Tag Archives: Haiti

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Junot Diaz

By Andrea Plaid

If we had to pick a Racialicious poster boy–that aphrodisiac of sapiosexuality–Junot Diaz would be it.

Junot Diaz. Photo: Carolyn Cole. Via Los Angeles Times.

The R’s Owner/Editor Latoya Peterson says this about his book, The Brief Wonderous Life Of Oscar Wao:

My eyes drank in every word of “Wildwood,” the second chapter in Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. On the plane from Baltimore to Austin, the narrative gripped me solidly by the throat, turning a casual curiosity about Oscar into a desperate longing to hear more from his sister Lola.

When the plane touched down, my sweatshirt was crunchy with the salt from shed tears and I had run through six napkins while the story unfolded. I grabbed my bags, and called my boyfriend who had been badgering me about reading the novel for some months now.

“Why didn’t you mention Lola?” I asked.

“Who? Oscar’s sister? Why is that…oh.” His voice suddenly bloomed with recognition and we sat in silence for a few seconds.

In all the reviews I have read about the novel since I finished the final page, the character of Lola is generally a footnote. Described as a beautiful girl, or a troubled girl, or Oscar’s sister, the strength of her narrative and her story seem overshadowed by the book’s focus – obviously, Oscar – or by the story of her mother, Belicia, the beautiful prieta who seemed forged partially from the steel intended to break her into submission. And yet, to me, Lola’s story was the most compelling, reflecting back in stark focus so many emotions, trials and ideas that were intimately familiar to me and the other girls I knew growing up.

….

Because in the book I read – as in life – the men in each of these women’s lives were not central figures. There are men, yes, and Oscar is the unifying force in the narrative, but the people Belicia and Lola were involved with were not the point unto themselves. The men stood for the method of escape. With the exception of The Gangster and Yunior, all the men in the book that Lola and Belicia were involved with were ways to get the hell out.

Lola’s boyfriend Aldo is the method to escape her mother. Sure, she loved him. Kind of. But reading through the lines, the catalyst for her leaving with Aldo was that he asked to her to come live with him. Sex was part of the travel cost. As I have written before, a guy is the easiest way to escape a fucked up family life.

But this easily overlooked difference belies the true genius in Oscar Wao. It isn’t just a documenting a fictionalized account of the things that happen in our real life communities. The book shines in how Diaz fills in what would normally be an outline, and shows us the after. Or more appropriately, how Diaz demonstrates how there ain’t no happily ever after. There are just choices and consequences.

Continue reading

Update: Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

Here’s a look at more resources for helping the victims of Sandy, both in the U.S. and abroad:

  • Operation USA is taking donations online, by phone (800.678.7255) or via $10 text donation (text AID to 50555), with its efforts focusing on Cuba and Haiti.
  • ReliefWeb reported that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched preliminary emergency appeals for donations to help victims in Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica.
  • In the U.S. roups like Interoccupy and Occupy The Hood are updating their efforts and volunteer and donation needs regularly.
  • The Occupy Sandy Relief NYC group posted this list of items requested by the Coney Island Generation Gap, a youth mentorship group:

Mops
Buckets
Brooms
Clorox cleaner (for molding)
Lysol
Febreeze
Face masks for cleaning
Plastic gloves for cleaning
Plastic gloves for serving food
Styrofoam food containers with lids

  • The group also said volunteers are needed to help local senior citizens clean up their homes and get them to voting locations on Nov. 6.
  • Speaking of Election Day, Gothamist has a list here of 60 voting sites in New York City that have been moved. Residents’ voter information can also be checked at this Board of Elections website or by phone at 1.866.VOTE.NYC (866.8683.692).
  • The Ali Forney Center, which provides shelter for homeless LGBT youths, is asking for donations after its’ drop-in center in Chelsea was rendered “uninhabitable” by the storm.
  •  The Red Hook Initiative in Brooklyn has posted an extensive list of supplies needed, and has information on where and how to donate food and volunteer services.
  • CBS New York also has this roundup of American Red Cross and Salvation Army chapters in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

Open Thread: Superstorm Sandy Relief Efforts

A shot looking toward Brooklyn, NY, after Superstorm Sandy’s arrival Monday night. Photo by Michael Tapp via newyorkheadshotphotographer.co, Creative Commons licensed.

