The17
TOURS / CITY-TO-CITY / PORT-AU-PRINCE Haiti

What Is This Earthquake For?

13 January 2010

Haiti is run buy guys who would like nothing more than a real disaster to hit our country, like a massive hurricane or even better an earthquake – Rodrigue, 15 December 2009

At 11:13 last night I received a text from Tracey Moberly telling me there had been an earthquake in Haiti. I went directly to the BBC site to see what I could learn.

This morning I’m sitting at my screen starring at the photographs of school children we (John Hirst and myself) were working with the week before Christmas 2009, in a school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. And I’m wondering what has happened to them. But it does not take much wondering to know that their lives, if they still have one, will never be the same again. Those warm welcoming smiles may never return to their faces.

The night has brought a fresh fall of snow. I’m in my usual seat; the window beside me looks down onto the road below, where the local Hackney/Dalston/Stokey youths are heading for school. The usual jostle and banter, shrieks of laughter, snowballs being thrown. But infront of me on the screen is this photograph of six young people who, as I write these words, will be going through the darkest night of their lives. This is literally; as well as whatever metaphor you want to force, as it is three hours before dawn for them and whatever electrical supplies Port-au-Prince has, will be down, and darkness, in whatever way you want to imagine the word to mean, will be total.

John Hirst and myself were in Haiti for less than a week (13 – 19 December 2009). We were there as part of the first Ghetto Biennale. This was to be a biennale with a difference, one where artists from the ‘developed’ world would work and exhibit alongside artists from Haiti. It took place down in the Grand Rue area of the city. The Grand Rue being the poorest area in the old part of the town. The celebrated sculptors of the Grand Rue were our hosts. 

Leah Gordon, the co-curator of the Ghetto Biennale, had invited me to lead a performance by The17. And if you do not know The17 are a choir, but a choir that is made up of different singers every time they perform. And the singers can be anybody, of any age. And it does not matter if they have not sung since they mumbled along at school assembly. And the music sung by The17 uses no words, rhythm or melody. And The17 is never recorded for posterity. You will never hear The17 on radio or TV, they will never make a CD, and you will never be able to download their music from the Internet.

Since The17 went public in early 2006, they have given over 260 performances. But our performances in Haiti were the first in the Americas.

In November we had led a performance of The17 in a large comprehensive school in the English east midlands town of Corby. The school was called Kingswood; it had been my school as a teenager. I had hated it and loathed everything I perceived it stood for. The performance of The17 at Kingswood in November involved over 500 pupils and was considered a great success. It had been planned that this performance would be twinned with a performance of the same score in a school in Port-au-Prince. None of the students in Corby had heard of Port-au-Prince or had very little idea of where Haiti might be. We told them that we would come back in the new-year to tell them how it went.

The school that we were working at in Port-au-Prince was called L'Ecole Guillaume Manigat; it was a lot smaller than Kingswood. The age range seemed to be about eight to 14 and we were working with only about 60 pupils altogether. Without labouring the point too much, it was a school in the heart of one of the poorest districts in the poorest country in all of the New World.

In Kingswood, John Hirst and I were paid a good daily rate to work with the pupils. In Haiti we had to provide a pencil, exercise book and school bag for each of the pupils taking part. The thinking being that if some white bloke from the UK has got the money to fly to Haiti, stay in a luxuryhotel for the week and expect us to do what he wants, then he can pay for the privilege. The pencils, books and bags were the agreed fee for this privilege. It was well worth the price.

We arrived in Haiti on the Sunday evening and were driven to the Hotel Oloffson – via a Vodou ceremony. The Oloffson is a classic Gothic gingerbread mansion, strait out of an American horror movie. It was also the inspiration for the Hotel Trianon in Graham Greene’s novel The Comedians. Over the years it had been a bit of a hangout for the jet-setting bohemian crowd. It seems that Jackie O and Mick & Bianca used to hang there in the 70s.  

Early the next morning after our arrival, a bloke called Louko drove us down to the school. Louko was one of the Grand Rue sculptors. His English was broken and our Haitian Kreyòl non-existent but that did not stop him from telling us all about what he did, why he did it and what his ambitions were. More of Louko later.

The streets down to the school were your standard third world potholed, axle breakers and there was not a vehicle on them that would pass their MOT first time, back in the UK.At the school we met up with Rodrigue, who was to be our translator. Haitians speak a Kreyòl that is part 18th Century French mixed with the traces of various West African languages. Rodrigue was a tall good-looking man in his 40s. He had gone to university in the USA but got himself in trouble and was kicked out of the place. Now he worked as a translator, mainly for the UN. He was full of life and eager to get involved with the job in hand. More of Rodrigue later. 

The teenage me would have loathed and despised what I am about to say – and remember that this school is in the middle of an open-sewered, lawless, stinking slum. The young people at this school were the best turned out, politest, most eager to learn and brightest school pupils that I had ever worked with. They were open, un-cynical, sang with fervour (and in pitch), came up with creative ideas, helped with the practical things in getting set up. And there was their handwriting – they may not have had exercise books to write in but their writing was the best I had ever seen. Mrs. Clements, my primary five teacher, back in 1962, would have wept at the beauty of it. The performance they gave must be the greatest The17 have ever given.

We had brought with us a large print of a photograph of the pupils in Kingswood school. It had been taken at the end of the two weeks that John Hirst and I had been working there. The pupils in this Port-au-Prince school wanted to know all about these other young folk. Who was the best at singing - them or us? How did the girls do their hair? Were the boys any good at football? What kind of music were they into?

We spent two days working with them. On the second day my friend and fellow Ghetto Biennale artist, Tracey Moberly, came down to the school and took photos. It is her photos that I am looking at right now. I wanted a formal photo of them all; John Hirst suggested the one of them holding the photo of the Kingswood lot; Tracey wanted to take some informal ones. Then afterwards the members of staff of L'Ecole Guillaume Manigat wanted a group photo of themselves done. All were taken.

Afterwards Rodrigue, John Hirst and I got talking. Rodrigue was keen to emphasise that these kids had nothing, that although they came to school all clean and well turned out, they may not have eaten anything in the last 24 hours. And however bright they were and whatever they achieved at school, there were probably no prospects for them after leaving school. The unemployment rate in Haiti was massive, way above 80%. And those that got good jobs were because the family already had jobs and they were in a position to sort it out for them. Hirst and I considered we should try and do something for the school, maybe get together with Kingswood and set up a fund that could raise money for this school to have the very basics. Hirst suggested that it maybe should be to raise money to cover the costs for them having a school lunch every day. Rodrigue then told us that this is all very well, but the problem would be, how to get the money to the school, with all the levels of corruption, between whoever was donating the money and the kid getting something to eat.

