Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Prejudice

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, also known as MINUSTAH, has been inside the disaster-torn country since 2004 and is planning to pull out of Haiti after 13 years, but their withdrawal isn’t only impacting Haiti. Haiti’s Spanish-speaking neighbor, the Dominican Republic is taking the withdrawal of MINUSTAH from Haiti as a sign for them to increase border control between the two countries.

This move by the DR has caused Haitians and Dominicans alike to recall the prejudice between the two countries, especially Ana Martinez who vividly remembers the horrible treatment of Haitians in her country.

Views on Vodou – Final Draft

All to Jesus

I surrender

All to him I freely give

It is this Christian hymn that closes the evening at the Edmeade family’s home on a Wednesday night. Their living room is packed with church members consoling the family in their time of sadness. The eldest of the household, Alice Mucius, passed away from a stroke at 86. To Emily Edmeade, age 18,  her grandmother taught her everything she knew, not only about Jesus, but also to be wary of what would stray a person away from the word of God.

Bad friends, alcohol, drugs, and more were what were commonplace, but for Mucius, a devout Christian, what to really be careful of was witches and demons.

“Growing up in Haiti,” Edmeade said. “My grandmother and every other devout protestant christian was taught to be wary of vodou. She called it devil worship.”

The narrative that vodou is devil worship is a common belief among many Haitians, in Haiti, and abroad. Carrington Francois, a Haitian-American, says, “I know vodou ain’t nothin’ to mess with.”

Even those who are not Haitian have this view of vodou. Dasha Martinez, despite having family living on the other half of Hispaniola with Haiti, the Dominican Republic, knows very little about Haitian culture or vodou. Martinez, although, does recall stories of her grandmother practicing rituals that are apart of the the vodou tradition.

Back in the Dominican Republic, where Martinez’ grandmother practiced vodou, she struck terror into those in the neighborhood. “My grandmother was a witch,” Martinez says. “There was a man in the town who thought the whole vodou thing was nonsense. He did something to her chickens – possibly poisoned them – causing them to die.”

“With the dead chickens, sprinkled the blood all over his farm land and hung the chickens on bushes and trees.”

Then, with an incantation she cursed the land. Martinez says that the man had no crops for a year, but he never properly recovered after that.

“I didn’t view my grandmother as an evil person, but somehow I always thought what she was doing was evil,” Martinez says.

Other than the story Martinez has of her grandmother, her understanding of Vodou is lacking, as it is with many others.

What many, Haitians and others alike, don’t know is that Vodou is not devil worshipping. In fact, vodouists believe in one god, making it a monotheistic religion, similar to popular religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The only difference is their “God is distant. He’s unreachable. And so, that God communicates to us through what they refer to as the Lwa (Loo-wa). They’re sorta partly saints, partly spirits. These Lwas form a relationship with the vodouists. They become, essentially the same kind of relationship that many Catholics have with their saints,” says Reza Aslan, the host of the TV series focusing on religions called, Believer.

When asked about Vodou many minds jump to vodou dolls, zombies, spirits, and ritualistic killing, and some think of devil worshipping, but most of those understandings of Vodou are just from media and also history. The main reason Vodou is demonified is through history, and it is through media that the view persists.

Aslan states that “modern Haitian history begins in 1791 when a group of Vodouist slaves came together and made a vow to each other and the Lwa to fight for their liberation. That moment launched the only successful slave revolt in history.” It is this vow that causes strife between Haitians today. While vodouists see that moment as the birth of Haiti, many devout Christians, especially protestants believe that Haiti is in such a terrible state because the country had sold itself to the devil.

“Those Christians are probably right,” says Edouard Canegitta, 62, a native of Haiti. “Most of them were vodouists that converted to protestantism, so they should know what they’re talking about.”

But younger, and American raised Edmeade and Francois have different views.

“That’s kinda a cop out to blame everything on vodou,” says Edmeade. “Gotta be realistic. I don’t agree that vodou is the reason for all their problems. There are more aspects of history that contribute.”

Francois agrees, saying, “I feel that placing their blame on vodou gives them clarity in the sense that they have something to target, but history has shown that there are way more realistic, and quite frankly depressing, reasons why Haiti is how it is.”

As for media, both Francois and Edmeade recall the time when rapper Azalia Banks, who claims to be a vodouist, posted on twitter about her sacrificing chickens in her closet, causing an uproar not only in the religious community but also in the animal rights community. Martinez recalls an episode of Criminal Minds where a murderer was using vodou to kill people in a sacrificial manner. Other shows like Supernatural are also known to put vodou in a bad light.

Dasha Martinez watches “Irony” by the “Wonder Girls” that involves a girl using a voodoo doll to control her ex-boyfriend.

“Vodou is usually portrayed negatively in the media,” says Martinez. “It’s always mentioned in relation to witches or other evil supernatural things. Media takes stereotypes and expand on them. It skews perception of reality so others can easily consume content. That is how cultural ignorance persists even among those who try not to be ignorant.”

“It’s the mob mentality of today’s society along with the media,” said Francois. “It causes people to agree with the pretenses of other without actually taking time to research themselves.”

But when it comes to actually removing the negative stigma of vodou, Francois is unsure.

“Do I wish it wasn’t used as an insult to my culture and people?” Francois said. “Yeah, and I’d personally love to see that stigma removed but to be painfully honest, no one will care enough anyway, and these things have been branded into their minds for years, so that won’t change.”

 

Views Of Vodou

All to Jesus

I surrender

All to him I freely give

 

It is this Christian hymn that closes the evening at the Edmeade family’s home on a Wednesday night. Their living room is packed with church members consoling the family in their time of sadness. The eldest of the household, Alice Miscius, passed away from a stroke at 86. To Emily Edmeade, age 18,  her grandmother taught her everything she knew, not only about Jesus, but also to be wary of what would stray a person away from the word of God.

 

Bad friends, alcohol, drugs, and more were what were commonplace, but for Miscius a devout Christian, what to really be careful of was witches and demons.

 

“Growing up in Haiti,” Edmeade said, “my grandmother and every other devout protestant christian was taught to be wary of vodou. She called it devil worship.”

 

The narrative that vodou is devil worship is a common belief among many Haitians, in Haiti, and abroad. Carrington Francois, a Haitian-American, says, “I know vodou ain’t nothin’ to mess with.”

 

Even those who are not Haitian have this view of vodou. Dasha Martinez, despite having family living on the other half of Hispaniola with Haiti, the Dominican Republic, knows very little about Haitian culture or vodou. Martinez, although, does recall stories of her grandmother practicing rituals that are apart of the the vodou tradition.

 

Her grandmother practiced the religion, back in the Dominican Republic, and everyone in their town was afraid of her. “My grandmother was a witch,” Martinez says. “There was a man in the town who thought the whole voodoo thing was nonsense. He tried to steal her chickens and she punished him.”

 

“She killed some of her chickens, sprinkled the blood all over his farm land and hung the chickens on bushes and trees.”

 

Then, she cursed his land. Martinez says that the man had no crops for 10 years.

 

“I didn’t view my grandmother as an evil person, but somehow I always thought what she was doing was evil,” Martinez says.

 

Other than the story Martinez has of her grandmother, her understanding of Vodou is lacking, as it is with many others.

 

What many, Haitians and others alike, don’t know is that Vodou is inherently Christian. Brought over by slaves from Africa coming into the island of Hispaniola, Vodou fundamentally is a monotheistic religion, a belief in one god, “but that God is distant. He’s unreachable. And so, that God communicates to us through what they refer to as the Lwa. They’re sorta partly saints, partly spirits. These Lwas form a relationship with the vodouists. They become, essentially the same kind of relationship that many Catholics have with their saints,” says Reza Aslan, the host of the TV series focusing on religions called, Believer.

 

When asked about Vodou many minds jump to vodou dolls, zombies, spirits, and ritualistic killing, and some think of devil worshipping, but most of those understandings of Vodou are just from media and also history. The main reason Vodou is demonified is through history, and it is through media that the view persists.

 

Aslan states that “modern Haitian history begins in 1791 when a group of Vodouist slaves came together and made a vow to each other and the Lwa to fight for their liberation. That moment launched the only successful slave revolt in history.” It is this vow that causes strife between Haitians today. While vodouists see that moment as the birth of Haiti, many devout Christians, especially protestants believe that Haiti is in such a terrible state because the country had sold itself to the devil.

 

“Those Christians are probably right,” says Edouard Canegitta, 62, a native of Haiti. “Most of them were vodouists that converted to protestantism, so they should know what they’re talking about.”

 

But younger, and American raised Edmeade and Francois have different views.

 

“That’s kinda a cop out to blame everything on vodou,” says Edmeade. “Gotta be realistic. I don’t agree that voodoo is the reason for all their problems. There are more aspects of history that contribute.”

 

Francois agrees, saying, “ I feel that placing their blame on vodou gives them clarity in the sense that they have something to target, but history has shown that there are way more realistic, and quite frankly depressing, reasons why Haiti is how it is.”

 

As for media, both Francois and Edmeade recall the time when rapper Azalia Banks, who claims to be a vodouist, posted on twitter about her sacrificing chickens in her closet, causing an uproar not only in the religious community but also in the animal rights community. Martinez recalls an episode of Criminal Minds where a murderer was using vodou to kill people in a sacrificial manner. Other shows like Supernatural are also known to put vodou in a bad light.

 

“Voodoo is usually portrayed negatively in the media,” says Martinez. “It’s always mentioned in relation to witches or other evil supernatural things. Media takes stereotypes and expand on them. It skews perception of reality so others can easily consume content. That is how cultural ignorance persists even among those who try not to be ignorant.””

Dasha Martinez watches “Irony” by the “Wonder Girls.” A music video that involves a girl using a voodoo doll to control her ex-boyfriend.

 

“It’s the mob mentality of today’s society along with the media,” said Francois. “It causes people to agree with the pretenses of other without actually taking time to research themselves.”

 

But when it comes to actually removing the negative stigma of vodou, Francois is unsure.

 

“Do I wish it wasn’t used as an insult to my culture and people?” Francois said. “Yeah, and I’d personally love to see that stigma removed but to be painfully honest no one will care enough anyway, and these things have been branded into their minds for years so that won’t change.”

Venezuelan Supreme Court dissolves Legislative Branch – UN Report

On an early Thursday morning, March 30, Venezuelans were alerted to the news that their supreme court has stripped the powers of National Assembly and claim it for their own.

With the National Assembly dissolved and taken over by Supreme Court which is loyal to President, there is no longer political opposition. The Venezuelan government is completely ruled by one political party.

According to The New York Times, the Supreme Court said that the National Assembly were “in a situation of contempt” and during that time, the Supreme Court would step in, to “ensure that parliamentary powers were exercised directly by this chamber, or by the body that the chamber chooses.”

With the motion put into effect, it wasn’t long until the National Assembly and the Venezuelan citizens spoke out against the decision made by the Venezuelan Supreme Court.

According to CNN, Citizens, outraged, are out in the streets protesting while prominent opposition leaders are already calling the government of President Nicolás Maduro “a dictatorship.”

National Assembly President Julio Borges said on Thursday, “What this ruling means is that, for the first time, Nicolás Maduro has all the power to enact laws, assign contracts, incur foreign debt and persecute fellow Venezuelans.”

At the United Nations press briefing the day after, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the High Commissioner for Human Rights made it clear that he was against the actions of the Venezuelan supreme court.

“I strongly urge the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision. The separation of powers is essential for democracy to function, and keeping democratic spaces open is essential to ensure human rights are protected,” Zeid said.

Zeid also made sure it was clear that this ruling not only undermines democracy, but it also undermines the human rights of Venezuelan citizens who had voted in the National Assembly themselves.

“Continued restrictions on the freedoms of movement, association, expression and peaceful protest are not only deeply worrying but counter-productive in an extremely polarised country suffering economic and social crises,” Zeid said.

Along with the UN, the U.S. State Department also spoke out against the actions of the Venezuelan Supreme Court, says Reuters. “This rupture of democratic and constitutional norms greatly damages Venezuela’s democratic institutions and denies the Venezuelan people the right to shape their country’s future through their elected representatives,” State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

While addressing the Venezuelan people about the actions of the Supreme Court and their president, Borges showed how much he really thought by ripping up the ruling into multiple pieces.

