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The Cost

Did we sell our souls for opportunities? We traded barter relationships for 6-figure salaries. We traded ocean breezes for air-conditioned skyscrapers. We traded the sound of drums for techno polished sounds of refined classical tunes. We traded the sound of the sea and rhythmic accents for structured tones and polished finishes. But did we receive the promises that these trades seemingly guaranteed? Did we sell our souls for a million Gourde (currency of Haiti) to earn only pennies in return?

Since nothing puts you to sleep more than that ocean breeze, no sweater, I love you can be said then from a Haitian man, I’m not sure. I sometimes wonder if it was worth the trade. Although I have friends that are “true Haitian” through and through, having lived on both sides of the island of Hispaniola, say that I’m naïve and protected. They call me a “wannabe Haitian” (eye roll). Yet, I never feel more alive than when I find myself among those drums and rhythmic voices.

I am ecstatic and thrilled that my parents made the difficult decision to move us to “America,” as all Haitians call the United States. Hadn’t they made that choice I would not have been the woman that I am today. Nonetheless, maybe it’s time to acknowledge the loss that this opportunity brought to us. As members of the African diaspora who have migrated, forcefully or willfully, to various countries on the planet, maybe it’s time to acknowledge, process, and heal from those losses so that we can stop surviving “our middle passage” and start thriving again.

Migration has provided us “diaspora” with a unique and complex paradigm, both victors and victims. To say we have endured, seen, and done things that have broken our hearts to survive is the understatement of the century. But, to also admit that it was our choice to leave our homeland to an ostensibly paradise, somehow, bruises our spirit incessantly.

Henry Cloud said, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” Therefore, was it really a choice if staying was more painful than leaving? I certainly don’t have a clear answer to this question. But what I do know is that whatever side of the ocean we are on, we are experiencing a great deal of pain whether we acknowledge it or not—event though we hide it very well.

We are brilliant, resilience, and forces of incredible talents and depts. Yet, I dare to say that we will not heal ourselves, our families, our community, and our country until we deal with our collective trauma. As we can all see and acknowledge how our homeland is being burned to the ground. We seat and watch with tearful eyes, as we destroy ourselves. This is clear evidence that what we are currently doing is simply not working. I hope that we will find the courage to change course and finally heal ourselves.

Ms. Karine Champagne, MSW, LCSW is the Chair of the Social Service and Community Development Committee at the Haitian American Leadership Initiative

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