The conversation drifted. Rodrigue told us of the islands history of despotic rulers. How the rest of the world was not interested in Haiti and Haiti only had itself to blame. We asked him what Haiti had that the rest of the world might want. I mean did it have any mineral wealth? 

“No.” 

“What about sugar cane or bananas or...?”

But Rodrigue told us how Haiti used to be a green and fertile country but they chopped down all the trees for charcoal. And once the trees had gone, the rains swept away all the fertile soil. Nothing was left. They now cannot even grow enough to feed themselves. Everything has to be imported. 

“Well what about sweat shop industries?”

“It is too politically unstable here for us to make our way as a sweat shop for the world like Taiwan was able to get itself rich from.”

“Well you must have something?”

“I will tell you what we have got – poverty. That is our one industry.”

“What do you mean poverty an industry?”

“Some of our people get very wealthy out of our poverty. The last thing they would want is for the poverty to go. These are the people who run Haiti.”

“How does that work?”

“Simple. The people who run this country go to the rich countries and say – look at our poverty, we need aid – the rich countries give aid and the people who run our country put most of that money into Swiss bank accounts. Then a few years later, they go back to the same rich countries or the IMF, or the World Bank and ask for more money in aid, to help with all the poverty and then they do the same again. If the vast majority of the people of Haiti were not in poverty, there is no way that these wealthy Haitians could carry on doing this. That is why it is in their interest to keep the country the way it is. Per head of population we have one of the biggest debts to the World Bank. And we have nothing to pay it back with, not even the interest. And none of that money came to the Haitian people that you are meeting. It is all in the Switzerland. But the World Bank, The IMF and all the international aid agencies have got wise to what is going on. We supposedly owe over $850 million. And it is why they will not wipe the debt, because they know the money is still there locked up in vaults. Why should they slash the debt?”

This was all a bit beyond my comprehension. I was used to accepting the USA and us in Western Europe as the baddies. That it was us fucking them over. Rodrigue thought my thinking almost patronising in its naivety. 

“What about that debt to France from 1825 that I read about? I thought it was that, that had kept this country down ever since?” 

“Those that run this country keep harking back to that. And our glorious revolution in 1804. Some revolution when all that happened was Dessalines crowned himself Emperor of Haiti. If George Washington had done the same after the American Revolution, they would have ended up like us. Washington put proper government into place; we got ourselves a dandy dictator. That is when it all started to go wrong. And we are supposed to see Dessalines as a hero when he was no better than Stalin. People use history as a get-out clause for taking responsibility for their lives in the present day. In most wars people use history to justify what they are doing. Every despot will try and hold onto power by appealing to his people’s sense of their own history. They want us to keep thinking it is you in Europe or the US, that are at fault, so we do not see it is them, our rulers. Look, it is this bad, Haiti is run by guys who would like nothing more than a real disaster to hit our country, like a massive hurricane or even better an earthquake. It was their last big pay day when we were hit with Hurricane Gustav back in 2008. But now they are praying for something bigger than that.”

“Look Rodrigue I don’t know anything about your history, but surely…”

“Bill, it is a lot more complicated than that. Don’t get me wrong; I think it is great what you are doing here and in this school and the Ghetto Biennale and everything. But even you being here is linked in with this whole thing. It is what they would want. Do you understand?”

I don’t know if I did understand or even wanted to.

Rodrigue was a sharp, intelligent and a good-looking man, plus he had buckets of charisma. And he let us know that he is on first name terms with René Préval the president of the country. “So why do you not go into politics?”

“Bill, there is a very simple answer to that – I would either end up being killed or more likely end up being as corrupt as them.”

The conversation drifted on to other subjects like women and how many children we had and how his current woman was expecting their first in mid January.

Louko turned up and he drove us all back up to the Oloffson. 

The rest of the week, or at least during the daylight hours available, was taken up with staging another large scale score to be performed by 100 Haitian members of The17 down in the streets off the Grand Rue. And there was one of my IMAGINE WAKING TOMORROW & ALL MUSIC HAS DISAPPEARED graffiti to get done, but in Kreyòl. 

But as the light began to fade on each day we, along with the other Western artists, retreated to the safety of the Oloffson. And there we would be on the veranda drinking our Rum & Sours, ordering our Steak Diane or American Club Sandwich or “Why not try a local delicacy?” We complained about the service and the accoutrements and everything else that we complain about in restaurants that are somehow not to our liking. All the while beyond the armed guards at the gate, was another world.

A world where there was never enough to eat, no healthcare, no running water fit to drink, rampant corruption, no nothing but rotting rubbish and darkness. The hotel had its own generator, the city below only had a couple of hours power a day if they were lucky. And I started to question why I, or any of us were here. And Rodrigue’s words kept going round my head. That stuff about poverty being their only industry. Maybe I was part of that too. Maybe I was only here because of its poverty. If Haiti was not so far down the poverty league table it would not have had the desired inverted glamour for me to want to spend how ever much it had cost to get here and stay in this hotel.

It is so easy to blame our colonial pasts. Were we not doing the same thing? There was an argument to say that us lot were only here ’cause it might look good on the CV, or what we thought it might say about ourselves, ’cause we had gone to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere to make art. It might not be cheap labour we were exploiting or mineral wealth we were raping from the ground but we were here to take. The type of taking we were doing was in some sort of conceptual or intellectual way, it is what I am doing right now as I write these words and you are reading them. 

So there we sat on the veranda of the Oloffson like the Mick Jaggers and Graham Greenes and John Gielguds and Jackie Kennedys before us. The pampered and the spoilt. Drinking our cocktails, and over priced imported beers, forming cliques and having squabbles and I was above none of this. But I did do some calculations – airfares and hotel bills must have come to well over £60,000 for the 40 of us that were taking part in the Ghetto Biennale. And it doesn’t take much hindsight to realise that the £60,000 could have been put to far better use.

And a reader might be thinking – “£60,000? What about a certain one million quid that went up in smoke Mr Drummond?” Yeah, Yeah, I know and what do you expect me to say? Leah Gordon had me up on that one while I was there. I had been quibbling about the fact that I did not want the money burning mentioned while I was there working down on the Grand Rue, that if the natives – I mean locals, had knowledge of that, then everything I was trying to do there with The17 would be judged in the context of that particular action. She told me, in so many words, that the only reason that I was able to do so much of what I do, is because of that one action and that if I am not man enough to deal with the consequences of it, I should go and get a proper job. So that was telling me.

