Unique Mother’s Day Gifts That Promote Social Good

Photo Credit: https://authoranandaleeke.wordpress.com/tag/heart-of-haiti/
Photo Credit: https://authoranandaleeke.wordpress.com/tag/heart-of-haiti/

Hi All!

Mother’s Day is almost here. Are you ready? Have you found a unique gift for your mother and/or the women in your life who are mother figures?

This year, I am giving my mother a gift that promotes social good: a handmade picture frame made by a Haitian artisan who creates beautiful work for the Heart of Haiti collection at Macy’s (see photo below).

Heart of Haiti picture frame
Heart of Haiti picture frame

The Heart of Haiti collection features more than 40 home decor items including qulits, metalwork, ceramics, and paintings made my Haitian artisans. The Heart of Haiti is a “Trade, Not Aid”initiative that was launched by artist and social entrepreneur Willa Shalit, The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, and Macy’s after the 2010 earthquake. The initiative provides Haitian artisans with an opportunity to make a living, feed their families, and pay their children’s school fees. To date, the initiative has employed 750 artisans resulting in financial benefits for an estimated 8,000 in Haiti. What a powerful way to give back and do social good!

In 2011, I traveled as a Heart of Haiti blogger ambassador to Haiti and met the artisans who make the metal frames and other home decor items. Seeing them create and talk about their artwork helped me truly understand how powerful “Trade, Not Aid” programs are.  Since then, I have continued my work as a Heart of Haiti blogger ambassador by using my blog and social media presence to raise awareness and celebrate the artistry and regrowth of my Haitian brother and sister artisans.

I encourage you to give back to the Haitian artisans by purchasing a Heart of Haiti gift for your mother and/or the mothering women in your life. Click here to explore the collection on Macy’s web site.  Happy Social Good Shopping!

DISCLAIMER: I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere provided me with compensation for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

Ananda’s #HeartofHaiti Post: Developing Digital Sisterhood Bonds in Haiti

Nathalie Tancrede, Deana Jirak, Willa Shalit, Sloane Berrent, Ananda, Juliana Um & Johnica Reed

Today is Digital Sisterhood Wednesday on Twitter.  That means the Digital Sisterhood Network is in full force  —

Ananda & Pascal Faublas, Jacmel Director for Fairwinds Trading

celebrating and promoting their digital sisters by tweeting about their businesses, wisdom, creativity, blogs, Facebook pages, causes, videos, and web sites.  I created #DigitalSisterhood Wednesdays during the 2010 Blogalicious Weekend Conference and  launched the weekly Twitter celebration to  give women in social media a weekly opportunity to build and strengthen their communities. Each week women are encouraged to celebrate and promote their digital sisters by using the #FF (Friday Follow) format.  This weekly celebration gave birth to Digital Sisterhood Month and the Digital Sisterhood Network in December.  One of the lessons I learned during Digital Sisterhood Month was that Digital Sisterhood is more than a weekly or month-long celebration. It is a movement that has a life of its own.  It is living and breathing on and offline.

Heather Whaling, Sloane Berrent & Ananda

Did you know Digital Sisterhood traveled with me when I left Washington, DC and landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on February 25?   I had no idea she packed herself in my luggage with plans for developing digital sisterhood bonds with 11 amazing women I met through the Heart of Haiti campaign.  See the list of digital sisters below.  Click here to see more photos of the Heart of Haiti‘s Digital Sisterhood.

