Rude Awakening

Have you ever woken up from an amazing dream to a reality not so amazing? You know one where your deepest desires were playing out; you could feel, smell and taste it in your dream?

Well imagine that dream is freedom from slavery and attaining political power. In 1892 255 African Americans were lynched across the United States. The amount of lynchings that year were unprecedented.  The lynching of three Black men in Memphis, Tennessee had a significant impact on the life  and activism of Ida B. Wells. Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell and Henry Stewart  and were killed because they posed an economical threat on neighboring White business owners. The success of their business, the “People’s Grocery,”  breed deep resentment among White business owners. A group of White men attacked the store one night while a large group of Black men were present. Shots were fired and White men were injured. The local press went into a frenzy, slandering the reputations on the business owners. The three owners along with one hundred Blacks were charged with conspiracy. After being jailed, they were dragged out and killed. These events, as told by Paula Giddings in her book “When and Where I Enter,” (1996) were the “climax of ugly events.”

During the Reconstruction period many African Americans lived under a state of prosperity. This period brought great economical and political success. However this period was undercut by a backlash of oppressive laws in the South targeting Black people. The right to vote was systemically stripped away from Black men (women were still fighting for the vote) and there were no federal laws addressing racially motivated terrorism and murder. Segregation was not only a cultural norm, it was becoming the legal standard.  The advancement of a formerly enslaved people threatened the identities and status of many Whites in America. As a result, they struck back with terrorism and legalized oppression. However, many Blacks still had faith in the legal system charged with protecting the citizens of the United States. People actually believed that the terrorism wreaked upon Black communities was not endorsed by the state, that it was instead the product of resentment by poorer Whites. For Wells, the 1892 lynchings were a “rude awakening” (Giddings, 1996). These events led her to lead a full journalism assault and expose the false vilification and mass terrorism of African people in America.

Now that we have the brief history lesson out of the way, lets get to 2011. We still live in an age where folks believe in achieving the “American Dream”. We are also now living in times of prosperity for few and hardship for many. We live in times where the wealthiest 5% of Americans control over 60% of the wealth in this country. We have a Black president in the White House and over 2.3 million people behind bars. Over 40% of Black youth are unemployed and the rights of women are being used as political bartering tools. Civil rights are once again undergoing a systemic dismantling process. This time Black folks are not the only targets; the poor, non-male, non-Christian and non-economically stable are firmly under the gun. Just last week the Texas House voted to require all eligible voters to have ID in order to vote. This measure may seem small, but it will impact low-income and voters of color severely. Masked in false claims of voter fraud, the Republicans are; as young organizer I know says, “creating wars on issues that don’t exist.”

These fairy tale narratives of voter fraud are much like those used against Black men and women post-reconstruction. Black men were depicted as hyper-sexual brutes preying on White women. Black women were once again being painted as harlots out to seduce otherwise well-behaved White men. Those perceptions were used to justifying the systemic stripping of rights, resources and humanity of people.

The gospel of prosperity for all if we work hard enough and make sacrifices is another fairy tale being sold to the middle class.  What sacrifices are we asking to make while the countries largest corporation, General Electric, makes none? GE grossed $5.1 billion in US profits and paid not one cent in taxes. Something is wrong there.

To be blunt, the tactics of the political conservative are outright slick. They are launching an assault on the institutions and freedoms men and women fought for tirelessly through various social movements. It snuck up on some, but for those paying attention; it’s not a surprise. Democrats knew on November 4th 2008 that an assault was being readied. The voting machines weren’t even cooled before a plan was set in motion. We lost in 2010 and lost big. The Republicans now control the House and are working to pass legislation to demolish women’s reproductive rights instead of creating jobs for the nearly 14 million unemployed people in America.

The Memphis lynchings served as a catalyst for Ida B. Wells work as a lifelong activist and journalist. They sparked a fire that lead her to embark on an unprecedented and unmatched public education campaign to end terrorism against African Americans. Something close to home woke Wells up.

