Month: December 2016

My Top 12 Podcasts of 2016

Originally, I was going to just add this on to the end of my Best Books post as sort of a bonus, maybe mention 5 podcasts that really informed, inspired, and entertained me this year. But as I started to make the list, I realized there were way too many really good podcasts that got me through this year that they deserved their own post rather than a supplement to another. And then as I was making the list, I couldn’t even keep it to 10 as was my original intention. In the interest of editing my list, I didn’t include any podcasts that are just audio versions of TV shows like Rachel Maddow or Bill Maher. (I know, I know, “Lee, zip up your Iowa farmboy, your liberal hippie is showing.”) This is the year that I became obsessed with podcasts and there were so many good ones out there to fill my earholes. Here are my favorites.

12. There Goes the Neighborhood

square-with-logos_imgThis year I became a little obsessed with the concept of gentrification and this podcast fed that obsession in a very understandable way. It unpacks all of the issues related to gentrification at all levels by speaking directly to people affected by it on all sides. Specifically focusing on the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, it shares interviews from those who are being displaced to those who are replacing them to the housing developers and politicians making the decisions. It takes a broad but comprehensive look at a  specific place that is wrestling with a reality that has started to affect cities all over the USA.

11. Accused

avatars-000247305943-o3mscu-originalIn a year that really capitalized on the popularity of true crime podcasts, to me, Accused stood out as one of the best. What I appreciated about it was that from the very outset in the first episode the producers and hosts were clear about the fact that they were doing the podcast in hopes of actually solving the unsolved case from the 70’s. They were also upfront with the fact that although they intended to present all of the facts as objectively as possible, they couldn’t completely abandon their own human tendencies to form opinions. Establishing these factors from the beginning made the whole podcast more captivating and less clinical for me. It pursues the case of the murder of Beth Andes in a small Ohio town in which a suspect was tried but acquitted and then the case was abandoned to never be solved. A couple other worthwhile true crime podcasts that didn’t make my list are In The Dark and Up And Vanished.

10. Serial

serial-itunes-logoI remain loyal to Serial after their second season knowing that it kept me invested and informed throughout once again. It remains the standard model and inspiration for so many podcasts that have come after it, and in many ways it can be credited for the popularity of podcasts in general today. Many people found season two less interesting than season one but I think that’s mainly because it didn’t provide the opportunity for listeners to play detective. But to me it still shone a clarifying light on a news story that I personally, at least, didn’t know enough about. And through their effective zooming out, they made me see how such a story effects us all. The story of US serviceman, Beau Bergdahl, being captured by the Taliban, is one that is easy to put into a category of hard to define war stories but Serial has a way of showing it to be much more than that.

9. The Room Where It’s Happening

ear_theroomwhereithappens_cover_1600x1600_final-300x300I confess, I’m a Hamilhead. And this podcast provides me with all the super fan Hamilton nerd goodness I need to keep from throwing away my shot (even though I’m really more of a Burr). Having theater and entertainment insiders get together every week and geek out over every detail of the musical makes me know I’m not alone. Every new hidden easter egg and background technical detail I hear about makes me love the musical even more. The best episode, in my humble opinion, was with the musical supervisor, Alex Lacamoire. I also love that it’s always available first thing Monday morning after a weekend without podcasts. Perfect way to start off the week.

8. Tiny Spark

ts_logo_without_taglineThis is the perfect podcast for nonprofit nerds like myself. Each episode takes an in depth look at the most pressing issues facing the nonprofit and philanthropy sectors through interviews with a variety of experts that are often on the cutting edges of these worlds. Hosted by Amy Costello, an experienced journalist whose work has often revealed some of the complicated inner workings of charity  efforts on a global scale. Also her voice is so steady and reassuring that it’s a pleasure to listen to and she always asks exactly the right questions.

7. Code Switch

wubpu46sThis is an NPR podcast that looks at issues of race and identity led by journalists of color, primarily Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol. For me, their topics are kind of hit or miss but when they’re good they’re really good. If you only listen to one episode, make it “Apocalypse or Racial Kumbaya?” But there are lots of good ones. While addressing issues that can typically be so contentious, the hosts maintain a level of professionalism and realism that makes the context of what they’re saying approachable while remaining challenging. It’s a great model of how to have civilized conversations about controversial topics. Plus, Demby closes out each episode with his standard “Be easy,” which I love because he’s the perfect model for such advice.

6. Sooo Many White Guys

indexYes, I’m also a huge fan of 2 Dope Queens, but I actually liked Phoebe Robinson’s own podcast more because while it maintains Phoebe’s always funny and refreshing voice, it conducts interviews with some of our generation’s leading thinkers on the current issues that define us. Rather than being just comedy its comedy + politics + pop culture. And honestly I’m just waiting for God to make my path cross with Phoebe’s somehow so that we can fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. YQY

5. About Race

downloadThis podcast is described as “a lively multiracial conversation about the ways we can’t talk, don’t talk, would rather not talk, but intermittently, fitfully, embarrassingly do talk about culture, identity, politics, power, and privilege in our pre-post-yet-still-very-racial America.” It’s got a stellar team of hosts, including one of my favs, Barathunde Thurston, that take a different topic each week that is consuming the current national dialog about race and they deconstruct and debate it often with a wide spectrum of views on each topic. The hosts always have a healthy debate where they often disagree with each other and ask all of the important questions that we should each be asking ourselves in our interactions with each other every day. It can sometimes get a little too intellectual and cerebral making certain perspectives harder to follow. But it’s successful at being real and raw and leading the way in a conversation that we collectively as a nation should be having.

4. Fake the Nation

ear_fakethenation_cover_1400x1400-1024x1024Hosted by one of my favorite comedians, Negin Farsad, this podcasts features a variety of unique voices, most of them from minority comedians, many of them Muslim. Each week they bring levity, humor, and a healthy dose of cynicism to the week’s political news. As voices that are typically othered in our political conversations, I appreciate this podcast for amplifying these voices instead. Negin frequently echoes the thoughts that I have in my own head, which isn’t necessarily constructive, but she expresses those thoughts in a much more entertaining way. And her guests always add nuance and diversity.

3. Politically Re-Active

podcast-2W Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu taking politicians to task and making us laugh with an incomparable lineup of guests, including politicians themselves sometimes, what more could you ask for? Unfortunately this podcast was only designed to go through the election, but I’m an optimist and believe that it was popular enough that they’ll bring it back again soon. It helped keep me sane throughout the year leading up to the election and often made me look at things in a new way. Their interviews with Rosa Clemente and Jill Stein made me see the Green party in a whole new light. Their post election episode with Roxane Gay was perfection. Keeping my fingers crossed that this one comes back.

2. We Live Here

indexIf I was in charge of giving out awards, I would give all of them to this team of local reporters at St. Louis public radio! They do such a stellar job on this podcast that each new episode can never come soon enough for me. I have a lot of podcasts on this list that deal with race, but none of them do it better than We Live Here. Their most recent episode on race issues in the contemporary art world brought me enough life to last through 2017 and beyond. But even before that, I loved every episode they produced. My only complaint is that they don’t come out frequently enough. What started as a podcast exploring “race, class, power, poverty, systems and the people they touch,” initially in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting and the Ferguson protests that followed, has grown to project insightful analysis and absolutely essential investigation into how these systems affect all of us whether in St. Louis, elsewhere in the US, or around the world. From modern segregation, to implicit biases in schools, to housing crises, this podcast addresses it all and does so from the inside looking out rather than the outside looking in, which is what we get from the national media. I can’t heap enough praise upon this podcast! Even though it’s #2 on my list, it’s still the best in a lot of ways, especially from a local perspective.

