Friday, December 17, 2010

A new kind of fight is born in the Dominican Republic

The article bellow is in Spanish and written by a young activist, Heury Perez. In summation, the article brings to light to the new era of peaceful activism that has developed in the past few years in the Dominican Republic.

Una nueva forma de protesta nace en República Dominicana.

Recuerdo aquellas manifestaciones de descontento del pueblo dominicano tirado a las calles quemando gomas, ensuciando sus calles y enfrentándose con palos y piedras a las fuerzas policiales que ultimaban de algún balazo uno que otro huelguista, este tipo de manifestaciones estériles que no resolvían ni ayudaban a la solución del conflicto por el que se luchaba. Esta  ha sido desplazada por una nueva forma de protesta y manifestaciones con mejore resultados dando fruto a victorias del pueblo frente a los abusos de las autoridades actuales que pretenden hacer lo que quieran con nuestro país.

Ejemplo de estas nuevas formas de lucha libres de violencia y orientada a la razón    elevando la masa activista dominicana a nuevos niveles de madures dentro de la lucha, como son las Manifestaciones en contra de la cementera en los haitises, el juicio moral por el desayuno escolar contra Alejandrina German y  el 4% por la educación, por mencionar algunas de las victorias que por medio de esta nueva era de manifestaciones el pueblo dominicano ha logrado.

Cabe señalar que a diferencia de la quema de gomas y el paro laboral que afecta más al pueblo que protesta, esta lucha se orienta más a la unificación de la gente y  no solo de sectores pequeño que eran amedrentados con violencia por las autoridades haciendo caso omiso a  sus reclamos.
Es simple y evidente “la unión hace la fuerza”, este tipo de protesta nos invita a los dominicanos acostumbrados a resolver los problemas colectivos de forma individual, (si no funciona la luz compro un inversor, si no llega el agua cabo un pozo de agua, etc.) a que nos unamos para solucionar en el colectivo y unidos los problemas que nos afectan a todos.

“Pensemos diferente y hagamos la diferencia por un mejor país”
No bajemos la guardia que aún queda mucho por que luchar.

Heury Perez

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Selfhate


Republica Dominicana: one of the most racist countries I've experienced, with the worst kind of racism, the one where you hate and FEAR yourSELF! Today someone told me: "why did you leave your hair like that, it looks like an afro, from Africa, makes you look less pretty" she continued, "but you must have put something to make it like that, your natural hair is not like that." The person who said this to me watched me grow from the day I was born until now. She made herself believe this entire time that my “natural” hair was what it looked like when processed with a relaxer and completely refused to believe that the state in which my hair is right now, is natural. She said that she is SURE that I put some kind of chemical in it to make it look like this and that I should come back to visit her when the hair grows back.

I want to make sure that she doesn’t become the center of this discussion because she only represents the views and feelings of most of the Dominican people. She as many others, see themselves in me and reject me while rejecting themselves. When I later said, “oh yeah, and by the way my hair looks African because I am black and have African ancestry.” She said, “you really must be going crazy, you are not black, you are “triguena,” don’t call yourself that.” Triguena best translates as a brunette or Indian complexion. Of course I debated it and stated my case, but all in vain. Her response: “I am not saying black is bad, but you are not that, so just don’t call yourself that.”

I’ve studied racism, I’ve experienced it in many corners of the world, at school, with my family, but I have failed to understand its complexity HERE! I know the history of Trujillo and what he did, I understand the anti-Haiti-ism and where it came from, I get all that, but it just doesn’t explain the entire picture of this hate and most important FEAR of everything African and everything Black. It is so ingrained and oh so deeply rooted that even those progressive folks say things like, “he is so black, BUT he is a smart man.” I catch these things, I point them out and they themselves can’t understand why they said it and then end up apologizing to me. I don’t need an apology because this is not about me. It’s about an entire country whose children grow up hating themselves because of their dark complexions, kinky hair, or noses. I am not making this up, a five-year-old boy told me the other day, “I wish I was white and had nicer hair.” I of course asked him why, his answer: “I don’t want to be like a Haitian, their dumb.” He is five! Lets just say that for now this is all beyond me. Meanwhile, I won’t stop looking for answers and making people aware whenever possible of the hate they are inflicting. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Death

"I heard a nice little story the other day," Morrie says.  He closes his eyes for a moment and I wait.


"Okay.  The story is about a little wave, bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time.  He's enjoying the wind and the fresh air -- until he notices the other waves in front of him, crashing against the shore


" 'My God, this is terrible,' the wave says.  'Look what's going to happen to me!'


"Then along comes another wave.  It sees the first wave, looking grim, and it says to him, 'Why do you look so sad?'


"The first wave says, 'You don't understand!  We're all going to crash!  All of us waves are going to be nothing!  Isn't it terrible?'


