<![CDATA[Anacaona's Daughters - Blog]]>Sun, 22 Nov 2015 21:05:51 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[ FIRST SCARS]]>Sun, 12 Jul 2015 22:22:19 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/my-first-scars
 “Gad kijan’l led! Look at how ugly she is!” My aunt grimaced as she examined my frail tattered body. I must have been no more than 4 or 5 months old.  My parents had recently moved back home to Haiti and my body was not having it. I had a severe allergic reaction to mosquitos and had been in and out of the hospital for months. Tattooed with scars from these vicious little critters had made my body their home. And to make matters worse I was not gaining any weight.  My mother resorted to feeding me butter in attempts of fattening me up but nothing seemed to work. The flies, which would rest at no avail  had succeeded in holding me captive. The months would come and go in wait of a miracle.

“Gen le li kata? Maybe she is disabled?” The servants would whisper in audible tones. I must have been over 18 months before I took my first steps.  As the event which proceeded “ Premye rale a, the day I crawled”  was marked as probably the most festive celebration I have ever had in my name. I am troubled that my memory can’t seem to recall it as goats were slaughtered and champagne poured in abundance.Till this day attendees still revel in reminiscence.

My speckled body felt alien.  As the years went by, I became an observer mimicking the confused stares which followed me around.  I could still hear their hushed disgust.  Everyone else didn’t seem to be bothered by these incessant pests. Their silky smooth skin hadn’t been tattered with scabs.  Why me? . Bare and exposed I yearned for a cure.

So I attempted everything. I would cover myself from head to toe. Spray every inch of my frame with Shelltox, a poisonous aerosol insecticide. And even throughout the hot summer months, despite the stickiness and humidity, as I‘d lay to rest, my thick cotton sheets continued to serve as protection. I never wore black and even attempted to rub off my dark black skin. My grandmother had taught me that these flies were attracted to this color, so I avoided it at every cost.  But while all battles could not be won; as the years would go by I slowly grew to learn their ways.

by Chrivi

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<![CDATA[AWARENESS]]>Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:49:53 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/awareness

Awareness, consciousness, mindfulness... The state or condition of being aware, of knowing something - It is the ability to perceive, to feel, to be conscious of whatever it may...

For a long time I have searched for the anecdote for peace. I would fight with myself, muffling my inner most feelings with an attempt to keep things “peaceful.”   And while yes, at times moments of calm serenity would transpose, it always seemed out of my control.  Life would just happen to me and I became stuck in the whirlwind of living reactively.  With attempts to meet everyone else’s expectations, I lost sight of my own.

Moving to New York didn’t help matters much as it seemed everything was moving at over 100mph and I was just struggling to keep up.  From heart break to grad school, this new chapter definitely had its fair share of unyielding surprises. While it is advised to steer away from clichés,  I find they constantly bear such interesting bouts of truth.   And finding peace in the eye of the storm has made all the difference.

Yes, life may take a turn for the better or the worse. As we go through the journey change is inevitable. There will be moments of sorrow and moments of joy. But while these moments and feelings will come and go, I have realized they do not have to deter me from peace. 

  Because peace is found in awareness, peace is freedom from the noise

  Because our thoughts are just thoughts,

 And yes the world is not always a kind place,

 And that in every situation we are always faced with choices…

Because Peace is choosing to live mindfully

Peace is about making mistakes and learning from them

It’s about abstaining from judgment

 As human beings, life’s stressors attempt to dictate our every move but they don’t have to.

Routines and habits are easily formed and at times allow us to maneuver through life with ease, but when these habits begin to steer us where ever they choose and we lose sight ourselves and things get a bit iffy.  

Pay attention. Our thoughts are a reflection of all that we ingest. Our feelings help us process our reality. Take a second and observe them. Watch them come. Watch them go. Allow your feelings to be felt. 

As they come, they will go.

Let go of that which no longer serves you..

Breath.

Inhale and exhale. 

-Chrivi

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<![CDATA[LETTERS TO MY EX(ES)]]>Mon, 23 Mar 2015 00:04:40 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/letters-to-exes
In each of my relationships, whether short-lived, one-sided, fleeting or real, there was something I was looking for. And with each break-up, I discovered that I was the only one capable of giving that “something” to myself.

The Desperate Fade Out

And there was a time when all I wanted was to have you to curl up to,

To have this notebook in my hand,

This thought in my mind,

This dream I just had.

I want to be there for you. I want you to put your head on my lap and tell me what hurts. I want to stroke your temples and stare into your eyes. Sometimes I hate that I am so willing to give. I have so much to give. But you… You want nothing from me and that the best and worst thing about you.

The Lustful Mistake

Mouths that met in mutual hunger,

Breath that emitted combustible heat,

Singeing in temperature, searing in temptation.

Complicating things now tainted with the smell of greed’s lustful guilt.

So remorseful with every indulgent recreation,

The thoughts that reignite a bodily reaction.

A small, trim waist.

A torso pressed against another.

A pinch to an arm.

“You wanted it as much as I did,” Resonating in a skull.

The pulsations between legs-one cannot help if this is all they think about,

Remorsefully, greedily, lustfully.

Rubbing the tips of fingers against lips,

Chapped over with words never to be spoken.

Maybe one can still feel the heat,

On the mouth sealed by shame.

 

The Betrayal

It looks blurry and ill-defined.

Out of focus and hard to look at.

So much so that you must close your eyes,

Feel the hot sting fall across your face,

And accept that closed lids don’t make it any easier to endure.

 

It feels like a fist where your heart should be.

Confusing and disorienting.

An unjust defeat.

You forget that you’re feeling at all.

 

You ask me what betrayal looks and feels like,

 But baby… you introduced me to it.

 

The Move On

You taught me so much.

Inspired me with how you look at the world.

You spent time with me,

When all I wanted in this world was someone to spend time with.

 

But you hurt me.

And I forgave you.

 

With you I was often wrong,.

I acted the way I thought I should,

And I accepted that,

Because I just wanted to be with you.

I tried to forget, I never forgot,

And compromised and compromised until I was unrecognizable.

 

Sometimes I saw you in my future and sometimes I didn’t.

We were together 10 months,

And sometimes I loved you and sometimes I didn’t.

Our time together allowed me to see,

That what I wanted then, won’t sustain me now.

-REETCHEL PRESUME
 

 

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<![CDATA[REFLECTIONS]]>Mon, 10 Nov 2014 02:46:58 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/reflections
Be selfish. Be there for others. Settle down. Play the field. In our twenties, we are often fed very conflicting messages about who we should be, and what we should aspire to be. The opinions of our close family members often become the voices that we hear and ultimately follow. That it, until we wake up on day and hardly recognize ourselves. Instead, we see younger versions of our mothers, fathers, cousins, etc.

So where do we go from there? Do we continue living out the dreams of others, or do we start over? This is a question that I have asked myself over the past few weeks, especially with my birthday coming up. I can honestly say that I have no idea. All I do know is that the first twenty-five years of my life have been a whirlwind of emotions.  I have my graduate degree, been in and out of love, and fostered friendships that I hope will last at least another twenty-five years. I have listened to the opinions of my family members and done things that were not necessarily what I wanted. I have also been brave, and ventured on my own. Do I want to start over? Sometimes. But overall, I am content with the cards that I have been dealt.

What I do know is that being alive is a privilege. It is a gift that I have to cherish and honor to the fullest. As a new birthday and a new year is upon me, I will take the time to reflect on the lessons that I have learned, the mistakes that I have made, and the obstacles that I have overcome. More than likely, I will make more mistakes, and find more obstacles. Still, I will try to live an authentic life where happiness and peace play a focal role. And If I need to start over, I hope I find the courage to do so.

I encourage all twenty-somethings to take the time and assess where they are in life. If they are living for their truest selves, or simply being what others want them to be. The answers never come easy, but that’s the beauty of it all. 

-Kristine

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<![CDATA[GOODBYE]]>Sat, 01 Nov 2014 19:09:25 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/goodbye
Goodbyes cross our lips inevitably,

However brief our encounter, however strong our bond.

I’ve met you. I’ve known you. You were in my life.

