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2.09.2012

Thoughts On My Haitian-ness

So this is going to be an ongoing conversation...

Something that has been brought to my attention by a family member one of my readers is my cultural identity. I realized that although I mentioned being half-Haitian-American, I never actually mentioned what my other half is.  I am half-Ghanaian! My father is from Ghana, and I absolutely adore him, my Ghanaian family members (I know you're reading this), Ghana and Ghanaians. I am VERY proud of this other half of my identity- I really REALLY am.  I realize though, that my magnetic attraction to my Haitian side is just..innate...and almost over-powering. Nothing caused it to happen. It just did and I can't really explain it, so I don't. I love it.
Ever since creating this blog just 11 days ago, allot of family members and Haitian friends in particular have made so many comments about how they are so proud that I'm Haitian and that I've written about Haiti in this blog (though this blog isn't just about Haiti)
I've heard the following:
"Wow! She's not even really Haitian!"
"I'm so glad she's exploring her Haitian side! Bel Bagay net!"
"Aww, look how she loves Haiti! Job well done."
I love compliments. Real talk. I mean, they're nice! I'm glad people are glad. But, I definitely didn't understand the whole "proud" thing. I mean...it's just a modest blog right now and I'm just a modest girl who happens to love and talk about Haiti...allot....
So i decided to dig deeper and ask why they were proud. I got many answers but one stuck out. Someone explained to me that when he came to the states in the early 70's as a young boy, it wasn't cool to be Haitian...at least on the middle school playground...in the ghettos of New York City.  So seeing me, someone who is just half-Haitian develop such a close connection to Haiti, is really beautiful and inspiring to him.
I was stunned. I mean, that's quite powerful. I had never really thought about it like that.  I also never really sought to question my place in the Haitian group identity itself. Nope, never. Not when I worked with different organizations in Haiti, not when I re-instilled the Haitian Students Association at my alma mater, not when I proudly said "I'm Haitian", "we Haitians do this", "we Haitians do that", "it's a Haitian thing". Call me audacious!
I'm not going to make this a longer post than it is about all the new questions of identity and authenticity that I now have because it's so...new!
Til' the next conversation happens, see the video below Things Haitian Parents Say.
Apart from being utterly hilarious and epic, I think this video is particularly demonstrative of how Haitian kids (whether half, full, partially...whatever!)  growing up in America, like me, have internalized the Haitian experience- and THAT is what makes them Haitian. I think it's different for everyone, but it's an experience that is both individually Haitian and collectively Haitian. What I want to mention here is that when I saw this video, I felt an enormous sense of pride. I was proud that I could identify with the video, the jokes, the side-comments, the sounds, the facial expressions, etc.  Originally, I didn't think to deconstruct this feeling of pride.  But now that I'm rethinking my "Haitian-ness", I'm realizing that I LIKE feeling part of the "Haitian group".  It's a great group to be in. I look forward to digging deeper over time, friends.

WARNING: Make sure you don't have any beverage in your mouth when you watch because... there will be laughter... and there will be spillage!

Let me know what you think about the video! h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s.

If you liked this post, check out Memoirs of A Half-Haitian Girl.

Stay engaged,
N
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