Heart of Haiti Digital Sisters

  • Sloane Berrent, Humanitarian, Kiva Fellow, and Founder of The Causemopolitan,
  • Laura Ciocia, Senior Digital Strategist at Everywhere,
  • Pascale Faubas, Jacmel Director, Fairwinds Trading
  • Deana Jirak, Designer and Photographer,
  • Danica Kombol, Managing and Founding Partner at Everywhere,
  • Johnica Reed, Travel Tastemaker, Writer, and Founder of leisureStrategy,
  • Willa Shalit, Artist, Author, Co-Founder of V-Day, CEO of Fairwinds Trading, and Founder of Touch Foundation,
  • Nathalie Tancrede, co-founder of Fondation d’Ayiti Soleil, a Haitian organization that helps educate Haitian girls and women, and the Haiti Country Director for Fairwinds Trading
  • Juliana Um, Creative Director, Fairwinds Trading
  • Heather Whaling, PR/Social Media Expert and President of Geben Communication.
Laura Ciocia, Deana Jirak, Sloane Berrent & Ananda
Johnica Reed, Ananda & Danica Kombol

I learned so much about these ladies in four days. We talked about many issues as we toured Port-au-Prince.  Stories, insights, reflections, and lessons learned danced in and out of our daily adventures.  Laughter, silent pauses, a reflection and prayer circle, yoga before sunrise, Reiki healing touch sessions, blogging and tweeting in the hotel restaurant, filming video interviews, taking photos everyplace we stopped, late night girl weekend conversations, dancing and eating plantains at Jacmel’s Carnival, and chit chatting at the cafe in Toussaint Louverture International Airport are just a few of the ways Digital Sisterhood created bonds between me and these women.

It’s hard for me to fully describe the Digital Sisterhood bond that happened in Haiti.   I guess I am still basking in the beauty and blessing of connecting with 11 dynamic women.   So I will leave you with two of my favorite Kreyol words and video interviews of Willa Shalit and Heather Whaling.  The Heart of Haiti Digital Sisterhood is “belle bagay” (a Kreyol word that means fabulous)!

Great News — Ananda is going to Haiti as a Heart of Haiti Blogger Ambassador!

I had to come back from my social media vacation and share the great news!  Recently, I was selected to travel to Haiti as a Heart of Haiti Blogger Ambassador with Willa Shalit of Fairwinds Trading and the Everywhere team on February 25-28.

When I return from my trip, I will host a live chat on Vokle about my experiences on March 5 at 8:00 pm ET.  Please join me. Click here to register and participate in the online chat.

One more thing — I began 2011 with a commitment to conduct digital advocacy and raise funds on Crowdrise.com for two Haitian organizations over the next two years (January 2011 – January 2013):

I am also raising funds for Renewal 4 Haiti with my “Open your heart to Haiti today!” CafePress.com site. Please consider making a donation to support these organizations. Your generosity is greatly appreciated!

I’ll be back to my social media schedule in March. Until then, enjoy February!

My Reasons for Wanting to Travel to Haiti as a Heart of Haiti Ambassador in 2011

Submission #2, #2 – Papa Legba se pou jodi-a ou gran chimen (2010), a painting by Ananda Leeke — originally uploaded by anandaleeke.

My love affair with Haiti began when I enrolled in my first French class as a sophomore at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton High School in 1979. During that year, I became fascinated with French speaking countries in the African Diaspora. Haiti’s historical legacy as the first Black republic quickly made it one of my personal favorites.

My passion for Haiti and Haitian-influenced art was deepened during my college years as a French major at Morgan State University from 1982 to 1986. Through my studies I discovered the work of Dr. Lois Mailou Jones, an artist and professor of art at Howard University. Jones’ Haitian-inspired work that included Vodun veves captivated my psyche and stayed there until I began my own studies of Vodun spirituality in the 1990s.

Meeting my Haitian American college roommate and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority sister Marie Denise (Mirabeau) Simon and her Haitian mother “Mama Freda” in 1985 helped me develop an interest in the lives of Haitian women. During one of our many conversations, Mama Freda 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.

My interest in Haitian women blossomed into a full blown passion during the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in 1995. 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.