Evidence of a Butterfly Effect,

A life without you would surely be different.

You’ve sent tidal waves through my calm pond,

A thousand viewpoints distilled in my waters.

Yes, I have changed.

Yes, you have changed.

Ephemeral is our time together,

Continuous is its impact.

-Reetchel

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<![CDATA[MY GAMMA, MY HEART]]>Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:52:12 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/my-gamma-my-heart
Until her death in the fall of 2009, one of my favorite ways to bond with my Gamma would be to lay beside her in her bed, often with our fingers interlocked and eyes closed, listening to her recall stories of her life before she was my Gamma.  The settings of her memories would often be small towns in the south of Haiti.  As a child, Barade, Chadonet, Jeremie, Camp-Perrin, not Paris or London, were the backdrops of my daydreams and fantasies.   Thanks to my expansive imagination and fervor to truly know my Gamma, I walked in her shoes, I saw through her eyes, and I tried to feel her emotions during these moments we had together.  To me they were never stories of an unrecognizable land and strangers, but of our home and family.  I heard the same 20 or so stories for over a decade, so I even grew to intimately know the geographies of the towns and the characters that populated her stories.

I walked beside her, as a young adolescent herself, caring for her younger siblings after her mother’s untimely death.  I confronted the grueling, but rewarding efforts of “reine corvet,” (queen of the feast) cooking large meals for dozens of men hungry after working collectively on the land.  I sat beside her learning to read, not through a formal education, but through the use of a Bible and thanks to her uncle’s patience.  

It is this last memory that I always turn to when I think of what and who she stood for.   Two undeniable facts about Gamma was her undying faith in God and her belief in the importance and power of education.  And the significance of this image—that my Gamma learned to read because she wanted to experience the Bible on her own— has never been lost on me, as I still recall the unexpected tightening of my chest the first time I heard her tell this story.  Her spiritual freedom and her curiosity to intimately know her God and His son, was intrinsically tied to her intellectual freedom. 

I would often proudly declare that Gamma was my best friend, but I always knew that our relationship was a far second to her intimacy with God.  Gamma laughed the loudest, cried the hardest, and talked the most while reading the Bible and praying.  Her joy and comfort in this harsh world did not come primarily from her family, but from her faith in a merciful God.  Her unconditional love for us was never of her own doing, but was a reflection of the love she felt from God.

In a way, through sharing my connections with Haiti and my understanding of my Haitianness on Anacaona’s Daughters, I continue to honor my Gamma.  I am building relationships with other women by sharing snapshots of my life, and equally honoring her memory by sharing her story as well.


-Elle
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<![CDATA[AN ODE TO THE MAN WHO TAUGHT ME TO FLY]]>Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:31:44 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/an-ode-to-the-man-who-taught-me-to-fly
Words are never enough to describe the sheer impact another person’s life has had on another. These connections are what we live for. What wakes up in the morning and keeps us grounded in the person we were, are, and is becoming. They push us to strive for the impossible; to live freely accepting all that life brings.

These were the mornings I lived for; I must have been around 7 years old. These were such glorious days; filled with glee and excitement.  All four of us ( Me, Lucie, Thaina, and Melinda) bunched together in the car waiting for that moment of the thrill.  Your spirit was beautifully infectious. You would be there, and always will be ingrained in my memory as the man who taught me to fly.

As we drove to school along the inside road in Delmas 33 which leads to 75, there would be what seemed like the most humongous hill( at least it appeared as so at the time). And as you would sneak in to it, revving up the car in preparation..  I would close my eyes in unbelief, my breath would quicken in excitement and anticipation.    As we ‘ d zoom up to the very top of the hill the car would fly. The car would suspend in the air for what seemed like hours and we would cheer in excitement.  I would hold my breath and my heart would stop in awe . We defied gravity.  We were flying.

And now as I look at the world, everything seems attainable.  I mean hey, I flew at 7 years of age! I defied the impossible. I can fly.  One would never realize the impact these simple rides had on how I now view the world .

 Thank you for teaching me to fly.

May you forever rest in peace, 
 Danemark Jacques

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<![CDATA[Solace]]>Thu, 04 Sep 2014 04:42:55 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/solace
Solace 


You know, every time I clean my room, 

I leave the dusts and the stains. 

