Monday, November 9, 2015

Change but not Changing: A Ferguson Challenge

The other day, I came across a two-frame comic. In the first frame is a politician like figure standing at a podium in front of a happy crowd of people each with one hand raised as the politician asks, "Who wants change?"

In the second frame, it's the same scene, but the politician asks, "Who wants to change?" No hands are raised. No one looks at the politician or one another.

Everyone wants change, but no one wants to change.

The idea, the need, the desire for change was readily apparent during the recent Episcopal Church Young Adult Pilgrimage to Ferguson, Missouri. Twenty-four other young adults and I, 6-8 staff, and countless guest speakers, engaged in conversations about racial justice and reconciliation. Indeed, during the pilgrimage we met with many inspiring agents of change. But what was also apparent, especially in looking out from Ferguson, is a lack of will to change. We want change, but we're not changing.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Trinity Asheville Sermon

Below is the sermon I presented to my home parish, Trinity Episcopal Church, in Asheville, NC. I give great thanksgiving for the lives of Anyo and Tiyolen, two people who inspire me greatly and who have shaped my life significantly for the better. I love you both.
Trinity Episcopal Church, Asheville, NC, October 18th, 2015

Gospel Reading: Mark 10:35-45

“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”


Monday, October 5, 2015

What is poverty? How can community over come it?

Natalie Finstad, former Episcopal missionary in Africa, started the organization Tatua Kenya after her experience working in Kenya. Check out her terrific TED Talk, posted this past January, on her decision to take action, how she thinks we should define poverty, and what community can do to better our world.
Some of you may have seen me share this video before. Watch it again. It's good.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why I Post About Haitian Food

The causes of food insecurity in Haiti are large and complicated, and the impact is real, individual and personal. But some Americans simplify this reality to an idea that Haiti cannot feed itself due to problems with the culture and the people. Put simply, this is misguided and narrow thinking.

Those who are friends with me on Facebook might notice I post about the Haitian food I consume A LOT.

I do this first and for most because it's delicious, and it will increase your desire to suddenly go on vacation in Haiti and even buy Haitian products. (Most significant is peanut butter. I used to be a choosy mom, but no longer. Natural, spicy Haitian peanut butter even beats creamy JIF.)

The second reason I do this is to shift perceptions about Haiti. Though sharing what I eat on Facebook isn't academic or fully representative, hopefully these posts publicize raw, value added and even branded products that are grown, produced and refined right here in Haiti.
My friend Loosakimg, in Cange, at his high school graduation dinner. His mom, on the left, went to culinary school. In the foreground is a goat, cooked perhaps like Americans prepare turkey on Thanksgiving.
There's significant room to grow agriculture related production and business in Haiti. That is a big motivator behind the revitalization of the St. Barnabas Agriculture Center that I'm involved in with the Episcopal Church. As I've shared before, the long term plan, together with Fresh Ministries, is to expand the capacity of that center in improving agriculture production around northern Haiti, equipping farmers and entrepreneurs with the training and tools necessary to begin and grow small businesses, and providing services to nearby farmers using the best available techniques for production and environmental protection.

So what can you do? From in the U.S., in addition to seeking out and buying Haitian made products, you can support this sector of the Haitian economy by communicating with your representatives in the U.S. government to encourage legislation that is more fair to the Haitian producers. Let me explain.

The political actions of the U.S. are one reason food insecurity is an issue in Haiti. This is just one element adding to the complexity of this problem. Here are two examples: 

In the mid 1990s, President Bill Clinton essentially forced Haiti into lowering their tariffs on imported (read: U.S. made) food stuffs, including rice. Haiti at one point in history exported rice, and now it imports much of what it consumes. In 2010, President Clinton made the following statement, seen in the following excerpt from Fran Quigley's book How Human Rights Can Build Haiti:
A second example, from the 1980s, is the extermination of the Creole pig by USAID and other international actors. Because of a fever identified in a pig population in the Dominican Republic, fear grew that it would spread into Haiti and then the U.S., effecting the businesses in the U.S. So the solution acted out was to simply eliminate the pig population in Haiti.

This pig was a significant staple of the rural economy in Haiti, not only as a source of food but as a source of income that, among other uses, provided stability in times of unexpected expenses. It also supported the presence of royal palm trees, whose seed was the principal feed for the pigs. Now, without the pigs, those trees have been cut down at higher rates, contributing to the already serious deforestation problem.

By staying engaged with the political activities in the U.S., and contacting representatives to tell them how to act on these issues, you can support fairer treatment of Haitian agriculture and improvements in the economy here.

So, what have I been eating? Take a look below:
Tahomey chocolate
Let Agogo yogurt, local bananas and peanut butter on local bread, Selecto brand coffee
Frozen cubes of mango two dous and passion fruit juices with Haitian cane sugar
All local yogurt, peanut butter, bread, sugar, coffee, and passion fruit juice
Rebo brand coffee
Grapefruit jam
Hot sauce
Vanilla extract
Mel'ange brand all natural tea

Bon apeti!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Three Lessons I've Learned

Ou met jwenn atik sa an Kreyol pi ba la.
While making the decision to move to Cap Haitien, I considered two things. First, I considered that the move from Cange to Cap Haitien might be as different as was the move from Clemson, South Carolina to Cange. Second, moving to Cap would mean a chance to experience Haiti from a completely different vantage point, helping me understand the Haitian context more deeply.
Photos are textures from around the house in Cap Haitien
To the first point, two months after moving to Cap Haitien, I can already say that yes, the move here has been just as different as was the move to Cange. I’m now living independently, I’m more mobile, and I’m living in a city where every single person doesn’t know me. All of this makes for a pretty unfamiliar environment and figuring out entirely new ways of doing things.

To the second point, after two months in Cap, I’m already learning many new things. All of this new learning has made me reflect on what I learned the previous two years in Cange. So, since I’m feeling a bit of a personal reflection post, I want to share the three most significant lessons I’ve learned since moving to Haiti.

Friday, August 21, 2015

CASB Master Plan

In my new position, I'm working as a project manager for the stabilization and revitalization of the St. Barnabas Agriculture Center (CASB), which primarily features an agricultural technical school with a 2-year academic program. It is one of the higher education institutions in the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, but has recently suffered from various difficulties, prompting a push to reinvest in the center.

My work is just a part of what will take many more years to realize. I want to share a bit here from the CASB Capital Development Plan put together by Haitian Architect Herve Sabin and the Studio Drum Collaborative to provide more context and motivation behind this project.