During the 1990s, I spent a lot of time learning about the Haitian love and healing goddess Erzulie, the Haitian god of the crossroads Papa Elegba, and Haitian Vodun symbols called veves. Since then, their energy has inspired my writing and art. In 2007, my debut novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One was published and included artwork on the cover and inside of the book that was inspired by Erzulie’s veve. Erzulie is also a dynamic force in the life of Love’s Troubadours’ main character. Papa Elegba makes his grand appearance in poetry and reflections included in my most recent book That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery.

As an artist and writer living in America, I have struggled with how I express my support for the people of Haiti as they re-imagine and reshape their country after the devastating earthquake in January 2010. My struggle played itself out in internal dialogue that found its way onto the pages of my journal. I used my journal to release what I could no longer hold inside as I stood at my own crossroads. Through this process, I reconnected with the power of Papa Elegba and discovered how I could contribute my light, energy, creativity, and love to support the sisters and brothers of Haiti. The poem below captures my journey of discovery.

Three Prayers to Papa Legba from A Daughter of the Diaspora Seeking to Re-Imagine Haiti by Ananda Leeke


I stand at the crossroads, feeling overwhelmed and lost.
I want to run, but I know change is coming.
I know I need to stay put and grounded.
I know I need to take action.

Papa Legba ouvre baye pou mwen, Agoeh!
Papa Legba, open the gate for me.
Point me in the right direction.


Papa Legba se pou jodi-a ou gran chimen
Papa Legba, forever, you have been the highway, the spiritual gateway so I might see the contradictions and opportunities along my path.
I seek your guidance.


Papa Legba, you are the voice of God.
Speak your wisdom.
I will listen.

I repeat this prayer over and over again.
It becomes my mantra as I seek to go within.
It allows me to sit with the discomfort of not having an immediate answer for a question I have been asking myself since the January 2010 earthquake.

How can I use my passion for Haiti, creativity, healing energy, and life to support Haitian sisters and brothers as they restore their souls, release the past, re-imagine, and rebuild their lives and country?

The task is mighty.
Sometimes it’s easier to just press click and make a donation.
But I am not here to seek the easy.
I am here to shine my light.
So I continue to sit with open ears and a willing heart, waiting with positive expectation for direction.

In this holding pattern, I resist the need to move on.
That’s so easy to do in America.
We have short memories.
And sometimes we forget our ancestral ties so quickly because it’s too much for our souls to bear.
But not this time.

I baptize myself in the water of Diaspora memories so I will not forget the way my heart broke as I listened to news reports, saw photos, watched videos, read Facebook posts, and followed Twitter feeds about the devastation caused by the earthquake.

I will not forget the tears I cried.
I will not forget my prayers to Erzulie for an outpouring of love from everyone in the world so that the people of Haiti would know they were not alone.

So where does all this waiting and remembering take me?

Maybe it I am attempting to stay in my head and off my feet.
I wonder as I record my thoughts in my journal and paint them on the canvas if I am holding back for fear of doing more.
I get serious with myself and force an answer to the question.

Am I hiding out in the wings creating my self-imposed crossroads because it’s easier to say I am waiting for Spirit to guide me almost a year after I uttered my first prayer to Elegba?

Perhaps I am a lazy artist dwelling in safety, exploring my psyche when my sisters and brothers of Haiti cannot afford my personal luxury.

Perhaps if I stepped out on faith and meditated on what victory would look like for the Haitian people, I’d wake up to my full self and take action.

Perhaps if I banned the word perhaps from my vocabulary, something larger outside of me would happen.

I muster the courage to stand and step out on faith
My third eye opens widely.
The visions of victory appear.
They meet me at my crossroads.
I utter the words of my prayer.

Papa Legba ouvre baye pou mwen, Agoeh.
Papa Legba se pou jodi-a ou gran chimen.
Papa Legba, you are the voice of God.
Speak your wisdom.
I will listen.

This time I move with my prayer.
Action comes one person and one step at a time.
I don’t hesitate.
I join others.
Our collective love, energy, and power fuel the change.

And little by little, I begin to see that I can press click and make a donation,

I can give my art and poetry as gifts and fundraiser donations to remind people of their oneness with Haiti and her daughters and sons.

