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.