As for the Haitian artists, there is no way that I could relate to what they did. Their work was mainly sculpture made out of the scrap and rubbish that they could find in the streets, stuff that no longer had much practical use. So it ticked a lot of boxes on the recycling front, not that they were bothered if it ticked boxes, they were just doing what they did, using whatever was available to them. There was a lot of welding involved in their sculptures, I always like welding. The imagery that they used was drawn from Voodoo. Voodoo, or Vodou as they spell it in Haitian Kreyòl, is their official national religion. But I got nothing from this sculpture of theirs. I could not stop myself from thinking that they were using the Vodou imagery not because these sculptures were going to be used in Vodou ceremonies but because Vodou is the one thing that the outside world might know about Haiti. We have all heard of Vodou and zombies, and Haiti is the home of them. Kilts and haggis equals Scotland – Vodou and zombies equals Haiti, it is their one unique selling point, to use that cliché.  I wanted to say how much I was into it, but I would have been lying, I would have felt that I was patronising them, tapping them on the head and saying “aren’t you a clever boy” I know it must make me sound like a cunt saying this but it is how I felt.

Then there is another problem I was having with it. Every time I look at or experience a work of art, I cannot help my self asking the question – “What is this art for?” This is something that I have done since I was an art student back in the early 1970s. And the loudest of the answers that came back to me in my head was – “This art is to sell to wealthy Americans.” 

This was all compounded by conversations that I was having with Louko the artist cum driver for the Biennale. I have a habit of asking artists the question – “so why are you and artist?” I asked Louko the question and he told me how he used to be a carpenter, which is how I used to earn my living in the 70s, so I felt we had something in common. Me, Louko & Jesus. And he told me he used to watch all these Americans come and visit Eugene and they would buy his sculptures. 

“And Eugene had respect from everybody. And I thought I would like to be like Eugene and I thought I could do what Eugene did, because I knew how to make things. And I saw the sort of things that the Americans liked to buy - the Vodou with human skulls and big cocks made from all the things that we could find that nobody in Port-au-Prince needed anymore. So I started to make sculptures and Eugene thought they were good. And one day an American came and paid $100 for something that I had made. I had never had that much money in my life. And I asked Eugene ‘How much do you want for selling it for me?’ And Eugene said ‘You keep it all Louko and let us go and have a beer to celebrate.’ And that is when I stopped being a carpenter and started to be an artist all the time. And then the Haitian National Gallery buy one of my big sculptures and it stands in the garden outside the museum.”

From all the artists that I have asked the same question in the UK I have never had an answer like that. I guess Louko was not considering himself being radical in some way by saying this, just stating the obvious. The next question that I asked him was: 

“What ambitions do you have as an artist?”

“I want to have an exhibition in New York in a big white gallery and I want to know that my sculptures are in the homes of rich Americans. And I want an American or English woman.”

“Why do you want that?”

“Because they like to have a black artist. Because we are strong and make good sex. And they can get me out of Haiti and they will look after me.” He says this with a twinkle in his eye.

Suddenly everything was making a sense of sorts. Us Western artists were in Haiti for all sorts of intellectual reasons making our conceptual art-lite. The last thing any of us would ever demean ourselves with doing is making art in the hope that some rich American would want to buy it. We are here for the Brownie points and the vanity and what ever else it is. And maybe to get ourselves a black artist that does good sex. Whereas the Haitian artists are in this for something else altogether. They are hoping that in some way we are the gatekeepers to this world where people will buy their art for thousands and they can live like superstars. I realise that in me writing this I am open to all sorts of criticisms  almost bordering on racism. But this was the conversation. What the man was saying. 

Maybe I should stop writing for the day before I say anything that I am going to regret. And get back to finding out what is going on the Haiti right now and leave all this other stuff for another time.

 

IMAJINE OU LEVE DEMEN EPI MIZIK DISPARÈT

20 January 2010

This morning I took part in the school assembly at Kingswood in Corby.

It is seven days, 14 hours and 56 minutes since I got the text from Tracey telling me about the earthquake. Since then I have gone through my whole library of emotions, moods and mind fucks, but that is of nothing compared to what those in Haiti have gone through and are going through right now. But I am in no position to tell you about what they are going through, there are journalists on the ground who’s job it is to tell you all that in the most graphic of details, and photographers on hand to record every mangled decomposing corpse. And anyway by the time you are reading this, the Haiti earthquake will be history and there will have been numerous other disasters, both natural and man made, to have fleetingly captured the headlines and our hearts.

So it is back to me and my thoughts and trying to sort those out and get them in order and make decisions about where they fit and what to do with them and can any of them help the situation, save one life, bring one baby back from the dead? And what has any of this got to do with The17 and the future of music? Your answers on an email to bill@the17.org

What I wrote last week was done in a state of shock. I blocked out everything I was hearing on the early morning news. I wanted to get on paper all my thoughts about the place and the time spent there in the week running up to Christmas, before I let that entire new information flood in. The only external factors that might have clouded what I was writing was the photograph of the six kids infront of me and the kids going to school on the street outside.

After I got it written I hit Send & Receive to see if anybody had contacted me from Haiti. There was a whole avalanche of emails. Top of the list had nothing more than a link to a photo taken as the earthquake was happening. This photograph was taken in Eugene’s yard where the Ghetto Biennale was held. In the middle of the photograph can be seen one of Eugene’s sculptures made from welded together scrap metal. In the top left hand corner is the letter T, painted on the wall. This letter was the last of my IMAJINE OU LEVE DEMEN EPI MIZIK DISPARÈT graffiti. The lad with the grey blue T-shirt was one of those that held the ladder as I painted it.

For the next few days I was numb. Hours were spent starring into space. In my head I tried to recall every face of every person that I had worked with in Port-au-Prince. Once I had the memory of the face in focus, I would hold it there as long as possible. This would be done while I got on with the normal things in life. With both Rodrigue (the translator) and Claudel (who had assisted us), I had been in email contact with since we had got back. I was desperate to hear from either, but I was getting nothing from them. I was having visions of their crushed bodies putrefying in the tropical heat as I popped out to the shop for a pint of milk. I did not want to watch the TV news incase I saw the body of some one I recognised. 

