Loving Haiti Beyond the Mystique


I grew up in a country that most of the world degrades and continues to dismiss because it is broken.

Several years ago, I had a revelation. I was trying to sort out a problem, when it hit me. I am not Haiti. I may have been born in Haiti and may resemble Haiti and have its characteristics: something of an enfant terrible, too proud, too black, too strong, too spiritual and too confident. But I am not Haiti. I am not as broken anymore and that scares people. Often we find it easier to love that which is broken. It can make us feel stronger… better about ourselves. We tend to be less threatened by that which is in disarray or needs us to feel whole.

When Haiti attempted to piece itself together two centuries ago (209 years ago on this January 1st), many among those in power at home and abroad took calculated steps to ensure that it would remain shattered. All of my life, I have lived various aspects of the shame of this heritage. I have also been continually reminded I was born in a small place that is devalued and is trampled upon precisely because of its weaknesses. I persevere holding on to knowing my little country dared. It dared to step out of line. It dared to stand up for itself. It dared to try to define itself. It dared.

In the last decade, while struggling to redefine myself in the all-too-hierarchical-world that is the academy, where you are only as good as the person you are better than, I have fought to dare, and not accept labels that were being thrown at me or etched onto me for others need me to fit into a category to be comfortable with me. I resist, insisting that Haiti needs new narratives to explicate its myriad contradictions. I continue to do so since the answer to the “why” of this question is simply not good enough. So, I look to the future, embracing what I can of my past determined not to recreate it.

Imagine, what Haiti would be like had it been supported and nurtured instead of disavowed and shunned in its infancy. Imagine what we would think of Vodou, had its imaginative spirit of resistance been recognized instead of dishonored.

When I look at people, I try to think of everyone as having a little Haiti or Vodou in them. That makes it easier for me to practice what I have learned growing up, loving Haiti and loving Vodou  –  live, let live and respect.

Gina Athena Ulysse is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and African-American Studies at Wesleyan University. She is also a performance artist; for more on her work, visit ginaathenaulysse.com

This article originally appeared in Haitian Times.

December 01, 2015
John Wight
From Iraq to Syria: Repeating a Debacle
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: the Left Takes Charge
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Revenge? The Fight for the Border
Sami Al-Arian
My Ordeal: One of America’s Many Political Trials Since 9/11
Steffen Böhm
Why the Paris Climate Talks Will Fail, Just Like All the Others
Gilbert Mercier
Will Turkey Be Kicked Out of NATO?
Bilal El-Amine
The Hard Truth About Daesh and How to Fight It
Pete Dolack
Solidarity Instead of Hierarchy as “Common Sense”
Dan Glazebrook
Rhodes Must Fall: Decolonizing Education
Colin Todhunter
Big Oil, TTIP and the Scramble for Europe
Eric Draitser
Terror in Mali: An Attack on China and Russia?
Linn Washington Jr.
Torture and Other Abuses Make Turkey as American as Apple Pie
Randy Shaw
Krugman is Wrong on Gentrification
Raouf Halaby
Time to Speak Out Against Censorship
Jesse Jackson
It’s Time for Answers in Laquan McDonald Case
Patrick Walker
Wake Up Zombie, Kick Up a Big Stink!
November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism