The grey of morning’s first light hasn’t even graced the sky. The house hosts many sleeping dreamers. In fact, the only one to stir at this impossibly early hour is the backbone of the family. A bonnet or silk kerchief is wrapped around her beautiful, peppered coils as she rises in silence to begin her day. There’s the sweeping of the yard with the customary straw broom, the tending to the house, and the preparation of goods for the market or street stand. Her mind is already running as she completes these routine tasks. Next she makes breakfast, packs snacks, and begins waking sleeping babes to help them start the day.
Accompanying each task are the thoughts she’s been worrying about for the past few days. While scrubbing a few dishes, she ponders the severity of yesterday’s insecurities in many places, especially Port-au-Prince. While feeding her baby, she reflects on the time of her children’s spring.
The political turmoil ravaging the country is nothing new. The president being in hot water because of his selfish choices is nothing new. The heated country, bearing agitated, hungry sons with no work and no guidance is nothing new. Yet, the woman sighs, its familiarity is unwelcome and does not make it easier to witness.
How long? How long will we be stuck in this cycle? Her eldest got a 7 for her latest mwayen (GPA on a 10 point scale). Will she need to wait again to exercise her right to an education? How long will the heat suffocate us this time? Who will be burned this time, who will die from their wounds? The thoughts tug at all corners of her mind, and she looks upon the face of her youngest.
This is not the life she’d have for them, to be constantly caught in the crosshairs of selfish, greedy people who do not care about their country and fellow citizens. She silently grieves the fact that her children could be targeted for simply trying to go to school, for being young and eager to learn.
“You won’t be going to school today.” Her partner’s voice is resolute and unbudging, and he simply looks at her. Their children show varying degrees of disappointment and excitement, but none show signs of surprise. It is life in Haiti right now, after all.
The couple share a knowing look before he goes to work. She’s moved on to laundry, and taking a silent moment that every parent knows, leans her head back with eyes closed to take a deep breath. The radio’s voice from the night before plays in her mind:
President Moise’s office claims they stopped an attempted coup d’etat. He claims he should be in office until 2022, as he interprets the constitution to say five years from his swearing in, instead of five years from his election. The opposition vehemently rejects that interpretation. The UN has been accused of supporting his efforts, and many think they should not interfere or should oppose him altogether. The United States has recognized Moise’s legitimacy for another year, although several lawmakers have spoken out against it.
She looks back down and picks up the next shirt to wash. She grits her teeth as she ponders how foreign powers cannot see what she does, or if they do, how they can justly support it. People are dying in the streets, children are once again barred from their youth, and the country will only get hotter the longer Moise stays in power. What do they think will be accomplished by his stay? The opposition to his rule is too strong to produce anything but more pain and suffering for the Haitian people.
She does not claim to have all the answers, or that there is ever a risk free choice in how the country can rise together, but she is resolved that this isn’t it. Looking over at the two youngest giggling and playing, unaware of the world on fire around them, she holds onto a silent prayer of hope that they will know stronger days.
If we are to have a chance this year, she thinks, Moise cannot stay. If they are to have a chance for a brighter future, we need someone who can truly lead and unite us. God knows.
Bondye konnen (God knows) is an expression every Haitian knows. It is also, in this moment, a plea to God for guidance and support, a humble asking for a hand.
At the time I’m writing this, there are many pieces at play, and most of them have Haiti headed for further hardship and devastation. Yesterday there were several protests and demonstrations throughout Haiti, and in a few places the police clashed with opposition supporters in the streets.
The president has retreated from Port, and we’re not sure when he’ll try to go back. There are several people vowing to assassinate him if he will not leave. A strong majority of Haitian citizens and political analysts agree that Moise leaving is the best option. What comes next — because neither the president nor the opposition have any intention of backing down — will likely be more protests, school closings, road blocks, violence and suffering for the Haitian people.
In holding on to hope in the ways we can, and as we have with every prior period of insecurity, we take it day by day. We had 12 students and only a handful of teachers show up for school today at Jesus Mary School. Many schools didn’t even open this morning. My coworkers are hopeful that we’ll be able to resume classes tomorrow, but none of us are certain, and we certainly won’t hold our breath.
My big concern is that next week ushers in Kanaval (carnival). What has been a week-long party in the past, may turn into a nightmare of protests, unrest, and violence. In fact, the Kanavals of the last two years were also surrounded by problems.
If you have a moment, breathe a silent prayer for all the Haitian mothers who worry over their children’s future and safety, while keeping a smiling face outward. We rise or fall together in this world, and we cannot forget one another as we press ever onward. From here in Haiti, I hope you are finding hope to anchor you, and love to strengthen you.
For more information on the situation (in February 2021):