Haiti on Thursday suspended the operations of British charity Oxfam pending the outcome of its investigation into allegations that its staff sexually exploited Haitians after a devastating 2010 earthquake. The country’s ministry of planning and foreign aid said Oxfam GB had made a “serious error” by failing to inform Haitian authorities of the actions by their…
Cover Photo Credit: William Murphy/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
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By Nick Moncy
For RISE NEWS
The term second-generation, as shown by a quick Google search, is an adjective “denoting the offspring of parents who have immigrated to a particular country”.
What factors drive people to move to another country? For a variety of reasons: to earn money for family battling poverty and sickness, for better opportunities for their children and themselves, to escape war and persecution. There are many other motives as well, but what most actions share are the selfless and brave motives behind them.
My own parents immigrated to South Florida from Haiti in their thirties to expand their horizons, graciously happening to find each other, fall in love and marry, and have my older sister and me.
Their hard work and sacrifice has carried us through school, my sister through graduating college as last May, and through endless extracurricular activities and personal ventures.
However, with that unconditional love comes unconditional expectations from their culture, many of which clash with those of prosperous countries like the United States that we also strive to embody. This leaves second-gen individuals feeling trapped between two insistent worlds, yet assuming this spot has allowed me to admire both sides.
In a traditional household, the rituals carried over create a rigid atmosphere. The parent’s native language is usually primarily spoken and heard in media outlets, cuisine revolves around their native tastes, and their expectations reflect those they were issued growing up.
Some basic ones are common – putting school and family first, learning your native tongue (Creole for me), and looking presentable to exude a sense of composure. There is, in fact, a barbershop on every block in just about every Haitian town, at least it seems that way.
When all you have is yourself, you must be your best self according to that logic.
But there are some cultural themes that do not carry over so smoothly. Emotions show weakness, immaturity and lack of self-control. You are your gender and sex and you will not deviate.
Your complaints pale to the immense pains your ancestors endured, so it’s no use. Mental illness is an illusion – you’re just afraid to try hard. You will wear what your parents tell you to wear, and think what they want you to think, or you are disobedient. You might even get compared to your friends who conform and feel ashamed. You lose the ability to believe in your own convictions.
When all you have is yourself, you must be your worst self is the sad reality.
The grand, overlying difference I have observed is others versus self. In rural parts of Haiti, where the heart of Haitian culture beats loudest, individualism simply does not exist. Family members put others before themselves – using free time to aid parents with laborious tasks, plowing fields, mentoring the young, caring for the old. There’s no “paying you back”. Or “chasing your dream” – that is perceived as a luxury.
Here in the United States though, being yourself is highly encouraged. Saying what’s on your mind, free speech, self-actualization. We have technology to provide access to an infinite amount of information and exposure to many ways of life around the world, which enriches our perspective and increases our tolerance for exploration.
Even in college, most students have the freedom to choose the field that resonates with them. When your family remains in the back of your mind, and you feel the gnawing conviction to return the favor, to bring honor, and your friends back home did what they were told and brought that honor, doesn’t it feel like an unseen power is forcing your hand the other way?
Ultimately you may feel guilty for following your heart, even though no beaten path –doctor, engineer, lawyer – worked out for you.
“Although tradition seems to control us like puppets, a predetermined course, it is truly up to us to steer our fates.”- Nick Moncy
“Being successful, you ponder, is the “paying you back” that I’m missing”.
Even your peers who’ve assimilated into American culture will look down on you at times for not keeping up with milestones – not being caught up with the latest episodes of American Idol (R.I.P) or sports, not being manly enough (which is an issue on both fronts), not flowing with the crowd.
And guess what? Other second-gens from your ethnic group will mock you too, for not repping your roots or knowing your language or not visiting your motherland yet. Oh boy! The pursuit of perfection, unfortunately, is widespread.
All reasonable people will ask for, like my parents, is to perform the best you can at whatever you are doing. Although tradition seems to control us like puppets, a predetermined course, it is truly up to us to steer our fates. However, our heritages compose a significant part of who we are today and explain how our circumstances came to be.
As I grew older, I saw the other side of the gourde (Haitian currency): parents usually aren’t narcissistic or obsessed – they just don’t want their cultures to dissipate, to be lost, and that is why they clench so dearly to what they know.
To what they are.
