Thursday, August 31, 2006

I have returned from Haiti and there’s much to report from the trip. However, because of my manuscript’s deadline and the beginning of the academic year I’ll have to keep my comments brief. So here goes…

Digicel in Haiti

On June 19th blogger Alice B from kiskeyAcity posted an entry about “Jamaica based telecom” giant Digicel’s arrival in Haiti in May. As I sat in the back seat of my uncle’s pickup on the ride from the airport and saw hordes of Digicel ads on billboards my mind ventured back to Alice’s post. My uncle, a Haiti-Tel subscriber, and DadVoila, a Comcel-Voila subscriber, thought that Digicel’s presence was tame and seemed to agree with the many of the respondents to Alice’s blog entry.

Imagine my surprise then when I arrive at my grandfather’s homestead and see a Digicel antenna staring back at me as I stood on my aunt’s balcony. There is also a Comcel-Voila antenna within range, but the Digicel antenna seemed towered over it. In a country that to my knowledge doesn’t have any skyscrapers to speak of, cell phone antennas are beginning to take that role and altering the visual landscape of the island. These enormous caterpillars are now obstructing breathtaking views of the mountains and downtown Petion Ville. These antennas are a small price to pay for more jobs and a competitive phone market where consumers benefit, at least in the interim.

Ironically enough, my little cousin who had a Digicel phone experienced the most phone troubles during the course of my trip. There were numerous times where he had to roam around his house and or my grandfather’s courtyard in search of a signal. I do not know whether his experiences are emblematic of other Digicel users’ experiences, but I could not help chuckling at the sight of him walking around the house staring intently at his phone and gritting his teeth for the appearance of more bars on his mobile, meanwhile his carrier’s antenna was less than half a mile away. C’est une comedie…

We need more people/We need better coverage

Throughout the trip, my aunts and uncles kept on reiterating that when I get back I tell my family members in the states that Haiti is not as nightmarish, or rather to use their word, “[as] diabolique,” as they think. They pleaded with me to encourage the other folks in my family to start reciprocating with the visits and to suspend with the horror stories about the country that are going to keep my younger cousins living in the states from ever developing a relationship with the island. I will elaborate more on these conversations later, but it is understood that they were rather thought provoking.

Along the same lines, one night while watching Tele-Ginen, a Haitian news broadcast, a reporter was talking with a man from Cite Soleil. During their conversation the Cite Soleil resident praised the reporter/Tele-Ginen for being the lone station courageous enough to come into Cite Soleil to see how things really are, rather than just churning out dreadful tales about the district without ever stepping foot. I could neither verify nor dispute the man’s praises for Tele-Ginen, but I did find his comments to be emblematic of the concerns of most Haitian residents about how the island is being represented.

Lighter Notes

Note 1: Never Do It Again

One of my aunts told me that I let the airline take advantage of me by not bringing more luggage/cargo into the country. Her comments made me rethink my decision to travel light, and I was struck with a moments worth of guilt for not bringing gifts for everyone. “What did it matter that my parents had just arrived here with a barrel of provisions and who knows how many suitcases,” I thought to myself, “I could’ve still brought more.” Then she cut me a look and as to reinforce her point, “never let them do that to you again,” and my guilt quickly subsided, “oui ma’tante” I will never let the airlines take advantage of me by traveling light again.

Note 2: I Rest my Case

Regular readers of this blog know about my ongoing dispute with fellow Haitian blogger The Haitian Eclectic over the Shakira and Wyclef song “Hips Don’t Lie.” I think it ranks right up there with peanut butter as great contributions, but The Haitian Eclectic doesn’t have much of a taste for it. Well, on my last night in Haiti, I was watching videos with my youngest cousin Saradia when “Hips Don’t Lie” came on. She asked me if I like the song/Wyclef and I proudly said “yes.” Saradia then announced her own adoration for this song, punctuating her comments with, “I don’t know how anyone cannot like this song, or anything that has Shakira and Wyclef in it.”

Until next time,

The Nightshift Chronicler

Monday, August 21, 2006

Press Release: Haitian History Made Tuesday August 22, 2006

Press Release: Haitian History Made Tuesday August 22, 2006

Tuesday August 22nd 2006 marks a momentous occasion in Haitian History as Ferentz Lafargue attempts to become the first Haitian ever to travel to Haiti with one bag, a carry-on at that. American Airlines, the Haitian Embassy in New York and Miami have called a press conference to mark this important event. Wyclef Jean will be on hand at the press conference to perform a reggaeton song recorded specifically for this occasion called “One Bag.” Talks are underway for a stamp featuring either Mr. Lafargue and his bag, or just the bag itself.

If successful, Mr. Lafargue will complete the feat first attempted by Jean-Jean Jean-Michel in 1976 when he tried traveling from New York to Haiti with a single bag only to be guilted by a ti-gran into adding one of her bags to his luggage after she had gone over the weight limit with her baggage.