I believe many Americans are slowly waking up and realizing that the American Dream is an illusion, but we need more. The promises made by those who already attained material wealth are slowly revealing themselves as lies. Whether its the stripping of collective bargaining rights (unions) or the mass incarceration of Black and Latino people; American’s must awaken. Watching the revolutions of other countries and romanticizing over the change we want to make will get us nowhere. We have to decide what “change” and “progress” looks like and not just pay lip service. Not everyone will take to the streets, but everyone can do something.

If you are still sleeping, what would jostle you out of your sleep? What would it take to get you to act, to contribute? There is a lot at stake, my last question is, are you willing to wake up and see it?

No Jobs, No Justice: The Black Unemployment Crisis

American Gothic
(Photo Credit :  Gordon Parks)

Give a (wo)man a fish and s/he will eat for a day
Teach a (wo)man to fish and s/he will eat for days
Teach your community to support themselves and you all eat for life

I live in the DC/Maryland/VA (DMV) area, where we boast one of the most highly educated populations in the country. Everything happens here. Want to go into politics? There’s something here for you. Want to teach in one of the nations largest labs for educational experimentation? There’s something here for YOU too. Do you just want to save the world…well you can do that here too, IF you have the papers and the relationships.

The reality for most Americans is not the reality many “Washingtonians” face. In fact as many of you know, unemployment rates are devastating communities across the country. Today over lunch with a friend I got extremely animated while talking about the rates of Black youth unemployment. Today I read the latest unemployment rates. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Black Americans are experiencing a 16% unemployment rate. That’s 16% of the Black civilian labor force. Now bear with me here.  Our total civilian labor force represents over 17,660,000 people.  This means that 2, 757,000 Black folks are unemployed as of November 2010. This number is derived from those who can legally work, seeking work, are not in the military and are not incarcerated.  So tack on nearly 900, 000 more for the Black men and women currently incarcerated (according to the Sentencing Project).  Prospects for unemployment are even more grim upon re-entry for ex-offenders.

How many of you know someone who makes barely enough to get by?  Underemployment isn’t something we often see vetted in national dialog. People across this country go to work everyday and barely make ends meet. Many of these people work more than one job.

I believe that at the end of the day, MOST people want to work and earn their own money. Given the current reality of our economy, many people simply cannot find work. Where did the jobs go and how do we get them back?

We need a truly inclusive progressive jobs movement.

This poses another natural question; who is the face of the jobs movement? Look around at the narratives we hear from the nations largest grassroots organizations. It’s about the factory worker whose manufacturing job was lost to off shoring in Indonesia. It’s about the former Chrysler worker how lost his/her job to a lack of innovation and corporate greed. Oh and lest I forget, the face has also become the young White female/male who can’t find a job EVEN WITH a fancy degree.  It’s not my Mama or my Cousin. It’s not the Black women and men who have limited employment options beyond fast food restaurants and other service based industries.  Go on almost any corner on the South side of Chicago, in Southeast D.C. or North St. Louis and you will see idle people. These are the people you won’t find on a campaign poster or in a national ad.

Unfortunately it isn’t sexy (or completely legal) to fund jobs just for Black folks. So what do we need? We need targeted job and education programs in areas where Black folks live. Not just in urban areas, but also rural areas. We also need Black folks to be engaged in the decision-making process. The common rhetoric that yes, jobs is an issue for all Americans.  I understand that. We all have to eat. But why not call a spade a spade? The current unemployment rate amongst White Americans is 8.9% that’s almost half that of Black Americans. Almost HALF. Hispanics are not too far behind Black folks at 13.2%. Black and Brown are typically not too far apart.

When the Congressional Black Caucus made a big to do on the Hill about securing jobs for Black Americans, it was problematic. How dare they demand jobs for Black folks? How dare they assert that a Black President ought to express deep concern for the population he drew moral, financial and political support from?  How dare they? Right…Wrong!

I could go on and on about the institutional factors contributing to this reality for Black folks in this country. As they say, when America gets a cold…Black folks get the Plague.  Where is the justice in the national jobs movement for Black Americans? Where is the justice in the halls of Capitol Hill for Black Americans? Where is the justice in the local Ward where people have been unemployed for years? Black issues are simply NOT sexy anymore. Deferring to multiculturalism skims over the meat and bones of reality.