And I’ve been able to understand, or at least try to, just what that is. For two weeks this June I trekked all over Haiti with my family to see both family and our motherland. I dove into the core of the island and despite facing the unknown, the links between this world and the one back home became crystal clear.
I finally feel at peace in this gray area, and for that I am grateful. I now believe in my potential to uphold my family’s future legacy by being there for them –plus, I personally want to help Haiti at a future point – but the only way to accomplish that goal is to settle into the person I’ve envisioned myself to be. And that person, I hope, will be as courageous and righteous as my family members.
If you’re a second-generation person like me, I encourage you to discover your past and find your own balance in the present – the experience has proven to be fulfilling. And for goodness’s sake, don’t wipe your hands on the fancy towels. They’re there for decoration.
Cover Photo Credit: Nick Moncy/RISE NEWSPost Views: 557
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By Staff Report
Statue_Jean_Baptiste_Pointe_Du_Sable In a meeting on immigration last week, President Trump allegedly referred to multiple places around the world as “shithole countries.” One those countries was Haiti, where according to people who were at the meeting, the President said: “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.” RELATED: Trump’s on a Chicago eatery’s hit list, and… Read MorePost Views: 294
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By Leslie Ovalle
In 1977, after one year in prison for discussing his political beliefs, Jean-Claude Exulien—a secondary school history professor—decided to flee his home in Haiti.
Exulien said that there are times in history when a government cannot be criticized, but he is also quick to remind that as an intellectual and educator, it is impossible to suppress critical discussions.
Exulien fled Haiti during the rule of the dictator “Baby Doc”, or Jean-Claude Duvalier, seeking his own and his family’s safety. He said that if it hadn’t been for Haiti’s suppressive regime many Haitians, including himself, would not have fled the land they feel such patriotism for.
His office in North Miami, decorated with Haitian flags and cultural photographs, is evidence to his love of country.
“I’m a big witness, I would say, of what happened in Haiti during the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier and Jean-Claude Duvalier,” said Exulien, “Haitian intellectuals were obliged to leave the country to save their lives.”
Many Haitians fleeing the regime of the time decided to migrate to Montreal, Canada. This is something that crossed Exulien’s mind, but a summer school teaching opportunity and family here in South Florida is what pushed him to make this city his new home.
“Some friend told me one time ‘it’s not difficult for you, because you used to teach at a higher level.’ I said ‘no it’s not a problem because I love these people, they are my people’. Until today that is my job, to teach them how to write in French, Creole, and English,” explains Exulien.
Knowing Creole, French, English, and Spanish, Exulien embodies the importance of knowing multiple languages in a place as diverse as South Florida.
On his office desk lays an ocean of newspapers—which he refers to as his tools—and in this ocean you can find all four languages. He jokes, although in a serious manner, saying that nowadays if you speak only one language you are handicap.
“Sometimes there are news in El Nuevo Herald or Las Americas and you cannot find the same news in The Herald, for example, so we have to read more than one newspaper and in more than one language,” he said.On the side of his office cabinet hangs a quote by John Dewey, the liberal philosopher that reads, in all caps: “education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.”
Exulien takes education beyond the classroom, besides teaching literacy, history, and anthropology he has a radio show on 1700 AM Radio Mega every Saturday at 11am.
“This is a class, it’s not a radio show,” Exulien said.
His radio segment is 90% Creole and 10% English; where he discusses current events, ideas, and history with his listeners.
A very proud man of his country’s history, he is one of the founders of the Haitian American Historical Society—a non-profit organization seeking the recognition and accuracy of historical events pertaining to Haitians and those of Haitian descent.
In 2007, the organization erected a monument of Les Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint Domingue in Savannah, Gerogia. Les Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint Domingue was a group of Haitian free men who volunteered to fight in The Siege of Savannah on October 9th, 1779 against the British.
“Haitian people died there, in Franklin Square, for the independence of the United States,” said Exulien.
The organization is now working on erecting yet another monument, in St. Augustine, Florida, commemorating General Georges Biassou—a Haitian forefather who fought with Spanish royalists.
Exulien is also the president of the organization Haitian League for Human Rights, INC.
“We created this organization one year ago, because of the situation of [our Haitian] brothers and sisters in Santo Domingo,” said Exulien.
This article was originally published on Rise Miami News.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place.
Photo Credits: Leslie Ovalle/ RISE NEWSPost Views: 408
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