"The second wave says, 'No, you don't understand.  You're not a wave, you're part of the ocean.' "


From Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"… Without a sense of identity, there can be no real struggle…" Pablo Freire

Education is Key

 “Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5,000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.” --W. E. B. Du Bois 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jarabacoa


Jarabacoa is a wonderful place. I was first in Puerto Plata, a small beach town in the northwestern part of the county for work. I left there at around 5:30am to La Vega to catch the bus to my destination. Well, I got there at 8:00am and the 8:30am bus was already full, the next bus to Jarabacoa would maybe leave at 11:30am if there was a bus available. But do not fear, the motoconchos and local transportation services are here! So that is exactly what I did, I hopped on a motoconcho, he took me to the local bus stop and in less than an hour I was in Jarabacoa.

I didn’t know where I was going to spend the night or where I had to go to experience the outdoorsy adventure that I wanted, all I knew was that Jarabacoa had mountains and rivers. I told the bus driver to drop me off at the center of the town, I figured it would be a good place to start, and no I didn’t have a map of Jarabacoa with me, I did however, have a map of the country, I figured that would be enough.

I decided to walk down to the stop of the original bus that I was going to take; it is a national company so I imagined I could find some kind of information there. I immediately came across two white Americans and said, “I know this may sound really random, but where are you two staying tonight?” They looked at me like I had four heads, but nonetheless they tried to help.  Like good ol’ tourist they took out their Lonely Planet book and showed me where they would spend the night. It was a really pricy hotel. NOTE to self: never ask tourist where they are staying, it is probably way over priced and not really worth the money, but hey I needed to start somewhere.  

I am in the Dominican Republic, so I was sure that a “buscon” (hustler) would appear at any moment, and so in a matter of minutes he did. His name was Antonio and although I knew that he was after my small stash, he was very nice and extremely helpful. This guy got me in contact with this ranch that offered all kinds of nature adventures, got me a local spot to spend the night with a picturesque view for like RD$500 pesos (USD$14), and finally took me to the very cool ranch where I would meet Anthony and Tony. Yes, in one day I met Antonio, Anthony and Tony, I guess we can deduce that this is a popular name up in the mountains of Jarabacoa?

Anthony was the 16 year old in charge of taking me horseback ridding for 2 hours to the Salto de Jimenoa (a small water fall). Yes you read it correctly, a 2 hour horse ride! My butt and back were killing me! It was definitely worth its price of RD$750 pesos (USD$21). Of course what I mean to say is that the horse ride, the yummy buffet lunch, and the access to the pool were all worth that price, I find it hard to put a price on nature, going through a breathtaking greenery to arrive at a waterfall is simply priceless or at least it should be.

Tony was the waiter at the restaurant in the ranch. He was really sweet to me. You see lunch, water, coffee, and tea were all included in the buffet, but you had to pay for other refreshments. I wanted a natural juice and although they didn’t have any, Tony went out of his way to find me some. He came to my table with a glass of “jugo de carambola” or star fruit juice. It was so delicious and something completely new to me. He would come by my table every so often to check up on me and even told me that if I didn’t like what was being offered in the buffet, he would go and get me something else. It began to rain and of course I asked for some hot chocolate, probably some of the best I’ve had in a long time. All in all, my trip was a great one, in less than 24 hours I was able to hike, horseback ride, eat, and just enjoy life. I did this all by myself, but I look forward to sharing Jarabacoa with loved ones and friends.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Grampa Mel!

Struggle

It's a struggle
Developing Solidarity.
It's a struggle
Being Positive
It's a struggle
Making Common Unity.
It's a struggle
LIVING.
It's a struggle
Because it's slow
But if we Struggle
At developing Solidarity,
Being Positive
Shaping Reality,
Making Common Unity,
We will all Grow
Because to struggle
Is to work for Change,
and Change is the focus of Education,
and Education is the Basis of Knowledge,
and Knowledge is the Basis for Growth
and Growth is the Basis for
Being Positive and Being Positive
is the Basis for Building Solidarity
Building solidarity is a way to shape
Reality and Shaping Reality is Living
and Living is Loving,
So Struggle
MEL KING

Where are you and why?

Where are you and why? I ask myself this question a lot, especially in the past 5 years since I have found myself in many different places. But before I can even answer this question, I get all tied up in the question itself. It is an interesting one in and of itself because the mere fact that I get to ask myself this in the context that I do, places me in a position of privilege. Privilege is something that I struggled with throughout my college career when I became part of a group in society that was treated differently and granted different advantages, but dealing with this had never been so difficult until I came here.

Here of course being the Dominican Republic, the land where I was born and where both of my parents and all of my grandparents came from and the place where I have spent my last year and some change. Dealing with my privilege position here has been hard, frustrating and at times painful. You see I have always identified myself with being oppressed.  Growing up in a low income community, being discriminated against, and later understanding how and why societies perpetuate all of these factors that keep people behind, has allowed me to not only feel marginalized, but most importantly to identify myself with others that are oppressed. Being here has not changed this feeling of fighting for and with the oppressed like I have done throughout my life. But let’s face it, being here as an American, college educated, who speaks 3 languages, who has an American passport that allows me to travel almost anywhere, puts me in a position of power and privilege whether I want to be placed there or not. I hate it. When I place America as an advantage, I do it not because of my feelings about being an American, but because of the esteem and value that Dominicans place on America and everything American—the land of opportunities, where my parents went.

