"Before you form your lips to say that my country is a shithole,
take a look at your own
Because my country is life"
Less than a month ago, on Jan. 15, Planet Kreyol– University of Miami's Haitian Student Association– started the new year strong. The HSA held a 10-year anniversary Earthquake Remembrance Ceremony in tribute to the devastating disaster that struck the island ten years prior.
Attendees flooded the Shalala Grand Ballrooms, numbers so vast that late arrivals had to stand. The evening included an array of performances including video and live singing, the most impactful being a poetic attribution by ____ Jasmine Mompoint– "The Hard Truth."
The poem left the audience in awe, provoking frequent murmurs of "facts" and "mhmm" saturated with an attitude that only those who agreed with her words had to offer. "The Hard Truth," titled by the poet herself, stuck with everyone present, Haitian or not. The room echoed as every stanza began and finished– crescendo added towards the end of each line for emphasis, quickness in the momentum of the lines for affect.
The first half seems a bit depressing, addressing the unattractive state in which Haiti currently lies. As many believe, including our current president– as stated while campaigning for presidency in Little Haiti, South Florida in 2016– Haiti is a "shithole country." A statement "proven" time and time again via first world media in attempts to “educate” and “enlighten” individuals. In its current condition, it is easy to feel sorry for Haiti.
Haiti is the poorest country of the western world
If you have any interest in discovering what this small country looks like
I advise you not to turn to your local news channel, or to any mainstream media for that matter
But to google images
Just type in the five letter word
And watch the sad, pathetic pictures come flashing across your screen
Encompassing nothing but pollution, deforestation, and starving children in the streets with dirty faces and cut knees
the pictures and the faces and the bodies that pass across your screen will not be beautiful
But hard to bear
They will be thin
The perfect optic angle to end up in a first world textbook
Educating students on what not to look like
On what not to do
On where not to live"
However, the truth wastes no time. Illuminating the ignored scars, hidden colors and untold stories that is the history of Haiti, Mompoint digs up secrets that were swept under the rug and kept from the naive in America's past, switching the poem’s viewpoint:
The sight looks a little something like the city streets of any US state
We have pollution, deforestation, and starving children right here in America
Open a book written on black history in the United States and it might look something like the black slums of Chicago
Or the projects of New York before gentrification turned brownstones chic and the projects obsolete
I think I’ve got it almost all figured out
That the pictures they show you of my home are to satiate the ego of the average US citizen
It’s meant to make you believe that your world is much larger than mine when
In reality it is much smaller
It is meant to make you believe that you are better than me
It is meant to make you believe that starving sick black babies exist only in my borders and not in your own
So that a guilty conscience won’t consume you
Like we don’t have the 45th locking babies in cages
Like we don’t have people here choosing between keeping the lights on or keeping food in their stomach
Like your people didn’t cross the waters centuries ago and steal everything from mine
Using brutality as your payment
Death as your inspiration
And the devil as your savior..."
The poem ends on a composed, strong, intuitive note, in lieu of the poem’s harsh beginning. Mompoint held her head high while finishing her poem, as if to mimic the strength the world's first black nation has when winning their independence from their colonizers over two hundred years ago.
Haiti is the Western Hemisphere's second oldest independent nation after they defeated the French in 1804
The reparations France forced Haiti to pay for overcoming their own oppression ran into the billions and continued until the year 1998
And will never be in the history books
I suppose it is because your people don’t want to know that mine paid for your lives of luxury
Paid for your country’s beauty at the expense of our own
Haiti is one of the most beautiful places in the Western Hemisphere
Our country is the place you come to vacation
Our beaches so clear you can see your own guilty conscience in them
Our sands bright like the hope my people keep alive within them
Our drinks tasting of the resilience we hold so close
Our food seasoned with culture that will never die
Before you form your lips to say that my country is a shithole, take a look at your own
Because my country is life”
"The Hard Truth" forces the reader to stare at serious social and political issues. Jasmine Mompoint puts a period on hate and educates; the poem feeds the public a well-needed dose of the hard truth.