Amour Creole/BET -  A 25-year-old restaurant owner was recently crowned Miss Haiti on Sunday in the Caribbean country’s capital of Port-au-Prince.

As the crowd of more than 400 people chanted her name and gave her a standing ovation, a crowned Carolyn Desert repeatedher vows: “I’m going to support the youth. I’m going to support women. I’m going to support the poor.”

Among Desert’s winning traits was her reputation for supporting artists and helping impoverished children and her wide smile, which earned her a “most photogenic” award, AP reports.

Another big moment of the night for Desert occurred during the question-and-answer portion of the pageant. According to the AP, Desert said that Haitian women have more to offer than looks: “Perseverance, courage, resilience.” Her eloquent response reportedly garnered a huge round of applause.

Desert’s closely cropped natural hair also sparked a national debate about whether competitors should embrace their natural hair instead of wearing hair extensions or straight hair like a majority of the 21 pageant participants.

As Miss Haiti 2014, Desert will compete in the Miss World competition in London in December and represent the nation on trips sponsored by Haiti’s tourism ministry.

Taking a page out of the Gospel of Pat Robertson, Chibly Langlois, Haiti’s first Roman Catholic cardinal revealed the “big social problem” in Haiti: Vodou. He argued that Vodou offers “magic” but no real solutions to a population deprived of justice and a political voice.

"If a person is well educated and has the financial means, they will go to a doctor [instead of the Vodou priest] when they get sick. If that same person went to the court to get justice they would not go to the Vodou priest to get revenge. It’s a big problem for the church. And for Haiti," Langlois said.

This uncritical scapegoating of the Vodou religion (called Santeria in Cuba and Candomblé in Brazil) as the source of Haiti’s problems is typical amongst Catholics and their evangelical Christian counterparts. It implies that Christianity provides you not only with enlightenment from your backwards ways, but financial gains…I guess Italy and Greece just haven’t been praying hard enough!

In my travels around Haiti, I have come across many villages where there is no police presence and nor is there a clinic nearby for basic care, often leaving the Vodou priest or priestess( hougans and manbos) to serve every role from midwife to judge and jury. Yet Langlois and the Catholic Church he represents remain silent on the deeply imbedded inequality in Haiti and a Haitian government more interested in attracting foreign tourists by any means than providing basic social services to its people. He also fails to critique the international community who have little to show for $9 billion funneled through international contractors and NGOs in Haiti with little accountability since the 2010 earthquake.

Contrary to the Cardinal’s statement, Vodou is not Haiti’s problem; Christianity is. No push to spread Vodou ever wiped out entire “savage” indigenous peoples. Vodou has caused no wars due to a desire to convert as many people as possible. Vodou doesn’t tell “saved souls” that they must be complacent, accepting their lot on Earth for the potential of future salvation in heaven. Vodou never told Black people they were a curse or 3/5ths of a person.

Vodou is of the belief system that sustained our ancestors across the Middle Passage, during the brutality of the plantation, and through the victories of slave rebellions. Haiti should never apologize for it.

Christianity and the West’s real problem with Vodou is that, like the Maroons who practiced it, it remains elusive to those who would aim to profit off of it, package it, and control it. Unlike Hinduism or Buddhism, Westerners can’t take a “spiritual journey” to Haiti to “find themselves” in a Vodou temple. Vodou remains a religion steeped in African traditions, for people of African descent, and based on an understanding of the linkages between the natural and spiritual world—-Hollywood can’t make a Julia Roberts movie out of that.

When it comes to the poor and most vulnerable, the Catholic Church with its $10- $15 billion in wealth looks less like the teachings of Christ and more like a big corporation.  For centuries the Church has been complacent in, and at times profited from, slavery, the Holocaust, selling babies, and, most recently, the sexual abuse of children. I have encountered many wealthy preachers and priests, but I have yet to meet a rich hougan.

Haiti and all the worlds’ poor need a Cardinal that can speak up for “real solutions to a population deprived of justice and a political voice” such as a judicial system free from corruption and accessible to all its people, access to quality healthcare for all regardless of income, free and compulsory primary education, and jobs that pay a living wage. Or even a Cardinal who can simply stand up to a UN who refuses to acknowledge its responsibility for a cholera epidemic that’s killed 9,000+ Haitians. A Church that remains silent on all these issues is a problem.

Unfortunately, it’s far easier for Langlois to shame the poor and Vodouists rather than risk his position in the gilded halls of the Vatican by taking a stand for social justice. As Gandhi once lamented, “You Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

France François is the blogger behind the Black in Cairo blog and has a background in development and conflict resolution. Tweet her: @frenchieglobal

Watch on conjureandsuch.tumblr.com

The Spirit of Haiti: Vodou

Documentary on Vodou, it’s origins and rituals, de-mystifying myths and demonstrating actual rituals, from interviews and footage of practitioners themselves.

Haiti celebrates its 210th anniversary of independence today. “Perhaps we Haitians should tell the whole world that being the FIRST [INDEPENDENT] BLACK NATION is no walk in the park and we have the scars to prove it.” (Woodring Saint Preux) Haiti, the only nation born of a slave revolt, could have been a prosperous country but was impoverished by a crippling, decades-long embargo imposed by Europe and the U.S. after former slaves overthrew the country’s European ruling elites.
L’union Fait La Force. “210 years after we took our independence, let’s continue the fight to put our country on the road to development.” #Ayiti #Haiti #LunionFaitLaForce #UnityMakesStrength #1804 #AyitiCherie #HaitiMyBeloved

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I love Tap Taps! People all over the world decorate their trucks and buses, but ours are truly unique: the metal work, the scenes, representations of God, idols, vices, and things pleasing to the Haitian heart and eye. They say so much about who were are - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.The Tap Tap is truly something to be proud of. It is not simply art or transportation, but a testament to the wondrous intangible within us.

Planet Money did a piece exploring the purpose and imagery of the Tap Tap. It’s a short listen. Find it here.

Photos from here.

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