Report on 2011 International Year part 5: Haiti’s Poetics of Pain and Resilience

Haiti in the aftermath of 2010's massive earthquake. (photo by Juan Barreto AFP Getty Images)

 

Throughout Black History Month 2011, websites and newspapers based in countries across the globe have featured stories on the United Nations’ and the Organization of American States’ passage of Resolution 64/169, which declared January 1 as the start of the 2011 International Year for People of African Descent. During the launch for the year in December, the “Representative for the December 12th Movement” described Haiti as a country which: “represents a microcosm of the situation, both victories and defeats, facing people of African descent. As goes Haiti, so goes people of African descent.”

Some might challenge the accuracy of that statement but few would debate the urgency of Haiti’s ongoing dire conditions. At this point, the primary push in the country is to recover not only from the earthquake of 2010, but as U.N. General Secretary Ki-Moon noted, from the cholera epidemic which followed and claimed another 3,300 lives. Moreover, hurricane Tomas took its toll on the island-nation as well. Aside for the actual loss of lives, more than a million people in the capital of Port-au-Prince were displaced and they still are. That number represents approximately one third of the city’s pre-earthquake population.

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by Aberjhani

Savannah Artists Combine Creative Resources to Assist Haiti

Logo and list of contributors for the Artists for Haiti exhibit. (image courtesy of Phil Starks)

Logo and list of contributors for the Artists for Haiti exhibit. (image courtesy of Phil Starks)

Demonstrating their ability to make meaningful practical contributions to the world community, some thirty artists donated works to the Artists for Haiti fundraising exhibit, which opened March 7, 2010, and will run until March 21 at the Indigo Sky Gallery, located at 915 Waters Avenue in Savannah, Georgia. Participating artists set the prices for their works with 100 percent of the proceeds slated to go to relief organizations working to assist the victims of the massive earthquake that struck Haiti in January.

The exhibit is comprised visual works ranging from traditional and innovative sculpture to mixed media canvases, water colors, and photography. Addressing the full-house audience, artist and Indigo Sky Gallery founder Jerome Meadows emphasized that by hosting a fundraising event for Haiti, “The gallery is serving one of its most important functions right now.”


A Positive Response

The community’s positive response to the event became quickly evident as red dots indicating a sale began to appear next to various works. The idea for the event, said Meadows, came from Vaughnette Goode-Walker, the Telfair Museum of Art director of cultural diversity and author of the forthcoming book, Going Home. Artists responding to the call included such veteran talents as Suzanne Jackson, Imke Lass, and Luther E. Vann, as well as emerging artists like Phil Starks and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) student Michelle Raab.

Along with Chloe Castro, Jessica Matthews, and Kathy Fritz, Raab was also one of the SCAD interns that Meadows credited with “putting this whole thing together.” Her art contribution, a unique blending of sculpture, painting, and words, is titled Fading, and consists of a plastic female torso painted over with a woman’s face, the silhouette of a man carrying a woman’s body, and individual lines of poetry. One section of poetry could almost be read as an open letter to the people of Haiti:

But if you smile
I know that it will be okay
even if you’re not here
with me
…”
–Michelle Raab


In Support of the Children

Originally from Ghana, William Kwamena-poh maintains a studio in Savannah’s famous downtown City Market Artist’s Colony and is among the popular artists in the Southeast. He described Haiti as “a second or first cousin to whom one automatically responds if you see them endangered. “If something happens to one, you go over there and say what can I do for you? What can I do to help? So donating to this cause was a natural thing. I didn’t have to think about it.

Specifically, Kwamena-poh donated two brilliantly-rendered paintings entitled Market Place and Voting Rights. Both  of these works, he said, reflect his understanding of life in Haiti. “When we look at most of the work in Haiti, it is mostly images of women in a market place, or women in action, women producing and going to the market. Or things that are communal in nature, reflecting a community identity. That’s why for me contributing to this exhibit was a natural thing to do, but I wanted something colorful, that reflected what Haiti’s all about.

“And the children. The children are the ones who ultimately don’t really understand what’s going on but they end up suffering from what is happening. They’re innocent victims of whatever the cause of what’s going on. Whether it’s wars, natural disasters, the children are always the victims and we need to support them to make sure they’re ok.”


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: Savannah artists combine creative resources to assist Haiti Part 2

by Aberjhani

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Haiti and Humanity’s Fierce Urgency of Now

Hatian musician Wyclef Jean makes urgent appeal on behalf of his homeland.

Hatian musician Wyclef Jean makes urgent appeal on behalf of his homeland.

“We are confronted with a fierce urgency of now.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr., from I Have A Dream

The incredible world-destroying 7.0 earthquake that erased life as Haiti knew it January 12, 2010, has taken more lives than anyone is either able, prepared, or willing to count.  It is the kind of horror that even the most masterful psychotronic film classic could never hope, or even want, to match.

In times such as these, people often tend to ask, “Why?”

They/we become prone to questioning the sense behind believing in notions of a loving God or in the belief that life possesses any kind of innate sanctity or meaning invested with spiritual integrity at all.

The Global Village’s Olympian response to the devastation in Haiti is one major possible answer to the painful question of “Why?” The Red Cross Rescue teams, doctors, nurses, potential adoptive parents, security personnel, engineers, ministers, diplomats, and well-intended contributors from across the planet made their way to the traumatized nation as soon as conditions allowed. The aftermath remains perilous as smaller earthquakes continue to rock the region and the battered psyches of survivors.

The fierce urgency of this moment is as much about Humanity’s need to transform ideas regarding love and compassion into acts of love and compassion as it is about demonstrating the ability to overcome cultural and racial differences for the sake of unify in times of  crisis. It is as much about the need to make concepts of what Human Beings refer to as the nobility of the Human Soul into a functional reality as it is about preserving the battered bodies of a country’s challenged sanity. That’s why every life-saving response to this brutal hour –and those that arise in the future– is as crucial for the providers of hope and relief as it is for the recipients of the same.

Here are some ways to Help The Power of HOPE in Action:

Hope for Haiti Now
Alicia Keys on Hope for Haiti Now
Online Red Cross Donations to Haiti
Presidents Bush and Clinton ask Americans to Give Now
Wyclef Jean and Edwidge Danticat with Anderson Cooper on CNN
Wyclef Jean Blog on WordPress
Wyclef Jean Makes International Appeal on YouTube
Footage of Haitian Earthquake
Quake and Aftermath Disaster in Haiti
The Washington Haitian Embassy
Canada for Haiti

by Aberjhani
author of The River of Winged Dreams
and ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love

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