By Christine Joy Ferrer
Featured photo © 2016 Danielle Hall, Lakou Souvenance, Gonaives Vodou Ceremony

I’ve been going back and forth in my mind trying to figure out how to best post about the after-math of Hurricane Matthew that hit the Southern part of Haiti the worst.

I’ve been on this journey for the last several years inspired by Haitian culture, folklore, song and dance, studying and learning. It’s brought so much healing and purpose to my life, connection to the world around me, and oneness, also thinking more in-depth about ancestral wisdom and guidance, as a mover and dancer, as self-described cultural arts advocate, as a creator, as a human.

Most of what the media shows about Haiti and other so-called, “poor and impoverished” countries is just tragedy and devastation. Seldom are we exposed to examples of beauty and the vibrancy, cultural wonders, knowledge and power, spirituality, and personal stories and voices that make a country’s heart beat. It’s so easy to perpetuate and promote fake truths with what we are inundated with constantly by watching the news and listening to the media. And then we inadvertently (or I swear most of the time it’s on purpose) promote a “poverty mentality…” and ideas like the belief that America is so wealthy that we don’t have poor, homelessness and inequity. Or that our land is the land of opportunity, so our land is better than your land. And what do you really mean by “poverty” anyway?

Dance class a ENARTS, Photo by Jarrel PhillipsMy dear friend Zoe Quinn said recently, “Please carefully consider the word POVERTY. This is a blanket term that has a lot of impact. When we look at ‘poor’ people, what do we really see? Obviously, ‘poor’ people will look very different depending on where those people live; which country, urban, rural, etc. We (the ‘privileged’) often rush in to help ‘poor’ people with better education, better nutrition, give more status, empowerment. But, the ‘poor’ population we talk about, have we been in their homes? Do we know their actual needs? Do we really know the implications of ‘helping’ them? It is coming clear to me that the most help designed to help ‘poor’ people is just to MODERNIZE them.”

And as a journalist and editor, I will say that what we see or read in mainstream media doesn’t necessarily mean a whole country or place is in shambles… Just like when we hear or have heard people say Oakland is dangerous. Every place has its challenges and strengths. It’s important to pay attention to where you’re getting your information from, and where they’re getting their info from. Mainstream media is driven by fear, another means to control. So be conscious of what you’re letting into you, and how its being represented and interpreted.

Rara Season in Haiti April 2014. Dancing queens in the streets. Somewhere between Port-au-Prince and Gonaives. Celebrating life, Easter, the Lwa, Kanaval, Spring, etc. Photo by Christine Joy FerrerBut caring for others should be a basic necessity of life. And we must take care of one another in whatever shape or form or capacity, that speaks to each of us as individuals and as community and support a cultural exchange between one another; we give, we receive.

I’m sharing this Haiti Cultural Exchange video and some photos because I wanted to share another side of Haiti that is not often seen. This was from my first and second cultural exchange trip to Haiti, where I visited Port-au-Prince and its surrounding provinces led by Daniel Brevil. An experience I’ve shared with many others as well.

If you are considering donating aid to Haiti, check out Effective Aid for Haiti after Hurricane Matthew to learn about the groups, people, or programs who know first hand about what going on in Haiti and have resources on the ground and are providing relief cost-effectively in the areas impacted by the hurricane.

Also, follow these folks who never cease to uplift Haitian Culture @ashadebonmanbo ( @fotokonbit @jaebostonhaiti @jeffpierredrums @dieufellamisere #dancetosavelives #afoutayi

Thinking of all the people who have lost so much because of the hurricane. I’m rooting and sending my prayers up for your recovery.

Related Stories:

Ayiti Files: Part 1 + Part 2
Haiti Cultural Exchange 2016, Photos by Jarrel Phillips

Haiti (Ayiti) Cultural Exchange 2016! Hosted by Daniel Brevil, musical director of Rara Tou Limen, dancers and travelers embark on a two-week cultural exchange trip to Haiti to experience live music, community contributions; Haitian Kreyol, music, song and dance workshops, sacred waterfalls, traditional Vodou ceremonies, and much more. Ayiti Cultural Exchange 2016 // Filmed, produced and edited by Jarrel Phillips