Photo Credit: Haitian Fishing Boat: An old fishing boat near Labadee, Haiti
Why Haiti Is Worthy Of Being More Than Just A Trending Topic
Written by Ruth Jean-Marie
Haiti offered me the night, Blackness and lullabies that never found their voice. It enveloped me in an understanding of what mornings, afternoons and the quiet of evenings should look like, be like and feel like–what people could look like, be like and feel like. It gave me the closure that I didn’t know I needed and helped me to realize that Haiti’s role in the natural trajectory of the world is worthy of existing.
Haiti will give you night time—pitch-black darkness, perfect only because it exudes a unique form of sincerity. It’s what night is supposed to look like. And if you are in it, you have to trust it. You have to understand that the darkness felt in Haiti is commonplace–banal even, despite the creatures and their exoticism that may keep you awake at night.
The light will always come. It’s impossible for it not to. You learn in your elementary science class the rotations of the earth. No longer to be argued; light is always inevitable.
I found honesty in Haiti. There was no hiding from the truth. Once there, the inevitability of the island’s condition cannot be hidden away. The beauty, the beasts, the traces of its colonial legacy, all are upfront with who and what they are, the impact they have and the reality they create.
And I’ll admit, I’ve been to Haiti before. Growing up with Haitian immigrant parents, it was hardly an option not to visit. I’m grateful for that. And I’ll also admit, I’ve condemned others for not seeing the beauty that naturally exists on the island. I am Haitian, and not just on popular holidays.
Yet my most recent trip to the island was different. I was old enough not to be chained to my aunt’s house like in the days of my youth. This time, I was old enough to venture out and experience its promises. I could ask to be brought places and went with a plan. I wasn’t there to study and fulfill the requirements of a degree like the days of my young adulthood. I was there to experience the night—the truth, the beauty, the honesty, the potential.
On this trip to Haiti, I came with an agenda. My dreams were to be discussed there and planted in collaboration with the dreams that already existed on the island–the dreams of Haiti’s own. While there, I made an effort to stop romanticizing my mother’s land. This was mainly to combat its consistent demonization. I enjoyed the truth of it all—the night, the scariness and the safety of knowing everything had to be alright.
I realized very quickly my soul belonged there, my body, my flesh, my sensibilities—they were in their part-time home. But I also realized I wasn’t completely of them.
I have extraordinary goals—an imagination that is no longer satiated by writing ideas down in journals or over coffee with long ago friends. I have dreams for Haiti, dreams that can only appear in the dark. I don’t intend to be their nighttime or their light. I don’t want to disrupt home for them or for myself. I don’t want to challenge soccer matches or start charging exponentially for the fruit that naturally falls from their trees. I want to aid in their dreams, help the manifestation of potential that is so painfully obvious.
I want to remain in the darkness and the truth and the honesty of why and what Haiti is: a beautiful price paid for freedom. What will remain is my soul’s belonging but not an ego that requires others’ acknowledgment of Haiti’s beauty. Haiti doesn’t need to cry uncle to the whims of others’ desire for proof.
Through projects and papers and conversations about Haiti’s “Haitianess” and the world’s aversion to my blood, I haven’t properly captured its truth. It’s nighttime. With its stars in the sky—stars I’d never witnessed having been born and raised in Brooklyn. With its ability to make its condition work—their unique ways of ripening fruit to sell to drivers-by. Their joy despite and because of their history—I want its essence, its truth, its night to remain in the face of development.
The preservation of Haiti’s darkness is my goal. Haiti’s legacy exists in its darkness, in its blackness; its future is folded into the natural existence that still finds residency there–blackness, and its tight-knit relationship with the dark, so often perceived as something to escape, is what will guide Haiti’s development.