On the Thursday morning (14 January) I got an email from someone called Jana Braziel confirming that Eugene and Celeur were alive but Louko was dead. Two of my daughters got their first GCSE results, they were very good, so that evening we took them out for a pizza to celebrate, I stared out of the window, while they squabbled and talked about a new TV show called Glee. Louko will never be able to sell his artwork to a rich New York collector. 

On the Friday morning (15 January) I learnt Louko had been sitting in a bar with a glass of beer in his hand when the earthquake hit and the roof collapsed on him, he was killed instantly. In the afternoon I got a call from some people organizing a fundraiser at the Roundhouse, I wanted to tell them to fuck off, no fundraiser is going to undo what has been done, however much money is raised. Every time the news showed a mashed up corpse I thought it an insult of the highest order to those six young faces that I kept returning to on my screen. I started getting more emails from this Jana Braziel person in Port-au-Prince, about who is alive and who is dead. It was also the first anniversary of my dad’s death. And my MOT had run out.

On the Friday evening I was around at my friend Ronita’s, and without giving it much thought and with her help, I had got myself a PayPal Donations account and had it up live on The17 site. Whatever money raised would go to the school in Port-au-Prince, it would not be for the instant and more pressing needs of the country, but to help replenish the school over a period of time. She then put a link to it on her Facebook and within an hour or so there was already over £1,000 in the account. I felt that raising money for charity should not be this easy. It was if I had cheated, as if I had conned these people into donating whatever they had.

On the Saturday (16 January) my youngest son and I started to build an Airfix model of a Lancaster Bomber, the one used by the Dambusters and that killed 1,294 innocent German civilians on 17 May 1944. I got a text message from John Hirst, he has been in touch with a brother of Rodrigue via Facebook, who lives in the States, and according to him Rodrigue and all his family are okay. In the evening we had a dinner party. I went to bed listening to the sound of those school pupils in Haiti singing in my head. 

The next morning I was now convinced that Claudel, his mother and all his brothers and sisters were dead. If Claudel were alive he would have found some way of letting me know. In the Observer I notice an advert for a charity trying to raise money for something in Africa. I thought, that this charity must be thinking they will have wasted all that money in placing the advert, as anybody giving money to a charity this weekend would want it to be a Haiti related one. I mean the only faces of little black kids in the papers we would want to know about were Haitian ones – you little black kids in Africa, however desperate your circumstances, would just have to wait your turn.

On the Sunday evening I went to a meeting with a bunch of the other UK based people who had taken part in the Ghetto Biennale. It was in a smart flat in Clerkenwell, we drank wine, nibbled on Italian cheese and popped olives. Discussion ranged from what the people of Haiti could teach the world, to how America was to blame for almost everything. And we discussed what a wonderful person Louko had been. There was talk of putting an exhibition together of Louko’s work. I sat and said very little and felt uncomfortable about most of the things that were being said. To me it all felt so patronising to talk of the Haitians as these wonderful people who could teach us something. For me, having generalised opinions about a people is like discussing the attributes of a breed of dogs or talking about the Irish being thick or Scousers as thieves. In the Haiti I experienced, corruption running riot, rampant sexism, and what many thousands of them most desired was a visa and work permit for the USA. You want a contradiction? I learnt a lot from the people of Haiti.

As we sat there and I accepted a top-up of wine, I felt we had all been taking from what had happened in Haiti. We all want our life to have meaning. Religion was once the great provider of meaning. But we in the West have dispensed with religion to a great extent, so we have to look elsewhere for meaning. Suddenly this beyond-biblical disastrous event was on hand for a select few of us to give our little lives meaning. It felt to me, like we were robbing a corpse that was still warm. The most obvious way to take meaning from an event like this was to throw oneself into fund raising ventures. Who can criticise anyone for wanting to raise money for the survivors of a natural disaster? But as soon as we start fundraising, it becomes about something else altogether. What we, that are fundraising, are getting out of it (and I do not mean cash) far outweighs what that money may achieve. We suddenly have a purpose, for a short while our life has meaning above what can be taken from the final series of Celebrity Big Brother or the joke we are telling down the pub. And yes, undoubtedly that is also what I am doing by writing these words. I am rifling through the pockets of that body you saw on the news, hoping to find some loose change. 

Then there is this other thing that we take from events like this, we use them to confirm and promote our own worldview. For some they can proclaim the earthquake was a punishment from God, for all the bad things that we have been doing. And of course we ridicule and look down upon this, especially if it comes from the American Christian right. But judging by the amount of emails that I have been cc’d on in the past few days, there is a whole section of people who have been taking from this disaster whatever they want, to promote their anti American worldview.

The first thing that my nine year old son wants to know when he starts watching a film is, who the baddies are and who the goodies are. He wants it black and white. As we grow older we learn the world is not that black and white, the world of goodies and baddies in films is a gross simplification of how things are. But still we want to draw comfort from knowing who the baddies are, who we can point our finger at, who we can blame and some how it is never ourselves. And it does not matter how intellectual we are and how many books we have read and what life has thrown at us, that urge to want to find the obvious culprit continues. And we may use all that intellect and learning as back up for that almost primal urge to blame.

And right now America, for so many of us in the world, is the obvious baddy. Since getting back from Haiti, just before Christmas and the earthquake happening, I felt impelled to learn as much history of the relationship between the USA and Haiti that Google could teach me. I am not going to go into a history lesson now; there is plenty out there on the Internet if you want to read it. 

But every time we do that thing of blaming America, it seems we are really doing it to comfort ourselves.  And using this earthquake to further our theories on why the USA is the great Satan, is no different than those that want to take from the situation and claim it as Divine retribution for the sins we have committed.

I define myself by what excites me and what I am into and not with what I am against. Some folk find more comfort in being in opposition than having the responsibilities of power. The teenage rebel always ends up as the grumpy old man. In starting out life by defining yourself by what you are against may seem the glamorous option in a Rebel Without A Causeor Che Guevara sort of way. But before you know it you are shaking your stick at the hoodlums and sitting in front of your TV getting all your old-age kicks from blaming the travails of the world  on those that are not like us.

On the way home from this little get together in a Clerkenwell flat, I start thinking about Kingswood School and the school in Port-au-Prince. So what does it mean when I have said in the past that these schools are now twinned? Originally I guess it was just some flippant conceptual twinning. Something that required no more input than a passing thought, like one of those fleeting ones you may have when standing before a work of art in the Tate Modern before moving on to the next piece and the next fleeting thought. Was it just the performance that was twinned? Or should I try and twin the schools in some meaningful and practical way. Should I be trying to engage the pupils in Kingswood with the plight of the kids in Port-au-Prince?