Let me be clear, by privilege I don’t necessarily mean money or physical assets, but other things, some tangible some not.  I have electricity 98% of the time, running water 80% of the time, I can afford certain things that others can’t (simple things like taking a cab a few times a month, or going out for pizza once in while), I get to leave the island and buy things cheaper elsewhere, and I get to leave and come back period.

I will be honest and say that before here I didn’t really take the time to figure out how I would deal with this when I got here. Many times I just feel sorry for myself. Although I haven’t figured out the best way to deal with this, I know that being sorry for myself or for others is not the way. I've worked really hard for everything I have accomplish and there is no need for those feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I completely disagree with the idea of a Meritocracy—you get what you earn so work hard—because I know that it’s not how it works, I am an exception to a rule.  Most people work hard and still find themselves in a bind, with debt, hunger (physically, emotionally and mentally), and with no way out.

I continue to feel oppressed and discriminated against even here, a place where my esthetics are not considered beautiful for reasons that are shared with the majority of the population—skin color, hair type, and other physical characteristics.  This is all way more complicated than what I can actually put into words right now. It’s an ongoing struggle that I’ve been dealing with for quite some time. Who said struggling is a bad thing; through it I am learning things about me that I like and other things that I want change. Although the truth is that I am a human being like everyone else, I feel. Oh yeah, where am I and why?

Friday, October 15, 2010

"...the fact that certain members of the oppressor class join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation, thus moving from one pole of the contradiction to the other... Theirs is a fundamental role, and has been throughout the history of this struggle. It happens, however, that as they cease to be exploiters or indifferent spectators or simply the heirs of exploitation and move to the side of the exploited, they almost always bring with them the marks of their origin: their prejudices and their deformations, which include a lack of confidence in the people's ability to think, to want, and to know. Accordingly, these adherents to the people's cause constantly run the risk of falling into a type of generosity as malefic as that of the oppressors. The generosity of the oppressors is nourished by an unjust order, which must be maintained in order to justify that generosity. Our converts, on the other hand, truly desire to transform the unjust order; but because of their background they believe that they must be the executors of the transformation. They talk about the people, but they do not trust them; and trusting the people is the indispensable precondition for revolutionary change. A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust."
--Paulo Friere

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

With great sadness...

http://www.ursinus.edu/netcommunity/page.aspx?pid=2904

This morning a great man passed away. His name was John Strassburger, but to the many students that attended Ursinus College he was best known as President Strassburger. He was the kind of president that really cared about learning your name and knowing what’s new. I shared many moments with my dear president and friend, from BBQs for students of color in the summer, babysitting his beautiful grandson, sharing the house of God during chapel services on Sundays, and enjoying my 21st birthday at his home with a delicious chocolate cake. President’s Strassburger’s favorite quote was “Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5,000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.” --W. E. B. Du Bois This quote suited him as he created at Ursinus a learning environment that fostered leaders who could continue to fight for this right. During his presidency he supported the DSP (a document that enhances the enforcement of university codes of conduct), he built and renovated many academic buildings, contributed to the Common Intellectual Experience (a freshmen seminar that has been nationally recognized), and was committed to a culturally diverse campus among many other notable accomplishments. On a personal note, I remember how much he enjoyed playing with his grandson and with his “college nephews.” He would always tell them, “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” He wasn't much of the hugger, but by the end of my 4th year at Ursinus, he warmed up. May you rest in peace.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"It is a miracle, when one person, standing in his place, is able, while remaining there, to put himself in another person’s place, to send his imagination forth to establish a beachhead in another person’s spirit, and from that vantage point so to blend with the other’s landscape that what he sees and feels is authentic . . . this is the great adventure in human relations…To experience this is to be rocked to one’s foundations.”

~Howard Thurman

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jimmy

"I am the grandson of a slave, and I am a writer. I must deal with both... Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing"
James Baldwin, one of my favorite writers

...

Almost a year has gone by and I am still left in complete awe by the natural beauty of this country. I have to admit that at times I take these things for granted since I am in the city most of my days. Even here, when I let my guard down and I allow myself to be penetrated by the things around me, I actually get a little emotional and overwhelmed, and sometime cry by the beauty of the simplest things. I am so connected to this island and why wouldn’t I be having been born here and belonging to a long line of Dominican descendants; nonetheless, I feel like it doesn’t belong to me, like I don’t belong here. Then out of nowhere I see my favorite galletas that grandma use to serve me with coffee and milk back in Boston when I was a little girl. I look at the fresh juicy limonsillos (kenepas, mamones) on my way home from work and can’t help to remember getting a batch for a US$1 at the corner stores of Massachusetts and New York.  As I wipe the tears off my face, I ask my self why I was crying in the first place. I am still not all sure why, I can only guess. Perhaps the fact that I am experiencing all of this things that connect with my loved ones who are not here, I am alone, yet they belong in each of the stories that I find throughout these streets. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Berlin

I have to say that Berlin was one of my favorite cities in Europe. It was full of history, museums, diversity, great public transportation, good food, and amazing night life. During my trip I was able to see the bust of Queen Nefertari, the Berlin wall (or what's left of it), the Halocaust Memorial, the Brandenburg Gate, the Hotel where Michael Jackson revealed his son Blanket from the hotel balcony, the famous greek mythology wall and a series of other spectacular things. I see myself going back to this city and getting to know it a bit closer.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Junior

When I first arrived to this country I didn't have a job or any obligations. My days were long and consisted of lots of walking, sightseeing, learning and long talks with my friend Junior. A fruit seller, Junior would sell me the sweetest mangos and pineapples. He was young, around my age; he emigrated from Haiti in order to make a little more money to help out his family back home. He knew some Spanish, enough to get through the day and sell fruits, but I would teach him some more while he taught me a little Creole.