1. NPR Politics Podcast

nprpolitics_red1400px_sq-6bc03b536409ec88fd8d3abb637b560e93865bad-s300-c85I honestly don’t know how anyone survived the past year in politics without listening obsessively to this podcast. In a country that is so divided by partisan prejudices, every week, sometimes more, the NPR politics team was a breath of objective, nonpartisan, fresh air providing facts and context to all of the chaos of the election. And I am so thankful to still have them to help me understand the next 4 years. The beauty of it is that they have journalist on the team, that if they allowed themselves to, would have a right to extremely personal opinions on what is happening. Muslim, black, queer, Latino, women, and yes, even a couple old white men, all together using their superhuman powers of objectivity to cover the current political news. Any time you feel like you’re about to freak out and break down from all of the other news your hearing, NPR Politics shows up in your podcast feed and restores your faith in facts and truth and humanity. I am such a fan of this podcast that when one of the team members made a joke about the word “vocalness” sounding like a 90’s R&B group and that joke was embraced by fans to the point that they actually offered Vocalness band posters, I was one of the first ones to sign up. I’m so excited to know that I have a Vocalness poster waiting for me back in Iowa! And now, I have to give this podcast the credit they deserve, especially before they lose two of their best journalists, Asma Khalid and Sam Sanders. Thank you, NPR Politics team, for getting me and so many others through this past year!

Let me know what you think  of this list. Are there other podcasts that you enjoy that I need to check out? If you listen to some of these, do you agree with my assessments? Looking forward to the new podcasts that 2017 will bring us. I might just have to make one of my own. Until then, Happy New Year to all my readers!

If you appreciate what you read on The Green Mango Blog, then please visit my About page to learn more about the work I do and how you can support my efforts as an artist and writer here in Haiti. Thanks.

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My Top 10 Books of 2016

This year there were a number of books that simply came into my life at exactly the right moment. I love the magic that occurs when a book is able to find you at a point where its words speak in identifiably profound ways to your current situation. So I’m happy to share these recommendations with you and hope that some of them are the right fit for the moments that you’re living right now too. As usual, these are not necessarily books that were published in 2016, but ones that I read during the year and would like to pass on to you. This year, however, I did try to keep my list to relatively new books that have been published within the last year or two. Although I did read some classics this year for the first time like The Alchemist and Devil and The White City, I wanted to keep my list to newer books that maybe my readers haven’t had the chance to read yet or maybe haven’t even heard of yet.

1. Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

23209924In addition to being my favorite book of the year, I also think that it is one of the most underrated books that has come out recently. It imagines a world, specifically a USA, where water has become so scarce that life hangs in the balance and people use the possession and trade of water to acquire and maintain power and control the population. The book follows a spy and a journalist whose paths collide through a roller coaster journey of murder, corruption, and the pursuit of the truth and justice. It paints a harrowing dystopian picture of the future that seems all too plausible considering what’s going on between droughts, wildfires, water sources threatened by pipeline leaks, and entire cities poisoned by shoddy infrastructure and corrupt politicians. I think that’s what made me really love this book, the fact that it seemed so far-fetched and at the same time, so frighteningly real. Once the writing hits its pace, the action tears through the narrative dragging the reader along with it on a thrilling ride to fit all of the pieces together to uncover who’s to blame. The byline for the book is, “someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink” and as a reader in the end you’re not sure whether you’ve been implicated or exploited but you know that you’ve been entertained and left to look at our most precious resource in a whole new way.

2. Underground Airlines by Ben Winters

winters_undergroundairlines_hcI downloaded this as an audiobook to listen to during my ride to Indianapolis where I spent a couple of months this fall. When I decided to download it, although I had read the summaries and was interested in the story, I had no idea that it was actually set in Indianapolis. The book asks one very big question, what if the Civil War never occurred? It’s set in modern day Indy, often referring to places around the city that I came to know well while I was there. The main character, Victor, is a former slave who made a deal with the government for his freedom in exchange for working as a secret agent to hunt down escaped slaves to return them to their owners in the southern states where slavery still exists. While following a runaway through the city, Victor uncovers many layers of government secrets that he, himself, has been unknowingly involved in. While following Victor on this journey the reader also is confronted with questions about our modern society, how we interact with one another, and how we each are complicit in the inequalities and injustices that undeniably exist. The story itself touches upon the sacrifices that we each make to become who we want to be and the consequences of those decisions. Normalization is also a theme as characters adjust to the reality that they live in.

3. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

gay-an-untamed-state-jacket-art-9780802122513This was the year that I officially fell in love with Roxane Gay as a writer, speaker, and consistently calm, but critical voice of current issues. I was exposed to her genius through some of the podcasts that I listen to, but once I found out that she’s actually of Haitian decent, I became an even bigger fan and looked into some of her previous writing. Although she’s more known for her writing on feminism, when she draws upon her own identity as Haitian and her immigrant family’s experience, she’s able to weave narratives that are incredibly engaging. In An Untamed State, she tells a fictional story about a Haitian American woman from an elite wealthy family who gets kidnapped and held for ransom while visiting Port-au-Prince. At first I was skeptical of the basis for this novel because I hate supporting anything that perpetuates the stereotype of Haiti as the kidnapping capitol of the world. But Gay handles the story with such a skilled voice and builds such intriguing characters, that the setting becomes less of a social commentary and more of a tool to approach issues of trauma, family, class and wealth, the limits and powers of love, and the feminine spirit. There’s a constant ebb and flow of the reader’s sympathies and frustrations towards the characters, forcing us to question our own assumptions of what we would do if we ourselves or one of our loved ones were ever in such a situation. It’s a book that’s devastating and difficult, but so good.

4. The Tusk that Did the Damage by Tania James

22318387This book is told from multiple points of view, including an elephant named Gravedigger and the different humans that he comes in contact with for different reasons. And of all of the characters featured in the story, the elephant becomes the most relatable in many ways. As he fights for survival and revenge in the countryside of southern India we follow his journey on a tale of greed, resilience, and loyalty. Through all of this it manages to also be a gentle love story set against remarkable circumstances. While enjoying the story, I also learned an incredible amount about the ivory trade and it’s effects both on the animals who are it’s victims but the communities that are involved in it. But the true beauty in its craft is that it doesn’t come off as an informative documentation but rather a splendid story from a unique perspective that leaves you in reverence of the formidable creatures that teach you through their wisdom.

5. The Sellout by Paul Beatty

22237161This book was written with one of the most unique voices of any book I’ve ever read. The protagonist and narrator of the novel looks at the world in a different way to say the least and leaves the reader scratching their head throughout but keeps you invested in his story nonetheless because you can’t wait to see what he says or does next. A black man, living in the ghetto of Los Angeles, he embarks on a mission leading to the Supreme Court, with the objective of reinstating slavery and segregation for a myriad of unbelievable and often hilarious circumstances dating back to his childhood and upbringing by a cooky sociologist father and his racially charged experiences that followed. The language in this book certainly isn’t for everybody and the writing style takes a little time to accept and ride along with. But once you adjust to those, the narrative itself proves to be so intriguing because through it’s humor and one-of-a-kind style, you almost forget all of the really heavy social and racial issues that you’re confronting with each page.

6.Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

bn-oc968_gyasi__jv_20160520165430Another book told from multiple perspectives and following multiple characters until their stories converge, Homegoing is a deep, layered story of two half sisters tracing their histories from the source of the slave trade in West Africa through subsequent generations of their families to show how different each individual’s destiny may be despite where they come from. It pulls you along from character to character through the years tracing the branches out from the roots through slavery and exploitation on one side to wealth and a very different kind of exploitation on the other side. Rather than being just a story about slavery and racism, the ripples reach out to draw you into very human emotions through the personal and genuine treatment of each character you encounter. It’s an absolute study in storytelling while taking a very dark and complicated part of history and putting it in a new light through the skilled fiction craftmanship.

7. The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

27213247-_uy200_I read this book right after the election, and it proved to be just what I needed to escape all of the drama. A light-hearted, comical account of a group of elderly friends who become disenchanted with their lives at the retirement home and decide to bring some excitement into their lives by going on a crime spree of theft and fraud. The inspiration for their decision to enter the world of crime is based on the fact that they figure they’d be treated better in prison then they were treated in the old folks home. The characters are so well defined and so relatable that you find yourself visualizing them as people you know in real life based on their personalities and their individual quirks. It’s not earth-shattering, it’s not mind changing, it’s just fun. It’s Golden Girls meets Oceans Eleven and it’s a pure delight the whole way through.

