Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I'm one cool Haitian chick! I remember the days when saying that I was Haitian was taboo! I remember the fights and the swears that were sent to every Haitian child that had the balls to say that they were Haitian. Many days some of my good friends were chased home because they were Haitian. They couldn't escape the whole ridicule. Me on the other hand, well thats another story! Let me tell you where this came from....
My mom went to Haiti at the end of June. When she returned a week ago she told me how she couldn't believe what she saw. She says that the country that she grew up in was not even recognizable to her. It was dirty and ugly, unlike the beauty that was before it turned into a ghost of its former self
I came to this country when I was 4 and a half. Being Haitian was the worst thing on the planet (trust me NYers were tough on Haitians). I remember that kids were being called every single name in the book. "Haitian Booty Scratcher," they would say that I had HBO "Haitian Body Oder" they said how my people brought AIDS to the country. The mid-80's was not a good time for Haitians and so to avoid ridicule and torment I told everyone that I was Jamaican (yes I went there and said the most common and acceptable thing at the time.) With a name like mine I don't know how many people believed me, but some did.
When asked what part of Jamaica I was from I'd promptly tell them Kingston. Since, most of these kids were American born they wouldn't question me, until one day when my overly accented mother decided to pick me up from school and belt out in her loudest Haitian voice "Nelly, comen to me rat now" Yes, it sounded just like that! And then she added with force when she saw that I was not paying her any mind "Nelly, vin j'wen mwen kounye'a," which translates to Nelly, come here right now or I'll make you come here.
Man did those (true haitian) kids rip me a new one. Those who were Haitian looked at me with disgust because while they were getting beat with rocks and getting food thrown at them for being Haitian, here I am denying that I'm Haitian but in actuality I am one of them. Those who weren't Haitian but knew about creole looked at me with a puzzled look. One of my friends said, " Is that lady talking to you? Is that you're mom?" So I said, "Yeah she's calling me, No.. she's my babysitter. She came to pick me up!"
I know, I know.. how could I! But, imagine how many wedgies I saved myself from getting by perpetrating as a Jamaican. Being Jamaican was cool by the time I came here. Shabba Ranks was on the TV, and everyone knew at least 1 Jamaican artist. I couldn't be a Haitian I just couldn't. So what I said was that my father was from Canada and my mom was Jamaican and since I lived with her I considered myself Jamaican and since my dad was absentee I didn't claim my Canadian heritage. (I have to say it sounded good when I said it back in 1989)
As the years went by most of my friends who came to my house found out that I had lied. Most of them got really mad at me because I didn't acknowledge my country. Many of them called me some nasty names, and while I know I deserved it I wasn't planning on owning up to it because if I did it would come out that I was Haitian and the name calling would begin. I was sensitive. I didn't like ridicule. I would cry when the other kids where teased, so I tried to help out whenever I saw another Haitian kid being picked on. It doesn't make the situation or lessen what I did but I tried!
By the early 90's (junior high)I was enrolled in catholic school. In my old school EVERYONE was Haitian. All of the kids that I had as friends were from Haitian parentage, so saying I was Haitian wasn't a problem. We would speak in our Haitian patois to one another and no one would make fun of us. I met up with some kids that had gone to my elementary school. Many of them were surprised to see me owning up to my Haitian culture. By the time I graduated junior high I was a full fledged "Haitian."
I started High school in the fall of 1995 and by then I loved being Haitian. It made me unique. I loved what my country stood for. When I first arrived at John Dewey I found that there was a large population of Haitian kids. As a matter of fact the 2nd floor was the Haitian floor. Most if not ALL of he Haitian kids used to have their lockers on the 2nd floor. I learned more about my culture from these kids. Many of them came (to America) later than I did and so they had stronger accents. They taught me words that I later got slapped for (thats what I got for asking questions about words that the other Haitian kids taught me) By 1996, The Fugee's came out and guess what the 2 males in the group were HAITIAN!!! YES!! FINALLY RECOGNITION!!!!
Labor Day 1996, Haiti represented HARD!! Everyone who knows about the Labor Day parade on Eastern Parkway knows that its usually the Trinidadians and the Jamaican's who hold it down. They are the ones with the biggest floats and the most craziest people. But once the Fugee's came out, ALL the Haitians came out of the woodwork (especially me) and we represented HARD!!
As I learned more and more about my county I grew to appreciate my culture more. I learned that we (yes we!! I AM CLAIMING IT, I SAID IT!! LOL) were the first to gain our independence. A slave country with no real form of leadership beat out on of the biggest empires during that time to gain its own rights. Talk about reality Check! I found out that my country though poor held so many great riches. Authors Edgar Allan Poe, and Zora Neale Hurston had traveled to Haiti. Other than Wyclef, Jean-Michel Basquiat was another prominent Haitian figure. Garcelle Beauvais, Lela Rochon.
I did my research, and with what I have learned I have found that I am proud, yes very proud to be HAITIAN. Though many don't understand us, its OK. We are glad to be who we are. I love Haitian Music. I enjoy listening to my mother talk in creole, and I enjoy telling jokes in creole.
So everyone who used to make fun of us I love each of you. For those that stood up for us during those times of beatings and swirly's thank you..
SAK PASE my people!! (Haitian Translation = WHATS UP!)