Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Northernmost Caribbean City

OK so this is beautiful and productive and necessary and heart-warming: Haitian children who survived the January 12, 2010 earthquake have a video conference with their Katrina-surviving peers. The kids ask each other empathy-building questions and have a lively discussion about trauma and healing. No doubt, this is an unforgettable experience for both groups and a testament to the power of technology to build bridges, cross borders and open minds.

Wonderful, right?

But I was surprised to see so few brown faces representing the New Orleans side of this particular conversation. Is that merely coincidental? Because according to the 2000 Census, The Big Easy is over 67% African-American. Certainly Haitians and New Orleanians have more in common than disaster and loss! The Boston Globe once dubbed New Orleans "The Northernmost Caribbean City." In fact, in 1809 - just five years after the Haitian Revolution - thousands of black, white, biracial, enslaved and free Haitians migrated to La Nouvelle-Orléans, thereby doubling its French-speaking population.

So what was the selection process for the documented exchange above? Did the participants ever talk about race, class and culture? Would CNN have been as eager to broadcast black on black dialogue? 

This is an excellent start! Please do it again. See what happens when you introduce Haitian students to a more heterogeneous group of young Americans who reflect the demographic truth of Crescent City. I bet it will be just as successful and positive. 
Warmly, Lenelle

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Inspiration: Across the Universe

At my desk this morning, I sip cold coffee and watch one of my favorite videos: Fiona Apple's cover of the Beatles song "Across the Universe." The arm hair-raising gray scale images of riot (see below) always tug and tear my heart.

So many questions surface as I watch: Why are these men so suddenly invasive and angry? Why are they infesting and destroying a harmless and previously empty space? Is the violence around our protagonist inevitable or preventable? Is she immune to their behavior or can it hurt her? Is she an innocent bystander or a willingly passive participant? Why don't the men notice her projected inner peace? Why doesn't her singing calm them down? Can beautiful music transcend space, time and corruption? Can art catalyze change or does it only distract us from directly interacting with a hostile world?

"Victory to the God Divine Om" is one translation of the compelling Sanskrit chant John Lennon wrote into the chorus. Sweetly sung here, I cannot tell if "Jai Guru Deva Om" is stubbornness or delusion. Still, I find myself singing along. Casting the spell whether it lands or not. Evoking gratitude and love in the face of chaos. Music helps me cope with the steady stream of awful news in this gravity world. I'm not yet ready to believe that "nothing's gonna change" it. But I'll accept melodic consolations.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Girl Who Spoke for the World

At the age of twelve, environmental activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki gave an urgent, wise and resonant speech at the UN Earth Summit. The year was 1992 and today, her words still stand beside my deepest wish for this planet, its varied life forms and its human children. The video below has been given the popular title, "The Girl Who Silenced the World..." but I think Severn did the exact opposite. She spoke for the World - for all of us who feel and fear the political neglect and corporate greed that threaten our collective survival, well-being and evolution. As the earth quakes and the glaciers melt and the levees break and the oil spills kill, my eyes water watching this...

"If you don't 
know how 
to fix it
please stop 
breaking it."

Oh, yes. I have memorized this poem.