 

8. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

150709_sbr_coates-cover-jpg-crop-original-originalI questioned whether or not to include this on my list simply because it’s on all of the best books lists and has almost become a cliche symbol for white allyship to racial justice. It’s become a trophy for white people to prove how woke they are by whether or not they’ve read it. But the reason that it has reached that status is because it truly is a brilliant piece of writing taking a unique approach to racial issues. Its creativity in writing is what makes it so accessible to so many people and yet it attacks very important racial issues with gravity and sensitivity. Written as one extended letter from a father to his son this work tackles the tough questions of race in America in an intimate and provocative manner. It’s a survival guide to a young black man in a country and a world that make survival difficult for such youth. As a white man reading it, there are implications that are impossible to escape yet it’s written in a way to leave any reader room to agree with and understand the warnings that are so powerfully translated. 

9. The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

6a00d8341c9ac653ef019b02063899970dI had purchased this book before I ever decided to foster parent an orphan child earlier this year, but didn’t start reading it until shortly after the child was in my custody. So although it follows a very different story of orphans in very different times and places, much of its underlying commentary was especially meaningful to me at the time. Through the unlikely friendship of a moody teenager in the foster system and a wealthy elderly woman, Vivian, we are exposed to the story of Vivian’s past when she was an Irish immigrant orphan who boarded a train on a dramatic journey towards finding a family and a home. Through the intersectional stories we’re taken on a journey where each person is searching for a place to belong and a loving place to land where they can be accepted as their true selves. 

10. H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

18803640In recommending this book, I would also like to recommend that you treat yourself to the audiobook version of this one. Narrated by the author herself, her voice becomes such a peaceful, almost meditative presence that it lends a whole new layer of poignance to the book. The author’s own process of grief after her father’s death is married together with the science of training falcons in a breathtaking narrative that, on the outside, seems like what would be a discordant premise. But it is so fully integrated into the author’s personal story with such a magnificent written voice, that you as a ready become completely immersed in her world and will come out of wanting to go out and get a hawk of your own. It never for a moment reads like a science book nor does it depress you with the grief. It finds it strength in the discovery of victorious flight in traumatic times. 

To Read in 2017

1. They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesly Lorey

2. Gentrifier by John Joe Schlichtman, Jason Patch, and Marc Lamont Hill

3. Swing Time by Zadie Smith

4. The Nix by Nathan Hill

5. Pond by Claire Louise Bennet

Let me know what your favorite books were this year and which ones you think I should add to my bookshelf to read in 2017. If you’ve read any of these let me know what you thought. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. I wish all the best for my readers in the new year! May it be one filled with new discoveries, opportunities for laughing and learning, and more books that inspire us each to become more of who we were created to be. Peace, Love, and Light.

The 10 Most Haitian Things to Happen to the United States in 2016

I haven’t written much on my blog this year. Part of the reason for that might be that I usually write from an American perspective in a Haitian environment and context, but this past year it was often hard to tell the difference between Haiti and the USA judging from the news and current events, so I was confused about what to write about. So now, in review of this crazy year, I’m sharing my top 10 most Haitian things to happen to the United States in 2016. I’m gonna try to hit the blog hard now over the next few days to make up for my lack of posting over the rest of the year. Several year-end list coming up, but this is the first. Sometimes it seems like my purpose as a writer is to write about how crazy and chaotic life in Haiti is, ruled by the ideology of making decisions based on whatever makes the least sense, but this past year, up was down, and right was left, and the USA was making Haitian levels of senselessness. So here’s to putting 2016 behind us and moving on to see what we can create for 2017.