I need them.

They wake me up in the morning. 

-Patricia


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<![CDATA[CHILD FREE  ZONE]]>Thu, 14 Aug 2014 02:01:21 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/child-free-zonePicture
“Can you believe she doesn’t want kids?”

My sister turns to her friend Amber after observing how her children have taken an immediate liking to me. We are all out at Venice Beach enjoying the sun and a bike ride. My niece, nephew and Amber’s two kids follow me like I’m the pied piper. Not to brag, but I seem to have that effect on children. They gravitate towards me and it is this gravitational pull that has lead so many to believe I must want a whole passel of children. I don’t. I don’t want even one…or half of one.

So when my sister says this I wait for the inevitable: the fish like gasping, the widening of eyes and overly dramatic clutching of the heart in shock and horror that a young, unmarried and healthy woman could possibly not want kids. Apparently voluntarily childlessness is still seen as shocking and risqué. But in a welcome flip of the tables Amber does not react so predictably. She shrugs and merely replies it is better I know now than after actually having had children. I want to hug her. I want to kiss her. I don’t but I’m pretty sure I have rather maniacal grin on my face I’m so pleased.

Usually I have to endure invasive questions from relative strangers about my reasons why, my dating history and what I’m looking for in my future husband followed by quotes from the same insipid book on how to save potential old maids they all seem to have read: The mystery man who broke my heart (he doesn’t exist by the way) and turned me into a bitter cow isn’t worth it and I really shouldn’t be so picky and should lower my expectations because I don’t want to wait too long but none of that matters anyway because I’ll change my mind when my biological clock explodes and I’m hit with the uncontrollable urge to repopulate the earth because every woman wants kid and you need someone to take care of you when you’re old.

Never mind the fact that giving birth to a human being for the sole purpose of having them change you. Depends when you’re old seems incredibly selfish.  I have simply never understood the public claim on a woman’s uterus and the ease with which we are told we must not only marry but procreate. That we are somehow less of a woman by not being mothers and that the pinnacle of womanhood is child bearing. Such directives are not only insensitive but dangerous. Why force a woman who is not emotionally, financially and spiritually ready into motherhood? And while I never want to join the ranks becoming a mother is a massive undertaking for which I have immense respect. The idea that motherhood is for everyone perpetuates the harmful idea that having a child is some sort of cure-all and that you will fall into the roll with ease and nary a hiccup.

In reality, motherhood is not for the faint of heart and the personal choice to abstain is just that, personal and should not be the subject of public debate. So if you are one of the well intentioned attempting to steer some young woman towards motherhood please stop. Stop hinting, stop joking and stop asking because you are not entitled to her reasons why. 

-Charlene


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<![CDATA[PARIS]]>Sat, 26 Jul 2014 13:08:27 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/paris
When I approached my quarter life crisis last year, I could feel myself getting anxious.  After all, when our Haitian parents were that age, many of them had already been established, married, and owned a house, or goes the popular story.  I have to say that they are usually the first ones to tell me not to rush into anything. I have heeded this advice, and I feel that many young Haitians and Haitian - Americans have decided to veer off that traditional path, sometimes willingly and sometimes because of the cards that they have been dealt.   I consciously made the decision to explore and find a place in the world before making concrete future plans. 

As I was going through my crisis, I did something that many others before me have done; I made a list.  The first goal on my list was to travel to Paris, the city of lights. After a lot of planning and preparing, I booked my ticket and embarked on my first journey out of the United States and the Caribbean.   
Paris was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen. Culture permeated through every nook and cranny.  From the Notre Dame cathedral to the mesmerizing Eiffel tower, I was in awe of the thought that went into the city's architecture. 

I stayed in Montmarte, home to artists such as Van Gogh, Dali, Picasso and Monet, and also the home to the Sacre Coeur Basilica, one of the most beautiful churches that I have ever seen. From the top of it, I had a stunning view of Paris. 
A walking city, I was able to stroll with a friend through the trendy Latin Quarter and the glitzy Champs-Elysées during my stay.  One evening, we even went to the top of the Eiffel tower only to rush back down to see it light up and sparkle at sundown.  

