Two Songs and a Poem from Haiti

The aftershocks of death and collapse in Port-au-Prince have filled our hearts with the heaviness of what Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat calls the “layers of tragedy” – political and natural – that blanket the country. By now we have taken in the images of a grief stricken and devastated nation. We have heard about Haiti’s poverty and, hopefully, its history of exploitation by colonial powers (the root of that poverty).

I want to add to this outpouring some offerings of the life and vibrance of Haiti. Let our prayers be filled with the beauty Haiti has given the world from its “empty” coffers.

This song is ever so lovely, and this one conveys a bit of the Haitian experyans.

This poem is by the Haitian writer, Felix Morisseau-Leroy. Women’s Voices for Change writes, “read now, the poem stands as a caution to those who might try to generalize about those whose lives have been upended by the earthquake.”

Boat People

We are all in a drowning boat
Happened before at St. Domingue
We are the ones called boat people

We all died long ago
What else can frighten us
Let them call us boat people

We fight a long time with poverty
On our islands, the sea, everywhere
We never say we are not boat people

In Africa they chased us with dogs
Chained our feet, piled us on
Who then called us boat people?

Half the cargo perished
The rest sold at Bossal Market
It’s them who call us boat people

We stamp our feet down, the earth shakes
Up to Louisiana, down to Venezuela
Who would come and call us boat people?

A bad season in our country
The hungry dog eats thorns
They didn’t call us boat people yet

We looked for jobs and freedom
And they piled us on again: Cargo—Direct to Miami
They start to call us boat people

We run from the rain at Fort Dimanche
But land in the river at the Krome
Detention Center
It’s them who call us boat people

Miami heat eats away our hearts
Chicago cold explodes our stomach
Boat people boat people boat people

Except for the Indians—
What American didn’t get here somehow
But they only want to call us boat people

We don’t bring drugs in our bags
But courage and strength to work
Boat people—Yes, that’s all right, boat people

We don’t come to make trouble
We come with all respect
It’s them who call us boat people

We have no need to yell or scream
But all boat people are equal, the same
All boat people are boat people

One day we’ll stand up, put down our feet
As we did at St. Domingue
They’ll know who these boat people really are

That day, be it Christopher Columbus
Or Henry Kissinger—
They will know
We who simply call ourselves


Still with me? Feeling political? Check out this list of

ten things the U.S. can and should do for Haiti.

And Thank You Dr. Martin Luther King! May we ever and always strive to fulfill your vision.

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