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Come, glide up my heart. Slide down my blood. And yes, open a vein before the appointed autopsy hour...

i'm in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. it's April 1995 and there is this one U.S. hero-general always turning on the intimidation, striding about with his 20,000 US troops, his show of force, his cultural biases, his imperial light eyes. Thank goodness i'm a dancer and knew how to do the pirouette. Thank goodness i was an athlete and know i'm the only one who can psyche myself out. And one night in Haiti, i did just that.

it's 3:00 a.m. in the morning. i am in my hotel room at the El Rancho, exhausted by the days blazing heat, still trudging through these old Haitian laws. The tiny bed is laden with papers. i'm drafting a proposal for the Minister of Justice to try and get some solid judicial infrastructures done, not just the training of old judges who are about to get fired soon. That very afternoon i spoke to someone who made a contact for me at the IDB. While i am thinking this might be a decent funding avenue, i fall asleep. The computer is still on. i dream i am five years old again - simply a baby bronze girlchild with big dark eyes, ashy knees, a love for the sea, chasing fireflies. i heard my childself. She was asking me a question.

"Why did you come back here?," she sighed. "Couldn't you have just left me undisturbed in your memories: playing with dolls, chasing little green and brown lizards, eating mangoes and sugarcanes. Dancing up the road at that colorful Mardi Gras festival with the man on the tall stilts. Enjoying the drumming rara bands passing by? Why did you come back here and stop my laughter?"

i don't know why i said it. But in the dream i reassuringly told my childself that i came back because i remembered something. i remembered blood spurting i told her. i remembered the first time i smashed my head on a rock.

We were still living in Petionville.

Mama was out of sight, last seen in her bedroom, seated in front of the dresser mirror - a gilded kwafez in finely carved cherry wood with those very ornate hand-carved chest of drawers. Azibob, the Haitian carpenter next door, a friend of Papa's, had handmade it and sold it to us.

While mother was putting on perfume, powder and brushing her long loosened black hair, readying herself for bed, i snuck out. Peeping to be sure no one saw me going up the road. i was following drum sounds and music.

When i reached the chalky rock boulder i scrambled to the top, scraping bony knees and skinny legs. But on top there i could see the people on stilts, the vivid colors, the costumes, the drums, whistle blowers and cavorting dancers. i was only five but i remember i was jumping around, dancing my butt off.

Next minute i'm slipping down, falling off the boulder head first. Blood spurted everywhere. i was so scared. There was so much blood. i wasn't supposed to be out of bed. The pain was so fierce, i thought i was hemorrhaging on the inside. i got this scar on my right temple from that fall.

"Oh yes!," My childself clapped. "i was there too." Then she grimaced. "That first fall makes our big Diane Carol-Lynn Whitfield forehead even more prominently lopsided, huh? Doesn’t it? We thank Granmèt la – the Master of Breath – for many things, most especially for bangs, don't we?"

(Ezili's Note: It took years to free this face of bangs!!!)

Video - Èzili Dantò live in Miami with Sanba Yatande, TiRouj & MannoVideo Reel

"Asylum, Amnesty and Justice denied our kind" (See, "Breaking Sea Chains" )

- RBM Video Reel


Èzili Dantò performs the Yanvalou for
So Much Like Here (See text and RBM 2004 Video Reel)

And just as i was going to wake up from this weird, double consciousness dream, the childself pulled at my skirt in great agitation. "Spend the night," she pleaded. I waited in silence. "Take back the key," she said mysteriously. "Smile. Be cheerful and silent, remember? Nice, that's who you are."

Tenderly i embraced the trembling form. "Relax little girl. i'll keep you safe, happily jumping rope and playing jacks with rocks and marbles 'till eternity dawns."

She slaps my arms away.

"Go away," li kriye - she yelled. "i don't want to come to the place where dreams perish, you hear babies wailing for food, sisterwomen and mamas are routinely exploited, underpaid, tortured and raped. And the people die of malnourishment, curable diseases, dirty water, imported-gun violence, white drugs or, are imprisoned without trial, conviction or any defense. i want to play."

"Touch our duck.
Isn't he cute? Look at the green lizard. Our jar of fireflies. Remember our jar of yellow-polka dot butterflies, caught to set free? Come on, let's play together again. Fly free. Find your smile again. Take off your shoes. Run barefoot with me in the sudden summer rain downpour, okay? The sun shines brightest after. Come on. Pretty please? Here's your favorite ice fresco."

i knew she was trying to get me to remember a time before time. Instinctually. A time before this glaring wakefulness, this radiant blindness; the illusion before. The time i was closer to, had a sublime sense of fulfillment and self-confidence. But i couldn't lie to her, faking a cheeriness i could no longer reach.

"i can't". "Why?" she said. "Because we have to share this place now," i told her. She wasn't buying it. So i said: "Don't be like that. i didn't come down memory lane to hurt you". "Right!" "Believe me." "No," she hollered.

Trying to explain, i pointed at our suffering cousins. "Listen, i came so that they wouldn't have to live like that anymore. i came so another five-year-old will get to laugh like you did."

