Today marks the first year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake. As a Heart of Haiti Ambassador, I am honoring the memory of three dynamic feminist leaders Myriam Merlet, Anne-Marie Coriolan, and Magalie Marcelin who died as a result of this devastating event. See the photo and look in the background for the wall hanging displaying photos of the three feminist leaders (photo was taken on January 27, 2010 at The International Feminist Solidarity Camp held in the Dominican Republic).
Myriam Merlet served as the chief of staff of Haiti’s Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women. She was also an author, activist, and founder of Enfofamn, an organization that raises awareness about women through media, collects stories and works to honor their names. She convinced author and playwright Eve Ensler to bring “The Vagina Monologues” play to Haiti. Her efforts also established safe houses for women in Port-au-Prince and Cap Hatien.
Magalie Marcelin enjoyed a dynamic career as a lawyer, film and stage actress, and founder of Kay Fanm, a women’s rights organization that addresses domestic violence and provides services, shelter, and microcredit loans to women.
Anne Marie Coriolan was as a top adviser to Haiti’s Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women and founder of Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with Haitian Women, or SOFA), an advocacy and services organization.
Today I am sending love and light to these three feminist leaders and the women of Haiti. May we all be inspired by their legacy of service!
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.
Last year I attended Fem 2.0’s conference and was inspired to write a poem. See below. It is included in my new book That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery (available on Amazon.com –http://tiny.cc/7uFsg ). That Which Awakens Me also includes a chapter about my reflections on feminism and womanism. Enjoy!
At A Crossroads of Awakening
Copyright 2009 by Madelyn C. Leeke
Inspired by the Fem 2.0 Conference held at George Washington
University on February 2, 2009, and African American artist
Meta Warwick Fuller’s sculpture, Ethiopia (1921)
We are at a crossroads.
It is off ering us a grand opportunity filled with great
One that can bring us into a new day that gracefully unfolds
into a new tomorrow and future.
It is happening everywhere.
Can you see it?
Can you feel it?
Do you want to be a part of it?
Whether we know it or not, we are manifesting the words
of our very own American artist sistalove Meta Vaux Warrick
Fuller: “awakening, gradually unwinding the bandages of [our]
past and looking out on life again, expectant but unafraid.”
The bandages we are unwinding are complex layers of identities
that include our ethnic groups, socioeconomic classes,
educational backgrounds, professions, places of residence,
sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and political beliefs.
Many of us wear an array of t-shirts that mark us as feminists,
womanists, pro-choicers, right to lifers, democrats, republicans,
green party members, socialists, communists, independents,
conservatives, progressives, and middle of the roaders.
Our labels of identity have often created barriers to our
growth, coalition-building, understanding, and affirmation as
Despite the differences, our identities make us who we are.
They give us individual and collective meaning.
They must be valued, understood, respected, and affirmed.
With all that said, I am left with a question:
How do we awaken and unwind the bandages from the barriers
of the past that created exclusion and misunderstanding?
The answers for those of us who are connecting online reveal
themselves a little each day as we interact with social media
tools that have the capacity to expand our quilt of sisterhood.
When we tell and document our stories, seek support and
advice, educate and train, create and share content, advocate
for common causes, launch businesses and nonprofit
organizations, market and sell products and services, express
our creativity, and engage in dialogue on our blogs, Twitter,
Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, and other social networking
and bookmarking sites, we give ourselves the opportunity to
learn more about each other.
Our learning efforts can open the door to ways we can honor,
promote, and practice diversity, tolerance for a difference
of opinion, self-care, compassion, patience, acceptance,
mindfulness, loving kindness, and forgiveness.
It all begins with our choice.
If we choose to do the work of understanding whowe are
and what we believe and want, and seek out common interests
without imposing our own strong wills, agendas, beliefs, and
branding strategies, we can usher in a much-needed paradigm
shift that creates space for our right brain to jump the broom
and marry our left brain so that our power, passion, and
purpose as women are aligned in strategic ways that give birth
to new ways of being, communicating, and working together.
Are we ready to awaken and fully unwind the bandages of our
Are we ready to look out on life again, expectant but unafraid
of manifesting a shared destiny of common interests while
affirming and maintaining our separate identities and causes?
These questions are rhetorical.
We already know the answer.
We are smart, capable, and talented women.
So let’s walk past the crossroads and make what we know a
Sisterhood, the Blog Radio is a monthly radio show hosted by Talkshoe.com. It features one-on-one conversations with women about sisterhood, self-discovery, self-expression, spirituality, self-care, self-expression, social justice advocacy, and social media.
Great News! I am preparing to launch Sisterhood, the Blog Radio (http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/42015) on Wednesday, June 24th at 8:00 p.m. “Sisterhood 2009: What does it mean to be a feminist today?” is the theme. Join me for a one-on-one interview with Jennifer Nedeau, Women’s Rights Blogger for Change.org – http://womensrights.change.org.
Mark your calendars for upcoming episodes of Sisterhood, the Blog Radio. See schedule below.
July 29 @ 8pm – Self-Expression: The Writing Life
A conversation with Joy Brambles Oehlkers, Senior Editor, McGraw-Hill Professional
August 26 @ 8pm – Spirituality: Blooming Right Where You Are
A conversation with Kelli Jarreaux, an ordained Interfaith Minister, attorney, arbitrator, mediator, global peace facilitator, life coach, and co-author of Hopwood, Bakke, and Beyond: Diversity on our Nations Campuses and Sacred Secrets: Finding Your Way to Joy, Peace and Prosperity
September 30 @ 8pm – Self-Care: Yoga As A Life Practice
October 28 @ 8pm – Self-Discovery: The Connection We Share With Our Mothers
A conversation with Gail Straub, co-founder of Empowerment Training Programs and author of Returning to My Mother’s House: Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine –www.empowermenttraining.com
November 25 @ 8pm – Social Justice Advocacy: Making Your Life Count Through Service
A conversation with Gloria Pan, Vice President, Internet Communications, Turner Strategies
December 2 @ 8pm – Social Media: Building Creative Online Communities
A conversation with Jamie Ridler, a certified professional co-active coach, leader/builder of creative online communities, founder of Jamie Ridler Studios, and blogger/founder of Starshyne Productions – http://jamieridler.blogspot.com