On the Monday (18 January) morning I signed up for Twitter. As yet the delights of Twitter and Facebook had not seduced me. My life is too complicated and layered to entertain the idea of Facebook. The last thing I need is more social networking, if anything I need less people in my life, not more. As for Twitter, there is no-one in the world that I want to know about in that kind of minutia, and my need to express myself does not fit into the morsel sized chunks available by Twitter, and I guess what I am writing now is testament to that.

But Richard the boss of the Oloffson had got a Twitter going. John Hirst had told me about this on the Friday and how the Oloffson Hotel was still standing, being made from wood it had been able to absorb the shock of the earthquake. The reason for Richard having a Twitter was to promote the new album by his band RAM. The band that play every Thursday night at the Oloffson. But him starting to tweet coincided with the earthquake. So I got my Twitter from the App Store and started to follow what Richard had to say via his RAMhaiti. Richard is too complicated a man for me to sum up in a pithy one line here. From his position at the Oloffson he has a physical overview of Port-au-Prince. Him being half Haitian and half American, also gives him another kind of overview. Him being a former punk rock singer with New York band The Groceries but now the front man of one of Haiti top Mizik rasinbands provides maybe another kind of overview. He is also well over six feet.

To know what Mizik rasinis, the Wikipedia page will give you some sort of an idea. As will the Wikipedia page for Richard’s band RAM.

In our week as his guests at the Oloffson, Richard seemed to run the place with a knowing detachment, as if none of it mattered to him, although you could tell he was passionate about the whole thing (what ever that whole thing was). He also seemed to speak in parables. One never knew quite what he meant. The fact that he was a bit of a late night ‘smoker’ I guess helped. 

But his tweets have given the reporting of what has been going on in Port-au-Prince these past few days, far more of an urgency and edge than any number of front line journalist, cameramen and photographers flown in to capture the misery and pain of a city hacked to pieces by a force of nature. For a start most of those journalist, cameramen and photographershave been staying in his hotel, or on the front lawn of his hotel. Thus he is able to comment on the way they behave and search for their stories. And as Juvenal asked “Who will watch the watchmen?” I guess the answer, or at least for the past week, is Richard Auguste Morse of the Oloffson.

Richard’s tweets are now being followed by tens of thousands. Just eight days ago he could never have dreamed that so many people would be interested in what he had to say, let alone heard of his band RAM.

For me one of the lessons that I have learnt from the past week is the power of Twitter. No longer will I think of it as nothing more than a vehicle to share your thoughts about the current goings on in the Big Brother House.

On Monday afternoon I phoned Dave Robertson at Kingswood School, to talk about things, he was doing an assembly on Wednesday morning. Would I be up for coming up and taking part in it? ‘Yes’. I get on the phone to John Hirst to see if he is free for the Wednesday morning. Then onto Tracey, I was thinking it would be a good opportunity to get the photograph taken of the pupils in Kingswood School holding the photograph of the pupils in Port-au-Prince.

On Tuesday morning I head around to the Turkish printers near my place. I have a disc with the photos that Tracey had taken of the school kids in Haiti. I want them printed as big as they can. For 25 quid I can have them a metre by as long as I want. This seems like a great deal. I get all the photos done. Well the five that I like anyway. They will be ready for me to pick up by six. Someone from the Haiti Earthquake Fundraiser @ The Roundhouse phones me. They want to know if I have thought any more about being involved with what they are doing. Instead of telling them to fuck off, I agree to become their patron. My mind then shifts gear sideways, this can best be documented in the following list short sentences:

Buy a can of Red Bull.

Jump in the Land Rover.

Drive to Norwich.

Visit my mum.

Pick up John Hirst.

Go to the workshop.

Pick up some stuff for the construction of the London Cake Circle (no time to explain that now).

Buy another can of Red Bull.

Drive back to London.

Faster.

Get the photographs from the printers – they look brilliant.

Tracey turns up.

Drive to Corby.

Check into the Premier Inn.

Have a meal. Sleep.

Dream about all sorts.

Wake up in the middle of the night wondering what being a patron is and what my responsibilities might be. I mean do I have to go to evening classes to learn? Will it turn me into a Bono? Do I have to say things like – “Just give us your money” live on TV? I then write a piece for these Fundraising @ The Roundhouse people’s website.

Fall back asleep.

Dream some more.

Wake up with a hard on. 

On Wednesday morning, I’m up early. We have to be in the school by eight. Having breakfast in the Premier Inn. There is a copy of The Mirror lying on one of the tables. Notice George Clooney is on the cover. The banner headline is HELP FOR HAITI or something. I pick it up and take it to my table. It seems that Clooney is fronting a money raising telethon in the USA. Madonna and Beyoncé are two of his guest on the show. Jay-Z and U2 are making a track together to release and raise money for Haiti. I fuckin’ hate it all.

I started this piece by passing comment on how the media are only interested in the grim reality of a disaster for the first couple of days, then there is the follow up story of a baby being pulled alive from under tons of rubble to be delivered into the arms of her mother and that is it. End of story, all has ended happily. And the news agenda moves on. What I had forgotten to take into account is the celebritisation of disaster. How fuckin’ stupid can I be? I bet kids in their first term at doing a media studies course at Uni learn, the only way to engage the mass of the population in a humanitarian disaster is via celebrity endorsement. Who better than Clooney, Madonna, Beyoncé, U2 and Jay-Z? Suddenly it is glamorous, and I am now part of whatever this thing is. And I do not know how to stop it. And I want to run away. And I want to burn something down.

And then my phone rings. The name that comes up on the screen is Claudel Casseus. But Claudel is dead. I have seen his rotting putrefying body 100 times a day for the past week, or I have done in my imagination. The trouble is that my imagination is sometimes more real than reality. I touch the touch sensitive ANSWER button. The first thing I hear is the crackle and interference of an overseas call like they used to be. Then I hear the words – “Meesta Beel, it is me Claudel.” Claudel is alive and I am talking to him from the other side of the world. He is standing in the Grand Rue, Port-au-Prince and I am standing in a car park of a Premier Inn in Corby. And his mother is alive and so are his brothers and sisters. “Meesta Beel, you know what happen to Haiti?” 

“Yes Claudel, everybody knows what has happened to Haiti.”

“Does Meesta John, know what happened to Haiti.”

“Yes, even John knows what has happened to Haiti. In fact he knows more than most people”

“You talk too fast. I do not understand. Listen to me Meesta Beel, you must help Haiti.” And then the line goes dead. I try and phone back but get nothing. 

Tracey, John Hirst and myself climb in the Land Rover and head for Kingswood. I try to focus my mind at the job in hand. But in walking into the school hall I am surprised to find, the morning assembly will, in some way, follow the same format as it did when I first went to the school back in 1966. The then head-teacher, a Mr. Bradley, was a Quaker. Most of my mother’s side of the family had been Quakers, so I knew something of how they did things. In a Quaker meetinghouse there is no altar, no communion table, no pulpit, no crosses, or stained glass or saints, not even the bible. And of course no priests or hierarchy of any kind. The chairs are arranged around all four sides of the room, thus everybody sits facing into the middle. They will sit there in silence for quite some time before anybody says anything. I like the Quaker tradition.  I like the silence. I hated my headmaster but I will not go into that here. This morning the chairs in the hall are arranged on four sides facing into the middle. The assembly begins with five minutes silence. These kids from Corby (and you have to understand that the Guardian will sell fewer copies, per head of population, than anywhere else in the UK - maybe), sit there for the full five minutes in complete silence. This is brilliant. Then Dave speaks. He reminds the pupils about how John Hirst and myself had worked with them in autumn, and how the work in Kingswood was twinned with a performance of the same thing in Haiti. Then John Hirst and I are invited to tell them how things went Haiti. We told them the kids there, wanted to know all about you lot. The girls wanted to know how the girls in Corby did their hair. The boys wanted to know if the boys in Corby were into football. And they all wanted to know what kind of music you were into and who were the best singers. I passed on telling the Corby kids that the kids in Port-au-Prince were easily the best singers. Then we unrolled the blown up photos that Tracey had taken in the Port-au-Prince school, including the one of all the kids there holding the photograph of all the kids that had taken part in Corby.

Then at the end of the assembly, Dave sorted it out, so Tracey could take a photograph of all of them, holding the photo of all of the kids in Port-au-Prince. The kids in Haiti had lined up in a formal way, in their neatly washed and pressed school uniforms. The kids in Corby were a huge sprawling mess. The boys with their gelled hair. The girls with their black eyeliner. It looked great. 

And then we drove back to London.

So I am back in my room, in front of my screen writing what you have just read. Outside the local Hackney and Dalston kids are on their way back home from their school. About an hour or so ago, I got a text from someone telling me that Simon Cowell is now in on the act. He is going to be doing a version of REM’s Everybody Hurts, with all his X Factor gang plus Rod Stewart. And The Sun are behind it. I try to rise above this getting to me. But I do go to The Sun’s website to see what I can learn, they are boasting that they have already raised £750,000. What is not being written - but I am reading into it – is that The Sun is going head to head with The Mirror, as to who can raise the most for Haiti. The Mirror are backing George Clooney and The Sun, Simon Cowell. Something is making me feel very sick about the whole thing, but I cannot rationalise it. And I know all this money being raised will be going to help people who need it. Why should they give a fuck where the money comes from? They will have no idea who Simon Cowell is and wouldn’t give a shit anyway, if this version of Everybody Hurtsis as bad as the version of Hallelujahhe was responsible for. 

Click on Send & Receive to see what fresh emails are hounding me. There is one from Claudel. In his broken English he tries to tell me what had happened to him and his family. How they are now homeless. The family home collapsed. But his family are all safe. And there is a cyber café up and open for business, except there is always a big queue and now they have doubled their rates. 

I have an idea. This is it: instead of sending him some cash via Western Union, or whatever, I will make him an offer. I mean, we do not want any more people becoming dependant on aid than we can help. One of the downsides about aid or handouts of any sort is, we get dependent on them fast, and it undermines the local economy. As much as I loath the thought of the local rich folk exploiting the ones who have next to nothing, I guess it is important that those that can work, get back to doing something as soon as possible. Something that makes them feel better about themselves and the situation they are in. Raising money for charity might make us feel good about ourselves, but does it make the recipients, feel good about themselves? My guess is it makes them feel more indebted than they already are. 

So this is my proposal. I will pay Claudel $100 for writing 5,000 words in Haitian Kreyòl. And the remit is, I want him to tell his story of what happened to him, his mum, his brothers and sisters from the moment the earthquake started to now. That first week, so in a sense it will mirror this piece, which I guess is also about 5,000 words. Like the performances at the school these two texts will be twinned. 

To show willing, I will forward him the $100 via Western Union now and then wait for the words to come back. Whatever he sends me, even if it is the Haitian Kreyòl for rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, I will stick it up on The17 site with an invitation for anybody who can translate it into English to do so. And if you think that I am ripping him off, you pay him the difference between the $100 and what you think he should be getting. I will make sure that you get a credit on the web site.

I click on Send & Receive one more time in case there is any more news about who is dead and who is not. There is an email from Leah Gordon, I read it. It is affecting me in a strange way. I read it again. Decide to cut and paste a couple of paragraph from it into what I am writing now. And that will be that:

 

Dear Bill…

Yesterday someone (we don't know who) dug up Louko's body from the building where he has lain all this time. It was laid in Grand Rue under a sheet with some rocks and stuff on it. Later I heard some kids uncovered it. He had lost a leg. Eugene is very upset. I do have photographs of the place he died and his body (covered) on the street if you want to see. Somehow seeing it helped me. We are searching for Louko's mother and also his daughters to give them some money.

Chantal described the first quake to me and she said she will never forget the cry she heard emanate from the city on that day - a cry of humanity - just as I described my first experience of The17 - but also the wall with your graffiti still stands and this amazes people in Grand Rue - they are saying it was a prophesy – IMAGINE WAKING UP TOMORROW AND ALL MUSIC HAS DISAPPEARED - and it has in Haiti - No sound systems through the night. No bands are playing. Carnival cancelled and the town where most Rara is traditionally played, Leogane, 90% destroyed. But what is most affecting is that not a single Taptap plays music anymore. I asked why and they said they were in collective mourning for the city and the people. Taptap's were the people’s discos and radios and they have silenced themselves. The sound of Port-au-Prince at night is now made up of dogs howling, evangelistic preachers shouting and US air force cargo planes landing.

Hopefully can catch up once I'm back.

Love Leah xx

 

I will now get on with being whatever it is I’m supposed to be by being the patron of the Fundraiser @ the Roundhouse. The first thing will be to write a score based on what I plan to do on the night. It will be called Louder & Louder.

 

LOUDER & LOUDER

26 February 2010

I feel shit. 