Before we reach the end of this post I will point out one more fact. Nearly 34% of Black youth (aged 16-24) are currently unemployed. We have so much at stake.

WHERE IS THE BATTLE CRY? WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?

In the face of so much struggle in the country we cant forget the struggles of those who have long been struggling. We must build on past successes and chart new courses for the future for ourselves. We need to do so in solidarity with others. We all should be able to eat. I know that until we achieve economic justice, we will have no real justice and no real peace in our streets.

Hyde Matters: Reproductive Justice and Women of Color

(Photo by Angela Hayden)

The Hyde Amendment was “designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion” – Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Yesterday I attended the “Separate and Unequal: The Hyde Amendment and Women of Color” panel at the Center for American Progress (CAP). I walked away feeling more knowledgeable and equipped to discuss the issue of reproductive service access with other women.  Whenever I walk into a space set-up to discuss issues impacting people of color in DC, I look for people of color. In this case I was looking for women of color. As soon as I walked in I saw a good friend and fellow woman of color who organizes for reproductive rights in the faith community. I also saw two Black women around my age (both actually work at CAP). I looked around some more and saw two or three more seasoned Black women in the room. After that I counted the number of rows and chairs in each row. Out of a room of 80 or so people, 9 were African American women and 2 Asian women. I know of at least 2 Latina’s in the room. The rest of the room was composed of primarily White women and men involved in the reproductive rights/justice movement.

So what is the Hyde Amendment?
Passed by Congress in 1976, the Hyde Amendment bans abortion care funding for Medicaid recipients in most circumstances.

What is Medicaid?
Medicaid is the federally and state funded health-care program for low-income individuals and families.

Women of color, particularly Black and Latina women, are more likely to rely on federal-state supported programs (e.g. Medicaid) for reproductive services. The most recent census data shows that 25.8 percent of African Americans, 25.3 percent of Hispanics are poor compared 12.3 percent of Whites and 12.5 percent of Asians.  The Hyde Amendment is a direct attack on the choices of low-income women, particularly women of color. Congressman Hyde attacked a basic civil right. Rep. Hyde admitted:

I’ll certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the …Medicaid bill –U.S Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL)

By intentionally targeting the most vulnerable group of women, those who often have to choose between paying bills and paying for an abortion, Congressman Hyde attacked a basic civil right. We could argue the morality of abortion until we turn blue in the face, however it is a constitutional right. The erosion of this constitutional right is a slippery slope starting in Black and Brown wombs. Women choose (or are forced to choose) to terminate a pregnancy for different reasons.  While the Hyde Amendment allows for Medicaid to fund abortion care in the event of rape and/incest; in practice this does not always happen. The panelists cited lower and slower reimbursement rates as reasons many providers simply refused to accept Medicaid payments for abortion care.

This isn’t an issue of citizens paying for abortion when they actually oppose it. This amendment was simply about diminishing the choices women can make. We fund wars, banks and prisons over education; all of to which I am fervently opposed.

So why hasn’t this policy been aggressively attacked by the larger reproductive justice movement? Well as Toni Bond Leonard, President and CEO of Black Women for Reproductive Justice, pointed out; we have been told to wait. Low-income and women of color have been told to wait. The issue of the Hyde Amendment has been pushed back in the larger reproductive rights movement. The reality faced by women of color presented with a difficult choice simply hasn’t mattered enuf. Advocacy organizations are slowly shifting to a reproductive justice framework. Once we begin to integrate systems of oppression such as racism and classism into any policy fight, things begin to get real and require power shifts. Any movement aimed at achieving reproductive justice, not just laws on the books, for the most marginalized women must have those same women in the forefront. We would be forced to undergo a real power analysis. The panelists and audience readily conceded to and asserted that position. Unfortunately the faces in the room and the movement don’t reflect those sentiments.  To concede and/or share power and leadership in the fight for reproductive choice threatens traditional groups. We also saw much of this dynamic in the broader women’s rights movement.