10. Citizens Believed in Revolution Again

Haitians are a people who have Revolution in their DNA. The idea of revolution is central to their very identity as Haitians and to this day it permeates all they do in their daily lives. As USAmericans we don’t cling to such a revolutionary identity. We’ve learned about “the Revolution” in history and maintain it as something that happened it the past but doesn’t define our modern life. This year, however, the word “revolution” started to take on new meaning as it was specifically used in political movements like Bernie Sanders’ whose campaign inspired voters young and old to believe in a completely different approach to politics and public life. Although that particular revolution was unsuccessful it did energize many to embrace the idea of radical change.

9. People were Late to Things

From Hillary making it back on the debate stage late after a bathroom break, to Frank Ocean’s new album finally coming out after multiple postponed release dates, this year seemed to be the year where USAmericans started to embrace the fluidity of time that Haitians have always allowed to guide their schedules. Life’s too short to be chained down to our schedules. In Haiti, any appointment you make always comes with a “give or take an hour or so” assumption. We may not have relaxed our chains quite that much in the USA, but we’ve accepted that sometimes a bathroom break takes a little longer than expected, traffic just doesn’t flow like it should, and the creative process can’t be rushed.

8. The Water Was Undrinkable

As someone who has worked on multiple projects to improve access to clean water here in Haiti, I look upon so much of the news from the US in disbelief as it seems we have made water into a privilege rather than a right. It’s been over two years, and the people of Flint, Michigan, still don’t have clean drinking water and have to use individual bottles of water for bathing and cooking. And politics continue to impede progress despite the heroic work of many local individual’s in their communities there. When I read the stories of Flint mothers having to fill their bathtubs one 16-oz bottle of water at a time for their children to bathe, I have to count myself lucky here in the rural mountains of the hemisphere’s poorest country that I have a cistern full of pure rain water to bathe with and 5-gallon jugs of Culligan water for drinking. The situation in Flint is indefensible and the sad part is that, although it is the most notable, it’s not even the only place in the States with poisonous tap water. As certain people of power begin to be held accountable for the atrocity, hopefully 2017 doesn’t go by without comprehensive change.dsc_1557

7. Natural Disasters Drove People from their Homes

This has been a reality that continues to affect more people in the USA every year and it’s only going to get worse the more that we allow climate change deniers and environmental enemies into positions of power. Any more when I read a news story of cities being evacuated because of hurricanes or floods I have to double check whether it’s in the States or in Haiti. Of course, I know, that if people actually have the infrastructure to safely evacuate before a disaster, then it’s clearly the States, whereas in Haiti, we just read the death tolls that occur in the aftermath the disaster. That’s the difference.

6. Everyone Blamed Everyone Else for their Problems

It was Comey. It was Russia. It was uneducated white men. It was Hamilton. It was SNL. It was the media. It was some 400-pound guy in a bed somewhere. No puppet, you’re the puppet! I think maybe USAmerican politicians this year all participated in a collective workshop led by some Haitians on how to never take responsibility for anything and find someone else to always blame for your problems. Because Haitians are experts at this.

5. People Drowned their Disappointments in Alcohol

The only thing left to do once you’ve blamed everyone else for your problems is drink until you can’t remember that it was actually your fault in the first place. Alcoholism in Haiti isn’t really regarded as an illness or an addiction, but rather as the only logical response for someone whose difficulties in life have left them with no other options. In the USA this year there were at least 2.8 million people who were left disappointed and disillusioned with the fact that they lived in and were represented by a system that overruled their voice. And many of them turned to alcohol because there was no human way to make sense of it all sober. A very Haitian response.15749132_10154195965727844_2133452842_o

4. A Foreign Country Interfered with the Election to Install their Chosen Candidate

It’s hard to look back overtime and pinpoint an election in Haiti’s history that wasn’t tampered with by foreign influence. Sometimes more blatantly than others like in 2010 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually had to show up and have a sit-down big-boy talk with the exiting president to convince him to convince his party’s candidate to concede to the other leading candidate, cross-dressing konpa singer, Michel Martelly. All of this after a series of very controversial votes with accusations of widespread fraud. The US knew Martelly would be more in their interest so they waved their privilege around as the Western Hemisphere’s most notorious bully and pulled the necessary strings to get the result they wanted. Even before that, though, the US has been meddling in Haiti’s presidential politics almost nonstop from electing leaders, to deposing leaders, to reinstating them again. So when news broke, and was ignored, then broke again, that Russia had meddled in our election in the US, not only Haiti, but all of Latin America found the hypocrisy of the USA’s outrage a bit absurd.15749705_10154195965562844_43955809_n