The National Weather Service said Monday night that Sandy the “Frankenstorm” is officially not a hurricane anymore, but whatever its designation, the impact is still being felt.

As of Tuesday morning, millions of people in several U.S. states are without power, with at least 10 fatalities reported due to the storm. Another 66 people were killed before Sandy reached the country, including 51 in Haiti alone, where hundreds of thousands of people are still living in tents following the 2010 earthquake there.

With that in mind, we’d like to invite readers to list any resources for help on this thread, such as:

  • The Red Cross has started relief efforts for both U.S. residents and the Caribbean countries affected by Sandy, and is taking donations. Red Cross shelters can be found here.
  • FEMA is asking anyone looking for a shelter to text SHELTER + their zip code to 43362 to find the one closest to them.
  • Google has set up a crisis map for the storm as it continues to plow through the eastern U.S., including power outage zones.
  • If you or someone you know wants/needs to use Twitter — which, once again, has been a go-to information source — without having an internet connection, this is a quick guide to set yourself up.
  • A group associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement has formed Occupy Sandy Relief NYC, a volunteer group to help New York City residents in need of assistance.
  • AmeriCares is working with 130 partnering agencies in U.S. states affected by Sandy, and has already sent cholera treatment and prevention supplies to Haiti.
  • The International Medical Corps has been working with the Haitian government to coordinate relief efforts in the wake of Sandy’s arrival there.

Again, if you have any localized efforts to recommend – or red-flag – please use this space to let everyone know. And everyone stay safe, please.

Photo by Michael Tapp, Creative Commons licensed

Why Haiti Matters: Barack Obama and the Larger Discourse on Haiti [Essay]

by Guest Contributor Shannon Joyce Prince

In the current edition of Newsweek[1], President Obama claims to tell Americans why Haiti matters. Unfortunately, his claims reflect the racism, dishonesty, and denials of history that surround the way the “First World” frames Haiti and Haiti’s earthquake. Haiti does indeed matter to a variety of people and entities for reasons both good and ill – but not for the reasons Obama gives in Newsweek.

First, Haiti matters to the American government and American society because it gives us a chance to rewrite history. This tragedy provides us with the opportunity to expiate our crimes and portray ourselves as Haiti’s saviors. Due to America’s and the First World’s extensive financial and media resources, we get to determine the story that is told to the world about Haiti’s past and present. Thus, Obama’s version of the story claims, “… in times of tragedy, the United States of America steps forward and helps. That is who we are. That is what we do. For decades, America’s leadership has been founded in part on the fact that we do not use our power to subjugate others, we use it to lift them up…” However, in terms of our relationship with Haiti (and other non-white or non-Western countries) the opposite is true.

As Randall Robinson pointed out in his works Quitting America and An Unbroken Agony, the U.S. has been sabotaging Haiti ever since the country’s independence. I could write an entire essay on the U.S.’s crimes against Haiti, but I’m just going to give a few of the examples Robinson offers on pages 200 and 201 of Quitting America.

The U.S. sided with France against the slave rebellion that brought Haiti independence. We then destroyed Haiti’s economy by forcing the country to pay 150 million francs in reparations to French slave-owners for their loss of property (slaves.) We occupied Haiti for nineteen years beginning in 1915, re-enslaving Haitians and leasing over 200,000 acres of land to American corporations – land stolen from tens of thousands of peasants. President John F. Kennedy gave military aid to Dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. We even provided the murderous post-Duvalier National Council of Government with millions in aid.

But the story doesn’t end there. As Paul Street has noted [2], “A reformist priest named Jean Bertrand Aristide threatened Washington’s vicious neoliberal regime when he won Haiti’s first free election in 1990… Aristide was removed in a U.S.-supported coup in 1991 but returned amidst popular upheaval in 1994. The Clinton White House initially backed the coup regime even more strongly than did George Bush I. Thanks to its rhetoric about ‘democracy’ at home and abroad, the militantly corporate-neoliberal NAFTA-promoting Clinton administration felt compelled to pretend that they backed Aristide’s return to power in 1994. The Clinton Pentagon and State Department delayed that return for two years and made it clear that Aristide’s restoration to nominal power depended upon him promising not to help the poor by offering any further challenges to Washington’s ‘free market’ economics.”

The story continued in 2004 when the U.S. government ousted President Aristide and sent him to the Central African Republic, although as Colin Powell notes, “We did not force him onto the airplane.” [3] I give this lengthy excerpt from a far lengthier litany of crimes to show that Obama’s claim that America doesn’t use power to subjugate others, but rather to lift them up, is untrue. But while America has overwhelmingly been a negative force towards Haiti, Haiti played key positive roles both in the development of the United States and in the worldwide quest for liberty that is as old as humanity itself. Continue reading

On Discussions of Transracial Adoption

by Latoya Peterson

Reader Carleandria sent us this LA Times article over the weekend:

The telephones kept ringing with more orders and although Duan Yuelin kept raising his prices, the demand was inexhaustible. Customers were so eager to buy more that they would ply him with expensive gifts and dinners in fancy restaurants.

His family-run business was racking up sales of as much as $3,000 a month, unimaginable riches for uneducated Chinese rice farmers from southern Hunan province.

What merchandise was he selling? Babies. And the customers were government-run orphanages that paid up to $600 each for newborn girls for adoption in the United States and other Western countries.

“They couldn’t get enough babies. The demand kept going up and up, and so did the prices,” recalled Duan, who was released from prison last month after serving about four years of a six-year sentence for child trafficking.

When we post articles about taking the time to consider children in the adoption discourse, I am always surprised at the number of comments that assume we are anti-adoption (or as one amusingly put it, leaving these poor children to rot) when we believe in listening to perspectives from adult adoptees and adoptive POCs.  The perspectives are quite different from the standard narrative on adoption.  Just check out what Paula, of the Heart, Mind, and Seoul blog had to say:

[W]hy do so many people casually accept (and perhaps even secretly celebrate) it as fate, good karma, a higher power at force, destiny, luck, etc. when a woman who is without a true, just selection of choice or is told that the only real choice she has is to place her child, and believe this to be perfectly acceptable so long as it benefits our agenda?  Our plans.  Our lifelong hopes and childhood dreams.  Why is okay for other women to find themselves in a position to have to make arguably the most God-awful and heart-wrenching, hellish choice or worse – to find themselves WITHOUT choice – when it suits us or those we love?  And why aren’t more of us or more of those we love willing to make the same kinds of sacrifices that we expect, assume, hope and accept that other women will do? Continue reading

The Dangerous Desire to Adopt Haitian Babies

by Guest Contributor (and frequent commenter) Atlasien

Haitian American Adoptive Parent Margalita Belhumer

Haitian American Adoptive Parent Margalita Belhumer

I’m a foster care adoptive parent. I can’t speak for all of us, since we’re a diverse bunch. Some of us have also adopted internationally and support international adoption strongly. Others despise the institution, and are angry about what the perceived hypocrisy of parents who walk past the foster kids in their own cities and states so that they can adopt from a far-away country. I’m somewhere in the middle, but definitely leaning more towards the anti side, especially after this week.

This week, I’ve been deeply disturbed at the swelling public desire to adopt Haitians. Haitian orphan babies. The very name is problematic. In our imagination, an orphan has no family, but the vast majority of “orphans” all over the world have living parents, and almost every single one has living extended relatives. And the children that need family care are, overwhelmingly, older children.

Quite a few other parents I know are really pissed off about it. If you want to adopt, why not consider adopting from foster care? Why Haitian babies? I can guess at some of the answers. Most of them will not be very flattering.

There’s a certain group of white adoptive international parents that dominate much of the discourse around adoption in this country. The most organized of these are evangelical Christians, but many of them are secular in their beliefs on adoption. They’re across the political spectrum, ultraconservative to ultraliberal, though if I had to hazard a guess, most of them are center-right in politics. I believe these people are, basically, a force for evil. If I put it in any nicer words, that would be a lie. Examining their belief system, and their potential political influence on the recovery efforts in Haiti, is a pretty terrifying process. Continue reading