Toni Bond Leonard painted a quick picture of the moment African women landed in this country last night. From the introduction of the African women to the Americas as slaves, our wombs have been subject to the control and influence of others. Slave women were expected and forced to breed, yes breed. Once it was decided that they no longer had to reproduce (post-slavery) new tactics aimed to reduce pregnancy were introduced. The arch of reproductive control bends strongly away from women. The repeal of the Hyde Amendment would serve as a first step in pealing away the layers of control women of color are unwillingly cloaked under.

So why does Hyde matter? As a young woman any policy dealing with what I can and cannot do with my body is important to me. We have a duty to be engaged in this movement. We also have the right to demand a voice whenever anyone attempts to quiet our stories or devalue our experiences. Hyde matters for me, you and the daughters we may choose have in the future.

A free woman has the ability and power to choose.

 

Click here to read the Center for American Progress report “Separate and Unequal: The Hyde Amendment and Women of Color”

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.

You are (‘nt) What You Eat

(Market in Miami)

As I was standing in the kitchen this afternoon picking kale and chopping vegetables I began to think about what food REALLY means to me. I’m an avid foodie; meaning I love food, love cooking food and love knowing how food is made. I also love knowing where my food comes from. These concepts seem simple but for many people the idea of attaining these pleasure just isn’t feasible. Let me be more specific, many Americans have no clue what real food tastes like, where their food comes from and how it was made. Food matters. What we put into our body matters. Now…I’m not going to go into some long explanation as to why we should all eat organic or why we should all remove processed foods from out diets; that just isn’t practical for most people. We do live in a busy world full of mis-perceptions about food and healthy eating. I’m not interesting in preaching or giving a lecture. What I am interested in is challenging us all to start considering some basic questions:

1. What is my (and my families) relationship with food?
2. Where does my food come from?
3. What influences my food choices?

My answers to those questions are constantly evolving, so should yours.

I grew up on welfare. I remember going to the store with a pack of food stamps and a Link card once those hit the streets of Chicago. The corner store only had so many options, most tasted good but were bad for my body. I ate a bag or two of Flaming Hot chips everyday. My mother tried her best to keep vegetables and fruit in our lives, but choices still had to be made. Until she started working my mom cooked regularly because she had the time. But money was still tight. When I ate at family members homes food choices were also made. Money was even tighter. On any given Saturday during a summer in Chicago there could be 10-15 kids at my aunts house. So what did she do?  She put on a pot of hot dogs or made us sandwiches. She didn’t have the time or the money to make an elaborate meal for all of us kids. There was a corner store or a candy lady nearby where we would buy potato chips and cookies. So between that and what she made we had our afternoon meals. Dinner, now dinners were a lot more well rounded on holidays and Sunday’s. My immediate family has its roots in Mississippi and most of our food didn’t stray too far for the typical Southern cuisine. Looking back I know there were a lot of issues with the food culture, what we had access to and how that affected our lives. Almost every Aunt and Uncle on my Fathers side of the family has diabetes or high blood pressure. That’s just not a coincidence.

African American families disproportionately live in areas with poor food options. We also have a cultural tradition which includes VERY tasty but not always the most healthy style of cooking. However looking at back to our Southern and African roots our diets have drastically changed. Go to almost any predominately Black (or Latino) community in America and you will see plenty fast food restaurants, “corner stores” and MAYBE a full service grocery store. I have a habit of looking in other peoples carts in the grocery store (yea…I’m nosey) and I usually see more food from the inside aisles than the outside aisles.

People say “You are what you eat.” Well low-income people in urban areas often eat a lot of fast/fried/processed food and also consume high amounts of sugar. What does that make them? I say it makes them people experiencing food injustice. According to the White House and the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” Initiative, 1 in 3 American children are overweight or obese. The Office of Minority Health reported in 2007 that 4 out of 5 African American women are overweight or obese. For me it isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about living or dying. Not every person who meets the government criteria for being overweight is unhealthy. However the odds are against us and our children. Who knows someone (or is someone) who thinks chubby babies and children are just cute?

