A few days ago, I was contacted on my Facebook page for my Haitian/Haitian Vodou work by a woman who is the founder of Haiti Reads, an organization that runs a library and school for students in Carrefour, Haiti. We got to talking, and I offered to donate one of my Haitian Vodou books to the shelves, and then, when she gave me her mailing address, I realized she lived in a Chicago neighborhood where I’d once lived.
We both thought this was a curious connection. As we were talking, I kept trying to place where I was absolutely sure I knew her name from. She’s married to a Haitian, who is himself part of a mizik rasin (roots music) band called Boukman Eksperyans. If you’re interested in Vodou music or Haitian culture, you’ve heard of these guys. I assumed that might have been where I knew her name from, and we kept talking. Our connection was far more than a similar experience of Haitian culture and music, and the coincidences kept coming faster and faster.
Turns out she went to the same college I did, a tiny women’s college in Rogers Park called Mundelein College, which was absorbed into Loyola University Chicago right after my graduation in 1991. At that point, I realized that perhaps she didn’t know my given name, since it’s not prominently displayed on my Facebook site, so I mentioned it and noted that I’d been the college newspaper editor and in the English department….
And then, we found out we’ve actually known each other for years.
We crossed paths in the English department, in the late 80s, while we were both at Mundelein, and had the same advisor, the incredible Yohma Gray, Ph.D. (you learned never to call her ‘Doctor Gray,’ or she’d tell you to find an aspiring and come back to class in the morning…).
I accept that the world is smaller all the time with technology, but what are the odds that two former Mundelein students would end up in Haiti, and get adopted into Haitian culture, without running into each other? And what are the odds that after not talking to each other for at least 20 years, that we’d meet up on Facebook without realizing that we already knew each other?
Perhaps this meeting was intentional. Perhaps the spirits wanted our paths to cross again. I’m willing to believe that. So, I’m taking a step further than just sending a personal book to the Carrefour library, and I’d like to invite you to take part, if you wish.
Biblyotèk 54 needs physical books as well as virtual ones, and you can help, too. In the names of Met Agwe and La Sirene, Lwa of plenty and abundance and all good things, I propose that we get together a big pile of books to send to Haiti for their campus library, as an offering for Manje Mer, the “feeding of the sea” ceremony that Vodouisants traditionally celebrate in mid-July and/or December.
We’ve got about a month to do this. These are the books they’re looking for:
- Any books in Haitian Kreyol, on any subject
- Any books in French, on any subject
- If books are in English, they should be easy to read or educational/how-to books. (Not everyone in Haiti speaks English, so this is not a priority).
You can send books for any age group or any subject. I’m going to collect them and send them on to Haiti Reads on July 15, and I promise to keep you updated on our progress.
If you can’t send books, or don’t have anything to send, there are other ways you can help Haiti Reads, including:
- direct donations to them
- Ebay donations to them (they’re a listed charity you can designate your auction proceeds to on Ebay Giving)
- checking out the beautiful handmade art and accessories created by Haitians at their sister website, the Haiti Reads Gallery.
Everybody deserves to be able to read, and books are a perfect gift. Unlike other charity situations in Haiti, books are not partisan or religious, unless they’re intentionally made so. You don’t have to declare affiliation with any particular group to share a book with someone who wants to read. They don’t even have to be new books, though obviously, they should be in good condition. And parcel post or media mail is cheap!
If you’re interested in participating in this book drive, email me at andezo at gmail dot com (removed email to avoid spam). I’ll let you know where you can send them. Men anpil chay pa lou – with many hands, the burden is light. Let’s do what we can to help Haiti read! Thank you for reading.