FET MANMAN – Mother’s Day in Haiti

Every year on the last Sunday of May (Haitian Mother’s Day) the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, holds a special event to honor mothers. Sunday May 30 the AFD welcomed 3,500 women to the auditorium of the Foundation for a very special day of communion and solidarity– to offer solace, and encouragement, and a chance to speak out to women representing mothers across Haiti.

The event was planned for 2,000 people, but an overflow crowd filled the balconies, hallways and rear of the auditorium.

The event opened with a multi-denominational religious ceremony – including a presentation by Pastor Eddie Hebron, an African-American Minister from Savannah, Georgia.

Three mothers, Gladys Delouis, a long time AFD staff member and women’s organizer, Merry Roche, the coordinator of the AFD Mobile Schools Program, and Madame Florence Agenor, a community organizer from Cite Soleil who spoke in the name of the mothers of Cite Soleil, rallied the crowd.  All of them spoke of the hardships faced by Haitian mothers today.  After losing family members, children, their homes, and whatever small businesses they might have had, are now suffering in the “tents of humiliation” where they have to sleep standing up when it rains.  They also spoke of the courage and the endurance that women are showing in the face of this crisis.

Madame Agenor thanked Titid’s mother for giving them this “gwo garcon.”   Everyone present was thrilled to have the opportunity to say loudly and clearly in the presence of several foreign delegations that they want an end to injustice, that Jean-Bertrand Aristide must return to his homeland to continue to work with them for social peace and justice for all Haitians.

To this end Gladys Delouis read a petition which was launched one week ago calling on President Barack Obama to return Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti.  The petition has already been signed by 15,000 Haitian women. In the coming weeks those present committed to gathering the signatures of thousands more women across Haiti.

Then Kolonb Dor the 120-person dance and music troupe of the AFD took to the stage.  They performed the Haitian National anthem and offered a prayer for everyone present — then asked for one minute of silence in memory of the thousands of mothers who were lost on January 12.    Kolonb Dor performed several traditional Haitian dance pieces accompanied by Haitian drumming.

The heart of their performance was a theatrical, musical and dance piece commemorating the events of January 12, which closed with a Requiem for the earthquake dead.  It is hard to describe in words the kind of emotion and catharsis that this piece once again evoked.  The pictures below offer some sense of the creative response these young people are offering to a nation in need of outlets to mark and to mourn losses that remain incalculable.

After the cultural presentation Toussaint Hilaire, the Director of the AFD  greeted all present in the name of the Foundation and of President Aristide.  He then introduced a representative of the Mexican Embassy who made a surprise announcement that they were donating  1,500 tents to be distributed to those present.

The event ended with a massive distribution of tents to 1,500 people and food kits to an additional 2,000.  The food kits contained rice, beans, cooking oil and sardines — provisions for a family for one week.  The distribution took 3 hours – but went smoothly due the hard work of 50 volunteers who formed a human chain to keep order and make sure everyone received something.

We wish to thank everyone who made this extraordinary event possible:  the staff and volunteers of the AFD and the young performers of Kolonb Dor who all worked for weeks to prepare the event; the government of Mexico who contributed 1,500 tents, and Pastor Eddie Hebron, of the Christian Revival Center and the Hosea Feed the Hungry Project, who contributed half of a container of food and some medical equipment which will be used in the weekly clinic at the AFD.   Most of all we thank the 3,500 mothers who made their way to the Foundation from across a devastated city to declare with us once again – Nou pap bay legen nan batay la. We will not give up this struggle.

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