I’ll pose a couple more questions. Who’s dying of heart disease at higher rates than any other group in America? Who’s receiving the most diagnoses of high risk cancer than any other group in America? What group has the highest rates of diabetes?

Something is wrong here. I argue that food is political. Many choices we make about food aren’t entirely our own. Food is not grown and sourced the way it was even 50 years ago. Farms are fewer and larger. Our meat and dairy products come from fewer places. How we sweeten and flavor our food has even changed. Food lobbyists have a large presence on Capitol Hill. Whether its the corn industry or the beef industry, they are all in the ears of those who make legislative decisions about the food that ends up on your plate. Did you know that our government (hence our tax dollars) subsidized over $75 BILLION dollars to the corn industry between 1995 and 2009? Where does all that corn end up? On your plate in its various forms of course.

Everyone should have access to healthy and affordable food. Healthy food full of nutrients and good flavor should not just for those who can afford to shop at Whole Foods. Everyone should be able to learn what this means as well.

Just like any behavior how we eat and what we eat is learned. As I got older I started making more informed choices about my food. I also now noticed that my Mom buys different food and makes different food choices. So does a lot of my family. I stopped eating pork and beef in college. One time during a trip back home I learned that my cousins decided to do the same. But some habits die hard. Some habits refuse to die because of institutional barriers. Food justice is important to me and should be important to everyone who eats food in America. What ends up in your body isn’t JUST based on decisions of your own (unless you grow everything you eat), but it can become a more informed choice. Communities across the country are deciding to have more say in what they eat by starting community gardens, participating in food co-ops and demanding healthier choices in local grocery stores. Not all is lost, but there is still much to be gained.

25 years an American, 7 months an Observer and 1 week in Haiti


Neg Marron (Iconic Symbol of Freedom for the Haitian People)

This post will reflect my 25 years as an American citizen, 7 months observing the situation from a far,  4 days in Cap-Haitien and 2 1/2 in Port-au-Prince. I was only in Haiti for a week, the 1.3 million people left homeless as a result of the January 12th earthquake will likely live there for life.

What I saw in one week taught me more than I learned in any one sitting as a undergraduate or graduate student. I spent the bulk of my time with an inspirational group of people from Sonje Ayiti working towards developing one city. They showed me the side of Haiti that most Americans never see on TV. I saw Haitians helping themselves and helping each other. I saw Haitians making great things out of meager resources. I ate with them, prayed with them and slept under same heat as them. I walked the streets of Limonade, visited the local hospital, saw what a typical Haitian classroom looks like, took showers using a bucket, swatted mosquitoes, rode over unpaved roads and smelled mounds of trash. I talked with them, learned more about their stories and of their dreams for the country. I walked through the tent city outside of the Haitian Presidential Palace. I saw statues of the  nations heroes surrounded by the very people they were fighting to secure a better future for since the 1700’s.  I saw the direct result of too many people, too little public administration and too many NGO’s in a small area.


Presidential Palace of Haiti

I saw a lot. To be honest, I’m having a hard time digesting it. I’ve visited townships in South Africa, poor communities in Guatemala and seen shantytowns in mainland China.  I’ve lived without hot water and heat in Chicago. But I have never seen the things I saw while in Haiti. The experience left a deep impression on me to not only grieve but to act.

Since my visit I’m more angry at; 1) People who are against taxes and 2) People who think Wyclef Jean was a viable option to be President of Haiti.

Taxation functions as a means to pay for public goods and services. They are meant to serve the common good. Imagine this…no trash pick-up, no one to call when the electricity goes out, no running water, no one to report landlord abuse to and no public schooling for your children. Taxes pay for all of those things in the U.S. American’s STILL mismanage and take them for granted. Live in Haiti for a week and your mind will change quickly. Today a friend pointed out how taxation and tax appropriation are two different things.  We could do better on both fronts in the States. I’m not arguing for big government, just arguing for the presence of a basic element. In Haiti, the basic infrastructure isn’t nearly non-existent. Be grateful and work for the future you want.