Last night may have been the most compromising night of my life. Last night was the night I, as the patron of a Haiti Fundraiser @ The Roundhouse, had to walk out onto the stage and try to connect with over 2,000 people I could not see nor know if they knew what I was talking about and doubt they wanted to hear what I had to say. They were there for a good time; I did not know what I was there for.

*          *          *

As well as the performance by The17 in the school in Port-au-Prince, I also led a performance of Score 328: SURROUND. This is a score that had been performed earlier in 2009, in Northampton the home of the Cobblers and Beijing the capital of China. If you do not know already what this score entails, you can find it on The17 website. In Port-au-Prince we enlisted 100 folk to become members of The17 to perform this score on the streets surrounding the Grand Rue. These were all locals to the area and ranged in age from about eight to 68. We all rendezvoused at Eugene’s yard at 3pm and with Rodrigue as the translator, we communicated to all of them what we wanted and expected them to do. As in Beijing we had to compromise the score somewhat. There were no maps of Port-au-Prince available to draw the five-kilometre circle on, so instead we just decided to do it around a large block of streets. 

As I had already learnt the locals would never pass up on the opportunity of attempting to extract cash from the ‘blon blon’ (white man). Thus it had been explained to me that they would be expecting to be getting paid by me to do whatever it is that I wanted from them. I proposed to pay them one dollar each for taking part; I thought this to be a fair amount. I mean if they weren’t doing this performance they were not going to be doing anything else other than hanging around. Rodrigue explained to me the 100 newly recruited members of The17 had instantly formed a union and were demanding they get paid five dollars each for doing it. I had been told that the daily rate they get paid in local sweatshops, sowing together Levi Jeans is three dollars. I was fucked if I was going to be paying them more than Levi’s do for a whole day, when all I wanted was an hour of their time. I proposed three dollars each or nothing. The union agreed to my final offer. And they reluctantly agreed that they would not get paid until the performance had been done. The deal was sealed with a handshake with the elected union leader and we got down to the performance. But it still meant I had to find a bank and get the cash in one US dollar bills before we could start.

Show time! Although the streets were crowded and there was much confusion, the performance worked fantastically well. Each and everyone of those 100 members of The17 held their posts and the cry of Way- Ho went around those block of streets down in the Grand

Rue a full five times. I felt good. 

But it was now cash money time. And that is when the trouble started. The rumour had spread across the Grand Rue, that there was a blon blonwho was going to be handing out dollar bills to all those that had taken part in something or other. Suddenly there were far more than 100 members of The17 all claiming to have taken part in the performance and demanding to get paid the three dollars for what they had done. The crowd had more than trebled in size and was growing all the time. We had foolishly not thought to get everybody’s name down before we started, thus we could be ticking off the names as they got paid. John Hirst feared a riot, maybe even a public lynching. Or something that would certainly get me into some sort of history book. 

We were holed up in Eugene’s shack. We, being Eugene, Alex (Eugene’s apprentice and heir apparent), Rodrigue, John Hirst and me. It was Alex, who had recruited the members of The17 he knew them all personally. Outside the crowd were baying and banging on the door. But the ones banging on the door were all the ones that had not actually taken part in the performance. Alex had an idea. Although 19 years old, Alex looked a lot younger, maybe just 15 and even then he would have been short for his age. Alex smuggled his way out with the $300 stuffed in his jeans.  He got through the crowd and at the back of the crowd started to pay off each and every-one of those that had taken part and belatedly get all their names. 

So the riot never happened and I was not lynched. But something else did happen. Up through Eugene’s shack grows a tree and while we were holed up in it I could hear, above the sound of the almost baying crowd, the sound of sparrows. Just common house sparrows, but if you have read much of what I have written before you will know I love the sound of a squabbleof house sparrows. For me this sound of a squabbleof house sparrows is one of the great life affirming noises the world has to offer. Over these past few weeks since the earthquake, any time I am walking down a London street and I here some sparrows squabbling in a tree I wonder about the ones back in Haiti above Eugene’s shack. I think about how all that destruction and human death that went on around the sparrows, probably had no affect on their lives. They would have just carried on regardless. There is no moral I’m trying to impart here, just a passing observation. But one that stays with me all the same.

And this is where this particular performance of SURROUND starts to get interesting for me. Once the now becalmed hoard had dissipated and were just getting on with the other distractions that living in Port-au-Prince had to offer, I ventured out from Eugene’s shack and into the Grand Rue looking for a barbers to get my haircut. I wandered the streets I could still hear the cry of Way-Ho near and far. It was as if those 100 members of The17 had taken it upon themselves to spread the word. And every time I heard the cry in one direction, another would respond to it, from a different direction. In this way it carried on as the sun began to sink and the darkness enveloped the city.

And when the sun rose the next day it was the same. The cry carried on across the city, wherever I was throughout the day it could be heard somewhere in the distance getting closer and closer or heading further and further away and then back. This was for real; this is not me just making it up. The cry had somehow been adopted and spread. 

It was the last day of the Ghetto Biennale, and a conference had been organised to happen in some rather grand building down the road from the Oloffson. The place was called The Fondation Connaissance et Liberté or FOKAL for short. I had been invited to give a short presentation. The hall was packed with all the artists and many of the locals that had been taking part in everything that had been going on. Invited academics from Western universities were each taking it in turn to give their overview as to what was going on in Haiti and its position to the rest of the world. This went mostly over my head. I was worried about what I should be doing. I had prepared nothing. Then I went outside for a breather and in the distance I could hear a Way-Ho and it got passed on, but this time closer. And then someone else picked it up and it got closer. And then there was someone down the end of the street I was standing on and she cupped her hands and hollered it in my direction. So I did the same and passed it on. And then I had the idea of what I was going to do in the conference hall. 

I went back inside and got together with Rodrigue. Asked him to come up on stage with me and said we should just do it like we did in the school – as a double act. And this is what we did, both standing at the front of the stage side by side. No microphones. I said my bit and then he would repeat it and embellish it but in Haitian Kreyòl. I told some of the story that I have been telling you above. Not the bit about the money but the bit about the cry spreading across the city. Then we got everybody in the conference hall to cry out in unison, at the top of their lungs the same Way-Ho cry. And they did. They grasped it immediately. And it was louder than I had ever heard The17 before. Then we split the audience in two, Christmas Pantomime style. Rodrigue incharge of one side, me the other and we got a call and response thing going. Then we took it down soft then built it up and then got them all doing it together louder and louder. Then we stopped it. And it was over. Job done.