I continue to refer to Junior in the past tense because two days ago he was killed. Junior was sitting in the usual corner where he sold fruits, talking to one of his friends when out of no where a pick up truck lost control, climbed on the side walk, and left him dead. I moved from that block many months ago and it had been a while since I'd seen him; still, he was one of the first friends I made in the DR.

His death impacted me more than I would have imagined. I went to the sight of the accident yesterday and was confronted by his blood still laying on the floor, fruits of all sorts dramatically scattered on the sidewalk and street, gloves tainted with blood that were left behind by the paramedics, and dozens of pieces of the plastic chair he always sat on.

I don't understand how and why things of this nature occur. I get it we all have to die, but why like this. This young man left his native country, his family and friends to come here and make a living, he didn't hurt anyone in the process and wasn't involved in risky activities, he was just sitting there selling his fruit on the sidewalk and was killed by an out of control driver. My friend who also knew him, told me to put this in the "things I will never understand box" and just leave it there to accumulate dust. I just hope that he didn't suffer, that his energies have been peacefully channeled and transferred to something great. Junior, thank you for your smile, the discounts and free fruits, and for just being you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stockholm

So this is the best that I could do for a picture from my trip to Stockholm. What can I say about this city/country? First of"all it was very clean, there were many tall blue eyed blond people, they sold everything in the form of a paste at the supermarket, Absolute Vodka comes from this place, and they have a palace with a real king and queen and princesses and prince. I enjoyed my time at the karaoke bar singing "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Summer of 69"and the hostel on a boat with cute Italians was also very cool, but the truth of the matter is that I didn't love it. I didn't really spend much time there and I didn't hang out with any locals, which would have definitely made a difference. I would have loved see the underground hip hop spots and a little more of the cultural and not consumerist side of the this city. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A fresh voice...

I shared her blog with you before, but just in case you forgot here it is again. Her name is Fabia Oliveira and she is a dreamer, a wonderful friend and an incredibly good mom. Most importantly, in my opinion of course, she is the most honest person I know. She will say the things that other mothers are too afraid to admit and dream the things that other dreamers are to afraid to dream. Looking forward to her weekly posts!


http://mrslivingthenewdream.blogspot.com/

Monday, August 16, 2010

HOPELESS ROMANTIC

I took this picture way up high in these beautiful valleys that surround the French Riviera, they are called Le Calanques. "Je t'aime" means I love you in French.

My first weekend out in town!



This picture does a good job at describing the euphoric feelings and emotions that were running through my mind and soul during the end of the first week in Marseille. I remember the headaches from speaking in French all day every day, the excitement of being a 21 year old in a fun city, and of course, how can I forget the beginning of my six month affair with the Mediterranean sea!

My first week in Marseille

Mis Aventuras Around Europe and the Morocco


Sadly, I didn’t keep a blog while I was traveling abroad—I mean studying abroad—in France. It was an unbelievable experience and luckily I kept a journal, remember those with white pages, blue line, where you can write with this stick with ink called a pen? Well that journal is back at my mother’s home in Boston, so as I sit here reminiscing of my amazing time abroad, I will tell a little of my story through some of the fun pictures I took. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Just Be


It was one of those weeks, I would say one of those months were I just needed to get away. So I did. I spent the weekend in what I call paradise aka Playa Bonita in Las Terrenas. Sounds familiar? Well it should because I went there back in October with a friend who was visiting from the States and I took some pictures, which I shared. Although I never physically went back, my spirit and mind visited often, as I found peace and serenity there. I went by myself and had a perfect weekend, well minus the inopportune headache and the every so often bug bit because of course I forgot the bug repellent.

I absolutely loved being there alone; however, I have to admit that the first few hours were a bit tough. I imagined what it would be like if some of the people I loved could share the beautiful tranquility with me. I then allowed myself to naturally refocus on my being there. I allowed myself to just be!

I stayed at this little simple hotel on the beach called Coyamar. No ACs there, no room service, none of that, just wonderful people who put a smile on my face. It was unbelievable I was there nine months ago and they all remembered me including the Motoconcho guy (motorcycle driver/taxis). Although I went there wanting to be alone, it was good to see some familiar faces that acknowledged me and then let me just be.

Now let’s be realistic, I didn’t expect to spend a day and a night at the beach and have my anxieties, confusions, all of it just magically disappear. Nonetheless, being there alone and surrounded by my definition of beauty and by clean air (yes people, the pure air has a lot to do with it, the pollution in Santo Domingo is getting to me!), allowed me to think clearer and to relax. Now, I didn’t leave Las Terrenas with the answer to my problems, but I left there feeling like the answers will come.

