There is a Haitian saying that might upset the aesthetic sensibilities of some women. ‘Nou lèd, nou la,’ it says. 'We are ugly, but we are here.’ Like the modesty that is common in rural Haitian culture, this saying makes a deeper claim for poor Haitian women than maintaining beauty, be it skin-deep or otherwise. For women like my grandmother, what is worth celebrating is the fact that we are here, that against all odds, we exist.
Edwidge Danticat, “We Are Ugly, but We Are Here,” Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean
Growing up in New York’s Harlem, Paula Williams Madison knew she had a Chinese grandfather, even though she had never met him.
When people found out, she says, most of them would make comments
such as “Really? You don’t look Chinese.” Others would laugh. Even so,
she always intended to track down her mother’s father and learn the full
story of her multi-ethnic Jamaican-Chinese family.
By the time she found them, her tiny American family had expanded to
about 400 living members and a family tree that goes back 3,000
years. A new documentary tells the story of that journey and the
discovery of a family that today extends from Shenzhen, China, to
Kingston, Jamaica, and Los Angeles, California.
Ms. Madison, 62, spent much of her career at NBC, and retired a few
years ago as an executive at NBC Universal, one of the first black women
to achieve that rank. She says she waited until retiring to pursue her
dream of reconnecting with her Chinese family.
Before, “I did know a handful of my cousins,” she says. “Now there are about 40.”
“Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China,” directed by Jeanette
Kong of Toronto, a fellow Chinese-Jamaican, tells the story of Ms.
Madison’s quest. After slavery ended in Jamaica in 1838, the country
sought immigrants to do the work slaves had performed on sugar
plantations. By 1920, 4,000 of those immigrants were Chinese. Ms.
Madison’s grandfather—a Hakka Chinese man from Guangdong province
originally named Lowe Ding Chiu—was one of them, moving there in 1905 at
Ms. Madison says after she retired, she ventured to a June 2012
conference on Hakka Chinese in Toronto, where many Chinese-Jamaicans
live. Ms. Madison and her two brothers asked for help finding their
Chinese family at the conference. “And for the first time in my life I
was among people who said, ‘We’re going to help you,’ ” Ms. Madison
One misconception people have about Haiti is that, poverty runs the country. The media will never show you just how beautiful it is. There is in fact life there. Haitians party, work, raise families, go to school, & vacation there. Haiti is so rich in value but you shouldn’t have to go there yourself to know that. - 🇭🇹🇭🇹🇭🇹