On Wycelf Jean. I have very simple remarks. Would you want him or another musician with the same history and experience as President of the United States? We have more infrastructure and resources. I’ll take this to a smaller scale. Who you want the same candidate to be Governor of YOUR State? Probably not. His nomination has been romanticized by Americans who have likely never lived in a tent city, never had to choose between paying for school uniforms or selling water on the streets. Do the Haitian people deserve any less than what we expect for ourselves? No. Low expectations are like a festering sore in Haiti, human beings deserve better.

United States Agency for International Development
(These Tarps were all over Port-au-Prince)

Whether you donated to a Haiti Relief Fund or not, your tax dollars are being spent abroad (or are supposed to be). We have got to do better. We know better and can do better. Yes, the Haitian people are resilient; but no one should have to be so resilient all of the time.

As an organizer I follow the concept of organizing around the injustice we hold the most anger towards. I hate to see people living without basic necessities, dignity and the opportunity to be happy. God willing, I’ll head back to Haiti in January. I have a lot of ideas for working with the women and youth of Limonade. They are pretty much organized and just need more technical and financial support. I’m interested in working with them, not over or just for them. The road to achieving those things is just as rocky as any side street in Port-au-Prince, but it is possible. Change is always possible.

Sonje Ayiti…As if I ever could forget


(Me and Gabrielle Vincent, Director of Sonje Ayiti)

I touched down in Cap-Haitien yesterday morning. I was met by Gabrielle Vincent, Director and Founder of Sonje Ayiti, in a small yellow school bus.  I could tell a lot about her spirit when we first met. She was born here and moved to the U.S. as a teenager. She and her husband built a good life for their family, but she decided to start Sonje Aytiti due to the need and a personal responsibility to her people.

I had no idea what that day would look like. I was pretty much open to anything. Gaby took us straight to work! We drove about 25 minutes outside of Cap-Haitien to the town of Limonade. Limonade is a town of about 45,000 people and is where the core of Sonje Ayiti’s work takes place.

There I saw one of the organizations many community development projects.  A group of young men built 4 of the 30 planned incinerators for the municipality. Trash is a HUGE problem in Limonade, it’s lined up along the side of the streets, in the middle of the streets and scattered throughout the fields.


The local government provides little or no support for sanitation and many people simply throw trash on the streets. So instead of complaining and doing nothing, Sonje Ayiti and its volunteers are using meager resources to build incinerators to burn the trash and reduce volume.

Sonje Ayiti also runs a micro-lending program called “Koud-a-Koud.” Koud-a-Koud literally means “shoulder to shoulder,” but Sonje Ayiti takes the meaning to another level. With a 99% success rate, Koud-a-Koud lends sums of money (up to $500) to individuals or groups looking to start or support a small business. Since its inception 108 loans have been granted and only 1 has defaulted. 80% of the lenders are women and the types of businesses range from taxi to food services.  The Koud-a-Koud office space is a two room building. Its primary administrative staff is a young woman who is about my age. She was shy at first, but I think she has a great potential for leadership. The program is very popular and could use more funding.

(Pictured: Mayoral Candidate, Left. Student, Right)

In almost any developing country you will find someone, somewhere teaching an English class. The class I attended was unlike ANY I’ve ever been in! Haiti is currently undergoing political change. Limonade is not exempt. For the past couple of days the class has hosted local mayoral candidates. The candidate comes to speak and answer questions. I have participated in many of these and this one was DEEP! There were about 6 students, the instructor, myself and Gaby in the room along with the candidate. The students and Gaby asked concrete questions about his plan to clean up Limonade. He had none. As a pastor of a 300 member church, it seems as if this man was doing little for the community. I could see I look of anxiety and divestment in his face. I think the class agitated him a bit, hopefully to at least think about acting.

This post is getting long, my bandwidth shorter and there is still so much to share. I think the next post will include my experience while visiting the local hospital. I still can not get the stench of sickness out of my mind. It will also cover my visit with a local womens group, The Association of Valiant Women of Limonade (RAFAVAL), working to build power for themselves. My mind is beginning to churn and ideas are forming.  I think the women of RAFAVAL would do that to anyone who sits and talks with them. Visiting with them lifted my spirits and showed me once again just how complex Haiti is…as if I could ever forget.