What I learned this weekend: Trust your body, trust your soul. If it wants to get away let it. Now, I understand that not everyone has a Playa Bonita just a few hours away, but you must find that place that makes you feel at peace. It can be a room in your house, the library, a store, the park, really anywhere. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day." E.B. White

Diez meses despues...


Ten months later and although some things continue to excite me, I have to admit that the romanticism is over. Well at least most of it. I am here living a kind of 9-5 life, the only difference is that I have the amazing ocean surrounding me and the sweet and juicy tropical fruits that are no longer a rarity but an everyday thing. I can remember my first few nights here, actually the first few months I would say, I was completely astonished at everything I saw. I was in awe at all of the cultural difference that I saw and related to. I finally understood, after 18 years, where certain words came from and why Dominicans did certain things. Now the romance is gone. I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing that some things seem normal to me, but it’s certainly not as fun.

This morning I woke up all confused, which is very normal for me. I was a little homesick, ok maybe a lot homesick and for some reason I was particularly missing New York City, one of my favorite places in the world. Then I began to think about all of the aspects of a city that I missed from Boston and thought, but I have a city down the street from me, what’s wrong with me!

Well let me break it down for those of you who don’t know. Santo Domingo is a city, it has many franchises similar to those in the US, it has some tall building which are mostly for residential purposes, it has tons of people, I believe 3 million to be exact, heck it even has a metro system, well not quite the system yet because there is one line, but you get my drift. Now why am I not satisfy with this particular city you might ask. It’s actually quite simple, the Zona Alta, as the city like part of the city is called is composed of a lot of middle class/rich white Dominicans. There is no diversity like there is in NYC or in any other major cities of the world.  There is no little Italy, or little India or believe or not there is no Washington Heights. I live in the old part of the city la Zona Colonial. Here you will find a bunch of really cool colonial looking homes and tons of tourism, but it has some character and personality, something that in my opinion you will not find in the city part of the city.

It’s funny though. I have all these crazy ideas of things that I would like to do here, I don’t know why I haven’t started. I was thinking about it this morning, could it be fear of failing, I don’t think so because I have the mentality that in case I do fail, I just keep it moving. I guess real life is stopping me, or at least what I’ve been socialized to think of as real life, don’t act like you don’t know what I am talking about, going back to school, eventually marrying and having children with someone etc. Come to think about it, in the end it’s just fear. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

I'm here..


When I leave this place, I really take a long time to come back. I use to think that I can do it all, work full time, manage three blogs, take care of my home, and of course last but certainly not least, take good care of my self. You want the truth, it’s not happening. I have to stop beating myself up for not being able to always do it all and to think that I am not even a mom, a wife, nor a PhD student yet! Instead of concentrating on the fact that I’ve been absent all these weeks, lets take a moment to talk about some of the amazing things that happened during this time… 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Believe


"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." -Dr. Howard Thurman

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dear All,

I want to share with you my two new blogs, one is in Spanish ( www.cabellobueno.blogspot.com ) and the other one in english ( www.dominicanagoingnatural.blogspot.com ). I am currently going natural and wanted to develop a space where I can share the experience and where others who want to go through the process can get guidance and ideas (especially for Dominican women).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A broken record of an ugly song

Now I know I probably sound like a broken record constantly writing about these stories of race, hair and class in the Dominican Republic, but I am doing it “expre” like the French say, meaning on purpose. It is my hope that by documenting all of these happenings, I will be able to better understand the particularities of racism and discrimination in this country. I have gotten the opportunity to travel to many places and even live in a few of them and I have first hand accounts of the way racism looks, feels and tastes in many corners of the world. I say this because the kind of racism I experience here is very different than the others. I have ideas as to why it is this way, but I want to really understand it. All of this to tell you what happened to me today.

So I’ve decided to go natural, which means that I am allowing my hair to grow out and not processing it with a relaxer. I relaxed my hair for many reasons, but mainly because I liked the look and because it was what I knew since I was 9 years old. I’ve also decided to go natural for many reasons, but primarily because I don’t remember what my real hair looks like and I am curious to see and feel it au natural and I am also doing it to make the statement that non-relaxed hair is beautiful. I have tried this before and I always ended up relaxing my hair because it was too draining and the hair itself was very difficult to manage. This time, as a way to reaffirm my decision and commitment, I walked into the salon and I cut my hair short. I have never cut off this much hair so it was definitely a big moment, but in the end it is only hair, it grows back, no biggie.

So, I told my stylist that I needed her support during this process because I was going to go in every few weeks and cut more and more of it off. She was very supportive and said that she will help. You know black women and our salons, both here and in the US, it is our place to talk about womanly stuff, boys, family, beauty, etc. So she begins to tell me about her family and her kids and narrates the story of her youngest daughter, “so my last daughter was not planned, I was very sad when I found out that I was pregnant. I went ahead with the pregnancy and when I found out it was a girl, I prayed to God every day until she was born and asked him to give a light skin nice hair baby girl. I didn’t want her to come out black with bad hair like my older daughter. So when she was born and I saw this little pink baby with good hair I was felt so lucky. My husband was on the phone with all of his friends and family telling them that he had a little beautiful light skin baby and that he was so proud. She is the light of this house and everyone loves her so much.”