Every meal was luxurious in its simplicity,  the attention and love put into it always evident. My last evening meal was a plate of foie gras; I sighed both in regret and bliss. I finally understand how travelers can leave their hearts in Paris. This trip was one of the most rewarding experiences, and I am grateful for the blessings that made it possible.  Author Tennessee Williams said "Make voyages! Attempt them...There is nothing else." Our generation is tasked with the heavy burden of finding themselves in a tumultuous world; one way for us to do that, it's through travel.  

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<![CDATA[SENSITIVE SKIN]]>Wed, 16 Jul 2014 14:41:51 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/sensitive-skin
For as long as I can remember I have been called sensitive. And for as long as I can remember, I have hated it. Being sensitive meant that I would get teased all the time and people would always feel like something about me was unbearable. I was always described as too much to deal with and some kind of hassle. I think it’s one of the aspects of my personality that I have struggled with the most because I have never been able to appreciate why God decided to create me this way Consequently I feel like I have spent the majority of my life trying to stifle this tendency in me.

  In an attempt to break this thing in me, I turned to conventional wisdom. In Haitian culture there are thousands of beliefs around things that now as an adult I know aren’t true, but as a child I could not keep from believing. For example, if you play with your shadow, it will come back to eat you in your dreams. If you cross over someone’s legs while they’re sitting on the floor, you will stunt their growth. And then there’s the belief that  if you sleep with new shoes on, your feet will stop growing. As a young adolescent girl whose feet were beginning to require women’s sizes, my size seven and half feet felt like giants’ feet, and I remember the day that I decided that I was going to make them stop growing. My mom had just purchased some shoes for school and they were brand new. As I sat on my bed staring at my feet and the shoes that were going to be my saving grace I remember feeling like  I heard a voice say, “What if God has a reason he made your feet so big?”  Simple question, but some how that thought stopped me in my tracks.  Reluctantly, I put the shoes back in my closet and managed to resign myself to the thought that although I don’t like my big feet, maybe God made them that way for some reason that I can’t appreciate right now.

Thinking back on that incident, I am still amazed at my own restraint and ability to step out of a situation and gain some perspective.  But when it comes to my sensitivity I have not demonstrated these same qualities. I have done everything in my power to stunt the growth of that aspect of who I am, but like this myth that if I wore those shoes, my feet would magically stop growing; even my best efforts at choking up my feelings and hiding them somewhere deep inside me has not stopped them from growing either. Denying that I have been hurt by various things or simply refusing to say that I was bothered by something didn’t keep me from being bothered. And it hasn’t been until recently that I have been considering questions that I did about my feet, “What if God has a reason for creating me as sensitive as I am? What could be purpose in my sensitivity? Is me being sensitive of any value at all?” 

I think I’ve learned over the course of my life that my feelings were not really acceptable and seemed to bother the world around me a lot. I was bullied relentlessly for being sensitive as a child. My tear ducts were 10 times more active than those around me. And friends and select family members would make their frustrations known that I would be upset too often and too emotional. I internalized the message that my crying meant people would have to give me a tissue, and God forbid I need anything from the world around me. I was raised to be independent, superwoman even; saving the world and herself one step at a time. I make fun of it now, but I learned that I was to take care of the world around me and this world never should have to take care of me and how I was feeling.

 So to deal with this message I  shut out a whole side of myself and allowed for a huge discrepancy for who people thought I am and who I actually am. I essentially have spent the better part of my life feeling unknown and unloved by everyone for the very reason that I have not allowed my whole self to be known. I have alienated myself from my world and I am slowly uncovering some of the false beliefs that have led the enemy to win a lot of ground in my relationships with the people in my life. But thankfully according to the Bible God can restore the years the locusts have eaten and while I don’t know how he will restore all of the time that I spent choking my feelings, I have hope for the first time in a very long time that all of this damage to friendships and relationships does not have to be the end of my story.  I can allow myself to be known and the right people will love me for my whole self.

