsewhere in the diaspora and I'm speaking US as in New Orleans post Katrina and in Senegal.

As a first responder organization, Common Ground Relief--founded by a black couple with volunteers from around the country and the world, one would think, but no, at least not in Rufisque.

Here as well. It seems as if my hosts, not all of them, don't know what to make of me and don't ask any getting to know you kinds of questions. There was a report back kind of meeting this afternoon with all of the women organizers and it would have been great to be a part of it like a fly on the wall, but I wasn't invited to sit in. Yet, tomorrow I am going to meet the women who were just here, one on one. We could have saved valuable time. In Senegal I was put in the mix with the women leaders. They invited me to dance and sing with the woman being healed. When I didn't know a word, they gave it to me and then repeated themselves. I'm not in Senegal, but there is more alike between New Orleans and Senegal and Ayiti than difference regarding African culture. (Even the bathrooms are the same--completely tiled here and in Senegal.)

You can read about the two organizers at "Violence Against Women" (the report just came out

It feels like the persons I was dealing with today want the stuff, but are not interested in the persons donating the stuff. My friend Richard Moore a.k.a Paradise says in a poem: "I love everything about you but you."

I had stories of a couple who sent $100 plus did a fundraiser at their apartment and in three days had a huge huge bag filled with expensive leather shoes, work boots and really cute baby clothes. There is more too...I just couldn't carry it all. African Americans care about their brothers and sisters in the Diaspora which includes home. the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches and our annual fundraiser report back. (It often feels like no one cares about New Orleans post-Katrina, the Gulf--post-Katrina, but us.) My radio show will be three years old on the special broadcast, Friday, August 27,8-10 AM PST stay tuned:

Now the Gulf has the oil spill to contend with. It feels like a conspiracy. A man at the rally today asked me if the situation in Haiti was hopeless. I told him that the answer was not in abandoning his country for the US. I am surprised people still think gold grows on trees here. Come to East Oakland where were don't even have trees with leaves.

Despite our economic underdevelopment--I can't name one thing--economically, that is, where black people dominant globally, let alone domestically, I love Haitian people--black people. Haiti is a lot more laid back than Senegal. Folks don't hassle you and I am blown away by the surprise I see in people's faces when I don't speak Kreyol.

I think I am finally home.

The international journalists also really cool, one even pulled my coat and told me to watch my equipment. I had my MP3 tape going and my FLIP and my Canon. Girl was looking professional (smile).

Look is often all it takes sometimes, to get one in the door. Then expertise had better be in place (smile). So I am lost, but not really 'cause I have Mr. Joseph's number and a phone card (spent $250 Haitian on that bad-boy this morning--there is another cool African on the bill) and a phone I don't know how to put money on. One would think after six weeks in Africa I'd know how, but someone always did it for me. I tried and never got the hang of it. After I got back to BAI, someone put the minutes on the phone for me there. I need to ask someone to show me where the running total is, so I can know when I am getting close to the end of the balance.

The rally was billed as a sit-in but the music and the spirit was too lively for anyone to sit down. There was a big truck with speakers and music --reminded me of Carnival, and then this cool band came through with these horns out of the medieval period: "Hark, who goes there" kind of brass instruments. But there the inference or similarity ended with the beats straight out of Africa--slammin' folks doing a little line dancing all the while shouting slogans. Personnel at BAI where so many hats, the cook is also a chief organizer. Madam Delude was leading chants and songs and testifying and giving interviews at the rally.

The woman is powerful.

One would never imagine this same woman mopping the floors before the gig at 7 in the morning and cooking our evening meal and serving it afterwards. It was good too. When I travel I eat less, so I was one hungry sister at 4:30.

"Seven months after the tragic earth­quake that killed hun­dreds of thou­sands and left more than one and half mil­lion sur­vivors home­less, the most vul­ner­a­ble are orga­niz­ing to demand a mora­to­rium on forced evic­tions, which are hap­pen­ing in vio­la­tion of Hait­ian and inter­na­tional law. The gov­ern­ment must imme­di­ately pro­vide humane alter­na­tives to the muddy, dan­ger­ous, unsan­i­tary and sim­ply bru­tal liv­ing con­di­tions by ver­i­fy­ing own­er­ship titles, and nation­al­iz­ing by decree all empty and idle lands in the hands of large landown­ers. The thou­sands who can­not leave their camps for fear of expul­sion or lack of trans­port funds will par­tic­i­pate in the protest by bang­ing pots at noon (1pm EST) within the tent cities through­out Port-au-Prince and sur­round­ing towns."

