Saturday, December 16, 2006

James Petit-Frere and his child, Cité Soleil, summer 2002.

It was the summer of 2002 and we had left a meeting of gang members working with the Aristide government in the Cité Soleil shantytown in Port-au-Prince. I was heavily dispirited by what they had to tell me about their direct and often brutal relationship with country's ruling regime at the time, a feeling that was not lifted as we walked down rubbish-strewn lanes with James to visit his wife and child.

“One day, man, I’d like to be able to give up this politics,” James told me, as we picked our way down a hill of shacks and were met by naked, laughing children. “If not, I’ll die and I couldn’t do anything for myself.”

“You know, my mother died in ‘91 and (the paramilitary) FRAPH kidnapped my father in 1994 and killed him, too,” he said, looking down at the child in his arms. “I’ve done too much work for politics. Now, too many people hate me, and they hate what I say. But it’s for this I try to help my little son, so we can arrive at a new place.”

James was a dear friend and, from all accounts, was murdered by Haitian police in 2005. Among the many human faces that the cycle of violence that is eating Haiti alive has, these are two, father and child. Once we peel off the labels - pep la or bourgeois, blan or Haitian, man or woman - this is the humanity that we all share.

A shame that we treat it so lightly.

No comments: