The tall, gaunt young man dressed all in black, which despite his youthful appearance conveyed a sense of propriety, after all he was an apprentice serving the undertaker, stared at Pascal curiously. To his somewhat bemused attention the youth had stopped his voyage because of the peculiar action. A slingshot and a pile of stones sat next to the youth as he was sharpening a foot long blade made of rusty iron. He appeared concentrated in his task staring at his handiwork earnestly.
“Hey there Pascal, what are you doing?”
“Sharpening my blade what do you think fool? Be on your way!”
“Come on brethren, a kind word.”
“I’m going after the Ogre of Saint Marc up in the hills.” The boy answered after looking over his shoulder, “I’m only telling you cause you’re my friend, so be on your way, your boss will soon have work to do.”
“You and whose army.”, the apprentice Answered sarcastically, “That blade will not help you against the Bakas that are serving the Ogre. They have guns, machetes and you can’t fight them by yourself. You’ll only bring trouble for everybody else.”
“Be on your way corpse fetcher! With my slingshot I will get close enough to hit him in the eye as he sits on that throne. I can get close because Ogun visited me last night and he showed me the path to follow. Once I get through the outer ring and dispose of a couple of Bakas, the spirits will guide me and I will strike with the strength of Aknathon who was also there.”
“Boy you crazy!”, The apprentice said calmly. “Only trouble will come from your stupid idea. Ogun, Aknathon what are you talking about? I buried a lot of your friends last month, so be chill and stop believing in foolishness. Come to the service Sunday and Pastor will pray and help with the healing you need.”
“Yeah, okay, now be on your way, I got work to do. And not a word about this to anybody.”
As the story was told in sorrow in the aftermath, Pascal got close to the Ogre who was seating, sleeping profoundly on his throne. He had managed to slip through the outer ring unseen for the Bakas had been feasting, firing their guns in the air while rejoicing over their last plunder. They had set up a stage where young girls danced, avidly displaying their bodies as the minions threw 500 gourde bills at them. It was a contest to choose the best wearer of tongas, and security even had to fight off a fellow named Mateli who wanted to sing and prance in a brightly colored panty.
Pascal readied his slingshot and as he aimed at the beast the priest opened his bible and recited loudly, “Awaken Master for the wicked has crossed your ramparts and he’s about to strike”
His aim was distracted and the sharp stone slashed the monster on the cheek, startling him awake. The Ogre bellowed for his guard while running away through a side door in an awkward fashion hindered by all the jewels and the long robe he wore. Thus ended the journey of Pascal, as his quest is told. He fell in a hail of bullets from the machine gun of the Chief Baka who had been angered by the security lapse of his minions. A few were eaten by the Ogre before he descended on the town to exact his blood thirsty revenge. The scar on his visage would always remind him of the scary incident. His fear compelled the monster to kill and maim more than was even necessary, but once started massacres seldom end before the dawn of them belly full.
Will 2020 bring a new day to Haiti or will we continue to watch the country descend into the pits of prolonged anarchy, while a just and progressive struggle for a better way of life remains bogged down. The Petro Challenge is looking at a new year where the movement needs to regain the strength it had when the simple question Kote Kob La galvanized the political spectrum while bringing out a significant part of the youth. Make no mistake, despite the age and perennial presence of the same actors on the political stage, what is happening in Haiti is driven by the youth. I watched from a window, hidden behind a couple of trees in my front yard as hundreds and a few times thousands of young people marched down Ave John Brown, on their way from Petion-Ville, sometimes in silence, tired from the long march that had started hours before, or sometimes shouting and banging on the iron gates and tin sheeted fence securing the empty lot next door. These young people are hungry, angry and they are looking for a better life at all cost. The solution must come from young people in and out of Haiti.
In the USA, the country of plenty, colossal waste and hard work for the less fortunate we of Haitian descent, sharing a proud culture of resistance, are seeing our identity suffer from the sad state of our country and the extreme conditions many of our compatriots live in many places around the world, even in Homestead, Florida and other places in the land of opportunity. When people of the rest of the world think of our country they only see images of despair mayhem and abject poverty. One look at the shanty towns that surround the majority of towns in the country will make you wonder how people can live like that. Nowadays garbage is everywhere in almost all towns in Haiti and diseases are sprouting every week. The UN has recognized its role in spreading cholera and with a proper government we could have major sanitary projects funded and implemented. Former President Privert had spoken about such a scenario with great conviction but nothing concrete was done, not even plans and now people are walking on trash, drinking bad water and defecating (You know the real word) in the open like pigs and wild animals. This is the state of our country at the dawn of 2020.
To many around the world Haitians only have themselves to blame for the situation they are in. However much we puff our chests and speak of long ago achievements the reality always catches up because the conditions of the majority of our compatriots looks bad and most of the people that escape the hell they lived in do not have resources to live much better wherever they go, save for the most fortunate who have managed to survive by hard work making a decent salary. With inflation and the cost of living immigrants are finding it harder to make enough to survive comfortably, jobs are not so easy to find and those that do not learn English fast enough get stranded in low paying jobs.
Too often we tie our identity to money and the trappings it buys. People look at what you have before they learn who you are. Identity has become a secondary part of one’s personality because we are so consumed with the day to day survival that we forget who we are. The more things we can buy the better we feel even though those material possessions do not bring happiness. Material ornaments sit in our homes or we drive a great car so that we can feel alive and say that others think we are making it. But in reality survival is our main objective, and living is secondary.
All of this achievement will not change who we are and where we come from. Many of us look down on our brothers and sisters because they are being driven out of many places, unwelcome and unwanted. I think of people who have worked for years to help build the economy in the Dominican Republic and even in The Bahamas. When they reach the age of retirement will they be rewarded for their hard labor or will they be unjustly thrown out, deported to Haiti, along with their children born there. All we see is the dirt and grime of poverty and we feel offended that “those people” don’t know how to live properly, making people look down on us “good” Haitians who managed to have a decent survival thanks to hard work from parents that provided income for the education, or I should say training we received. Our identity resides in what came before and what will come after. We can look at our past with great pride, the distant past nowadays, but our present and future will determine what we will become.
In the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas, Chile and other places the people living there want to throw out as many of our compatriots as possible. After using their labor those countries want to throw them out as we toss out garbage, and as in the case of the Dominican Republic they do not provide any social benefits for the work some of those people did. We can only watch as all over the world Haiti is portrayed as the S….hole of the Americas, as Trump said. The President of Haiti did not complain, so the world figures Trump must be right, the Dominicans certainly think so.
This new year must bring a new sense of pride in ourselves. The struggle for a just heritage must take a new turn and Haitians everywhere from all walks of life need to unite their voice and wish the country a happy new year.