I would have loved to hear that. If anyone was banging on anything, I couldn't hear it with all of the shouting and singing and playing.

I was talking to a young man (28) who wanted one of the Hot Wheels cars that I was pulling randomly from my Trader Joes (TJ for short) goody bag for the little people and a few bigger ones (smile). When I told one of the kids to share his toy with another child who got something else, he said he and his little friend lived in another camp. My answer was to share in that moment then.

My interpreter (28 year old who'd spent some time in New Jersey a while back) told me the sad story of a girl (15) who was gang-raped right near where we were standing. He volunteers with his church in the camps with the kids and he wanted to car for a little friend of his.

I was getting mobbed by kids who thought I couldn't tell one of them from another (smile). I love seeing their little smiling faces, adult smiling faces too.

My younger daughter sent cars and stickers and chenille wires, coloring books, crayons, action figures, water color paints, Mardi Gras beads, colored markers and so did another friend, a teacher who also sent a calligraphy set with nice paper. She sent more paper than I could carry. We didn't have bubbles this time. Those went over well in April (the four month anniversary); they just leak in the suitcase. I had an oversized suitcase full of baby clothes this time too. (Got a discount from Thrift Town in San Leandro; they knocked off $6. Don't tell anyone. The sister who made it happen after another manager told me no, said to "Keep my business to myself." I'm not tellin' It listed at $24.99, but as I unzipped compartment after compartment, I was able to fit several pounds of baby clothes inside, enough for five separate donations).

The baby clothes are so cute too, some designer wear-especially some of the tiny dresses. It feels good to look good when one's surroundings are unpleasant and I'm sure being able to dress her babies up will make many a parent feel better. I just wish I could have fit the medical supplies, but as I said, I was over in pounds and my TJ bag only held so much.

I put the extra clothing in my TJ bag and carried it on board after getting the weight down. I was in those seats by the window facing the curb.... My brother told me to leave the clothes, my daughter said perhaps the lost and found would give them to Good Will or some such institution, but I wanted to take them with me. So I packed my shopping bag and asked a couple with only one carry-on in security after the person checking my ticket and ID let me get in line, if they could take one of mine. They thought about it and declined--

Maybe it was a good thing, I wasn't separated from my belongings. I had to get patted down in the room. Something was triggering the alarm around my midsection. I had on a back brace, so I could carry all the extra weight in my backpack and the luggage. It had metal in it. I wasn't aware of that fact. So when I finally made it to the gate, with an hour to go and extra hour was added.

The plane was delayed.

At 12:20 or so the stewardess tells me I can't carry my extra bag on, and the husband, re: nice couple I'd met two hours earlier said he felt more comfortable helping me now that I'd cleared security. He steps up out of nowhere and says he'll carry my TJ bag filled with baby clothes and a TaSin purple umbrella. They board before me and he leaves it in the overhead bin at my seat. I put my suitcase there and put it and my backpack under my seat.

The newlyweds were on their way to St. Lucia, married just that day. The groom's dad (French) had volunteered as a translator in the early days of the earthquake ravaged Haiti. People were going to St. Lucia, the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Kitts, and Haiti (smile). I even ran into a City of Oakland council person, Natalie Bayton and a professor I know at Cal State East Bay, Dr. Charles Debose.

American Airlines was hot Tuesday night.

On the connecting flight, which we missed, despite all the promises that we'd make it--the gates were so far apart and the directions on the plane contradicted what the attendant told us when we got off--so anyway there was a three hour wait. We saw the plane leaving us--

American Airlines is the worse airline I have ever flew on. They generally make me miss any connecting flight--Senegal to New York was the worse January 2010--eight hour layover and again, the plane was there when I was told I couldn't board.

The reason customers put up with them is because they fly all over the world, places no one else flies from here. While at SFO we asked what an hour delay (12:30 AM departure rather than 11:30 PM) would do to our connecting flight.) Well if we'd left on time we might have made it, but at 12:45 we still hadn't left the gate. The PAP flight out of Miami was taxiing out at 9:38--two minutes early. At SFO they said Miami knew ten people were on board, but that they couldn't hold the plane.

