Perception. I sure succumbed to its powers while flying over Haiti’s massive mass and many mountains. A quiet hum on the aircraft proved my fellow Barbadian members were also holding breaths of intimidation. We were part of a contingent touching down to represent our country over fourteen days of a Caribbean Festival of Arts titled Carifesta XII. My subconscious prepared me to be overwhelmed by images of poverty and violence – the circumstances I had come to expect. Our beautifully decorated prison, (sorry I meant hotel), and stifling security with shotguns dangling at every hip did nothing to cure my concern. Luckily, one of the last things my girlfriend told me before leaving home was to open up, and let Haiti change me and she is always pretty smart about these things……
From the dawn of my first morning in Haiti I opened up to its culture and it replied, “Koman ou ye?” And how was I? … Give me a second I was busy understanding the chaos of traffic yet; no accidents. Haitians drivers would put Barbados ZR drivers to shame. Wait, still counting the colours of the Tap Taps and motorcycle taxis providing public transport, How so many wonderfully crafted shoes hung from the walls of streets? I mean, from beds to barbecue grills for sale on the sidewalks. I was still peeping through beads of perspiration to figure out if the temperature of thirty seven degrees that my phone was telling me was lying or not. Hold on, still coming to grips with the fact that Port Au Prince is buzzing with over two million beautiful people and I would think Bridgetown on a Saturday morning at home had a lot of people. How am I, Ayiti? Still fitting the size of many monuments into my eyes, listening to their history. I am busy smiling and dancing to your kompa music, meditating to the rhythm of your rituals. How am I, Haiti? How are you…
I feel your urgency. Not only does your hustle exist in the streets exercising the brilliance of the haggling art, but I can also feel the weight of the pain of corruption in society. Classcism burning bridges. How can the rich be so rich and the poor be so poor? The ones in the middle I don’t even know… but you know the reason I couldn’t recognize you? Just like that poverty stricken boy who has no idea he is poor because his parents shower him with love, Haitians exude a pride and fortitude. Rich in culture communicated with a colourful creole accented with a sparkled smile. We’re at home complaining about poor internet services while some of these people only get two to three hours of random electricity a day. At least we are Flowing. Check it though, their work clothes were still ironed and their cell phones are still charged and topped up. Still living.
I learned about life. Bonded with fellow Bajans over Barbancourt rum, Prestige beer, soca music and spontaneous storm limes. You had to be there 😉 I lived the life of a celebrity for a couple of weeks. A hard working celebrity but I felt like a star still. I paraded through the streets sharing the Bajan culture, landship and tuk band style. I promoted and sold Barbadian literature breaking down language barriers.
I performed storytelling and spoken word with a translator, and was a part of a professional ensemble of Barbadian talent climaxing the festival in front of thousands of appreciative Caribbean people. It felt really good to be an artist and support the skills of others. From intellectual and ignorant conversation with the National Cultural Foundation Literary Arts Officer Ayesha Gibson, to Bash!ng out to Jowee Omicil and Getting Busy to Biggie Irie, I waved the Barbados flag high both literally and figuratively all day and night. Any higher and I would have been as tall as one of our stilt men.The joy of rushing from performances to embrace other Caribbean culture like the 1688 Youth Orchestr was educating and exhilarating.
Sure I wished I could have experienced more of you Haiti. You big as shite girl! But I received more than I could have imagined. You have touched me creatively, emotionally and spiritually. My perception was a deception and all I feel now is deep appreciation. Although understandably security did not want us to witness the darker parts of you, your sincere spirit still extended arms in a wide “byenveni” and for that I truly give thanks. “Mesi unpil.”
How are we, Haiti? Man we good!