Haiti: Occasional Musings 9, Solidarity
And when this freedom is finally won, what will we do with it? Build castles in the mountains? Talk of empowerment or look for others to oppress and to kill?
If you come only to help me, you can go back home.
But if you consider my struggle as part of your struggle for survival, then maybe we can work together.
Australian Aboriginal woman
It was with this in mind that 25 Los Altos high school students arrived at Solidarity House on the 18th February. The group are supported by Haiti Action and SOPUDEP Haiti which is their sister school, and make twice yearly visits. Visits last for eight or nine days but students are actively fundraising and attending regular study circles throughout the year in preparation for their visits. Although the visits are short the students still managed to pack an enormous amount of work into the time including holding discussions with a range of grassroots organizations within the SOPUDEP community as well as political and social justice activists. For example they spent two long mornings working on the construction of the new SOPUDEP school and during one of the breaks were able to hold discussions with a long time political activist. Another day they spent at the present school introducing the chemistry equipment they had fundraised and bought for the school. Here they were able to interact and build mutually beneficial relationships with the Haitian students.
The importance of the visit was not just the material necessities they were able to provide directly to people on the ground or having a fuller understanding of the nature and impact of US / European imperialism in Haiti. Their presence required a long term commitment to grassroots struggle in Haiti – they discuss the short and long term needs of those they are working with and then together develop a plan on how to achieve their goals. This in turn required dealing with reflective questions such as what is their role in this struggle, what is the goal of the group and how does their struggle connect with the struggle of those they meet? What is the difference between charity and solidarity and how do we maintain the latter?
I have to admit to a slight skepticism about the visit but the students were amazing in their commitment and hopefully by meeting so many organizers and activists they will be able to go home and speak about Haiti and Haitians in a different way. They were quite young, 15-17 and these were first steps, I wonder how they will be able to translate their experience here outside of the emotional, towards the reality of their lives in the US , their own relationship with US imperialism, racism and other struggles at home and abroad. One thing they did learn, and I learned when I first came here to Solidarity House and I guess everyone who comes gets to learn the real meaning of love and family and thats a huge lesson to learn.
Back to English classes after a two week break for carnival and the delegation, everyone very enthusiastic and excited to talk about the visit. A couple of students have really come a long way in just 6 weeks, they’re pleased, I’m pleased. Another 4 weeks before I leave for a month so I hope we have less of the drifting.
I just finished watching Democracy Now Black History Month special which featured the film ‘King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis. James Earl Jones read the Langston Hughes poem, ‘Who But the Lord’ – A good poem for thinking about solidarity and which remains relevant today.
I looked and I saw
That man they call the law.
He was coming
Down the street at me!
I had visions in my head
Of being laid out cold and dead,
Or else murdered
By the third degree.
I said, O, Lord, if you can,
Save me from that man!
Don’t let him make a pulp out of me!
But the Lord he was not quick.
The law raised up his stick
And beat the living hell
Out of me!
Now, I do not understand
Why God don’t protect a man
From police brutality.
Being poor and black,
I’ve no weapon to strike back
So who but the Lord
Can protect me?
Final last word – some mix up on the last two OMs which originally started as one post and somehow OM 10 published before 9.