What a Free Woman Looks Like

Today I chatted with a friend about some of the most influential Black women in popular culture. We talked about the Nicki Minaj/Lil Kim battle, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. I felt like I was undergoing a G-20 classified security clearance for a rouge feminist operation. I felt most at ease when he asked “what does a free woman look like?” and “what is her life like?”

Well I’m a woman. I also happen to be a woman in the pursuit of freedom. I started the Freedom Pages with idea to share with folks my musings on this journey towards freedom. Reading Pearl Cleage’s “I Wish I Had a Red Dress” novel was the first time I read a list of all things a Free Woman should possess. Her list impacted me so deeply. It was one of the reasons I decided to go to Haiti. So I decided to compile what we discussed along with some more ideas below.

1. A free woman has the  power to choose.

2. A free woman has the ability to make informed choices.

3. A free woman uses new tools to build her house.

4. A free woman is educated about the world around her.

5. A free woman has options and has the choice to explore them or not.

6. A free woman takes risks.

7. A free woman understands that she can only control actions of her own.

8. A free woman uses self-reflection as a platform for growth.

9. A free woman helps other women and girls become free.

10. A free woman defines and affirms her own image.

11. A free woman understands and embraces her body.

12. A free woman experiences and confronts challenges in life.

13. A free woman values relationships.

14. A free woman will read this list and begin to define what it means to be free for herself.

What do you think a free woman looks like? What does her life look like? What would you add to this list? Take away?

When the Authorities Fail: Reports of Rape by the United Nations Forces in Haiti

This week I spent a lot of time surfing the BBC news channel and website for news. I generally stay away from major news outlets in the States due to the overwhelming polarization, regardless of the station. This week was heavily dominated by the cholera outbreak in Haiti, collective resistance against aid and security operations. Violence in Haiti since the January 12th earthquake is a result of a number of realities, frustrations and conditions. Like many acts of violence the element of power is present. Gaining power, building power, relinquishing power; the struggle for power is not new in this context. Using the female body as a medium to exercise and gain power is also not new.

As noted in a previous post, the United Nations Mission in Haiti has been present for 20 years. During this tenure, its relationship with the Haitian people has been rocky (that’s putting it lightly). Recently, Haitians have collectively cried out for removal of UN forces given the cholera outbreak and sheer lack of action to confront basic infrastructure issues. The video below shows a Haitian aid volunteer, Charlotte Charles, giving a passionate and igniting  account of rapes in the tent camps by United Nations soldiers.

The world needs to hear the truth.

Who is telling this truth? After being arrested several times, being attacked in a tent camp while distributing aid and reporting other atrocities to the police; Ms. Charles refuses to quiet her voice. She is willing to die telling the truth.

The world needs to hear the truth.

What happens when the institutions and individuals meant to protect fail and actually harm those they are charged with protecting? The rape of women, girls, children and men robs individuals of their power. When a woman or girl has to choose between eating and rape, the decision is can not possibly be easy. When a woman or girl has to choose between shelter and rape, the decision can not possibly be easy. Power is the ability to act. When your actions are controlled by someone else your power is diminished. Stripping individuals of their dignity and power also strips the community of its dignity and power.

What would you do if you had to make this choice?

Unrest and Fear in the Time of Cholera…and Elections

I chatted with Gabrielle Vincent, Director of Sonje Ayiti, this morning on facebook after what sounds like a traumatic experience in North Haiti. A survivor of the January 12th earthquake, mother and community developer, Gabie always provides in depth insight. Below is what she shared.
I am in Cap-Haitien now.
I was on my way to Port-au-Prince at 8:30 to take care of the customs
clearance for the trucks and container.  I couldn’t make it to the
airport this morning due to instant riots all over the street in
Cap-Haitien. Election’s Frenzy. I was in the car then there were
rocks and bottles filled with I don’t know what throwing from everywhere.
The road was packed with students going to school and everyone else.
Some got hurt. I returned home and got behind Dadou’s motorcycle, boom
there were shootings when we were about to turn to the main road
(Shada) that would take us to the airport. There were shootings
everywhere, we returned home safe and sound. I am now waiting to see
what tomorrow might bring.
The CHOLERA issues are taking a toll on the population who is now
furious, frustrated by the inactions of the authorities and fearful for
their life. On top of it, the candidates are wasting a lot of money
for elections instead of addressing the real issues. People are
furious.
 

