Short Notes: Because Everybody Can Serve

Jose Vilson Short Notes

Coretta Scott King

A few links:

There just isn’t enough I can say about the intimacy and immediacy of the past 5-6 days. This doesn’t include work-related or home-related business of my own. The situation in Haiti has made me rethink some of the core memories I’ve had about my Haitian background (and my Dominican background as well). Even after finding out yesterday that my brother eventually found his mother and brother in Haiti were alive, I found myself re-energizing the activist in me, and that felt great. Here are a few tidbits I left on my Twitter in essay form:

It’s funny; people ask me, “Jose, why rally for Haitians when for most of your life, you were ostracized by them?” “Your whole first 1/2 of your life, you barely acknowledged that part of you except in company of other Haitians …” “You don’t speak Creole outside of a few words here and there, and your collection of Zouk is paltry at best.” If people knew these things, they’d be right to wonder why I’ve rallied behind my Ayiti-ness for the last 7-9 years. Here are at least a few reasons why I decided to stand by Haiti, even after my father made me so bitter about that experience:

  • 1) No matter how much you try to deny your culture, I believe the soul of the land always calls you back. Home is funny that way.
  • 2) My mom always told me not to be bitter about it, and grow. It took me years, but I finally understand what she means.
  • 3) I look at Haiti everytime I wash my face in the morning. There’s no escaping that. The jaw. The eyebrows. The smile. Yep.
  • 4) When I learned about Haiti’s proud history, I realized just how much of that set precedent. Independence is not free.
  • and most importantly, 5) I am not part anything. I am full Haitian as I am full Dominican. No in-between.

When I came in contact with my elder brother, and my cousins, I came with a renewed sense of my identity after knowing this. Where before I barely felt like seeing them, I’ve formed a stronger union with my immediate Vilsons. Dug deeper into histories. For that matter, despite what anyone thinks, the island’s name is Quisqueya, not Hispaniola. I am full Quisqueya. More important than the donating I did today, the food drives I’m helping to organize, etc., it’s making sure the culture lives. I still can’t speak a lick of Creole, but I can’t let that define my culture. It’s not so finite. It re-hashes pain, but I grow.

“If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Jose, who has maybe a week more until he drops the website. Let’s do this.