Port au Prince, Haiti, March 8-15, 2011

water

I’ve returned to provide training in somatic and creative arts approaches to my beloved friends/colleagues at Haiti’s Psycho Trauma Center. We have talked about, and dreamed about, this for years. Finally, some funds raised through my non-profit enable us doing this.

Post-earthquake Haiti hasn’t changed much—still. Yes, there’s a little more rubble removed and evidence of new construction here and there. But really, not much change. Not as much as one would hope for—and would surely find elsewhere (i.e if the same were to occur in Hollywood or Dallas or Fairfield Country CT). Even I realized after 3 days that I was no longer seeing the rubble. Shortly after the earthquake that’s all I saw. Now, it seemed to take a much more conscious effort to really see the piles of rubble that still remain (and many do) and to realize how far Haiti has to go.

Why is it so easy to forget Haiti?  This is a place, after all, that defeated a significant and formidable colonial force in the early eighteen hundreds and that subsequently forbid whites from owning land or from taking control. I believe Haiti has long been perceived as a frightening place by the US and European nations who engaged (and engage, still) in colonial domination over this Caribbean nation. So we at once neglect and ignore, but still manage to control, Haiti. Perhaps it’s the neglect that controls. I don’t know. I find politics tedious, and prefer to put my energy into people. But I do know that the resilience I have always loved in the Haitian people, may be beginning to erode. In some, in those stillliving in makeshift camps with barely passable tent like structures, resilience is beginning to harden—to look like pure survival. Which somehow seems to have less humanity in it.

I am not saying there is no resilience, none of that gracious heart that many of us who love Haiti associate with her. In fact, during this training—which emphasized strengths and resources in the therapeutic a process (basic in many trainings and educations—not as widely talked about in the more traditional, old fashioned, theory heavy and practice deficit psychology training available at the local university) I witnessed some amazing breakthroughs or illuminations in my colleagues. These breakthroughs had to do with the moment someone realized how rich Haitian culture is—and hot that richness offers so much for healing, restorative processes, pride, forward movement and development. I may have blogged last year about how sad it makes me every time I hear (and I hear this a lot): “You know more than I/we do about Vodou. About our dancing. Our drumming. Our history from a cultural/spiritual perspective.” I have begun asking how many members of a training have ever been to Bwa Cayman. Always , the hands up = 0-3, maximum. Some don’t know what that place is.

Once when training the national police they asked me if Vodou could be a resource, and why was it kept so invisible to so many Haitians? I have been asked that by street children, by those who care for street children, by psychologists, by HR mangers. Always, the trainings I facilitate somehow end up including a lively discussion of culture and spirit in Haiti—not limited to Vodou, but that does seem to be an “elephant in the room”. I am not sure it’s my place to answer these questions, yet always—someone asks. What do you think? What do you know? What’s does this mean? How does this relate to what we are doing here?

I made a comment in this training: If I were to run for president of Haiti I know of 2 important platforms I would endorse:

1. All education would be free, and it would include a strong curriculum of history, culture and spirit—one that teaches at least the principles of Haitian mythology, dance, arts, drum, and that is intended to install pride in all Haitian people. That this does not occur now is, for me, part of that blatant yet subversive colonial neglect that still permeates Haiti. Who doesn’t’ want the core of resilience in this island to be known, not just for Haiti—but for the world? We could all learn from this.

2. Kreyol and English would be the national languages (in that order). French is a lovely and historically valuable language and could still be learned. But Haitians would have much more employment potential if they learned to speak English. Usually I don’t endorse everyone learning English—that has its own colonial heritage and message. But here, so close to our shores and so controlled by—played, used by and neglected by — the US, Haitians should speak English, after Kreyol. Kreyol is beautiful and is a vestige of the rich history and culture I have already written about. English affords the people here possibilities that would really, truly foster development—Haiti centric development.

Several of my students thanked me for the “revolutions” they had in their thinking about their work with survivors of trauma (and these are clinicians I deeply respect, who are also my teachers and heroes). The revolutions: The use of cultural resources in therapeutic process, or restorative process, or healing—however its called. The place of Haiti’s history and cultural/spiritual depth in this resourcing. The power of utilizing the very Haiti centric rhythms and movements that in the words of one student “the missionaries taught us to fear”, are the core of their resilience—personal resilience, corporeal resilience, psychological resilience, collective resilience, spiritual resilience.

I know I wrote that the world can learn resilience from Haiti. That they should be granted the honor of masters of resilience after what they taught us following the 1/12/2010 earthquake. As Japans horror unfolds, I heard many of my Haitian colleagues wish aloud that they could go and help. I hope they can, and my next mission is to try and find a connection for them to do this. The context, the geography, the language, the history and culture are different— and are formulated and expressed very distinctly. The heart of healing is in the blood and spirit-level resilience that is integral to both.

As one of my most respected and beloved teachers always use to say (and what I would say to the world, if I had a moment to do so): Show up, shut up, and get what’s going on.

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