Thursday, August 5, 2010

If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)

Wyclef Jean Files Papers for Haitian Presidency, is Received by the People
(photo credit: @MelkyJean)
If I Ruled the World (imagine that) / I'd free all of my sons / I love 'em, love 'em, baby / Black diamonds and pearls (could it be? If you could be mine, we'd both shine) / If I ruled the world (still livin' for today, in these last days and times)

I remember how long we, lovers of Hip Hop, rocked Nas' 1996 political manifesto, asking us to imagine what the world would look like if he ruled it. His was a collective narrative that asked us to see ourselves in power and the problems we would correct if that were so.

My favorite part of the song is when Lauryn Hill (then of The Fugees) bursts into her melodic, "If I Ruled the World..." and Nas breaks in with an inviting and almost sarcastic "Imagine that!" because he knows that you know it would be tough to imagine.

Now, here we are in 2010 and Barack Hussein Obama is the 44th President of the United States and, imagine that, a Black man. I have great fondness for our President and his mission (and that is the first time I have ever written that, let me tell you) but I'm not uncritical of his role as head of the American Empire. That, friends, is another post for another day.

Today is my first blog post in quite some time. It is inspired by, well, me and the revelations I had when I found out that Wyclef Jean might run for President and subsequent conversations with my Twitter family, especially @sjean70, @FranceinCairo, @sablikatriumph , @FreedomTweet, @EmpressVal and @AfaceAface and I thought I'd start it off right by giving you the:

Top Ten Reasons Why I'm Excited Wyclef Jean is Running for President of Haiti!:

1. I've been teaching about the importance of Haiti and Toussain't L'Overture for years. Haiti's independence (January 1, 1804) had a direct effect upon North America and inspired the strength and courage for my then-enslaved ancestors and freedmen to not only continue to revolt against slavery but to also imagine themselves independent and free, rulers of their own destiny. It appears as though that is what playwright, Ntozake Shange, envisioned when she wrote For Colored Girls Who've Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf (1974), in which the lady in brown summons her girlhood, imaginary, Creole boyfriend (who bore the namesake of "Toussaint"). She thinks he is the famed Haitian soldier and leader, living in New Orleans---whether audience members believe it or not. It's one of my favorite scenes. And brown is the only color not in the rainbow. Hmmm... sing it, Nas:

"More conscious of the way we raise our daughters"

2. There is something extremely romantic, biblical and karmic about "the lowest of these" and the first becoming last and the last becoming first. Having a Haitian boy come to America, become a super celebrity rapper, musician and producer extraordinaire and then return to the country of his origin to elevate the quality of life of the people is amazingly wonderful to me. Eighty percent of Haiti lives in poverty and it's one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. This is totally unacceptable. Hip Hop, at its core structure, is democratic, innovative and technological. In a song similar to that of Nas' tome, Wyclef made a song entitled, "If I Was the President" in 2004 (thank you @redbully04 & @jazzzyone), which was serious, contemplative and offered great socio-political commentary. Wyclef is not dumb, by any stretch of the imagination and, thankfully, he comes from Old School Hip Hop, not the kind of clap-trap the mainstream is used to these days.

3. Like you, I sat in horror watching so many people die in Haiti as a seemingly cruel Mother Nature pelted people with falling rocks and crushed their bones between rubble. It's in these times that I wonder where is God in the presence of human suffering? I don't know the answer but I believe that Wycelf's run for President will maintain attention upon a country that still requires great assistance. Haiti is already "old news" in the U.S. media and I am so excited to see the country infused with even more reasons to stay at the forefront of our consciousness. Sadly, we live in a celebrity-obsessed culture that will keep their eyes on Wyclef, if for no other reason than to catch him if he messes up. But either way, if they follow Wyclef, they will follow Haiti and that's all that matters. Americans tend to have short memories.

4. I have read and heard the criticism about Wyclef running and, while some of it is most certainly valid, like @FreedomTweet's insistence that Haiti needs experienced leadership and can't afford a gaffe at the Presidency, I am not sure that experience, alone, is necessary and it seems as though something more along the lines of a miracle is needed for Haiti. Divine intervention. I believe that, having seen these dead bodies and the extent of the destruction in Haiti up close and personal, Wycelf's spirit was shaken to its core, his humanity was touched in a manner unparalleled and he feels "called" to do something much bigger than bringing in $10 million into Haiti via his foundation, Yele Haiti. I have no proof. It's simply what I believe. There's a reason why Wyclef was crying on television and that level of shamelessness in a hypermasculine culture is only brought about through divine intervention.

5. I'm appalled at the present government infrastructure in Haiti. I will never forget the looks of exasperation on @AndersonCooper and @SanjayGupta's faces as they struggled to comprehend the reason why so much aid was poised (and stopped) along the airstrip and unable to reach the people that needed it. Since their looks of horror and outrage, I have since learned from @EmpressVal that President Preval is an alcoholic (who apparently remained in a drunken stupor throughout this travesty) and that people were actually taking bribes to get aid through certain passageways. I have no words for this type of criminal activity. No words...