Yep. Folks should boycott American.

I can't find a seat near the gate and I almost miss that flight from Miami. I set my phone to ring when I need to get to the gate, but I have the time wrong and the phone rings when I am seated on board (smile).

I hear them paging me and I rush to the gate. The attendants are so nice; they give me water and store my bags. I have been told I have looks. Well this one might have been worry as well--this was my third trip to the airport to go to Haiti this month: August 2, August 9, and August 10. I was so close this time and yet I still wasn't there.

Add to this my ear plug tearing off in my ear and I could not retrieve it. I could barely hear. I wasn't sure if I'd need someone to take me to the hospital--luckily Samantha at BAI, an intern who is working on public health and rural prisons (BAI and Partners in Health) pulled it out with tweezers. Today she wasn't well--hope there is no connection (I jest).

It's not the people at American airlines that suck, it's the corporation--the guys with bottom-line under their chins. They are so cheap, customers have to pay for Y5 and external Y5 is disabled. (I forgot my code so I was doublely (new word?)out of luck.)

Wanda Ravenell sent a lot of paper, but paper is heavy and I was over on both pieces of luggage by twenty pounds. I am happy I left some of it at home for another time. I couldn't even pay the difference in weight. The airline has this weird embargo up to August 24 for international flights that says one can only check two pieces of luggage.

I wonder is the fact that "inter­na­tional aid agen­cies and the United Nations read­ily admit that the camps do not meet inter­na­tional stan­dards for inter­nally dis­placed peo­ple, at the same time non-governmental orga­ni­za­tions, char­i­ties and the Hait­ian Gov­ern­ment are unwill­ing to pro­vide basic ser­vices to these victims.

"[That] food dis­tri­b­u­tions have come to a halt [for adults not for children and elderly--what kind of sense does this make] and many aid agen­cies are inten­tion­ally with­hold­ing nec­es­sary and fun­da­men­tal ser­vices such as latrines, water, food and med­ical aid, in order to force earth­quake vic­tims to aban­don the camps that cur­rently exist in for­mer parks, school grounds and church­yards. How­ever, no fea­si­ble plans exist to relo­cate these families."

A friend of mine who has an afterschool program going says he can't get any of the food for his kids and he is going deeper and deeper in the hole which has a bottom. If he hits the bottom then the children he has served out of pocket since January will have nothing and with school out, many kids would have nothing to do if not for people like Jean-Yvon Kernizan, who moved back to Haiti in January just in time to assist with earthquake recovery and relief. For people looking for a worthy cause, his is such a one. He's on facebook. Poke him with some money(smile).

"Through the gen­eros­ity of peo­ple through­out the world, more than one bil­lion dol­lars has already been donated to char­i­ties," yet one wouldn't believe it, looking around at the sameness of the landscape from the National Palace to the streets where waste stands in trenches, mothers bath their children on the women wash themselves with their backs turned--an illusive attempt at modesty, while no one looks because it is the same for most of the population.

"Haitians who lost loved ones, homes and all their belong­ings are now out in the mer­ci­less sum­mer sun all day, then soaked to the bone by rains each night,” explains Melinda Miles, direc­tor of Let Haiti Live and Coor­di­na­tor of the Haiti Response Coali­tion. “They are deprived of fun­da­men­tal human rights – access to food, water, shel­ter – and have no other place to go.”

Mr. Valentine said he cleared away all the debris and he and his family are settled in a tarp covered shell of a house on its foundation. His five year old son suffered a fractured leg and arm. His dad said he is learning to walk again. Mr. Valentine is a hero in Haiti. Everywhere we walked he was greeted with smiles and hugs and conversation. As we waited for someone to come back for us and then started walking home, he told me his January 12, 2010 story.

Every Haitian has one. I met a young woman on the airplane, Judith who came home on vacation and as soon as she arrived at her house the earthquake happened. She is a nurse and even she couldn't give comfort to some victims who were subjected to Stone Age medicine--amputations without anesthesia. Mr. Valentine said that after he stabilized his son, he went to the capital and raised the Haitian flag and sang the anthem. He said he didn't have on a shirt, just shorts and I guess shoes, but it was important for him to let the world know that Haiti was not defeated.

President Preval gave his statement afterwards, Mr. Valentine said. He said his name is his mission, to spread love all over the world.

