the words of langston hughes

"mama to mama" and haiti

Photo by Amanda of Soulemama, a new craftivism website launched by Soulemama, provides an easy way to connect crafters with communities in need.  From Mama to Mama:

There are so very many reasons why we craft. We craft out of necessity, we craft out of love, we craft for pleasure. And we craft, sometimes, to bring a little peace to our lives, to our hearts, and to our everyday moments. Taking that just a step further, we can - and do, like so many crafters before us - turn our crafting into peace for the world beyond our homes. The simple act of creating something with intention and heart - for someone in need, can have a beautiful effect on the lives of others. We can, indeed, do something to create a more just and peaceful world...all with the simple, mindful and crafty work of our hands.

Mama to Mama's first project, making the above jersey newborn caps for distribution in northern Haiti, is particularly dear to my heart. Patrick spent time in Haiti prior to the US-orchestrated coup in 2004 and came to know the grave, systemic injustices that pervade the country and its people. Haiti has a long history of being "punished" by the Western world for leading the first successful slave rebellion, thus becoming the second free nation in the Western hemisphere after the United States.  Haiti was required, at gunpoint, to pay France for its liberty in 1825. In inflation-adjusted terms, the amount would be about $21.7 billion, the cost of which crippled Haiti economically from the get-go. The Haitians have lived through a US occupation from 1915-1934, several cruel dictatorships installed and propped-up by imperial powers, and are currently suffering from an unprecedented ecological disaster - the Haitian landscape has been ravaged and is no longer capable of producing sufficient food for its people. Haitians rely on food aid from crop excesses in the US to survive. This summer, I was reading a NY Times article on the plight of the US corn crops during this very wet summer. The corn crop was estimated to be much, much lower. At the very end of a three-page article, the expert was quoted: "We'll have enough corn for our consumption in the US, but we won't be exporting. I don't want to think about how this will affect countries like Haiti."

He's not alone in not wanting to think about Haiti. Haiti is a HARD country to think about. It flies in the face of all that we were taught in school about Western civilization. In a way, it scares us - it scares us to see the results of centuries of racism and brutality played out like an insensitive board game. It's HARD to think that forces of humanity are capable of such evil. But I believe that it's important to reflect on the "why" and "how" of Haiti. It's important to learn from the past so that we can do whatever needs to be done to keep history from repeating itself. Moreover, it reminds us of how important it is to bring justice to the people of Haiti in the here and now. Here are several things you can do:

- Start by making some baby caps from old T-shirts and send them to Mama to Mama. We all need a place to begin, to use our talents, and to work mindfully with our hands to create something that fills a need. I love how this project allows you to think about the baby that will wear the cap, infusing it with love and good intentions.

- Watch this 60 Minutes clip about Paul Farmer and his organization, Partners in Health. If you want to watch more videos about Haiti in general, visit the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

- Visit the Partners in Health website and consider getting involved in the Malaria Net Challenge. Also, consider cutting back on your holiday expenditures this year and donating the extra money to Partners in Health. Whenever Patrick and I can afford to donate, this is where our money goes - we know it's put to immediate use to save lives. We also make donations to the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. You might be interested in signing up for IJDH's action alert list or volunteering for them in some way.

- Read Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment by Peter Hallward.

- Read The Uses of Haiti by Paul Farmer.

- Read Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor by Paul Farmer. This book is a particularly good read if you are religious, as Farmer weaves in liberation theology theories from his Catholic background.

I thought I'd close with some Haitian proverbs.

Sa ou fe, se li ou we.
What you do is what you see.

Dye mon, gen mon.
Beyond the mountains, more mountains.

Craft with a cause!