Serving as a Heart of Haiti ambassador has reignited my interest in the lives of Haitian women which began in 1985 when I met my Morgan State University roommate and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority sister Marie-Denise (Mirabeau) Simon and her mother “Mama Freda.” Mama Freda is a no nonsense Haitian woman who loves the goodness of life. She can cook up a Haitian feast fit for Haitian queens too! During one of our many conversations, she told me about her early life in Haiti, how she studied nursing in Canada, and later moved to New York City to work as a nurse. Her stories were filled with moments when she reached into her spirit for courage and faith to live beyond any limitations people or society placed on her. She always encouraged me to be a caring, generous, intelligent, and independent femme (woman) who uses her life to help others.
Ten years after meeting Mama Freda, my interest in Haitian women blossomed into a full blown passion during the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. While in Beijing, I learned about the history of Ligue Feminine d’Action Sociale or Women’s League for Social Action, the first Haitian feminist organization that was established by Haitian women intellectuals, professionals, and activists from the middle and upper classes in 1934. During their first 25 years of existence, Ligue Feminine d’Action Sociale focused its energy on gaining women’s rights to vote, access to education, and equality for married women. Since then, I have followed the work of Haitian feminist organizations Solidarité Fanm Ayisyen (SOFA, Haitian Women’s Solidarity) and Kay Fanm (Women’s House).
After the earthquake in 2010, I started looking online for women’s organizations and other efforts that support and tell the stories of Haitian women. My online research led me to Poto Mitan, a documentary film about the compelling lives of five courageous Haitian women workers. Join the Facebook Page to learn more about the film. I plan to purchase the film’s DVD and share it with family and friends this year. Watch the YouTube video trailer below.
I also plan to pay more attention to the work of Haitian feminist organizations, launch an online fundraiser (or two) to support the organizations, and share more information about the lives and concerns of Haitian women on this blog and my Digital Sisterhood Network web site.
What are you planning to do to honor the people of Haiti this year?
PS: Be sure to listen to NPR’s Tell Me More’s report on Haitian women and the impact of rape on their lives after the January 2010 earthquake that aired today.