Whoever she ends up being, wherever you end up meeting her, I hope I am still important enough to be part of your backstory. I hope when she asks about your past, you do not think of who came before me.
I hope you immediately think of the petite blonde girl, smiling from ear to ear in your passenger seat, singing her favorite Taylor Swift songs to you. I hope you think about how she’s the reason you still have a few of them on your playlist.
I hope the girl who comes to mind is the one who wrote you letters for each day when you left on your mission trip. I hope you remember the way your heart ached because Haiti was so far away from her and your cell service didn’t work internationally. But those letters got you through the week and straight back into her arms.
When she says, “Did you love her?” I hope you remember the girl who had asked you that same question, and how you told her you did, but that she had reinvented the way you saw love. I hope you remember the girl that, in your mind, you saw as your first real love.
I hope you think of the girl with big, blue eyes who gleamed up at you as if you had stars in your own. I hope you remember how much she loved you.
Because that girl was me. And even if I am not the girl you spend your future with, I hope I am important enough to be part of your past.
excerpt from an unfinished book #76 // Letter I’ll never send - I hope you tell her about me
I have only one rule when you come with me to Haiti: leave all your guilt at the door. Don’t reach out of car windows handing street kids coins. Don’t take pictures of dirty kids to serve a higher purpose of making you “appreciate what it is that you have”. Haiti isn’t about you. I bring people to Haiti so they can learn about Haiti, not themselves– for how can one evolve only through a selfish gaze. This isn’t Eat Pray Love.
The problem with going to a place that you’ve already heard everything about is that you come with a preconceived notion– the idea that you must feel something, must experience some thing. What most people don’t realize is that feeling has already been concocted for you. Stories and movies of Haitian slums have already set your expectations. First world narratives of poverty have already eaten away at your soul leaving it so that you already feel guilt if you are not moved. That’s not what Haiti is about. The people who sold you that story feed on your belief of it so they can continue to vulture off a corrupt government and a never ending contribution of guilt money that never needs to be reported back; so people never have to know the names of Haitian kids or what exactly is they do all day.
So my rule is never ever ever sit in my country and treat my people like comparisons. If you go to Haiti and tweet about a neighborhood based on its crime stats, take pictures with children that made you cry or made you feel “ashamed” about your privilege you’ve done nothing but make it about you. If you go and you write more brand names and talk more about organizations contributions than actual people: you’ve done nothing. People already KNOW Haiti is poor. It’s this shitty little thing where by reaffirming that narrative you remind them that black people are poor and dirty like they already believed and believe about blacks everywhere. That’s the something you’re feeling.
The country doesn’t need pity it needs economy. It needs you to tell people what you ate, what you drank, the jokes the kids told you, the fact that they love Rihanna and Drake. The fact that they think Supreme stuff is fire and make their own memes on Facebook at the Internet cafés and on their old model iPhones. That they too love J’s thought they may not have them. They ARE human. They need a shared experience, not more congratulations for the corporations that send them pity gifts but won’t walk their streets and will still speak of them through racist stereotypes so they can build their charity portfolio.
They need you to name the names of the beaches where you post your selfies and explain how beaches in Haiti are for white tourists because DUH we all live by the water on an island and tanning is not a hobby in a black ass country. They need you to tell the stories of the street vendors that sold you beer and fritaille and how the beer is still brewed in the homeland. They need people to know that 90% of the world exports can be grown on Haitian soil because its that fertile but we import everything because the government has abandoned its own people. They need the world to stop thinking of them as a place where they’re so broke they’ll kidnap you- because LOL at the idea of an American being kidnapped in Haiti. (Literally Haitians laugh at this notion.)
They don’t need to be markers for your personal evolution or your sadness or your gratefulness at having resources. They don’t need to be trotted out for pity so you can come back and throw a festival in their name. They need you to tell Young Thug and Future to come to Haiti because they love seeing them rep in their songs; that they are very much tuned into the “first world” but you do none of this.
You clap for yourselves as Americans and express shock that they are humans with a sense of community. You visit only Cite D’Soleil a slum so dangerous every single article in Haiti ever has mentioned it or interviewed someone there. A slum so “nefarious” it has its own movie—real nuance!. You rehash the narrative of oppressors rather than letting Haiti teach you how to laugh, how to cook fish, how to be a hedonist, how to drink rum, how to dance kompa, how to play dominoes, how to roast niggas in the dark while chopping down a 14ft stalk of sugar cane with a machete under the moon. How every Haitian that comes back from “an deyó” returns with nothing less than 4 suitcases of provisions. How grandmothers in Brooklyn stuff 200lbs of food, clothes, water etc and smuggle them home to drop off at Delmas, or Petionville or even an “affluent” hood like Vivi-Michel directly because they know the Red Cross and the UN aren’t going to real homes.
You spend your nights talking to white people who steal from us rather than night riding in the ghost towns covered in colorful and faded hand-painted ads around Champs Mars and visiting the fish markets at 5am for the freshest catches and the funniest arguments–swerving through the traffic of mothers trying to get kids to school and get to work. You came back with nothing and you gave nothing and if your response is “I did all these things!” than why doesn’t it show? Next time you go to my country step off the pedestal of first world pity and feel the red soil in your toes. Learn the names and stories and then tell them with no additives. Tell them not to make people cry but to remind motherfuckers that this world is big, diverse and it’s beautiful and Haiti is the most beautiful place in the world. That black kids are people, poor or rich.
They’ll say im subbing you but I didn’t mention names because it isn’t one person and again it’s not about YOU. It’s everyone who insults me by asking if I’ll be “safe” when I’m going to visit my FAMILY for two weeks. It’s every person who goes to DR but would never consider the land just across the river. For everyone who goes to Africa, India, Brazil and does the same boohoo about being shocked that poor people are good to each other. It’s about real culture not the culture you retweet but the kind that makes people say PLEASAE TAKE ME WITH YOU rather than “I just donated.” Its about real connection and humanity not a pity narrative or a moral workout session for those who have over the havenots.
I don’t go to Haiti to feel better about being an American. I go to Haiti to be a better Haitian; to show real love. All I ask is that you all do the same. Be better and do better. I’m willing to take anyone anytime. My family begs that I bring friends with every trip because my uncle says they don’t really know us, they only know the white people’s view. I’m happy to show you the real way because it’s not a vacation destination to me: it’s home. Don’t ever do that to my heart again.
My stim toys that save my life:
From left to right
-super soft peep toy
-purple stress ball from school
-carpet samples (free!)
-slinky from school
-nyan cat and cylinder clay charms I made
-purple metallic tangle Jr.
-heart rock from Haiti
I really want to get some chewable sand stuff from stimtastic as well!
Above are some of my favorite shots from my last trip to Haiti. These precious faces make my heart go pitter-patter. How could they not? Oh, how I yearn to be there right now! Fortunately, I only have a couple more weeks before I board a plane to visit this place that has so greatly captured my heart.