January 4th, 2012
It has been two years since I first arrived in Port-Au-Prince. It is remarkable how short it feels, the eyes close just for a second and flashes of the dream on fire emerge in a slew of most visceral memories; as if they were the lips of a lover parted with just one moment before. Yelizaveta, how I miss her already; and if the last two years has erupted now in snap shots, bombastic escapades and grind; well in just eight hours I miss her as if it were a month, then a year, a forever passing in rapid cycle. Time is relative, memory subjective but for the past two years, really two human moments, there has really been only the desire to possess Yelizaveta juxtaposed with my total solidarity with the Haitians. The moral empathy, endless struggle to know them as a people so that I might wed my trade and toil and talent to the cause of their inevitable liberation.
The attainment of human rights long deferred and structurally denied.
I am now on a plane. It is Continental Flight 1647 and Victor Emile Cange, my stalwart comrade and partner in this operation slumbers silently, Christianly even. Next to me. We have succeeded in moving 840 kilograms of Basic Life Support medical equipment past U.S. customs and home land security. Long boards have become surf boards, bags loaded with stethoscopes, sphygmometers, training manuals, wound care supplies, are all just our non-declared tourist items. The second anniversary of the quake is eight days away, it is 4th January, 2012, by body is tried still from the ethanol athletics of New Years. Yelizaveta is still on my very lips, I can still feel where she grabbed the blue collar of my uniform and pulled me in.
Victor and I are wearing the unmarked blue battle dress uniform fatigues of the movement we are affiliated to; the Banshee underground, and the z.o.b. We suspect these uniforms will allow us more scrutiny going into country while lending less scrutiny to our bags. There is an embargo on all bulk items entering the country not coming in as declared and taxes humanitarian cargo until January 15th.
Like most Blan initiatives pre/post-quake; the dynamics of doing any so-called good are maddening and inexplicable; and have many factions to blame themselves on. Principally always the tiny 5% of the Neg, Mulatto and Arab bourgeoisie, followed by the MINUSTAH UN authorities, the cartels, and the Republic of NGO technocrats. And also the heat, and also history and illiteracy, and famine and rampaging Nepalese Cholera too.
Once again, we are flying into a hell. Flying into the city of lost children and shattered dreams; the land of many mountains. Ayiti Cherie! We are the third wave of the reinforcements from New York. We will meet Tiputti Capois, our oldest associate and brother at Toussaint L’Ouvature International Airport. And re-supply the Gwoup Ayisyen pou Ijans, the Haitian Emergency Group. We will meet their members and prepare them rigorously. EMT practical drills and negotiations on their future, and plans. We will ready them to stand before the archangel Michael Mastroianni who arrives 21st January to administer a witnessed practical and written EMT exam. For whatever good it will do I pray we find them stalwart and reasonably well organized.
I pray too that the city isn’t exactly as I left it two years ago.
Around us on the plane are the faces of Haiti; noire, mulat, blan and representing all things. Things tragic, things ineffective, things self-serving, self-dealing, against and for human dignity, faces of perseverance, of calm of nervousness of taking and of giving. There is also the hard face of Haitian pride, indomitable.
So many trying with the mandate of science, God, and reason to remake the face of Haiti; save her somehow in some small way.
So many never even asked the Haitian people. Too many are simply short sighted interventionists. Or cowered by the ten million masses shackled in the modes of survival. Today we will ask the GAI and their members where to from here? Victor, myself, Michael, all of us in Banshee and LAHAF; all the supporters of the movement; all the veterans of the first and second waves; one and all are fighting for a small dream too.
But thankfully none have died for it, yet. I remember so many faces from the first time; from 15 January, 2010 to 28 January, 2010; the first wave. The Bed Stuy-AMHE Detachment. Our tumultuous landing in the 6th day of relief, before the bodies were buried or the smoke had cleared. Indomitable will; fearlessness and selflessness and all of that faith we had in our humanity. The cooperative solidarity of a Kombit Medikal. That two weeks, that slaughter of so many Haitians; who knows whether it was 1, 2, 3,000,000 people; no one knows at all. That laid the basis of my dream, the dream I sold to Victor, to Cassidy, to Dominich, to Lou Auguste Jr and LAHAF, to Jenn Slitter, to all of the Banshee underground, well I’d sold the dream even to myself convincingly. We dreamed that the Haitians would have the training, will and organization to save lives.
