Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Haiti Montage: Three Perspectives


The nation occupied the front pages of our newspapers in the weeks immediately after January 12, 2010; now, if mentioned at all, it is relegated to inside pages where, at best, its news, post-earthquake, gets skimmed and set aside.

The country needs us still. If you doubt this need, please spend time here today. Wander through the words and the images. They give expression to three perspectives: that of a poet, a documentary filmmaker, and a cameraman. 
* * * * *
two hundred thousand ghosts follow my footsteps. . . .

The footsteps belong to poet, spoken word performer, actress, novelist, and painter Michele Voltaire Marcelin, who was born in Port-au-Prince in 1955. She was not in Haiti when the earthquake struck; she lives and teaches in New York City. Her 89-year-old mother, recovering from a stroke, was. Marcelin writes movingly here about finally reaching her by phone. She lost other members of her extended family, their names now forever linked to a too-long list of 200,000 other names to be spoken forever now in past tense only. Yesterday is what she tries — "obstinately" she says — to not let go of.

In "rift", Marcelin writes:

underneath the beauty was a rift
in the heart of the land was a rift
and the rift in the land reached the rift in our heart
and we lost our people and the land...

Of "yesterday" she entreats:

say this is only a dream and afterwards morning
say   i will emerge from this shadowy darkness
obstinately i grab the day in my teeth
taking steps back  growling
but life pulls it away tearing it to shreds
blindfolded in my dream
i summon up names of streets
places that witnessed my life and youth . . . .

The complete poem is here. You must read it slowly, out loud. It is witness. It is about what is "hidden among the smoke, the debris, the steel dust and sand".

Be sure to read "The Thing" on Marcelin's site and sit still with the images before you. There, of things she was told, she repeats: "Take them as you will. There is no proof offered, there can be no refutation. An earthquake hit my land and each person lived this experience differently. . . ."

Michelin lives the experience of the quake through words:

children die
do not talk to me about prayer
or paradise
talk is cheap
children die
and my anger supersedes my grief
remember . . . . 

Michelin reads "Le Gout Des Larmes (The Taste of Tears)" here, where the text also is available. You may also read and listen to Michelin recite her "La Promesse (The Promise)", from which the excerpt above is taken, and "Life Is Split at the Seams". (The video also is provided at the end of this post.)

A video of a reading by Macelin can be accessed here. Marcelin's reading is powerful.

In a PBS NewsHour profile, Marcelin helps us in "Understanding Haiti's Disaster Through a Poet's Eyes".
* * * *
While the devastation was beyond comprehension, what I will carry with me are not the memories of fallen buildings, but those of a proud and noble people who refuse to bow
 in the face of extreme adversity.
~ Cameraman David Chameides

David Chameides went to Haiti two weeks after the earthquake to deliver relief supplies and film a documentary about Partners in Health's founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, about whom I wrote earlier. The images he found there are about resilience and optimism, strength and determination, and especially hope.

Chameides's story is here, where he also includes specific actions any one of us can take to facilitate Haiti's recovery. He blogs here.

Haiti 2010 from Sustainable Dave on Vimeo.

* * * * *

A razed building
does not a connection sever.

does not a community rebuild.

In his off-hours, New York-based photographer Khalid Mohtasab (born in Doha, Qatar, in 1985) took a still camera and a pocket dolly into the streets of Haiti to record the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated the island.

Destruction, however visible, is not the most important thing you see when you watch the slow-motion footage that Mohtasab produced.

Haiti Earthquake Aftermath Montage from Khalid Mohtaseb on Vimeo.

Additional information about the shoot is here and here. Mohtaseb's Website contains my still photos as well.

You may follow Mohtaseb on Twitter.

For other remarkable dispatches from the frontlines, go to InsideDisaster. Mohtaseb's story is there also.

This post, "Haitians Facing 'Intolerable Breach of Human Dignity'", from Doctors Without Borders, should be required reading.


Stand With Haiti


M.L. Gallagher said...

Thank you.

Thank you for the children who will be remembered before they too fade into the dust.

Thank you for the mothers and fathers who will be able to care for their children before they too pass into the dust.

Thank you.

Dan King said...

Wow Maureen! What a challenging post! I've been thinking a lot about this lately, and you have shared some resources here that I think are very important for all of us to remember. Thank you.

Dan King said...

Wow Maureen! What a challenging post! I've been thinking a lot about this lately, and you have shared some resources here that I think are very important for all of us to remember. Thank you.

sarah said...

Great post. I read an interview yesterday with Sean Penn, who is still in Haiti helping out however he can. Its shocking and tragic the things that are happening there, especially to women and children.

Deborah Barlow said...

Thanks for this Maureen. I appreciate you keeping this out front, where it belongs.

Laura said...

This just catches my breath. Thank you so much for donating to my birthday wish, Maureen. Just a little bit, but I hope it helps. We cannot forget. Thank you so much for keeping this foremost in our minds.