"Don't drag me out here with you," she said, finally pulling out of my grasp. "i don't care about no other kid. No people. Besides, nostalgia won't bring back lost innocence and perished dreams."

"Listen," i said in a frantic tone: "You'll have the tears i've lived trickling in our laughter, sifting across our heart, our minds, your innocence. Life gets like that when one lives long enough. But you'll be fine. Granmoun-yo, the Ancestors, they'll make sure of it."

"i don't want to think about unknown Haitian children eternally feeding, biting on venom, torment, starvation and obscurity. Leave me alone."


"Leave me alone, will you? This fear that you're merging with the insanity you've found and disillusionment is messing with me. Don't you realize you can't save the world. Can't save me and you in this world. it's not possible. You're not big enough, cunning or insightful enough."

This cannot be your final resting place yet. Even though i hate a pity party, i went back, i came back to Haiti to touch my own cultural source, my own innocence - the North Star's promises. And touch, maybe, hope in humankind - that most precious of intangible divinities.

Faith, Hope and Invincibility, yesterday grabbed them from me. i can't set them free without my little girl innocence.... What is happening to our people, to the Abner Louimas, won't let me believe wholeheartedly again. Patrick Dorismond's mother, Amadou Diallo's mother, Haiti mothers. Black mothers. When i think of their experiences i hear things. Listen. That's a wail let loose from an African woman who has just, once again, lost her child to official police violence and status quo brutality. Do you hear what i hear? How it has no bottom to it. it's endless, scorching and unbounded by time....


i know you guys have heard lots about Elian Gonzalez. But i'm worried about my babies, the shipload of Haitian children no one cares about, being sent back without even a hearing.

When i got to Port-au-Prince there was that one U.S. general always turning on the intimidation. There were the armies of U.S. military and government lawyers, the innuendoes, the sexism. But amidst all the political and economic complications, retarded sexist hassles and bleak difficulties; amidst the legal technicalities and over-complicated mumbo jumbos, it is those people, the simple Haitian fathers, sons, mamas, sisterwomen, and babygirls, breaking sea chains, who held my attention.

My worst nightmare i think was to stare, do nothing for our people, lose my soul connections 'cause i settled for bourgie freedom, suburban amnesia and joined Prozac-land's unfeeling throngs, cynics and trained zombies.

in the dream, the last thing my childself said to me was: "What you want lives in the present, not in memory. You've got it already. Just see that!"

Well, if i could see, i wouldn't be here writing these pieces, right? i wrote this (Breaking Sea Chains) piece when i woke up:

(Sound of water and waves are sloshing about.)

i returned.....so they wouldn't HAVE to live like that....i went to Haiti so they wouldn't have to leave like that again. But the American general, with eyes in his head like stones, said, "When are you going back to Connecticut?"....(Go to: Breaking Sea Chains)


(c) 1997 by Ezili Dantò. Excerpted from The Red, Black & Moonlight monologue series based on Kenbe La! Crossings of a Vodun-Roots Woman by Èzili Dantò/(formerly, colonially named Marguerite Laurent). All rights reserved.


Manman m

Missoule Bernadel Laurent, my mom, elegant, sweet, poised, always a lady and always beautiful, inside and out. Mama was about 24 years old in the first picture (far left), and took the last photo to send to Papa, who was in the US working and saving so he could bring her there. Mama would say it was a curse to be attractive, have your own mind and be from a very poor rural peasant family in Haiti. Poor Haitian women have no protection. Before immigrating to the US, Mama once had to work, as a domestic, for one of the bourgeois monopoly "Arab" families in Petionville, where if it were not for the serendipitous intervention of my Neg Ginen father, she may have been one of the rich eldest son's numerous young girl victims. Mama, though, would not be anyone's victim and her tales of bucking the sexism, racism and harsh life of poverty in Haiti, passed down to her four daughters raised in America, were lessons that a woman had to have the tools and education to look out for herself in this world. (See, The Bloods: Distant Shores, Ancestral Grounds in The Kenbe La books: Crossing of a Vodun-Roots Woman by Èzili Dantò and Flashback to Autumnal Equinox). This photo montage of our mother was put together by my sister, Chantal Laurent (See, The Haitian Blogger.) Manman, on your shoulders we stand.


...So many lives invisible....so many dreams including our own, all of us must carry, keeping the faith of our African mothers and fathers, so we can pass on the torch of Haitian love, beauty, reaching for justice, peace, independence and co-existence.The work continues for us, for them all: from the past, the present and for the future...

"...it's the entire African Diaspora, beating at the earth's drum, eroding Womb's wall in a desperate toss at rebirth... It takes everything. Coalescing all Africans, all lives rinsed in endless aching pain... It's collective memory. The frustration of generations of minds, generations of Africa's souls piling up, swirling in the vortex, crying tears, tears, tearing the ozone, tears urging recall. Of things. Crossroads. Of the forgotten spaces making possible the symphony. Of the messengers - those torn pieces of the mountains' debris - come to tell of the way, not of the impossible dream. " (Excerpt from Èzili Dantò's So Much Like Here; See also, Ezili Dantò live in Miami).


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