I can volunteer my time to serve as a Heart of Haiti Ambassador and help raise awareness and financial support for Haitian artisans and their families.

I can use my voice to tell others about the Haitian people online and offline.

I can send healing love, light, and energy to the Haitian people.

And I can remain open to additional solutions that will reshape and rebuild Haiti into a nation of greatness.

Today I read this poem out loud several times after reading journalist Lisa Armstrong’s article about Haitian women who have mobilized themselves to fight for protection and justice for their Haitian sisters after the earthquake in the January issue of Essence Magazine. The poem and article helped me acknowledge to myself that I want to travel to Haiti to see and learn firsthand how I can help Haitian women and children on a long-term basis. Traveling to Haiti as a Heart of Haiti Ambassador with Fair Winds Trading founder Willa Shalit is one way I can begin the process of making a long-term commitment to serving women and children in Haiti. That’s why I have decided to submit my name as a candidate for the Heart of Haiti Ambassador trip to Haiti.

Opening Your Heart to Haiti: I am a Heart of Haiti Ambassador

Happy Sunday!

Guess what?  I am a Heart of Haiti Ambassador!  You may be wondering what is the Heart of Haiti?  The Heart of Haiti campaign is a Macy’s partnership that was created to provide sustainable income to Haitian artisans impacted by the January earthquake.  Through the partnership, the artisans create artwork that is sold as the Heart of Haiti collection in Macy’s stores.  The sales from these hand-made products including quilts, metalwork, paper måché, painting and jewelry generate the sustainable income and provide trade instead of aid to the Haitian artisans.  The Clinton Foundation inspired Macy’s to create this amazing partnership.  Macy’s is selling the Heart of Haiti collection at 25 stores including the Metro Center location in Washington, DC  (for all my DC area folks) and on macys.com.   

Ananda holding Haitian artwork at Heart of Haiti booth at the Blogalicious Conference held in Miami, FL in October 2010

I learned about the Heart of Haiti campaign during the Blogalicious 2010 Conference held on October 8-10, 2010, in Miami, Florida. During a speed networking session, I met Danica Kombol, a managing and founding partner at Everywhere, who introduced me to the Heart of Haiti Campaign. Click here to listen to my interview with Danica: www.cinchcast.com/anandaleeke/100144.

Later that morning, I listened to a Heart of Haiti campaign presentation featuring Willa Shalit and two Haitian artisans.  They discussed the powerful work they are doing to create artwork and support Haitian artisans as they rebuild their lives after the January earthquake.  That’s when I fell head of heels in love with their work.

After the presentation, I visited the Heart of Haiti booth in the Blogalicious Exhibitor Hall to learn how I could support the campaign. Lauren Thomas, former digital coordinator with Everywhere, gave me more information about the artwork and campaign.  My conversation with Lauren turned into an interview. Click here to listen: www.cinchcast.com/anandaleeke/100204.

A week after I returned to DC, I received emails from Lauren and the Blogalicious team about a local Heart of Haiti event at Macy’s at Metro Center featuring my favorite Haitian singer Emeline Michel. Visit www.emeline-michel.com.  I decided to attend and invite my dad so he could learn more about the campaign.  We were both impressed with the campaign and collection.  Click here to see photos of  the Heart of Haiti events I have attended: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anandaleeke/sets/72157625478398964.

My dad has become a big fan of the Heart of Haiti collection.  So has my mother! I plan on recruiting other family members, friends, and people who read my blog by serving as an ambassador!

Please support the Heart of Haiti campaign by purchasing a product from the Macy’s collection this holiday season!  See the links below for more information.

Macy’s Heart of Haiti:

Heart of Haiti on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/heartofhaiti
Heart of Haiti Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/HeartofHaiti
Fair Winds Trading:  http://fairwindstrading.com
Willa Shalit on Twitter: http://twitter.com/willashalit