As Marie-Lourdes Pierre-Jeannot, Haitian Ambassador to the United States said in a pre-released statement, “Mr. Lafargue’s one bag passage to Haiti ranks right up there with Garcelle Beauvais debut on the venerable Jamie Foxx show. It’s a day that Haitians every where will remember fondly.”

Additional reporting provided by The Nightshift Chronicler

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Click - Send - Kenbe La (3x)

As I prepare for my first trip to Haiti in five years, I’m already being reminded of one of the predicaments that technological disparities between my relatives in Haiti and my family in the States. Usually, whenever I’m in Haiti I take a slew of pictures. Then upon my return to the US, I develop these pictures. More often than not copies of these pictures make their way back to my relatives in Haiti. Sometimes a relative or friend traveling there brings them back, and other times, usually after much delay, I’ll walk them over to post office and mail them myself. This all sounds fairly simple and quaintly 20th century.

In fact it is very simple and very 20th century. No one has ever complained, even when once it took me a year to mail back the pictures. After a conversation with a friend last night I realized this year I might have a larger problem than my swift as molasses approach to the mailbox. Since I’m now the owner of a snazzy new digital camera that enables me to instantly see my picture taking follies, I no longer have to wait to see how my photos came out. I’m also able to prop said digital captures on flickr, kodakgallery, shutterfly or a host of other sites so my trendy friends can take a gander. This is all good when I’m lampin’ in the bay or making my way through various NY functions, but what good does this techno leap forward on my part do for my little cousins or aunts in Haiti who only care to see how they look.

The cousins who are in their teens/early twenties have access to the net at school and will spend an occasional afternoon in an internet café googling their crazy cousin in the US who’s supposedly writing a book.

Wait, just burn a cd and send them the pictures on disk you say? That would work except for the fact that there’s not a home computer to be found in the house.

I’d send down a laptop, but I’d actually have to send down for sets to make it clear that I’m not playing favorites…so we can scratch that idea as well.

Oh wait. Don’t worry your hearts. Don’t rush and take pity on my poor beleaguered Haitian clan because we’re neither poor—on occasion beleaguered—but that too soon passes. Please do not attempt to do anything in Haiti that you have yet felt moved to do in many of this nation’s ramshackle communities.

My problem, if it can be categorized as such, is that after my trip I’ll still have to walk over to the post office and mail out those pictures. I’ll have to take more than five seconds of my time to think about my loved one. I’ll have to sacrifice a few less than sterling photos to save a few cents on shipping, and to spare my aunt of curling her lips when she gets an unflattering shot of either herself or one of her children.

I guess it really ain’t a problem at all that in my otherwise click and send world, I am still blessed with opportunities to think, move slowly and write and sign an occasional note with kenbe la.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Brownsville Film Festival

As always, if you're in BK, come check out another one of the borough's gems.

Monday, August 14, 2006

You Give Me Fever

When Peggy Lee sang "You Give Me Fever" I don't think she was being literal. However, after my experience at Brooklyn's Bi-Monthly House Party in Fort Green Park yesterday, maybe Ms. Lee knew something about the power of music that the rest of us don't. After taking a few spins in the dance meadow last night I came home feeling an on rush of chills.

At first I thought it was the byproduct of the headache from earlier in the evening, itself the result of minor dehydration. When I awoke this morning to find both the headache and the chills still there, I ventured it was only a sign of fatigue. But when I couldn't stay awake for most of the morning, I finally went to the medicine cabinet--brought out the thermometer and there it was a fever....

Did Soul Summit give me the fever? I don't really know. Indeed I was captivated by the records being spun. It was good to feel my body move in ways that it had not moved in months, reminding me that sometimes it has a life of its own, its own impulses, its own ways of expression.

Did Soul Summit give me the fever? I don't really know. I didn't get too close to any of the beautiful Brooklyn people in attendance. Each sweaty body seemed to find their own patch to glean. Many more bodies stayed un-sweaty, choosing instead to cruise the meadow with their natural-hair-niggerati-fedora wearing-peasant skirt sauntering sheen that they'd rather not upset unless the right person came along.

Did Soul Summit give me the fever? I don't really know. I didn't get a chance to hear my favorite house-joint Aly-Us' "Follow Me," or Keith Thompson's "Living on the Frontline." These are my two favorite house songs each reminding me of fairer place in time. "Follow me" takes me back to my old Jamaica Queens haunts, and "Living on the Frontline" takes me back to that night in Oakland in May 2003 when everything seemed to be just right, after just recently having been so wrong.

Did Soul Summit give me the fever? That I really don't know. All that I know is that I'm laid out in my apartment, swigging Tropicana Oj as if its my last chance at redemption. There's no music ringing in my ears---just a body spent from moving to its own beat.