So you might ask, what did you tell her?! Well, the shock I went into at the moment was too big to allow me to do anything about it. In my head I was like “but she is such a nice lady and she embraces her big hips and her big boobs, I can’t believe she said that, oh lord what should I say, wow this problem is bigger than what I thought.” I did somehow manage to tell her that both of her daughters are very beautiful.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I AM ME

I wrote Yo Soy Yo after being so overwhelmed from all of the experiences here in the Dominican Republic. This weekend during my hiking/beach trip I encountered a situation that has become too familiar. I was at the beach and decided to sunbathe, something that I absolutely love and have been practicing for over 7 years. First, an older woman who accompanied us on the trip came by and said to me: “you are the first black girl I have ever seen sunbathing, it doesn’t make any sense.” Another one said: "girl get out of the sun right now, you are going to turn like a carbon." I ignored them and smiled and continued to enjoy the make out session I was having with the sun.

The conversation continued under the shaded area of a beautiful palm tree with folks that were of my generation. The comments were honestly the usual—nothing that they said surprised me. Some of the comments included: “I don’t understand why she is under the sun, she is going to get purple like those African people,” “she is going to end up looking like a Haitian,” etc. I couldn’t help it; I got up to talk them and very politely excused myself for intervening. I told them that I was very interested on hearing why they felt those things, considering the fact that I was the “culprit” in the situation. I then started by saying that the “purple” Africans that they were referring to are beautiful people and that they are also human beings and that Haitians are not only our neighbors but they were our brothers and sisters, hence why so many of us look like them and so many of them look like us. They were offended. One of the young men said that he was a reporter and wouldn’t look good on camera, the other lady said that we have to cherish our “native Indian” culture and the ideals of our motherland. Spain.

About a hour later when I went into the water and laid back and allowed the sun to kiss me yet again, they decided to continue the conversation. They persisted and said they had formed two clubs “the white Dominicans who don’t like the beach because of the sun” and the “black Dominicans who don’t want to get blacker because of the sun,” they even made acronyms for their “clubs”.

Now here is the scary part, most of the people who were involved, were brown skin. This was the all too familiar self-hate theory that was taking place in my country, and has taken place for longer than I can count (I immediately recognized it since it a common practice in the States). They saw me in them and they saw themselves in me and hated the fact that I wanted to be blacker or that I appreciated my blackness.

Now are you ready for the cherry on top? These were all environmentalist, leftist, “socially conscious” people and yes they are the same racists and homophobes that are fighting for human rights.

I also wrote in Yo Soy Yo about being an American. This is something that I have decided that I will no longer compromise or be apologetic for. I am completely aware of all that it represents, that I grew up in America and that I speak English, but it is who I am. I will elaborate more later, Yo Soy Yo, I Am Me.

Yo soy yo...

Yo soy yo

Yo soy una mujer dominicana
Soy de un campo
Vengo de un barrio
Con sangre española y francesa
Pero con esa que pesa
Que pesa mas que un mar en la cabeza
Esa
Sangre negra, africana
Con la piel orgullosamente quemada
Si yo soy prieta con la piel tostada
Preciosamente carbonizada

Yo soy una mujer americana
Soy de un campo
Vengo de un barrio
Llevo en mi lengua un idioma extraño
Poderoso y Temeroso
Pero no puedo negarlo
Es mío y yo soy del
Forma parte de mi ser
Pero YO SOY YO y el es el

Friday, April 23, 2010

Notes from my native land...

I really don't like abandoning my blog for so long, it's one of the ways I escape, a place where I feel comfortable, a place where I can deposit my feeling and thoughts. I have been in this country for a little over seven months! Wow! Time really flies, I mean it was seriously just yesterday when I was in Dubai and decided to buy a ticket to come here.

So seven months later, you might ask "and, how is it?" I have to say that it has honestly been a seven month long roller coaster, and I really don't like roller coasters, nonetheless the ride has been a very important and meaningful one. In seven months I opened up a bank account, got a cell phone plan, found an apartment on my own, have the electricity bill on my name, and have kept the same job that has facilitated all of these commodities. I have lived relatively modest.I have met many interesting people and found great friends. I have marched against the privatization of beaches, for Pro-Choice legislation, I have stood up for the rights of LGBTs, which to me only means that I have fought for my own rights as a citizen. On a professional level, I have traveled to Haiti several times, have written grant proposals, have learned tons of spanish and I really gotten a front row seat at the way NGOs and International Organizations work in the "third world".

I have missed my family and friends, but continue to be excited and grateful for having this opportunity to live here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I demand respect!

Those of you who know me, know that I sometimes like to wear my hair out in a fro. I embrace my frizz and when I opt for not relaxing my hair, I also happily embrace my new growth. Today was one of those days where I decided to wear my hair in "un pajon" like Dominicans refer to it. On my way home from work the armed security officer that stands outside the metro (and yes there is a metro in the DR), said to me in a very serious and authoritative voice "excuse me young lady, you are not allowed to walk in the metro with "that pajon!"." He then laughed hysterically. I was infuriated! I went down the stairs and asked for the manager. This young lady asked me what happened and I told her that I was disrespected by the security officer that was at the entrance. She then asked me if I wanted to file a complaint and I said well of course I do! She said, "Follow me upstairs so that we can have a talk with the gentlemen."