I must always remember the steams of the bathhouse, where me and my first partner, my first co-conspirator beautiful Yelizaveta Kotlyarova gave me true support and true unflinching council. Must also keep my parents in mind, or in a heartbeat I would lose myself in the people of Haiti and never return to America at all. Go big or go home, banshee-motherfucka-if-ya-ain’t-running-with-it-run-from-it.
Victor knows this well.
We were both there in the blood and rubble of the trembling earth. Our tears and their lack of tears our blood and their blood, mixed into the casement and cracks on the pavement. I may have the face of a blan, but my heart is that of a Haitian. My constitution to take the struggle to where it must logically go, all the way up the great mountain, to secure this people, my adopted people from vicious exploitation, mismanaged sympathy, foreign rape and plunder. For two whole years we organized volunteers, we supplied the GAI with trainers and gear. And reinforced the shared dream. Not EMS in Haiti! Not mere ambulances! The power to respond to human and natural disaster on their own, the ability to rescue their own people. Liberty through control of their own social services, full human rights would come later, full reclamation of sovereignty. Realization of emancipation and the conclusion of the revolution. Haiti, finally in the hands of Haitian people.
How am I such now a major patriot for a foreign people? In their eyes I see my own people, maybe I see myself in another life. That is what the earthquake showed me about myself and my destiny. I see my reflection as a human in them. I see a way to reclaim my own humanity, restore my own life through something much more important than mere me.
And I have lost so much on this battle already, they think, some think I am a mad man possessed by the spirits. Which spirit I do not even bother to guess. Something had entered me in those grisly days of the first wave. I saw the world to come.
I saw that were I to show ineffable might, like a Haitian; I would live to see the liberation. I would live to see our victory over that oligarchy.
The Haitian oligarchy first and then the tyrants in my own nation and all of the other plantations too. For it was in this country, this was the beginning of the Great Revolt, it was the very first time a rebel alliance took on European hegemony, slavery and colonialism; and for a time won.
There was no only Yelizaveta and the slaughter I saw from the quake. Both opened my eyes to hating and to loving, to despair and to a possible freedom. With my eyes opened now they can never close until I am cold and dead. Haitian and foreigner, blan, mulat, neg; l’union fait la force! We are here to keeping laying a base.
The ability to heal and help is not the ability to save. Wounds and sickness across a body politico cannot be helped with small cosmetic Band-Aids. The blame for what happened here is a shared blame. There are so many people black and white and in between that have conspired to ruin Haiti. To keep her people backwards and maldeveloped as lesson to all those who would join the revolt.
Haiti hemorrhages now for 200 plus years and they kick her when she is down, they steal whatever there is to steal, they plunder and they rape and they abuse her while she lies long vanquished. 97% of the fucking trees are gone! 84% of the people live below $2 a day. No one even knows how many died in that quake because there was no census since 2004! When US marines kidnapped the first and only elected President Aristede and dragged him off to house arrest in the Central African Republic.
But Haitians will never be exterminated. Or long brought to their knees. They are capable of incredible resistance. Résistance to both foreign and domestic enemies. A year ago Jean Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc the last dictator) returned to a city of barricades and a populace demanding his arrest. Aristede returned to be celebrated though his party Lavalas is banned an illegal still. Resistance to and beyond death. In one generation or two in diaspora Haitians have become doctors, lawyers, nurses, lawyers and business men. More millionaires than any other Caribbean diaspora. They make up 1/5 of the Greater New York healthcare work force. Who knows if these statistics are true, they reflect a fact on the ground.
In Haiti, despite the best efforts of 10,800 non-governmental organizations (Klass ONG), charities and missionaries unleashed in the 1980’s after the fall of Duvalier in 1986; things have gotten as bad as sub-Saharan Africa. A UN garrison of roughly ten thousand Brazilian and Argentine soldiers occupies the only UN peacekeeping mission in a nation with no declared ceasefire between combatants; neo-Duvalierist oligarchs and the Famni Lavlas party.
Here everyone is dying.
Of cholera, of being a restovik child slave, of preventable disease, of Cholera, of road accidents, of child birth, or exposure and tropical storms, of hunger. Life expectancy is below 58. There are over 46,000 mostly white development technocrats here, they live well. On the top of the hills with servants and drivers. Parts of Kenscoff and Petionville look like high society France. With chipping paint. There is an opera house at the top of the mountain called Tara’s. You can see plays there or famous international musicians. There are so many Haiti’s except the one that most of its citizens live in; one of early death and great squalor.