 

UPDATE:

As of recently the Venezuelan Supreme Court has let go of legislative power and has reinstated it to the National Assembly. This is after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called to annul the ruling to ‘maintain balance of powers.’

Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Cucuta on the Venezuela-Colombia border, said: “Maduro was trying to cast himself as a statesman, trying to resolve a power conflict in the country, but the opposition says he was just rolling back after there were so many protests inside the country and internationally for a decision that was seen as crossing a line and changing the constitution.”

 

Pitch No. 2 – Americans’ Views on the Voodou Religion

For my second article I want to write an article on a religion that originated in Haiti that some Haitians call a disgrace to their culture: Voodou.

In American media, Voodou is highly stigmatized, but what some may not know is that it is also highly stigmatized in Haiti as well, especially among the Protestant faiths in Haiti. Many Haitians even blame Voodou-ism for the state Haiti is in now with disasters hitting the country every year.

In fact, Voodou is a combination of the religion the slaves brought back from Africa (will look up more on what country in Africa produced the most future-Haitian slaves) and also Roman Catholicism. Many people believe that Voodou is devil worshipping, but in fact, those who believe in Voodou are devout Catholics who believe in God. You are not even allowed to join the Voodou faith if you are not a Catholic.

I plan to not only be interviewing American born people on their view of Voodou, but Haitians who moved from Haiti to America (Haitian-Americans) as well. I want to know what their knowledge of the Voodou religion is and where and how they gained this view of the Voodou religion. I will then explain to them the background of Voodou (if they don’t know) and ask if their opinion on the religion changes.

 

http://religiondispatches.org/spiritual-mapping-evangelicals-battle-vodou-in-haiti/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/17/opinions/believer-haiti-vodou-polyne-mcalister/index.html

 

Haiti’s Ignored Problem: Education – Final Draft

There are families living tents in Haiti, struggling to build their lives back together, hurricane after hurricane and earthquake after earthquake, but in the rural towns of Haiti the view is different. The sun is unbearably hot, but children still willingly pack themselves in non-airconditioned rooms with books in their hands. Their faces are drawn wide in smiles, proud of the blue uniform they are wearing. Nearly 50 of these children pack themselves into this room, while some are in other “classrooms” made up of benches and tarp to shield them from the sun. Although this may seem like terrible conditions for students, it is the reality that some children in Haiti have to face.  

The educational environment in Haiti is very broad, ranging from the best government run schools in the city, to tent schools run by nonprofit organizations.

Haitian children smiling in their temporary tent school

For Pastor Mario Augustave, running his own non-profit organization, tent schools are not an uncommon sight. With his American based non-profit organization, Voices For Haiti, Augustave and his team have gone into his home country and assist it as best as they can, especially when it comes to education in rural communities.

Others running non-profit organizations like Augustave recognize that education is one of the most important issues in Haiti to tackle. “Without the proper education of Haitian children, the country is continually left vulnerable,” Augustave tells me at his pastor’s office at Emmaus Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The church is located in Flatbush, a Brooklyn neighboorhood, with a dense population of Haitian-Americans.  “The children are the future, and an illiterate future is almost guaranteed to go nowhere.”

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, the total percentage of people who can read and write in Haiti above 15 years of age is 60.7 percent which is a far cry from other Caribbean countries which are 90 percent and above. These literacy rates are due to a limited amount of schools in the country.

And yet, it seems the Haitian government is not interested in the future of their nation.

According to Sionfonds for Haiti, the government is only responsible for 10 percent of schools in Haiti. Haiti as a whole has only 15, 200 primary schools, of which 90 percent of these schools are non-public and are managed by communities, religious organizations, or NGOs.

“When I was growing up in Haiti, every school I knew was private. I didn’t think there were public schools in our country. I can imagine that it’s worse,” said Adeline Francois, age 46, a current New York resident who lived in Haiti until 1994. “The amount of public schools are probably lower than before.”