*          *          *

What I did at this conference in Port-au-Prince is what I wanted to do in the Roundhouse. Fly Rodrigue over, do it as a double act. Me tell the story about being in Haiti, I mean not all the stuff, just the positive bits about the school kids and the performance of the SURROUND score. Keep it snappy and short, under five minutes, and all the while Rodrigue translating what I was saying into Haitian Kreyòl, but with his own spin. It would have been perfect. Inspired by these thoughts, I wrote a new score to be performed specifically on the night. I would call it LOUDER & LOUDER. This, you will also be able to find on The17 site.

But for Rodrigue to get a visa for the UK, he had to go to New York to get it, as the UK did not have a consulate in Haiti. But because he had got a criminal record in the States, he was banned from life from ever going back there. Thus we could not get Rodrigue over, or not in the time frame we had. But Eugene was over for the show. So he came on stage with me. And the audience loved him. But we were not able to do the double act performance. I tried to tell my story as snappy and to the point as I could. Then I tried to get the crowd doing the Way-Ho cry. I feared that no one was taking any notice of what I was saying. But then the cry came back at me from all those in the Roundhouse.

And then I told them I wanted to hear it so loud that it could be heard all the way across the Atlantic to Haiti.

And they did again and it was loud, very loud.

And I told them how I wanted them to go out into the street on their way home tonight and spread the cry far and wide.

And then I left the stage.

And people cheered and applauded.

And I asked the question of myself – What is it that people get from these charity gigs, because something about it smells of shit?

So that was last night. This morning I am trying to make some sense of it all. Trying to work out what happened last night and why I loathed it so much. I mean I thought the Magic Numbers were great with all their harmonies. And Paul Weller, who was on before me was stunning, he gave it everything and I am not a fan. With his perma-tan and his Steve Marriott circa ’66 haircut, he is not going to win any points from me, but he was fucking brilliant. And back stage I shared a dressing room with Harry Shearer as in Derek Smalls and Mr. Burns, so I cannot complain on that front. But…

But I just could not work it out and put it into words so instead I hit Send & Receive to see what the night had brought in. The first on the list was an email from Rodrigue. He had translated into English the first thousand words that Claudel had written about his first day of the earthquake. I started to read them and everything started to well up in me again.

Tuesday January 12, 2010 was such a beautiful day in the morning, where all Haitians were going about their business, but that day had in store a big tragedy!!!

On January 11, 2010 my brother and I were crazy about going to visit some family members on my mother’s side in a suburb called “Lascahobas”. We arrived there in one piece, thank God. It was one of the most wonderful times I’ve ever spent with them. But like the proverb says: ”Country man doesn’t stay for long in Town”. So Tuesday early morning, we packed our stuff and headed back to Port-au-Prince. When we got there it was about 4:49 in the afternoon. Shortly after, the country was going to get a big earthquake of a 7.3 magnitude. No Haitian could ever imagine such a thing would have happened. During the earthquake I was at home. I was lucky that it was not a big building. For quite a while I did not know if should go up or down. I ran immediately to “Lycee Toussaint Louverture” where my brother goes to school: It was a sad thing to see: My brother’s school had collapsed. All the streets of Port-au-Prince were full of dead bodies and badly wounded people. I begun to scream and cry, I was devastated thinking that the worst had happened to him but thank God he had time to get out before the building had fallen. Then I went to the Hospital where my Mom and my liile sister were but i was lucky because they were saved from the tragedy. That day everybody was swimming in sadness. After giving it some thoughts, i got together with my family members trying to decide where we were going to go because there wasn’t even one block left from what was the house, and what we are going to do to help out others that were weaker than us. We decided to go to Quisqueya University but unfortunately we could not because the earth kept shaking. Ten minutes later a good friend gave me a call from abroad telling me not to stay near the ocean shore because usually after a quake there is flooding because the sea gets agitated. I quickly passed on the message to all the folks that were present and took my family to a place called Champ de Mars, which is a big park near the National Palace in the heart of Port-au-Prince. Since my Mom was ill, we had a hard time carrying her along the way. Despite all of that i didn’t get discouraged, the most important thing at that moment was the fact that my mother and my entire family had survived the quake. When I got to Champ de Mars I realise that this was the best place to be at for the moment. I started to feel a little better but shortly after we got there the aftershocks came from time to time and it stayed that way all throughout the night. It was the worst night of my entire life. It was so cold outside that it felt like it was snowing but everyone stayed out in the cold because the big concrete made buildings were the population’s number one enemy at that moment. The Haitian people believe that this is the worst Tragedy by far to ever hit their country. They needed some help to face this great tragedy. What made it so sad is the fact that people were trying to call their family and friends to find out if they are okaybut could not because the telephone companies and the Networks were down and the employees left their respective jobs and ran for their lives like everybody else, plus there was no electricity, there was a blackout all over the country. Despite her sickness my mother was eager to have me call her brothers and sisters but unfortunately there was no communication whatsoever. Fear and despair was killing her to the point where i felt powerless so i moved away to seat down at a corner, all alone and i went to thinking about something an artist wrote on a wall during the Ghetto Biennale that says: ¨IMAJINE OU LEVE DEMEN EPI MIZIK DISPARET¨(Imagine you wake up tomorrow and music has disappeared). This is the night when i was going to understand the true meaning of that sentence because i didn’t feel like i could sing nor listen to any music plus there wasn’t a way to get access to no music: music has ended, disappeared. This tragedy made me come to the understanding that us human beings, we are nothing and that we should make good use of our time because we do not know when we are going to die. The night of January 12, 2010 was a tough one for some cities in the country of Haiti, mothers were crying, teachers, students, small merchants, workers, Doctors, rich, poor, everybody was in the same boat sharing the same sadness. Some people said what we have done that we are paying for. And during the night a lot of badly wounded people found their death because of lack of medical care and Doctors. But the Doctors also have their own problems. The ground never stopped shaking all through the night; it was the biggest drama ever in history for Haitians. The big political leaders could not do a thing; they were also looking for help. That night seemed to be much longer than the other ones, no one was sleeping, and we were all waiting for daybreak to see if we’d get a break but daytime and nighttime seemed to be the same at that point in time. Sorry there isn’t much more i could say about that day... From Tuesday January 12 at 4 pm to Wednesday the 13 this is how things were during and after the earthquake.

That puts things into perspective. I will be putting this and rest of what Claudel writes and gets translated by Rodrigue from Haitian Kreyòl into English up on The17 site for anyone to read.