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Building Bridges – Haiti as Mother of Caribbean Nationhood

October 3, 2010

So I am currently in the first semester of a post graduate degree in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Trinidad. I moved back to Grenada and will be over here studying for the next two years building connections with artists, critical thinkers and community workers here. I believe this is going to be such a powerful relationship to foster since Trinidad is one of our closest neighbors.

I recently received my first assignment – Build a bridge between Haiti and Trinidad (or Grenada in my case)

Professor Rawle Gibbons - "We need to start thinking of Haiti as the birth of Caribbean Nationhood"

Professor Rawle Gibbons from the Creative and Festival Arts Department is leading this module of my Dynamics of Caribbean Culture class. He gave this very open assignment, as he explained, in honor of his departments dedication to making Haiti a theme for the year. He invited us to an event held last night, a welcome for the 50+ Haitian students here for 6 months to finish, for the most part, engineering degrees.

Awesome ice-breaker game at the event!

It was a wonderful night…Everyone was invited to bring dishes (I made chick peas, lentils and garlic cloves with carmelized onions and garlic. yumm!), there were drinks (double yum!), a dj and dancing (triple yum!!). The vibe was nice. Before all the festivities began there were a few welcomes. Rawle shared some thoughts that really reflected some of thoughts I had while brainstorming about the project. (particularly the top left corner in the image below – click to enlarge).

When i got home, after getting the assignment, I sat and brainstormed about possible ideas for a video piece.

He told us that the Creative and Festival Arts department at UWI is collaborating with the Lloyd Best Foundation to create a long term response to the hurricane in Haiti, specifically not clothing/food drives, which are more reactionary and often are best for soothing the conscience of those giving. They have contacts on the ground in Haiti helping to find ways of building meaningful connections and longterm change. Rawle’s words resonated deeply when he said, “We need to start thinking of Haiti as Mother of Caribbean Nationhood.”

Besides making Haiti a theme for courses this year, this dynamic collaboration is doing a number of other things. For example, they are using Trinidad’s vibrant tradition of reclamation and voice, Carnival, as a vehicle to speak of Haiti and her many stories. This will include a band entitled Gods/Heros/Villans in Haitian history and a jourvet band called “Haiti: The Birth of Caribbean Nationhood.”

Colin Granderson- CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General

Another address was made by CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General Colin Granderson, but I can’t tell you what that was about because it was mainly in creole….I can tell you it had those who understood cracking up!

This event provided an amazing opportunity to meet some people who might be interested in building bridges with me! I got to meet some of the visiting students as well as Carliena Holder, who is in the film production program here at UWI. Carliena and I met at the beginning of the summer when she interviewed Richie and myself about the male anatomy for a documentary, then again a few nights ago as we were on the same class trip to an Orisha Ritual Feast. Last night however we really got to share our interests and realized that we have a lot of work to do together. She was filming the event last night and we discussed the fact that creating a film about the department’s “Mission Haiti” and the journey of these Haitian students, starting here and continuing on to Haiti where they will use their degrees to help rebuild and continue development could be a really powerful way of building bridges. This is a dynamic nest of stories…stay tuned to see what happens. Carliena and I are meeting this week to discuss our ideas further.

Love & Light

Malaika

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