"The U.S. gov­ern­ment and UN agen­cies all point to the Hait­ian Government’s inabil­ity to pro­vide land for reset­tle­ment, refer­ring to con­tro­ver­sies around land tenure and emi­nent domain. How­ever in the past, emi­nent domain has not been an issue when the gov­ern­ment has needed to appro­pri­ate land for build­ing roads or fac­to­ries. The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is illus­tra­tive of a his­tor­i­cal prece­dent of pri­vate prop­erty being more impor­tant than the rights of the poor.

"'The law is per­fectly clear,” accord­ing to promi­nent human rights attor­ney Mario Joseph. “There is a prob­lem of polit­i­cal will and a prob­lem of exclu­sion. The poor have been excluded from their land for years, and are now excluded from the process deter­min­ing their rights to lodgings.'

"In addi­tion to demand­ing imme­di­ate solu­tions for the inter­nally dis­placed peo­ple such as viable land for relo­ca­tion and resump­tion of basic ser­vices with­out fur­ther delay, demon­stra­tors are demand­ing that forced evic­tions and vio­lent expul­sions cease, and the Hait­ian Gov­ern­ment and Hait­ian National Police enforce a manda­tory mora­to­rium on forced removals until suit­able alter­na­tives are in place" (Taken from

If pictures are worth a thousand words, then the voices of the women and men today, are worth millions--the millions and billions the American Red Cross and other non-profiteers are sitting on as the Haitian government drags its feet. These multinational organizations need to connect with grassroots organizations and give the money to those entities who are connected to the people and not receiving funding.

I don't think I will be able to see So Anne or Pastor Francke this time. I think I might get over to Jean Ristil's and hopefully Rea Dol will pop through BAI tomorrow. I love Haiti. It's hard to manage without Kreyol, but next time I might have a bit more than I have now. This is thanks to a quick one hour lesson with Colette Ewoi and the book Pierre Labossiere's sister Marie-Therese Labossiere, wrote: Nou Di, We Say, Nous Disons. It is in English Kreyol and French. My hosts chuckle as I flip through my cards and practice on them.

My name is Wanda: Mwem rele Wanda.
What is your name: Keyjan ou rele?
Glad to make your acquaintance: Mwen countent wey ou.
Good Morning: Bonjou.
Good Afternoon: Bonswa.
Good Night: Bo(accent on the o)nnwit.
Mesi (accent on the e) anpil: Thank you very much.
Deryen: My pleasure. It's okay.
Kouman ou ye? How are you?
Byen Me (accent on the e)si: Fine thank you.
Kouman moun lakay ou ye: How is your family.
I presume the answer can be the same.
Say hello to everybody: Di toutmoun bonjou
Can you help me: Eske ou ka eden
I do not understand: Mwen pa konprann.
The cool way to ask how someone is doing:
Sak passe (accent on the e). Response: Map boule
(accent on the e. I'm boiling but not too hot.
Another greeting is "kombien po sa?" Which I think means how
are you.

The photos are from Day 1: my ride in the pouring rain from the airport. I will post the Rally and videos sometime later. I have to get to bed. It's really late here. There was a band playing music when we got off the shuttle. They were good. I didn't have my camera ready, otherwise I would have taken a photo. There was no band in April-sounds of recovery perhaps (smile).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

SABAR: Life is a Dance

It was great seeing SABAR again, my first time with an audience and the first time with cast in the house as well at a free community screening at the Museum of the African Diaspora. It opened the Oakland International Film Festival 2009 to much acclaim, so I was happy to see it earlier this year, since I missed the huge splash.
Another one of those stories which are as much about place as it is about, in this case identity, SABAR is Oakland as well--African Oakland, an Oakland one might miss if one is not walking to a rhythm he or she can't count, as Baba Zak Diouf says to his students, one has to feel.

Sabar is both a dance and a drum. I remember when I first heard of Sabar, there was a national troupe from Senegal coming to the University of California at Berkeley's Zellerbach Auditorium. I think there were like 50 drummers and all of them played this wooden drum with sticks. It was so impressive. I don’t remember if there were dancers too. I don’t think I knew there was also a dance until this film.
Okay, I’m slow, but though I’ve seen the dance, I didn’t connect it to the drum.

Set in both 1977 and 2007, Nwoffiah’s SABAR story centers around a young woman who teaches hip hop dance, yet her best friend dances Sabar. Little does she know, but her mother danced Sabar at the Pan African Arts Festival FESPACO in Lagos, Nigeria, and that Sabar will save her life.

