Monday, August 16, 2010

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).


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