28 November 2010

HAITI IN:SIGHT - A Soulful Benefit for Healing in Haiti - Dec 11th NYC

Here is what I've been up to: hard at work on co-producing and co-organizing a beautiful benefit for healing work in Haiti. I'm blessed to be working with some of the most amazing people on this project and planning the benefit. For all my NY peeps - get your tickets ASAP here: https://www.wepay.com/tickets/view/1298. We have an extraordinary evening planned - multimedia performances, live music, spoken word, live art, silent auction of our featured visual artists, and dancing - while bringing our awareness and attention back to Haiti in time for the January anniversary of the earthquake. We will also be highlighting the work of our partners on the ground in Haiti with recorded audio and visual updates. I will also be featuring a prose poem about my time in Haiti giving some context for this unnatural disaster and what has happened post-quake.  I am so thankful for my main partners in the planning of this event - especially Donna, Naima, and Beatrice - grateful for them and our growth in this process.

For all my peeps not in New York, you can still support this work by making an offering on our donation page through wepay:  https://www.wepay.com/public/view/15171. And for more info about the project itself, check out the Ayiti Resurrect website.

Here are all the details (flier designed by Naima Penniman):

Brief Description of the Work:

Ayiti Resurrect and Ayiti Cherie Healing Project have a shared vision to facilitate 
psychological & spiritual healing for Haiti's quake-survivors based on principles 
of solidarity, creativity, and collective resilience. Recognizing mental heath as a 
human right, we are organizing to travel to Haiti as a grassroots delegation of visionary 
artists, community builders, mental health specialists, and holistic healers with 
bloodlines in the Caribbean and African Diaspora. In collaboration with 
local organizations and individuals, Ayiti Resurrect and Ayiti Cherie 
delegates will create a sanctuary in Leogane for trauma recovery through cultural 
activities and creative expression, grassroots organizing and community building, 
skill-sharing and trainings, and mental wellness and stress relief workshops.

20 November 2010

"never again"

This is the first poem I wrote about my mother... a year after she passed away (in 1996)...  it took me years to finish it...  and it marks for me the beginning of my journey as a poet...  It was accepted for publication by WomanSpeak (Caribbean Women's Journal of Writing & Art published in The Bahamas) - and the issue has finally been published after years of hard work!!!  Congrats to WomanSpeak Issue 5 2010 and the editor Lynn Sweeting for a beautiful journal!!! I just got my copy and wanted to share this now published piece on conscious vibration.

never again
Angelique V. Nixon

once I felt ashamed of being my mother’s daughter
but I am not her, and what I have from her is all I needed.
I let all the other things about her I dare not say,
go far away, as her spirit seeks rest and hunts for peace.

once I felt ashamed of being a woman,
because I saw the woman my mother was,
she was all that I did not want to be,
I ran from her and the person she revealed to me.

so ashamed
living over da hill, filling empty stomachs with stories on walks to the well,
draping worn sheets over broken windows,
growing into the teenager who lied about these things.

so scared
the boyfriend who beat our windows and her,
mood swings tested my faith in her words and god,
rat bat nights into endless rows making gramma vex.

so angry
leaving me long before
she died, hiding the bruises,
her distance grew wider with each inch I grew taller.

resentment soaks through the girl child who has seen too much,
distrust settles hearing another broken promise,
the walls grow wet and porous
like sand castles at dusk, in between knowing and fear.

watching my mother waste away, tore at my walls,
the last time I saw her—recognition meandered in her vacant eyes
and the wonder if she really knew it was me, hung in the air,
this puzzle sticks like a hungry potcake following me home.

memories remain opaque, held in vaults of shame,
locked away, until I broke through,
outside the perceived, in troubled shadows,
I found place, a space to breathe.

now, I feel myself (me) being a woman,
being the woman my mother wanted me to be,
strong like saltwater, defiant like moon tides,
independent like the sun, cool like summer rain.

    and now, no matter my wish to save her,
    I am never ashamed.


06 November 2010

Haiti, the earthquake, & environmental justice

I've taken a long break from my blog...  too long... since my last posting, I've had a whirlwind of fall deadlines and intense teaching and community work. I also went to Haiti in August - doing groundwork and building for a healing project (Ayiti Resurrect) that I am helping to organize with a team of artists, healers, and community workers. As soon as I got back, my fall semester of teaching and other commitments began. The months have flown by and it seems there is less and less time for my creative writing. Nevertheless I remain dedicated to my craft even as I spend most of my writing time in an academic / teaching / focusing on scholarly book project space. But I bring my creative into the academic.  

