Donald Trump, the 45th and current president of the United States recently made headlines for an alleged racist statement.. again. This time in regards immigration reform as part of a bipartisan immigration deal.
This has angered the masses but personally it’s motivation.
See, I am from one of these shithole countries .
I was born in port- au- prince Haiti in 1989, during the post Duvalier transition
When the country was still recovering from a childish dictator and his regime. Some might say Haiti is always recovering from corrupted government and natural disasters.
In 1998, my mother packed all of my clothes and told me I was going on a trip.
This trip ended up being 18 years long.
My mother had made enemies, in big places. Kettly Excellent didn’t get to be one of the only women who dared run for mayor in Haiti by keeping quiet about injustice. My mother has been involved in politics since she was 14 years old, meeting with secret militant groups in cemeteries and sneaking codes back and forth at the cinemas.
Her roles in the Haitian government made her a household name, but it also put her on many hit lists. Her relentless pursuit of equality for women and children, speaking out again the ruling government officials followed with her giving interviews on tv, radio and newspapers. All of this led to her being attacked, jailed and the safety of our family to be in jeopardy.
Our house was robbed and broken into. We were threatened.
She decided to have us immigrate to the United States. It would take 2 years for the family to be reunited and living under the same roof. There are many reasons why people leave their home countries and immigrate to other countries. Political reasons, medical, love, for a new life, new opportunities.
The United States was safety, it was our haven. A new country, a new language, a new life. Fast forward to 2009, I immigrated to Canada, the year after my mother and sisters moved to Toronto. If anyone were to ask me “where are you from?” I would always respond with “It’s complicated, I was born in Haiti but raised in the States “. Haiti seemed like a far away country and my memories became distant. Sometimes I wondered if I romanticized the weekend trips to the beach, crisp fresh air of the mountains and countless amounts of plays and movies at the theatre. I was not in a hurry to go back to the country my mother sacrificed so much for. I grew up, lived my life and dreamt of far away lands..until Hurricane Matthew ravished Haiti weeks before my solo backpacking trip to Colombia.
The photos and videos of the Haitian people, my people, went through my mind every second.
Broken trees. Flooding. People suffering.
I decided to trade in my ticket from Colombia to Haiti. From October 2016 through February 2017. 4 months.
I reached out to my Mother, to volunteer with the non-profit organization she started in 2007 Cehah.org
I went back to Haiti two days after learning of Cole’s death. Benjamin was a far away friend, photographer and philanthropist who fell in Love with the island years ago, we had plans to meet the week his plane crashed while flying back to Cabaret Dominican Republic from Cap-Haitien. To learn more about Cole his legacy and his disappearance, read more.
As soon as I stepped foot in the country, vague memories came back. Faces, places, feelings. It all came back in doses and waves.
However, being away for 18 years had turned me into a foreigner.
When I spoke my native tongue, others looked at me as if I were a foreigner
And when I walked down the streets, eye followed me as if I had “foreigner” coming out of my pores with every step I took.
I was almost hospitalized for heat exhaustion, I learned to live with unstable electricity and the worst internet service which cost a small fortune.
I ate the best street food made with so much love, I rode motorcyles up and down unsafe hills, I meditated at the top of mountains, made peace with ghosts I wasn’t aware were haunting me. I took the path of my ancestors and reconnected with my beautiful Island.
I fell in love with this “shithole” country and its people, my people.
The people who finds any reason to celebrate life, who opens their home to strangers, the resilient ones keeping the hope alive in midst of suffering.
I was away from Haiti for 18 years and it feels weird to call it home, to call anywhere home, but Haiti will always be a special place for me. I’m looking forward to going back this year with my love, to share it with him. I should mention he’s a photographer and will do justice to the beauty of this “shithole” country.