 Learning to live as my whole self is a journey that I have just recently begun and I have in no way mastered. But I am so thankful that I have now gained the courage to even approach God in prayer about this part of who I am.  I’ve begun to ask him some of these hard questions like “Why did you create me this way? Why isn’t my skin tougher? Why do I get hurt so easily? And what’s worse, will people accept me like this?” And his answer to me in every conversation has always been, “You are worth more than you think you are.” It never was a question of why, but a question of how valuable I am and how somehow I was experiencing my sensitivity as making me worthless and unworthy of love. In God’s eyes, I am priceless and there is no amount of love that God would not want to lavish over me. Albeit frightening I think he is calling me to start to live with this understanding of my worth with the world around me. Even though people may not be able to fully appreciate me, the risk of me not being who I am is actually more harmful than me contouring myself to their expectations and what I perceive them as being able to handle.

And in my mind, I developed the belief that the tough person is easier for people to handle because that person can take care of themselves. But over the course of my very short life I have realized that that is not who God has called me to be. I am independent but there are times when I need people and I need them to care about my feelings, good and bad. I need to be treated gingerly and gently. I don’t like being tossed around or stepped on. It hurts! And even when I don’t say it, I feel it all the time. And when I don’t say it, I run away from further engaging with the world and I think God wants me to dig deeper.

As I’m writing this, I have not fully accepted this side of me. It feels a bit self-indulgent and for some reason my mind keeps telling me that that seems wrong.  However, I get disappointed when I am not cherished or protected but I have never let anyone know that I need it. I need to be set aside for special occasions and put in a leather case so that I don’t break when I fall. I can be tough and loud but I would so much rather be soft and tender. And I think the fact that my experiences have led me to feel like it’s wrong for me to need any of that from anyone is something that I want to challenge. Being sensitive doesn’t make me less than, it actually means I require more. I break out when I’m not washed properly and I need to be handled delicately. And if people can’t handle that, the fear of rejection will not keep me from seeking deeper acceptance.

What are your thoughts on being sensitive? Have you been told you are sensitive or has it been hard for you to see the value of that in the women in your life? Is there an aspect of who you are that you are struggling to accept?


-Melinda
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<![CDATA[THROUGH THEIR EYES]]>Fri, 04 Jul 2014 20:56:21 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/through-their-eyes
Have you ever ventured to see the world through the lens of an another ? 

As I sit here clenching my over-sized bag to my chest in what seems to be the midst of  1,000s of people...I find myself lost in the dreams of the factory worker who just completed a 12 hour shift this morning, who bows his head in hopes that one day he will come home early enough to tuck his daughter to sleep or leave home late enough to share a warm breakfast with his beautiful family.

 I get lured in by the sweet melodies of the penniless lady who sings with her heart in hopes that one day her lingering odor won't tell her story, nor the spare change she receives from her sympathetic audience, but that one day her aspirations to tell her story to the world, to move nations with her God-given gift will come to fruition.

The aromatic perfume of freshly brewed fair trade coffee awakens my senses... as I gander upon the oh-to familiar "wall street junkies" dressed in their rent priced suits as they juggle the morning paper in one hand , blackberries in an another, intense cravings of handling vast amounts of money and determined to risk a mouthful of the national economy.


Then of-course, my commute to central Manhattan wouldn't be complete with out the wide-eyed tourists equipped with their fanny packs,who travel like schools of fish; and who's excitement is contagious to all whom bear eyes upon this color-coordinated bunch. They remind us, that we are in what most believe to be: the greatest city in the world but assuredly the most populated. Their awe-stricken anxiety honors this city's influence over global commerce,media, art, fashion, research, education ,entertainment and more. They are ready to devour as much they can...

And yes at times I pinch myself because I wonder if this is reality. Millions of people living their lives in hopes of the realization of something greater, thousands of people wandering from one location to another , hundreds going through the motions...

And as I sit here I can't help but pray, pray for each and every one of them because their stories are imprinted and my hopes that their hopes (whatever they may be) are realized

-Chrivi
can also be read here: Through their eyes
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<![CDATA[BLACK LIKE ME]]>Tue, 24 Jun 2014 19:18:12 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/black-like-me
“Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. It was so new I could not take my eyes from the man’s face. I felt like saying: “What in God’s name are you doing to yourself.”  Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Getting lost with in these pages as an early teen opened the doors to unfiltered emotion, understanding and duplicity. Through his story, I found mine.  These words not only uncovered the underlying’s of my present but those which had yet to be lived. 