Community, religious organization, or NGO – run schools, need constant funding from outside sources – usually United States and Canadian residents – to keep their schools running since they are non-profit organizations. Because they are so reliant from funding from the outside it is difficult for these schools to properly function. Necessities like bathrooms and plumbing are rare. School supplies like textbooks, notebooks, and pencils are in limited supply, and sometimes teachers cannot be paid. Many are essentially doing volunteer work.

The school that Voices For Haiti runs in a state of disrepair

And while these teachers may be teaching students for free, many teachers are not even properly trained to handle a class. According to the World Bank, many teachers are not the most effective at handling a class.  

“Most instructional time is spent on lecturing or eliciting responses in unison from the class, and responses were often related to repetition and memorization. Teachers rarely acknowledged or corrected the many incorrect answers or lack of answers noted by observers. These methods have limited effectiveness in teaching children, especially young children, the foundational cognitive skills they need to succeed in school,” says Melissa Adelman and David Evans of the World Bank.

Even with low funds and ineffective teachers, Haiti is still trudging through. Thanks to organizations like Voices For Haiti, there is good work being done in Haiti when it comes to education. According to The World Bank, there is a happy side to this story. Enrollment rates have risen from 78 percent to 90 percent, and tuition fee waivers are being implemented in private schools around Haiti. There is also more engagement with the government and schools to train teachers to better help and engage the classes.

“It is hard,” Augustave says. “But we are doing God’s work in Haiti. Right now I am going around churches in New York to collect funds to build a well at the school. People don’t think they are doing much by putting in a dollar, but to the kids over there in Haiti, it means the world to them.”

 

Amberley Canegitta – Education In Haiti – Draft

For Pastor Mario Augustave it is not strange to see 50 children packed into a tiny classroom with chalkboards in hand and the hot sunlight streaming through the windows. In fact, he was the one who helped make it happen. Although this may seem like terrible conditions for students, being packed into a small room to learn math with 50 other children is the best these children can have in Haiti.

 

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, the total percentage of people who can read and write in Haiti above 15 years of age is 60.7% which is a far cry from other Caribbean countries which are 90% and above. These literacy rates are due to a limited amount of schools in the country.

 

For people like Augustave, education is one of the most important issues in Haiti to tackle. “Without the proper education of Haitian children, the country is continually left vulnerable,” Augustave says. “The children are the future, and an illiterate future is almost guaranteed to go nowhere.”

Children in the makeshift school in Haiti smiling for the camera.

And yet, it seems the Haitian government is not interested in the future of their nation.

 

“When I was growing up in Haiti, every school I knew was private. I didn’t think there were public schools in our country. I can imagine that it’s worse today,” said Adeline Francois, a current New York resident who lived in Haiti until 1994.

 

It is worse.

 

According to sionfondsforhaiti, the government is only responsible for 10% of schools in Haiti.  Haiti as a whole has only 15, 200 primary schools, of which 90% are non-public and managed by communities, religious organizations, or NGOs.

 

Community, religious organization, or NGO – run schools, need constant funding from those outside – usually United States and Canadian residents – to keep their schools running since they are non-profit organizations. Because they are so reliant from funding from the outside it is difficult for these schools to be properly functioning. Necessities like bathroom and plumbing is rare, school supplies like textbooks, notebooks, and pencils are of limited supply, and sometimes teachers cannot be paid; essentially doing volunteer work.

The state of the school that Mario Augustave and organization Voices For Haiti is managing.

“It is hard,” Augustave says. “But we are doing God’s work in Haiti. Right now I am going around churches in New York to collect funds to build a well at the school. People don’t think they are doing much by putting in a dollar, but to the kids over there in Haiti, it means the world to them.”

 

Amberley – Haiti – Masterpost

Pitch Story – Haiti

Hello Emily,

I am a student in your international reporting class and I want to cover a story on the education in Haiti and how it is sadly dwindling. Most of the news that comes out of Haiti is about the tragedy that hits the country year after year, but rarely does the news really focus on how it is hitting the people of the country. This is especially true for the youngest population of the country.

