Friday, December 17, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
"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
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
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
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
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
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 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
Sangre negra, africana
Con la piel orgullosamente quemada
Si yo soy prieta con la piel tostada
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
Monday, May 3, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
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
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
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
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.
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…