Please keep praying for Haiti
Gabie

You heard it here first. You won’t see this on prime time news.

Excuses are Tools of the Incompetent

It seems as though the people of Haiti can not catch a break.  Since January 12, 2010 images of the first republic led by people of African descent have been plastered across newspapers, websites, blogs and television. Interest in popular media seems to come in waves and lulls. When an imminent crisis crops up, the media is there. When people rise up against discontent, whether it be prisoners or displaced communities demanding to know WHERE THE MONEY WENT; reports reaching Western ears are skewed. False and biased reported isn’t new, in fact most Americans expect it. But get this, its even worse than any of us can imagine. Since my return from Haiti in August my ears have stayed open to those I know on the ground. I first got wind of the cholera outbreak in the Artibonite region on twitter. I didn’t pay too much attention to the first couple of tweets. Then I began the see more and hear more about what was going on. I immediately thought about my good friend who is from Saint Marc and his father who is currently living there. Most of the first confirmed cases of cholera and the first known deaths were all in Saint Marc. I then thought about my other friends in different parts of Haiti. Then I thought about the endless stream of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the sheer incompetence and lack of compassion many of them have shown not only in the past 10 months, but also prior to the earthquake. The recent cholera outbreak is no surprise to anyone who has laid eyes on the reality of Haiti. No toilets, no plumbing and no regular access to clean water is a recipe for disaster. The video below gives a glimpse at how the outbreak may have started.

Crazy right?

The United Nations mission in Haiti has been on the ground for 20 years. In that time various missions focused on restructuring and developing the national police and governing structures. International aid organizations such as Partners in Health have been in Haiti for over 20 years. Many leaders in the Diaspora are asking the questions funders and governments supporting the UN and NGO’s should ask. What tangible results have they achieved? Has the focus on security instead of sustainable economic development actually improved the lives of Haitians? Are you actually working yourselves out of jobs by working to help Haiti empower itself? The UN and other aid organizations tend to cite government corruption, lack of infrastructure and other uncontrollable circumstances when asked where the money ACTUALLY goes.

WHY so many excuses?

In the spring of 2007 while joining my sorority I learned a number of lessons. One enduring lesson I learned was that excuses are indeed the tools of the incompetent. They truly build monuments of nothingness. In the Haitian case those who use the most excuses deserve to be barred from ever touching Haitian soil again. The nothingness built by many aid organizations keep Haitian in the “hands out” position. It keeps a country at the mercy of those who act only in their own interests. It creates a situation where the only thing between over 1 million people and a tropical storm is a plastic tarpaulin and prayer.

The January 12th earthquake killed an estimated 250,000 people, injured 300,000 and left about 1.4 million Haitian citizens (not refugees) homeless and internally displaced. The earthquake killed at least 250,000; but poor infrastructure, poor  international led relief efforts and a government functioning without firm legs will kill more in the long run. Physical death by natural disaster is often unavoidable. I spoke with Gabrielle Vincent of Sonje Ayiti today over facebook chat and she shared shocking information with me. Tropical storm Tomas has already flooded a number of areas in the South including Port-Salus, Les Anglais, Cayes, and Leogane.  She even knows of one man how died in his car during the flooding while others where able to make it out in time.

Who will pay for the deaths caused by aid organizations claiming to build infrastructure and feed people? Anyone who uses excuses in the face of human suffering deserves to be banished from the space in which their incompetence thrives. Haiti is not the only space this incompetence lives, but that’s for another post and another day.