3. Protests Actually Made a Difference

Haitian’s are professionals at protesting. It’s part of their revolutionary DNA. When they see a violation of justice, they know how to interrupt life in such a way as to get changes made. Roads blocked with rocks and downed trees, burning tires, crowds of people gathering to make their grievances known, Haitians will not allow their protests to be ignored. And often times this results in changes being made whether it has to do with the payment of public school teachers, or violence gone unpunished, or roads and bridges in need of repair, Haitian protests frequently put the wheels of justice in motion relatively quickly. In the USA, our protests usually go about with no official response. They’re regarded as a simple nuisance, or often times as a reprehensible crime. Because of our militarized police forces we are able to weaken protests and prove that people do not truly have any power in our society. But this year, the water protectors at Standing Rock maintained their protest with diligence and bravery until action was actually taken at the highest levels and the pipeline construction was halted. Even though it is, indeed, a temporary and partial victory, it is a victory nonetheless for people in our country who very seldom see action in response to protests.

2. A Rich Misogynistic Inexperienced Celebrity was Elected President.

Hey USA, you think you’re being original by electing someone different, an outsider, to the presidency. Haiti’s way ahead of you. Haiti elected a politically incorrect chauvinist because of his fame and manipulation of the media years ago. Long before Trump was saying blood was coming out of Megan Kelly’s whatever or we all heard him on tape saying that he could grab women by the p***ies, Michel Martelly was telling female journalists to come on stage so he could have sex with them in front of crowds and was waving his genitals around in front of thousands during concerts. That’s right, Haiti gets to be hipster about this one, because they elected that kind of guy way before it was cool. (And by the way, they also survived his time in office.) The whole time that the USA was enjoying economic growth, a decline in unemployment, heath care expansion, and a new wave of rights for all people, all under the first black president, Haiti was like, “nah, we’re gonna put this guy who knows how to sing and make us laugh in charge of our country.” Of course, referring to #4 on this list, it’s debatable whether it was actually the Haitians who made that decision or not. Regardless, when they look at Trump, Haitians can be like, “yep, been there, done that.”

1. Black Lives Didn’t Matter

Most people might think that the election would be the biggest news, at the top of the list from the year. But I put this one in the #1 spot because I believe that it is the most important to keep talking about. Certainly, 2016 wasn’t the first year that black Americans were shown how little their lives matter, in fact it was the 240th year that they were reminded of this reality. They saw another string of their black brothers and sisters killed by police brutality, more convicted and abused by a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets them, their children poisoned in Flint and elsewhere, their family driven from their homes in Baton Rouge, and across the country an education system and an employment system that continues to discriminate and segregate. There are endless examples. And they are still criticized for even daring to believe that their lives matter, for daring to say it out loud or typing it in a hashtag. Why this is on my list as the most Haitian thing, is because that revolutionary identity I’ve mentioned goes back to the very fight for black lives to matter. The Haitian revolution was carried out by slaves who were prepared to sacrifice everything to live their lives as human beings with value and freedom. It’s that same fight that is carried on through the Black Lives Matter movement to this day in the US. And it still is a fight in Haiti for them to convince the world that their lives, as independent black humans, matter. They are still viewed by the world as less then, inferior, charity dumps of pity, through the media and nonprofit messaging that define things. If their lives as black people really mattered, then when thousands of those lives get wiped out by a natural disaster, it would make a bigger difference to the rest of the world. If their lives really mattered, then more would be done to protect those lives in the future and set up a system for them to actually thrive in. The same fight that Black Lives Matter is engaged in on a national scale, the people of Haiti have been fighting for centuries on a global scale. A place at the table, a voice in the conversation, a share in the freedom, a life that matters.

15725979_10154196192782844_1780995090_o