Thursday, April 1, 2010

Days of Remembrance

I am back in Miami now after being in Haiti for almost
two months. It feels unreal to be back but I am embracing it.
In my last blog I mentioned that I wanted to write about two
pivotal events I attended while I was there:

The first event was the weekend of remembrance one month after Jan 12 earthquake. Haiti as a nation observed a three day period of mourning to mark this anniversary. Most businesses were closed during this time and there were multiple radio, television and mass text message announcements offering their deepest sympathies and condolences to those who lost friends and family.

During this period of mourning, there were memorials and vigils being held to honor the dead all across the nation. It was an incredibly powerful time of healing.

Where was the international media to cover this?
I personally saw very little.

Sadly, the world is left with very distorted images of the earthquake's aftermath like the mass burials and people fighting over food and subsequently Haiti's grieving and healing process is left in obscurity. I dare the media to cover something real and meaningful.

What I witnessed that weekend was so reverent and beautiful.
I was able to attend 4 different ceremonies that weekend in Jacmel, the first of which started at dawn. The first day of ceremonies were put together by christian churches and organizations.
It is a Haitian tradition to wear black and/or white to a funeral so Waffle, Jerry, Zaka and I
dawned our best black and white dress for the occasion.

As Zaka and I moto'd into town that morning, we saw men, women and children all dressed in their best black and white attire slowly gathering from all corners of the city to make their way to a large courtyard where the morning mass was taking place. As we walked into the courtyard, we were greeted by ushers in funeral sashes ready to direct people to a place to sit. There were two massive and beautiful funeral wreaths at the gate, covered in white, orange and purple flowers. It was an unusually bright and hot day adding a glowing element to everything and everyone.

Those in attendance crowded in a semi circle in chairs and on blankets with their loved ones facing the stage to listen to several pastors and community leaders share words. There was also a live band that played intermittenly throughout the service and the whole crowd joined the band in several sweet, sad hymnals and prayers. There were many tears shed that morning with people crying out and throwing their arms up in grief but there was also a sense of calmness present.

Zaka and I then made our way to Pinchanat, the soccer field turned tent city in town where another christian memorial was taking place. We meandered through the winding, hectic and dusty streets to get there and arrived to the sounds of an energetic revival. People were more spirited singing and dancing under the hot sun. A huge crowd gathered around a tarped stage in the very center of the camp. There was a very loud sound system for the rocking band and the crowd was sweating, dancing and singing along.There was a sense of lightness and joy that was amazing to take part in and watch. I then wandered off briefly with a resident and was given an impromptu tour of Pinchanat. I visited someone's tent home where there was a sleeping newborn and then checked out the well-built outhouses and communal kitchen on the far side of the camp.

The last event scheduled that Friday night was a candlelight vigil organized by the local social justice organization KROS. Waffle, Jerry, Zaka and I left our friend Reggie's place near the town center and made our way to the main thoroughfare Rue de Borroncea where we intersected with the vigil. It blew us away. There was an endless stream of people every direction we looked in, all clad in black and white. There was a more somber mood present as the procession slowly made its way through town. Almost everyone in the crowd held a single, white glowing candle in their hands singing songs of mourning as they passed us. We didn't see a break in the crowd for over half an hour. The trail of candlelight was immense and beautiful.

As we made our way home, hearts filled, we could hear the singing receding into the distance as the sound of frogs and crickets took over on Rue de Borroncea.

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