If you are blind to that then you have not really been to this place. Or you are part to blame for it.
Many but few, have made Haiti what she is. The iron heel is elusive and complex. The violators are of all colors and creeds. NGO imperialists, human and drug traffickers, Dominican businessmen, the local oligarchy. But before we can know our enemies we must know our friends. Tiputti and his sister Tipudine Capois do not talk politics. They are not affiliated with Lavalas or any faction we are aware of. They met us during the quake and have told our grand alliance; Alliance 01 that they will organize their people.
We began with 68 EMT trainees and I am told we now have only 25 or 26 that are ready to test out, a year later. The other possible 100 members of GAI dropped the course Paramedic Instructor Howard carried out for 6 months, but they hang around the club and see what will be offered. Their motives are as diverse as our own collection of idealisms, but they want jobs in the medical sector. They want to leave the island some. They have varying degrees of patriotism, none speak English except Tiputti and his sister Tipudine. Many were original responders like Tiputti Capois who met Victor and I two years ago during the first wave in “unit C” when we enlisted several hundred to secure the General Hospital. Many are new. Most of the serious opportunists are gone allegedly. The GAI has held out with no pay for nearly two years, we sent a scout Wilkinson Francois to assess them three months ago, he reported enthusiasm but virtually no command structure of program for the future. He reported 25-30 possible EMTs and 40-100 first aiders, Haitians despise making rosters and lists of names, so they don’t do it.
These 25 potential EMT trainees, and 100 some odd responders, their family and friends are what we are here to properly assess the operational capability of.
Are they young bold visionaries seeking change in Haiti? Or are they opportunists as so many warned. Do they want real change, or do they just want jobs and livelihood? Well only Wilkinson had asked. Paramedic Instructor Howard has disappeared. Wilkinson as a Haitian and speaker of Haitian Creole had reported to us that they were sincere. And also a bunch of disorganized civilians in their early 20’s.
His report was what got authorization for Victor and I to proceed with a third Wave.
All the experts and much of the diaspora had told our Alliance that EMS in Port Au Prince is simply impossible. They told us our volunteers would be kidnapped, our supplies stolen or killed. They told us Haitians don’t do anything without being paid. Thinly guarded racism, a lot of it.
Victor has faith. I have zeal. And Michael Mastroianni has a great deal of expertise and we all wish to see if two years of effort had a result. Hundreds of other members and volunteers are waiting for our unit to validate or invalidate a lot of sacrifice. They came from Atlanta, from New York, from Miami, from Las Vegas, from Seattle and Chicago; 104 in the first wave, 28 medical and communications volunteers in the second wave. Now, just 3 in the third. Civilian volunteers all, mostly EMS, fire, and communications backgrounds kept this going for two years. GAI survived without pay or resources cut off from LAHAF and BANSHEE in the states except phone calls and email, periodically. They and we are fighting to give the people here and abroad something to believe in.
Hope floats? Maybe.
Soon people will testify. Haske & Mapfre, Greenlee, Denby, Marriana, Fishman and Resnick who shot a lot of film and took a lot of pictures. Hundreds of hours of never gonna be seen footage. How this occurred was wrongly held faith in the power of the media. No film was ever made. Thomas later made a short one.
Victor and I are emergency medical professionals, I’m an EMT, and he’s a paramedic. We have to determine alongside paramedic Mastroianni; was this all for nothing or is the GAI real. Can GAI pass BLS exams, take multiple choice tests and pass? They never even had power points or text books. Can they complete the eight stations of basic life support practical skills, can they hold up as real EMTs? Are they school kids or potential heroes and avenger of their people? We have to testify in less than 20 days.
Testify about the birth of Haitian EMS, and if a clandestine Haitian human rights movement can grow from that or not. In an hour we land at Toussaint L’Ouvature.
This time I bet they stamp my passport.
Thank god this is all finally happening. Despite all the struggle and all of the loss and hardship I feel as though we are close to the edge as well as the tipping point too. Real change. I pray I will never forget Yelizaveta’s face, how could I? More I pray I never fail to separate FACT from EMOTION, as all too many do in Haiti coming from the outside. I must make sure I sleep more, a little more. We have a lot of work cut out for us. Making the GAI ready for Michael, the 22 January test, the 26 January Consortium on EMS in Haiti, a lot must be done in just 22 days.
If you ain’t running with it, run from it. That’s what my life coach Lil Wayne told Yelizaveta and that’s what she told me.