Growing up in a predominantly black country it was easy to overlook the obvious. I was not unaware of the color of my skin, it simply didn’t consciously dictate the lens with which I had begun to understand the world around me. When I began university, I was met with a very different landscape; one saturated with people who visually held little resemblance to those whom had colored my journey thus far.

My father and I drove deeper and deeper into the hills of Pennsylvania. The air was mossy and foreign. With each second that passed by, my heart’s pace would quicken. As I let myself ingest the greenery which enveloped us, I found a fleeting security.   Armed with a map in hand, in search of the town I would one day call home, I found solace in my naiveté…

Moving to the middle-of-no-where Pennsylvania was probably the first time in my life that no longer felt as part of the majority. Now, the norms were olive toned and spoke in foreign garbled tones labeled “Americanized”. They were completely consumed by their milieu, as I had been of my own. With each step, and experience I became more and more aware of the skin I was in.

I was homesick within hours of stepping on campus. From the first day of orientation, to my first day of classes I couldn’t help but gaze at their monotony. My dark foreign tone was sparsely sprinkled across campus. Which brought about slight discomfort as even those which resembled me seemed as distant as the Caucasians which made up the majority.  I felt lost and exposed.  I was alone in a pool of  American students .I assumed their stares were as well intentioned as my own, as I couldn’t help but gawk at their mannerisms and philosophies while attempting to uncover their mystery.

While I was met with initial confusion and anxiety, my assimilation was seamless. As I quickly learned my discernment, education, and past experiences molded a fitting foundation. This became the natural step to my journey.  Each step, a step into the unknown... Unaware of how intricately prepared I had been to a soak up and unwarily understand that which I was met. 

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<![CDATA[AN OPEN LOVE LETTER]]>Mon, 16 Jun 2014 15:54:04 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/an-open-love-letter
Ayiti Cheri,

I arrived young and unaware, curious but also eager to quickly get what I had dismissed as an experiment over with. Haiti for a summer and then back to normal, to running water, 24/7 electricity and no darn mosquitoes. So imagine my surprise when my parents decided they liked being back home enough to stay. Fast forward through my six year stay to today and my mind often returns to that period. There are times when it is more present than my actual reality. I often dream of returning. This desire is always met with raised eye brows and looks of incredulity, the most comical of which come from our fellow Haitians, followed by the question: What are you going to do there? I always respond live. Live like the millions of others who inhabit the island live.

I don't know how to explain that I'm in love. That I could not leave you behind, boxed away in some dark corner of my mind as a time that was, a memory too infrequently unearthed any more than I could will myself to stop breathing. I am in love and like all real love I have accepted all of you: the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. And like all things beloved, when you have been apart too long the desire to be reunited becomes a gnawing, gaping, chasm between you and any real lasting sense of contentment.

More importantly, how do I explain the gift those six years turned out to be? My love, I would first have to explain how transformative it was spending some of my most formative years with you. How I know I am a better version of myself for having known you, experienced you. How I am much more self-aware, compassionate and better prepared for the uniquely wearying experience of being black in America. I know you wonder, how hard could living in America really be?  I’m not sure I possess the words that would accurately convey what I feel without sounding overly sensitive, ungrateful and more than a little entitled but I will try. 

Being born in America, if you are born black, gives you more than citizenship. And that something more is not a thing to be prized or cherished. You are handed labels without ever being consulted, you are branded different without ever being afforded the opportunity to define what makes you different. And if you are born a black woman, you are handed a whole other set of labels. At the age of 10, I was on the cusp of beginning to truly grasp what being black in America meant when suddenly we were uprooted and moved to Haiti. Those six year with you were a reprieve, a brief respite and I would later come to find, a shoring up of strength and self- worth so that I could better weather living black in America.