6. I believe Wyclef can do a good job. I know it seems outrageous that someone with little official, political experience would be able to govern; but we must accept that Haiti is still in a state of emergency and remains a disaster area. What is needed in this particular day and time is for someone to keep the attention on Haiti, collect the projected $105 million dollars pledged to the country, BE VISIBLE and PRESENT and put together an excellent cabinet that can meet the needs of the people. Wyclef must surround himself with excellent cabinet members. But as the President, it seems as though the greatest qualification is to care enough to seek new opportunities and bring about the impossible dream. I believe Wyclef can do that.

7. We must let our Western expectations relax a bit. Wyclef does not need to figure out how to turn the Haitian people into rocket scientists (at least not overnight). Haiti's needs, at this point, are massive but fairly basic. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Education. Jobs. Security. A major reconstruction project can put people back to work rebuilding their country and a major push for educational infrastructure will elevate the literacy and capacity levels of the people. Not that this is easy but he will have alot of support as President, including that of the U.S.

8. It will be interesting to see what it will be like if Wyclef is the President of Haiti while Barack Obama is the President of the United States. After all, the U.S. offered temporary status swiftly, and humanely, I might add, after the earthquake. These are new and trying times. They are also times for new possibilities. I have read criticism that Bill Clinton wants to turn Haiti into a new colony (as if, in its tremendous poverty and need, it isn't already), working in factories and engaging in tourism. Well, if I recall correctly, that's exactly what drew Americans (especially African Americans during the Great Migration) to the North. We came for new opportunities, to work in factories, to have jobs and to make new dreams. Let the Haitian people grow and if they want those jobs, let them take them. Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with working in factories and it's 99% better than what they have now---which is next to nothing! As for the tourism, Royal Caribbean was still docking on Haitian water during the immediate post-earthquake period but how much of that revenue was shared and how much made it into Port-Au-Prince? We must stop fooling ourselves. There's nothing wrong with tourism, as long as we have more fairness and opportunity for the Haitian people.

9. I saw this article in 2000 when I was still a graduate student in American and Africana Studies. I have never forgotten how insulting it was to read the headline, "Ordinary Dutchman is African King" and I think it's important for us to remember how African people (which includes Haitians, by the way) are seen throughout the rest of the world---and why. So now, let an "Ordinary Haitian" be a Haitian President and let us re-imagine what the African can do and be in the world. Haiti is the size of the State of Maryland in the United States. Wyclef can do this.

10. And finally, my last reason is because it seems as though THE MASSES OF THE POOR PEOPLE OF HAITI want Wycelf to be their President and he is clearly inspiring a level of hope in a people so downtrodden and disgusted by their present leadership and longterm corruption (Duvalier, etc.), that they will accept the leadership of a seventhsonofaseventhson to come and lead their country. Further, Wyclef's work in Haiti has been in the poorest, roughest "scariest" and apparently most violent and gang-ridden neighborhoods. If he can go in as peacemaker and provide aid to "the least of these", then he should be able to help everyone from the bottom up. I couldn't care less what the Haitian elites want, quite frankly. Over 50% of the Haitian population are YOUNG people who want something new. And they seem to want Wyclef. Who am I to argue with the people? All I can do is pray for the country, offer my support when I can and, for certain, encourage all of us to dream of a better world filled with great possibility and allow for the unexpected.

"Better livin' / the type of place to raise kids in"

Imagine that!

Stay tuned for more posts, I would love to hear from you and if you follow this on Twitter, please use the hashtags: #Haiti and #Wyclef


Stephanie said...

WoW! Great post! You've done your homework and you are critical of a lot of things that people take for granted... except one. The duplicity of US in maintaining Haiti in chaos and misery. My fav story about this: right after the quake, Doctors without Borders could not land in P-O-P as US military controlled the airport and refused to let their plane (carrying an entire hospital) land. The French president had to call Obama! Meanwhile John Travolta's private jet was allowed to land...
Been writing on Haiti. Will keep reading your stuff...

freez said...

I too feel that Wyclef can keep the spotlight on Haiti -- My main concern is will he or anyone else be able to keep the resource thieves at bay . . .and if/when they do come for the oil & minerals will the Haitian people reap the benefits of their geography? That would be revolutionary!

Dr. Goddess said...

Thanks so much for reading, you all and thank you, Stephanie and Freez for commenting! I remember what happened with DWB, Stephanie and I think you're right about the US role. And, quite frankly, with Wyclef running, perhaps we can have an even greater say (and scrutiny) upon U.S. Foreign Policy to Haiti, whether he wins or not. Excellent point on the resource thieves, Freez! Thank you so much for that link. Very informative! If Afghanistan is any indication... *sigh*...

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