On Haiti, wealth and words

Poor: (adj) 1. lacking material possession. 2. Less than adequate 3. inferior in quality or value 

 I grew up in a house physically situated in the suburbs of Maryland. Inside the walls, however, was a gateway between Haiti and the United States where my strict and loving Haitian parents were self-appointed rulers for life. The very core of my existence has been shaped by the diri ak pwa (rice and beans) served with 97% of our family dinners. My childhood nostalgia is accompanied by a soundtrack of my mom singing chansonette francais and kompa. Who I am in this world is defined by my Haitian heritage.

When I hear someone refer to the birthplace of my ancestors as poor or(or lacking material possession, less than adequate and inferior in quality) I feel like the value of my identity is being attacked.  When people call Haiti poor, the inference is that there is an inherent lack of value in the country itself and the people who call it home. This is unsettling for three reasons. Firstly, it completely ignores the wealthy segment of the Haitian population whose standard of living far surpass what any upper-middle class American could ever even dream of (like full house staff, Maserati's, private jets... which is problematic for many reasons but that is a different post for a different day). Secondly, it insinuates that Haitians living with limited opportunities are innately inferior. Thirdly, it ignores the vast and diverse natural resources of Haiti which many foreign corporations have exploited (To read a little bit more about how the Reynolds aluminum foil you buy at the grocery store contributed to the decimation of a massive Haitian Pine forest, click here    I can't vouch for all of the statistics, but this article gives a pretty good overview.) 

Before you take what the media or demented politicians have to say about countries they have labeled as  third world, I ask that you remember that your words have power and to mind your ignorance. 

As a Haitian-American photographer, part of my mission is to create content that challenges the one-dimensional view of Haiti and the 'third world.'  Thus is the intent behind my project 'Wouj e Ble.' Like my childhood home served as a portal between Haiti and the United States, I hope these pictures in some way foster a connection and rapport between you and the beautiful and rich culture of my native land. I hope that these pictures make Haiti seem a little less far removed from your life, and chip away at the otherness which phrases like 'third world' inevitably foster. 

Link to Wouj e Ble