You are my comfort and shield against the sexualization, mammification, and overall dismissal of black women. You are my peace when I would rage against being followed in a department store or having my accomplishments be dismissed as affirmative action. You are the friend who understands how tiresome it is to play black ambassador, how tiresome it is to monitor your speech, actions, mannerisms, to be quiet when you would speak for fear of being branded the ‘angry black woman’. You are the lover who knows intimately all the ways I am different without questioning it, who knows I do not fit neatly into a stereotype, statistic or consensus box, that my blackness is not a one size fits all. You are the mother who knows I will not live down to anyone’s low expectations for I am the daughter of the First Black Republic. You are the father who knows why I say I am Haitian with such pride, and that this pride is not a rejection of black America. 

Ayiti cheri, you are home. And how I long to return to you, to where I can simply be, to where I can simply live. Until that day comes, I carry you with me in my mind, in my spirit and in my heart.

With Enduring Love,

-Charlene 

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<![CDATA[POETRY OVER PROSE]]>Mon, 16 Jun 2014 14:13:30 GMThttp://www.anacaonasdaughters.com/blog/poetry-over-prose
Poetry over prose is to ride over drown. 

I am at a fragile age of self-discovery. I am at an age when the most subtle changes in perception or the most seemingly insignificant decisions could define who I am for the rest of my life. Not to sound overly dramatic, but us women fresh out of college obviously have a lot more on our plates than figuring out the next step in our educational or career paths. It is at this stage in our lives that some of us will be more acutely aware of external and internal changes, some of which are explicitly outside of our control, that lead us to question…everything. It is when some of us will take a moment to witness our evolution, stepping outside of our skin to observe our metamorphosis in slow motion. It is at this point that some may decide to observe mindlessly, letting themselves be overtaken by the motion of things, while others would be knee deep into the arduous undertaking of trying to shift this process in their favor, rejoicing in every little victory knowing very well that it is impossible to win over it all. But that does not matter one bit. 

In other words, it is the stage at which some might choose “poetry over prose” - not an original notion but a very novel application of it. 

We all know that poetry is the most stubborn, unpredictable, and stereotypically capricious woman of all. But she can also be the most daring, the most passionate, and certainly the most selfless.  Those women who choose to live poetically, or embody poetry in every moment in their lives, are constantly fighting a current. They are fighting themselves and the oh-so human tendencies to give in to the narrow normalities of the world. They are fighting the people in their lives, quite often the ones that they hold or should hold the dearest, who insist on pressuring them to live according to their expectations. They are fighting intangible, macro social constructs that permeate every facet of their lives threatening to adulterate their own supposedly “rebellious” constructs. They are fighting the urge to just give up whenever they think of all of the wrong in this world and theirs. But there is no such a poet that would tell you that writing poetry was easy, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that living poetically would be just as hard, if not harder. 

Living poetically is to ride that current, gracefully, or awkwardly, surpassing every bump in the way, even those low dips that threaten to bury you underneath the ocean forever. Living poetically is to think with your head, your heart and your guts as you imagine a road map across an endless body of water and not giving one thought to its endlessness for fear of it slipping venomous doubt into your core. Living poetically is to support and challenge countless other women stranded as you are, trying and failing and trying again to find their footing on that narrow and obscure material negligently given to them at the start of their journey. Living poetically is also about drowning a number of times and having the humility to let yourself be picked up from the depth. 

I once saw myself drown and it was, sadly, a man that fished me out. The most tender moment was right before I panicked. Right about when everything seemed to be moving in slow motion as I was observing myself running out of breath. The tips of my fingers were reaching out for the surface. My legs hung on their own, swaying lifelessly with the movement of the water. My eyes stinging as they peered through a blurry shade of blue was the only indication that I was indeed still alive. I stood still in time … until my surroundings collapsed as the man dived in to rescue me. It has been the most vividly poetic moment of my life. It never occurred to me until now that that moment keeps happening again and again in my life and in the life of so many others. Now that we are noticing every pore in our bodies, every crack in our shells. Now that we are graced with enlightenment. Now that we have to make that choice.

Let us hope that we are among those that harbor that craving within, even subconsciously. Let us hope that we are among the chosen few who can and will choose poetry. 

- Patricia

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