The manager asked him what happened and he looked at me and said "Oh no! You are going to make them fire me?" I said, in my best spanish " You disrespected me, you are an armed officer and are here to protect me not to insult me, it's my hair and I chose to wear how I please, you acted in a very unprofessional and rude manner and I will not tolerate it!" He apologized and promised to not do it again. The manager then asked me if I was satisfied, that if I wished they can take lager measures. I told her that I was ok with just giving him a piece of my mind and letting him know that it is not ok to do that.

Dominican men are VERY fresh and disrespectful and it is not a stereotype or a judgement. It is a fact. Out of every 10 Dominican men in the streets (no matter what profession they might have, what color they may be) at least 8 will say something about what you (you being a woman) are wearing, how you are walking, how your body looks, your skin color and in this case the way you are wearing your hair.

I DEMAND RESPECT especially from a person in a uniform who is suppose to "protect" me. I remember telling my mom about the guards in the Presidential Palace and how they were so vulgar towards me, she said, "Sweetie, that is normal." Well guess what, I don't care if it is normal, heck, I don't care if there is a Law that allows men to disrespect women, I will not tolerate it. Sadly, I can't ask all the men I encounter daily to respect me because it is simply not doable, there are not enough hours in the day for it. However, every men who is in a space where they can get reprimanded for their disrespect, I will make sure to demand to be treated right!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Fight With Time: Tick Tock



Sometimes I swear that there are not enough hours in the day, but then I realize that the problem isn’t really the time, but the way we manage it. In a 24 hour day there is just so much a human being is capable of accomplishing, but for many of us, this is irrelevant and we push ourselves as if there were no limits. People then wonder why they are constantly sick, why they have stomach ulcers, why they can’t sleep, why they have heart problems, and why they sometimes lose the battle with time and die (when I say this I mean, die due to the stress, we all know that we’ll eventually lose this battle with time and die).

This is a battle that I am currently fighting and I am not a proud combatant. My time management skills are lost somewhere between my Skype meetings, report writing, project managing and lack of sleep. Somehow, not sure how, I need to take control of myself and give in to Time, allow Time to win and ask Time to forgive me for trying to fight it when all along I knew it will win. In this battle, if I may add, I don’t believe that allowing Time to win will make me a loser, quite frankly I believe that by allowing Time win will allow me to win as well. I want to be at peace with Time.

I have to admit that during my crazy hectic days things manage to work themselves out, the problem arises when in the transgression of the day, I manage to stretch myself so thin that I can barely recognize myself at the end of the day. I don’t like blaming others for the situations I find myself in, so I fully understand that I have to take care of this myself, somehow.

I know that I am not the only one that finds themselves in this situation, and that’s a big problem. The world has so many amazing things to offer and some wonderful things to enjoy, but most of us don’t get to be a part of it. Some of it comes from the societies in which we live in and although we should work on it individually, we should also tackle it globally. I should stop here before I write an entire book about time and its value and how the world needs to appreciate it more, give it worth and learn how to treat it like an Important Warrior.

p.s. this picture was taken when I was in Morocco, it is a very old way of telling time, a very accurate way may I add, which goes to show how we have been fighting this battle for a long long time!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Haiti



The fact is the situation in Haiti before the earthquake was deplorable. People lived with malaria, there were hundreds of thousands malnourished children, infant mortality rates were incredibly high, and overall living conditions were by no standards livable. So what happens after the poorest country in the western hemisphere is hit with a powerful earthquake? Well, I’ll tell you.

First we visited a “well organized” medical camp where we came in and offered our initiatives, which included hygiene kits, emotional help groups, HIV/AIDS prevention workshops, sexual education, and domestic violence prevention workshops. They adamantly refused our help and rather violently told us to make our way out of the camp. This camp is run by a prestigious American institution and by American people. When we looked around the camp and talked to a few organizers, they told us that things are certainly needed. For example, there were no sanitary napkins for women or underwear for that matter, which was one of the things that we offered. This was our experience in another camp that was also run by Americans. (Keep in mind that I went to these camps as a Dominican NGO employee, not as an American)

Now I don’t want to be misunderstood here and appear as though I don’t believe Americans should be helping Haiti, but I do believe that there is a better way of doing it. A way where you are not fighting to be the protagonist, a way where you are inclusive and collaborate with Haitians and their neighboring country, and a way where you adapt your style of work to the culture that surrounds you.

Another observation and perhaps the one that most impacted me were the “fake camps.” Yes you read it correctly, FAKE CAMPS. Haitian, who were not affected by the earthquake, were creating these informal camps with twigs and bed sheets and demanding help from the dozens of trucks, SUVs, vans, and cars that pass by daily to feed and aid the victims of the earthquake. I went into a few of these camps and for the first time in my life saw what Extreme Poverty looked like. Now, I’ve written before about “thirdworlding at home” when I saw poverty in the Mississippi Delta, and poverty in the many cities in the US, but this was different (all relative as well).

