Thursday, June 3, 2010

'Chay La Lou': the Things Haitian Women Carry

‘Chay La Lou’: The Things Haitian Women Carry

by Martha St. Jean 05-28-2010

She is my mother. She is my aunt. She is my next door neighbor. I recognize her familiar gait; the quick-paced step. Most importantly, I recognize the invisible burden she carries. I know a Haitian woman before I know a Haitian woman. I recognize the unfair share of hardships and sorrows. Her face may be unlined, you may not be able to tell if she is 40 or 60, but her eyes will tell the story.

I saw this woman, her head down, fierce determination written on her face, so as to not miss the bus. She is everybody yet nobody. I instinctively knew she was Haitian. The thought came to me, “Chay la lou,” meaning the burden is heavy. I thought of the things she carried on her person. The intangible: the humiliations, hopes and dreams, and the tangible: the flowing skirt, the shopping bag and the Bible tucked into the corner of her black leather purse.

It’s the intangible things Haitians carry that make them strong. Many spoke of the “phenomenon” of Haitians dancing in the streets after the earthquake and watching that woman who was everybody and nobody, I suddenly understood something new about the dancing. She, like they, though heavy laden with cares and anxiety, did not carry the heaviest burden of all: fear. In spite of life’s inner failures and outer fightings, many chose to cast fear aside.

Why worry about tomorrow? Why worry about the what ifs of life? I call to remembrance the Creole song:

Chay la lou,
Chay la pa pou mwoin
Chay la lou
Chay la pa pou mwoin

The burden is heavy
The burden is not for me

My people, separated from me by land and sea, sang that day and danced in the streets because they knew the burden was not theirs; it belonged to someone higher and infinitely more powerful. If we could just learn to trust as they trust, just maybe, maybe we would be as rich in love and poor in fear as they are on the island. Then, we too would have a reason to sing and dance.

portrait-martha-st-jeanMartha St. Jean is a first generation Haitian-American journalist and media analyst based in New York City. She is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism and earned her undergraduate degree in communications studies at New York University. Follow her on Twitter at:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

DYK? In Guatemala, widespread malnutrition means nearly one in two children under age 5 is stunted

While Guatemala is the largest Central American country in terms of population (14.6 million) and economic activity, its largely rural, Mayan population live in extremely difficult conditions. Distribution of land, income and other wealth is controlled by a small percentage of Guatemala’s Spanish-speaking population. An estimated 75% of Guatemalans live in poverty, and the roughly 5 million Mayans are isolated socially, economically and politically due to geographic and language barriers, as well as the lack of educational and economic opportunity. The country’s social indicators are among the worst in the hemisphere. Overall adult literacy is estimated at 70 percent, but literacy among Mayan women is estimated as low as 30 percent. Less than half of rural Guatemalans have access to running water, only a quarter have access to electricity and less than one in ten have access to modern sanitation facilities. Infant, child and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in Latin America.

Water after 20 years for Lewisburg

Imagine living in a community that has little or no access to clean water because the only water source is in dire need of repair. In such a community, residents, including women and children, have to travel great distances to obtain water from springs that are sometimes unhealthy.
These were just a few of the challenges that faced the over 1,800 residents of Lewisburg in St Mary who have been without proper access to clean water for the past 20 years.
Just recently, however, charity organization Food For The Poor, in partnership with the Parish Council of St Mary, responded to the plight of the residents by providing the community and its environs with safe, clean and potable water.