I was invited to speak at a symposium on Black Environmental Thought and the Future of African American Studies at Indiana University Bloomington in October - specifically because of my work in the Caribbean and to bring a Diasporic perspective into the conversation. And as I prepared for that in September, I decided to focus on Haiti for my presentation - titled "Exiles in Paradise: Towards a Green Caribbean Future" - particularly because of my trip and the fact that Haiti has severe environmental degradation created and exacerbated through neocolonialism. I wanted to compare this to the tourism destinations of the region like Jamaica - to discuss how the environment suffers in the name of so-called development at each end of the paradise spectrum (i.e. represented from 'heavenly' to 'dangerous'). I wrote bits and pieces of poetry and prose while I was in Haiti and I ended up using that to begin my reflections.

I decided to share this today on my blog as I read reports about Hurricane Tomas bringing rain into Leogone and the fears that flooding will make the recent cholera epidemic worse...  all this on top of the catastrophe still happening post earthquake...  all this within the same context of human-made disaster(s).

Work in Progress: "Exiles in Paradise"

I made a promise to the stars
under a night sky in Ayiti
That I would remember
what it looks like to be an exile in your own country
what it must feel like to be excised from citizenship
what struggle sounds like
what survival is

and the cost of producing/being paradise for everyone but yourself
in this land of revolutionary dreams and broken results
I made a promise to bear witness

Under an August full moon after dusk, I walked through the largest tent camp in Croix De Bouquet and made this promise (where over 10,000 people are living - displaced because of the earthquake – relocated from other tent camps in Port Au Prince damaged by rain and wind, from one set of temporary housing to another). Over 1 million people in Haiti remain displaced and living in temporary shelters or tents – nine months later.

I was humbled by the strength and resilience of my Haitian sisters and brothers – who have created living spaces out of tents, gravel, sheets, tarp, wood, and metal. All across Port Au Prince into Leogone (the hardest hit area), I saw Haitian people making do with what they could – bringing depth and new meanings to the tenants of environmentalism – reduce, reuse, and recycle.

I traveled to Haiti as part of a grassroots collective and organizing team in order to initiate a healing project that we plan to facilitate with Haitian partners on the ground. We went there to learn, ask questions, and build relationships with specific communities through the principles of solidarity, creativity, and collective resilience.

Post-earthquake... everything has changed – I heard this over and over again... in the context of this “natural disaster”... But there is nothing natural about what happened in Haiti after the earthquake. A country already devastated socially, politically, economically, and environmentally through slavery, colonialism, debt for so-called independence, new imperial powers enacted through occupations, guns, free trade zones, medical testing, transnational manufacturing and textile plants, and the devastation and inequities produced by globalization.

There is nothing natural about poverty and unemployment produced under the choking hold of neocolonialism, IMF and World Bank debt, and structural adjustment.

There is nothing natural about “peace-keeping troops” that occupy military style... preventing growth while supporting the elite, dictatorships, and coups.

There is nothing natural about mass deforestation... and the soil erosion and land degradation that happens after forests are stripped because people have so few choices – forced to sell and use natural resources faster than the land can handle...  nothing natural about the lack of trees and roots to suck up water in the rainy and hurricane seasons that bring mudslides and massive flooding.

Nothing natural about small farmers moving from the countryside into crowded cities because there is no room for their crops in market places where they are cut out… in so called free trade.

Nothing natural about families who cannot feed their children...  nothing natural about the accumulation of debt at the expense of life… in a global economy that values profit over human need.

There is nothing natural about lack of infrastructure and poorly constructed buildings put up too quickly in the name of progress and modernization.

There is nothing natural about the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti - mass graves, bodies still under rubble, tent cities with no protection for women and children – who are the most vulnerable in these moments of crisis – and the lack of social services in a country whose government depended on too many NGOs to provide for its people...

And so people will do what they must in order to survive... what I saw in Haiti was resilience and resourcefulness.  I saw an entirely new level of what it means to Recycle Out of Need...  re-cycling through re-using what you have, creating new things out of old.  This is a part of life in the Global South – especially for poor and working class people.  Recycling, re-using and reducing are part of the daily fabric of living.  This is a different relationship with one's environment.  The Global South is currently demonized for its pollution production and lack of environmental policies, but rarely do we consider how the Global South has been toxic waste dump for the Global North while also finding new and innovative ways to recycle and reuse what is thrown out in the Global North and by upper-class and elite located in the Global South. And Haiti – along with other countries in the Caribbean have long endured the environmental degradation and injustices created through unsustainable development.

prayers and blessings for Ayiti