Staying In My Lane: A diaspora’s letter to herself
March 5th, 2016 · 2 Comments · Education, Haiti
Recently, I was interviewed on the topic of Haiti and in the conversation I found myself doing a lot of pronoun switching. I started to confuse myself and maybe even the interviewer at some point. Immediately after the interview, I told myself (Yes, I talk to myself) we have to talk.
So I went to one of my favorite thinking places and thought it out. (I am a serious thinker.)
What bothered me in the interview was that at times I was saying “we have to do this” but immediately after saying that I felt that it was not accurate or rather lacked precision. Then in attempts to consciously move forward I found that my first inclination in discussing the action items were to mention “we” rather than “they”.
After thinking for a while I found the “aha” moment I was searching for. The dispute I was having within myself, that kept interrupting the flow of my answers during the conversations was the fact that I was not firm in the understanding in what is MY role in combating the issues of Haiti.
First, I should state that I am in love with Haiti and there is nothing more I would like to see than a Haitian government thriving with a strong economy, good governance practices, strong judicial system, improved education and public health system; that is my aspiration for Haiti.
However, I have realized that none of those things can effectively happen if people or in this case groups are unsure of their role in the problem-solving process.
I like to see myself (a Haitian-American) and the people of Haiti as one in the same but the reality is that we aren’t. I live in Georgia in the U.S. I frequent some of the best restaurants in GA, I watch Scandal every Thursday night, I go to Starbucks on a regular basis and get my coffee. I often attend pretty cool social events held in the heart of Atlanta. Where I live and the way in which I live is different from a Haitian living in Haiti which is a country I visit a max of twice a year.
So with that distinguishing factor, I have to now, in all aspects that I dialogue remain clear as to what my role is as a diaspora member.
Where I have fumbled in my advocating is not being clear on roles. A diaspora engaged in Haitian affairs and lives outside of Haiti does not automatically become an honorary Haitian who lives in Haiti itself and understand the issues just as well as a Haitian that lives in Haiti. Because it isn’t true. Regardless of how passionate you are about the issues.
There have been a lot of conversations about Haitian-led efforts that need to take place in Haiti. I agree but I think we should be more specific. Haitians that live in Haiti should be the ones leading the efforts.
Let’s kill the myth about most of the talent in Haiti is within the diaspora. Yes there is talent in the diaspora but there is a lot of talent in Haiti as well but simply not enough opportunities for them to display their talents. I have visited Haiti multiple times and in my interactions with the Haitians living in Haiti I have found myself, in many cases, intimidated by their level of intellectualism and know-how when it comes to how issues can be solved. There are millions of brilliant Haitians living in Haiti at this moment. They understand the situation in Haiti better than anyone else. They are fit to lead however they lack resources to get the job done.
This is where the diaspora should come in.
There is a lot of economic power within the diaspora and a lot of technological advancement know-how that can help in the development of Haiti. It is the diaspora’s responsibility to organize around those needs to assist Haiti in its development. The diaspora’s role should be to fill in the gaps. It is the people of Haiti’s responsibility in Haiti to build the foundation needed for initiatives to take place and the diaspora’s role to provide the resources needed to take it all the way. Teamwork.
A friend of mine who works for the Haitian government shared with me that to have successful initiatives take place in Haiti it is imperative that the person lives in Haiti or there at least eighty percent of the time. It is not enough to go to Haiti every three months or so and expect your efforts to be successful. He further stated that this has led to a lot of projects to go unfinished in Haiti which in turn has created, to a certain degree, a jaded relationship between diaspora members and the Haitian government. This statement further enforced to me that it is imperative to have Haitians living in Haiti to lead efforts that require long-term sustained efforts.
The issues in Haiti are very complex so in order to effectively target those issues it is important to know the various roles of all the stakeholders.
If we truly care about Haiti, we have to step back and analyze our roles then step up to do our parts.
The role of the diaspora is to empower those that can truly make a difference by providing them with the resources, network, and relationships needed to strengthen efforts to achieve a goal.
Our line of questioning to them should be along the lines of:
What do you need?
How can I help?
Until I move to Haiti, live, sleep, and dream in Haiti my role will be to empower those that can make a sustained difference.
Staying in my lane.
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