Three years ago a powerful earthquake in Haiti devastated an already suffering nation. The world sent aid, but not nearly enough, and Haiti has largely receded from the consciousness of the world.
Shortly after the earthquake, I helped to plan and lead an interfaith service at the BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, in Warrington, Pennsylvania, where I serve as minister. Hindus, Christians, Jews, Unitarian Universalists and others gathered, raised awareness, prayed together, and most importantly raised funds to help Doctors Without Borders in their Haitian relief work.
We also sang together. Haiti Cherie is one Haiti’s best known and best loved songs, and tells a different side of the story from the one we usually hear – this is not the Haiti of grinding poverty, oppression and violence, but of beauty, courage and community. This is the Haiti of an African people who overthrew their European slaveholders a full sixty years before the American Civil War. This is the Haiti of joyfulness and music.
It’s an easy trap to fall into – we imagine that the lives of people living in a place like Haiti are entirely defined by suffering – and somehow that lessens the impact of the current calamity. But real people’s lives are seldom like that, and it’s important to remember that we, who would give our help, do so because we are privileged and we are able, but not because we are better or because our lives and nations are somehow set above others. The Haitian people recognizes the ills their country has faced, and the far worse problems brought by the earthquake, but they are also proud of their country, and with good reason. We would do well to learn from them.
I learned Haiti Cherie for the service, doing the best I could with the Creole, using an English translation from a recording by Harry Belafonte, and adding a fourth verse (“you are never lost to sorrow”) written in the wake of the earthquake’s destruction. When we came back to the first verse, I lined it out for the people gathered, and four congregations sang it well and loudly.
This recording was done rather hastily that week – I had a bit of a cold, so I won’t pretend it’s the best recording I ever made, but it may be one of the most heartfelt. The link should take you to the song. Enjoy it, and if you can spare a little, donate again to earthquake relief.
(NOTE: Pleased ignore any video ads below – they have nothing to do with the post or this blog. The link above will take you to the song.)
(annoying ad below)