When the film opens we meet Aisha (actress Bunmi DeRosario) and her sick mother, “Roberta” actress Ellen Foster Randle, in the hospital. The mother’s dying wish is for her daughter to dance SABAR and she makes her daughter’s best friend, “Fatima” actress Kenesha Mayfield, promise to if not make Aisha drink, certainly tether her to the well (smile).

SABAR is Aisha’s journey back to herself via SABAR which calls her to it in ways which are inexplicable, yet, irresistible especially as she learns how important this cultural expression has been to those close to her like her mother and her best friend and eventually her teacher—Aziz, actor Alassane Kane and Mama Ramatu, actress Naomi Diouf.

When she returns home from the hospital, Aisha begins to look at old scrap books her mother has left for her to learn more about her heritage and her mother’s life before she was born. All roads lead to SABAR, and so she attends a class with Fatima and gets hooked just in time to participate in the festival coming up in Oakland.

Aziz looks at Aisha and sees SABAR. He tells her Sabar is in your soul. “You can’t fight it.” The girl thinks he’s crazy, yet once she commits to the class and company, Sabar takes over almost obsessively. There is no room for romance, for anything outside except perhaps work…and in the end she seems to even let that go.

Sabar helps Aisha order her life and set priorities as her friend Fatima’s love life is taking a serious turn and Aisha meets a man who just like the dance, is irresistible.

Sabar the film, like Sabar the dance and drum is mysterious, full of suspense, tragedy and yes, of course, magic. A literal Pan African story – Aisha is both Africa and America…SABAR the bridge between the two.

Nwoffiah’s work, whether it's film or theatre thematically centers itself in Pan African history and culture. SABAR is no different.

As SABAR speaks to the rhythms of Africa in the Diaspora moving along a cinematic trajectory that is reflected in the music and dance of a fractured and severed community of people reunited: SABAR holds forth in epic proportions –measurable and immeasurable. Aisha a symbol of a life discovered at the intersection between periods (500 years later).

When one looks at major gathering of Africans in the Diaspora in the twentieth century, FESTAC, Second World Festival of Black Arts and Culture of 1977, in Lagos, Nigeria, stands out. (The first was held in Dakar, Senegal in 1966.)

It was a time of world wide celebration! Those who’d passed through the Doors of No Return were back home—the wanderer in the Bush of Ghosts had returned.

There was a similar gathering in Europe in the 1950s with Richard Wright and W.E.B Dubois and future heads of African nations. I think it was connected to the Negritude movement, I’m not certain, but FESTAC sounds like it created a movement and Aisha and her generation are the offspring of FESTAC, the SABAR generation.

The director, Chike Nwoffiah said he was there at FESTAC, a baby, but he was there. Associate Producer, photographer, Tumani Onabiyi was definitely there and one sees his photos illustrating the scenes in SABAR.

The idea for the story, which became SABAR, Nwoffiah says goes back ten years when he entered a studio at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts and SABAR was being played. Zak Diouf and other famous drummers are in the film, as well as renown dancers.

After a conversation with his co-writer, Nwoffiah’s project shifted from a documentary about African drumming and dance, to the story of a young woman who has SABAR in her soul.

The cast is phenomenal, especially Aisha and Fatima’s boyfriends: “Martin,” actor Curtis Campbell and “Gerald,” actor David Ali (smile), as are the dance sequences and drumming with dancers: Habana Coleman, Ibrahim Diouf, Ashley Mayer, Alecia Hudson, Kara Mack and Donna McCraney, with drummers: Karamba, Zak Diouf
Dam Gueye, Magette Sow, Madiou Diouf, Idrissa Gueye, Abdou M’Baye, Cheikh M’Baye, Mamadou Kone and Tumani Onabiyi, are powerful as well.

Though the protagonist, Aisha, isn’t the most powerful dancer on stage, what she has is heart, and the connection between the dance and drum and one’s heart is not lost on the audience, even a young audience member, my niece, Wilda who was eight at the time, got it.

Sometimes one has to listen to her heart . . . the rhythms don’t lie: when one dances to the rhythms in one’s soul, one’s life becomes ordered, doubts fall away and everything which is for you is within reach.

In other words, there is a happy ending (smile). Visit