What Does a Haitian Look Like?

What does a Haitian look like? By: Prosper Sylvain, Jr. Based on a poem "I don't look Haitian" by the author

Did you expect me to have Biscayne Bay's seawater dripping from my clothes?

Did you expect me to be barefoot and hungry?

Possibly dark like the tents of Kedar?

Nappy hair?

Accent on my tongue?

Working in a factory and carrying a bucket on my head?

Did you not recognize me because I was not pushing a cart or planting sugar cane in some fields?

Perhaps you did not recognize me because I did not have my voodoo drum with me today?

Is that why?

Or is it because you only know me through the eyes and bifocals of CNN and ABC who choose to only film my ghettos and slums, but not my beaches and art galleries, my beautiful houses and rolling hills?

Yes, in fact, I am Haitian, PURE HAITIAN.

I am of a divine line of people who have braved the metaphorical coldest winters of war for freedom and revolution.

I am an amalgamation of African, Taino/Arawak Indian as well as a mixture of past colonizers and immigrants to my land such as the Polish, The French, The Spanish, and Arabs.

My mother, Haiti, was the original Statue of Liberty, and she held the truest and original beacon light of true hope and freedom.

If you see me today, light skin, caramel, dark, straight hair, curly hair, blue or hazel eyes, brown skin, black skin, educated, english-speaking, hardly an accent, french and spanish speaking, multi-lingual, doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher, college student, well-dressed, boating, playing golf or basketball... whatever the case may be, it doesn't change the fact that I am Haitian, not only because I was born in Haiti, but because Haiti was born in me.

Hopefully one day the anesthesia and novocain that has been administered to you by the media and history will wear off and you will come to your senses and realize that America is not the only melting pot.

By the way, I only said you don't look American only because the true and real American were/are the indigenous people of this land named "Indians" whom you immigrants killed and ran off their own lands as you scoured their land with manifest destiny.

Have a nice day." Although paraphrased, this is the usual tirade of responses that I give and then, well, basically, I am left alone.

Some will want to know more, the ignorant will shy away from me for fear that at any moment I may possibly explode, but I smile and walk away in a stately manner, proud of my skin, my color, my bloodline and most of all, my heritage.

I also agree with Carl, that many Haitians tend to fall into this pit where they cannot believe that a person is Haitian.

I have heard Haitian men say "Ti dam sa bel epi se Ayisienne li ye" or "fanm sa si telman bel li pa ka Ayisienne".

I have traveled many corners of Haiti and seen many colors, shapes and sizes, and wonder if I am the only one that has seen the rainbow coalition of Haiti.

When we Haitians make these comments, or immediately answer the question "where are you from" with "Well, I'm half French and half Dominican", or "I am from Haiti but my father is French/Italian/Spanish", as if to apologize for one's color and heritage, it becomes sickening and throws me back to the pages of Frantz Fanon.

Years ago, my generation, which I will call Generation X, would walk around with Jamaican accents hanging from their lips in hopes of being seen as Jamaican and not Haitian.

It is not as prevalent today as it was then, but traces of it are still here.

Many Haitians have been prickedby the needle filled with media anesthesia and choose to dismember their nationality.

My job is to make sure that our youth today know who they are and are proud of their heritage, cultural background, history and color... and I use everything from poetry, storytelling, hip-hop and roundtable discussions to get at them, as opposed to the aloof manner that some use.

When I meet with kids and can relate to them from their Americanized point of view, they ask me the same question, "Are you sure you're Haitian", and I reply, "Last time I checked, I'm 100% rice and beans, griot, kreyol, drums, konpa, and a whole lot more".

From there, it no longer becomes an uphill battle. Excellent topic.

Thanks for giving me the space "pou'm degaje konsyans mwen".

Respectfully and Haitianly Yours,

SIGNED: Prosper Sylvain, Jr. (Makendal30)

"I am Haitian not only because I was born in Haiti, but because Haiti was born in me."

Prosper "Makendal" Sylvain, Jr.

Click here to read the original poem

(c)2005, All Rights Reserved. Excerpted from the soon to be published book of poetry and short stories, The House That Mangoes Built, by Prosper Sylvain, Jr. Reproduction and publication of the above is strictly forbidden without the expressed approval of the author.

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All Comments (12)

Erik says...

I love Haitians.

As a people you're amazing, artistic, and your accents are

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Allan Graye says...

mwen se ayisyen.

*beats chest* sa se

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Alex says...

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Topic says...

thank you

that is so real cause let me tell you my parents are from

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Topic says...

Hello, My name is Nadia Sanon.

I'm a 20 year old Floridian mother that just wanted to share the joy that I got from this poem.

As a young child I was the only Haitian in the entire school.

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Topic says...

mwen ta swete ke pwezi sa rive nan tet ak zzorey tout ayisien ak tout zot nasyon, mesi anpil epi fè intènè ayisien-a mache...sipote sa fouye.com ak woodring st. preux ap fè...stay blessed, beautiful inside and out and most of

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Topic says...

First of all I'd like to thank God for inspiring tou with

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Topic says...

Thank God for you!!You are someone with true Haitian Pride!!All you say is true. If you were to talk to a young Haitian today, and (if they even tell you tey're Haitian), they say it as though it were an apology!!They prefer to claim other natoinalities (Jamaican, Trinidadian, Dominican, ect.).

And even some adults have forgotten were they came from. If it wre not for Haiti, France would not be as rich as it is today, and America wouldnot be half as big as it is. (smile)If I could write in Creole, I'd tell you how beautiful it

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Topic says...

As a young HAITIAN Woman, I want salute you for this article.


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Topic says...


Thank you for letting this man share his article with us. It is wonderful adn I'll use it on my page on Haitianconnection to remind others of they are in case they would forget it.

Thanks Woodring for your work and my thanks to this gentleman.

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