I saw children who were noticeably malnourished and sick with malaria, homes that were barely standing because they were made out of mud, no running water and no electricity. How could I tell them that they weren’t in all their right to try and benefit from this situation if they too were clearly suffering? This is why I argue that the solutions to build Haiti go beyond foreign aid. I will make the case that foreign aid causes more harm than it does good because it develops a nation that becomes dependant of aid and prohibits them to learn how to help themselves.

In no way am I saying that I have the solutions to Haiti’s problems, but I strongly that within the solution lays the simple, yet apparently difficult task, of working WITH Haitians and not FOR Haitian. What I do know is that it is problematic to have only white Americans, white Europeans and white Dominicans sitting around a table discussing what to do about Haiti. We need to stop fishing for Haiti and for once, teach them how to fish, and it goes beyond this.

With Open Eyes



Whenever I travel I try to always approach the new destination with open eyes and with very little expectations. Though Haiti is a popular topic in the media and everywhere for that matter, I still went with little expectations of what I would see. It was very important for me to have a completely (one could never really have a completely anything) objective analysis of what was happening, for my own sake and for the sake of the job that we, my NGO, intends to do there.

We left Santo Domingo on Sunday at 5 in the morning. Our mission was to strictly analyze and make contacts with the folks that we would later work with. We arrived to Jimani and immediately began to work on our contacts. Next thing you know, we were crossing the border into Haiti, which was an experience all on it’s own. They didn’t check my passport and some of the guards said that they really like my smile and that I was the most beautiful woman that had crossed that day. I honestly wasn’t flattered; I was rather shocked at how loosely immigration is regulated there. I have my own particular views on borders, which I won’t discuss in too many details at the moment, but know that for me the most important part of controlling migratory flows between two countries that differ greatly in socioeconomic opportunities, is the trafficking and smuggling on innocent people.

There is a small piece of land between the countries that is literally no-man’s-land. Here people live and actually sell things at a market. Now seriously picture this (or just look at the picture), there are some Dominican guards on one side, Haitians on the other and a busy marketplace in between, crazy and chaotic, I know.

We only went 20 miles into Haiti and during that time there were zero checkpoints.

To be continued…

Monday, February 22, 2010

Just got back from Haiti. I am trying to digest some of what went on. I will be writing soon.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sak Pase?

So before the earthquake in Haiti, I was making plans to visit with a few friends during their carnival season. I always knew that I wanted to learn the language, so a month after I moved to this side of the island, I began to take a Creole classes with a friend. The deal was that if I taught him how to speak English, he would teach me all I needed to know about his culture and his language. I was thrilled and so our classes began. I learned the alphabet and as the good language student that I am, I learn most of the sounds in the language (I am obsessed with learning new languages and have the ear for it too ;) ).

So, right after my teacher/student and I began make plans to resume our classes after the holiday break, the earthquake occurred. When it happened, a lot of people in the Santo Domingo apparently felt it, I didn't. What I do remember, is being with my best friend and getting ready to buy our dinner. She received a call and the expression on her face immediately changed. She said to me, "we have to go." I knew something was wrong because this girl and I don't play with our food, I mean to say bye to our dinner and to one of our favorite spots, it meant that whatever was happening was big.

And so we left the restaurant and she told me that there was a tsunami warning for the island and that we needed to go home and change into comfortable clothing and grab our documents (the clothing, in case we had to run? and the documents in case we had to take a flight out? I think). Wow, writing about it makes me re-live that feeling of complete insecurity and fear. I don't mean to be dramatic, but I thought there was a great possibility that we were going to be washed by the waters of El Malecon, we did live much less than a mile from the shores.

At this point, I had called my family and friends in the island to inform them and ask them to take precautions. My uncle the told me that there was an earthquake in Haiti that had caused the tsunami warning, but that only a few schools and hospitals were down. Now imagine that, I live on the other side of where the catastrophe occurred and we didn't even understand the magnitude of what happened until the following day.

When I finally understood the situation and what it meant, my heart sunk and a feeling of ineptitude, incompetence, and again fear just to took over my body and mind. What to do, was the question. How can I help? I know that millions around the world were asking themselves the same questions, but I felt so close to the situation yet so far and divided by the many sociocultural conflicts between the neighboring countries. During the days after the earthquake my friends and I did all we could to help. I have to admit that I was astonished at the way my country responded to the tragedy, the way that Dominicans of all socioeconomic backgrounds were coming together and helping their neighbors. I remember being in a supermarket and this women was telling her friend that for her birthday, her daughter had asked her to buy water for the people in Haiti.

More than a month has passed and still all eyes should be on Haiti and countries that are facing similar situations, by this I mean that prior to the earthquake, there was a situation being ignored in this country (as in my own, both DR and the US for that matter).

I prepare myself today for my first trip to Haiti. Tomorrow I will be crossing the border with a dear friend and colleague to solidify our collaboration efforts with a camp. I am looking forward to seeing what's happening with my own eyes and understanding what needs to be done to make things better.