Tuesday, August 23, 2011

the ground shakes for all of us, but harder for some than others

Some times as we go through our days, we are confronted with experiences that lead us to reflect more deeply about the conditions of our brothers and sisters whom we inhabit the world with. Whereas those connections may have been superficial and weak earlier, an event suddenly brings them into an intense focus. Layoffs at work may lead to reflection on the anxiety of the millions of families across the country wondering how they will make ends meet; a sick parent may lead one to think about the many in this country who still haven't benefited from the healthcare law; feeling excluded and demeaned for a quality can cause one to think about the struggles of those in the LGBT community who are still too often rejected for a quality God blessed them with. The more intense our experience and the deeper the reflection, the more likely that our feelings will take us beyond simple empathy and lead us into more proactive solidarity.

It may have been that I was coming back from getting my last shot in preparation for our VIM team's October trip to Haiti, but this was my experience today. As I was walking to my office, I saw people outside buildings in our DC community seeking safety and couldn't help but think about the continued struggles of our brothers and sisters in Haiti as they recover from last January's earthquake. Our nation's capital was hit today with a 5.9 magnitude earthquake. This led staffers working in the White House, Capitol, and other offices across the city out of buildings as a precautionary measure, soon a rumor came that one house in DC may have collapsed, and I received texts and calls from friends and family to see whether I was ok. Luckily, for the most part, our community was spared of anything worse than mere inconvenience.

As I stood outside my office building, I began to imagine what it must have been like last January as Haitians faced a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake. What would we have done had our Capitol collapsed today killing nearly half of our elected officials as happened in Port Au Prince? What had Haitian parents and citizens been going through as they faced the reality that they didn't know their loved ones' whereabouts and had no way to reach them? What if the city's infrastructure today charged with leading the recovery was also left decimated? Even as a wealthy country, how fast would we recover as families? How fast would we have recovered as a nation? Unfortunately, Haiti's problem did not start today. It's part of a cycle of injustice that originates from its history as a French slave colony and has continued through decades of both internal and external exploitation.

Tomorrow, we'll go back to business as usual (pun somewhat intended). Still, the decisions made in our city will determine whether Haitians will have the resources to help them on their road to recovery and ensure that this recovery will be sustainable. Moving forward, let us not forget about this common and unique experience we had. The ground beneath our feet shook. Though the implications for us were much different, let this experience plant a seed of deep empathy within with hopes that for some, this state will grow into a more concrete state of solidarity. We owe this to our broader world community, our faith, and ourselves.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Door of No Return

Today I stood inside Elmina Castle on the Ghanian Cape Coast at The Door of No Return. For thousands of Africans, this was the last piece of Africa they would ever see since Elmina stood on the primary port for slave trade during the 1600-1800's. It's likely that Haiti's ancestors crossed through The Door of No Return. In fact, Haiti was once the most prized and prosperous colony of the French, and this attracted much attention to the little island of Hispanola. Today, however, it seems like one has to beg the global community to focus attention on Haiti, literally.

The history of Haiti is so rich. From its inception, Haiti has had a cosmopolitan story, its inhabitants coming from so many lands around the world. It is a story filled with tensions of politics, economics and race but also of deep strength and spirituality. Standing today on African soil and knowing in a few short weeks I'll be in Haiti sends shivers down my spine. I'm eager to trace those steps of history from Cape Coast to Haiti, thankful to know that the story is still being told.

Foundry UMC Haiti Website: https://sites.google.com/site/foundryumcmissions/

Elminda Castle

Map of Slave Trade