When most people envision the state of Haiti, the are brought back to that image of people living in tents and eating mudcakes, because after the 2010 earthquake, they had no means of survival. What many don’t know is that this is still the situation in Haiti, so when more calamities strike, the situation becomes drastically worse. And for the children growing up in such a state of disrepair, school is the only thing they look forward to. Unfortunately, there are barely any schools in Haiti for these children, much less schools that can properly hold all the students that they want to. Classes can be packed with more than 50 children of all ages, basic necessities like a bathroom and plumbing is rare, and teachers cannot be paid; essentially doing volunteer work.

According to sionfondsforhaiti, Haiti as a whole has only 15, 200 primary schools, of which 90% are non-public and managed by communities, religious organizations, or NGOs. The enrollment rate for primary school is 67%, and fewer than 30% reach 6th grade. Secondary schools enroll 20% of eligible-age children. The January earthquake was a major setback for education reform in Haiti. Literacy levels continue to hover around 50 percent. Haiti is one of the lowest-ranked countries in the world, 177th out of 186, for national spending on education.

I spoke to Pastor Mario Agustave, the founder of the Voices For Haiti Project who has started many projects within the country along with education reform like medical assistance, housing development, and evangelistic outreach. There he is helping the people of his country who need it the most. He spoke to me about his most recent trip to Haiti last summer and the state the country is in. He especially focused on a school that the Voices For Haiti Project had help build and fund along with the government. It is an elementary school that holds over 50 children in one building the size of a regular classroom. “It is a place where the children can forget about the struggles at home with their family, and have fun learning math, singing songs, playing in the field, and being able to have a meal everyday,”Agustave says. But of course, although the children are happy it is not the most ideal situation. There is no access to water, more classrooms are need and teachers need to be paid.

This is not just a problem for the school the Voices For Haiti Project has built up, but a problem for most schools in the country. Without education, the country’s future is still bleak, and more need to know just how much Haiti needs help, not just with clothes and food, but with education as well.

Beat Memo – Haiti

The history of Haiti is a long one, that starts with the original Native Americans that lived there. The island, which currently is Haiti and the Dominican Republic, was inhabited by the Taino or Arawak people before Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the island, and called the island Ayti. After struggling through slavery, fighting for independence from France, becoming their own country, and going through corrupt government after corrupt government, Haiti is now in a state of disrepair as the poorest nation in the Caribbean, where they need help from the outside.

Languages: French and Haitian Creole

Religion: Catholicism, Catholic Voodoo, and Protestantism

News Outlets: Le Nouvelliste , Haiti United Press, Haïti Progrès , Haiti Liberté

Some current events that are in Haiti are their recovery after the 2010 earthquake, the 2011 cholera outbreak, and the Hurricane that hit Haiti last year. It is as if they don’t receive a break in natural disasters.

The immigrant community in New York is a thriving one, with many of them owning their own businesses in areas like Flatbush. Because this neighborhood is so densely packed with Haitians, the language spoken in the street is more commonly Haitian Creole than it is English.

 

Voice Of America

Voice of America is a government run news organization that does radio, television, and internet outside of America in English and in other foreign languages. It was founded 75 years ago, on February 1, 1942, during World War 2. Much later, under the Ford administration, it received its own charter and is allocated funds every year by congress.

VOA has gone through three controversies over the years, one being an interview with Taliban leader Mullah Omar Mohammad, which angered some, stating that it was giving terrorists the right to express their views. Either way, the report received the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism.

In February 2013, a documentary released by China Central Television interviewed a Tibetan self-immolator who failed to kill himself. The man said  Voice of America’s broadcasts of commemorations of people who committed suicide in political self-immolation encouraged him, but VOA denied the allegations.

 

Haiti

The country I would love to cover is Haiti as I already have connections to this community. Being half-Haitian, I am quickly aware of the many of the stories that are happening in Haiti and the struggles that not only the people in the country are facing, but also the struggles the immigrant population in New York is facing.

Some good and possible stories that I can focus on is the natural disasters that have hit Haiti almost every year; how they are affected, and how they are trying to build themselves back up. Another story that I can focus on is the Clinton Foundation and the scandal that was brought up in regards to the money that was raised towards Haiti relief. I know that many Haitians did not vote this last election because they felt betrayed by the Clintons. Thirdly, a good story to talk about is the new government that is in place in Haiti now, after the election, and what Haitian New Yorkers think about the Haitian president now.