The Nightshift Chronicler.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Keep This Nigger-Boy Running"

Many people have been writing of late when former Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett’s downward spiral began. Tony Kornheiser, co-host of the popular ESPN program Pardon The Interruption recently offered up the theory that Clarett’s downfall can be tied to the ascent of Lebron James. Kornheiser contends that Clarett must have gotten jealous of all the attention being lavished upon his fellow Ohio prep-school phenom. Unlike James, Kornheiser points out, Clarett did not have the NBA waiting for him after graduating from high school. Instead, he’d have to toil as a “amateur” athlete in college football, he’d have to wait three years for his big payday.

We all know how impatient young people, so three years must have felt like an eternity for Clarett. That eternity surely seemed longer when in the second game against Washington State during his lone season at Ohio State Clarett hurt his knee, forcing him to sit out his next game against Cincinnati. He’d miss another two games after injuring his shoulder in the Wisconsin tilt, an injury that forced him to sit out part of two others. These injuries were on top of the ones he suffered while playing at Ohio’s Harding High school, all of which combined must have exacerbated Clarett’s anxieties that his chances at scoring it big with an NFL payday are fleeting.

I have always thought however that it was not any of Clarett’s injuries that really led to him making a tragic series of decisions after launching a legitimate contest to the NFL’s policy that players under the age of 20, or whose high school classes have not completed two years of NCAA football can not be drafted. Clarett like anyone else watching the ACL tear that Miami tailback Willis McGahee suffered during that game undoubtedly shook 2003’s Fiesta Bowl between Miami and Ohio State. Many initially thought that McGahee’s injury was going to severely damage his NFL prospects and all but guaranteed that he would not be drafted in the first round of that April’s draft. In one fell swoop, all of McGahee’s college accomplishments seemed to have been nullified by an injury that jeopardized his professional career.

As Clarett’s life continued taking one tragic turn after another I imagined him standing on the opposite sideline as McGahee was carted off the field muttering to himself, “that ain’t gonna be me.” Ever since that game Clarett has been hell bent on getting into the NFL on his own terms. When his battle with the NFL over their draft policy ended with a defeat, he became even more resilient in showing the world that he was still the star tailback whose goal line strip of Miami safety Sean Taylor as he scuttled downfield with an interception return helped propel Ohio State to a National Championship.

In a tragic irony McGahee, the tailback whose team not only lost the double overtime classic, but who also appeared to lose his NFL career, has become a pro-bowl caliber NFL player. He has posted two successive 1,000 yard rushing seasons and looks as if he is settling into the peak of his career among the upper echelons of professional tailbacks. Clarett on the other hand looks to have imbibed the nightmare that everyone thought laid ahead of McGahee as he laid on the ground writhing in pain.

When he was arrested this past Tuesday with a half-finished bottle of vodka and a horror-movie assembly of weapons, two assault rifles, two handguns, and a hatchet, Clarett had fallen deeper into his nightmare. He was no longer wading in quicksand, but on the verge of putting himself in a casket.

Reporters on all the sport shows have returned to mouthing off about how Clarett is a waste of talent, using sports cliché’s like “he could’ve had it all,” “he had everything in the world,” “he’s a disgrace to ____.”

In truth, Maurice Clarett is none of those things. He is a young man that fell out of one pipeline program and into another. His “character issues” are our own societies “character issues:” materialism, greed and a penchant for luring young people into prisons. When you read the stories about him never do you hear anything about any outside interests, stints in the high school band, chess team, or volunteer work that provides the reader into who he was other than a football player. Thus one is left to conclude that Clarett could not have been anything else but a football player, and as long as he was playing football no one had a problem with that because he did it well. Or as he said in a recent phone conversation with ESPN writer Tom Friend:

I haven't done s---. I have done nothing but f------ run a football. Don't confuse yourself. I've done nothing but run a f------ football. Don't try to make it bigger than it is.'

Clarett’s quotes shortly before his arrest reminds me of the note that the protagonist in Ellison’s Invisible Man is prompted to read by his grandfather after the battle royale:

“To Whom It May Concern,” I intoned. “Keep this Nigger-Boy Running.”

Three years after he last ran a football, after Lebron became a mega-star and after McGahee embarked on one of the best comebacks in the last decade, Maurice Clarett is still running. Liberated from the battle royale that passes as college football Clarett embarked on a journey not unlike Ellison’s Invisible Man. His journey has been as surreal, as tragic and most importantly, as enlightening—or rather as visible as the Invisible Man’s. America is getting a front row seat to its closeted sport: watching niggers run. Ellison knew it, Wright knew it and if you’ve read Beloved you know that Morrison knows it.

Clarett’s name will not be place alongside Brown, Sanders, Smith, the NFL’s great tailbacks, but alongside the Invisible Man, Bigger, and Sethe. If those names don’t fit, maybe they’ll call him OJ if the jury decides to acquit.

Still none of these characters really provides us further insight into who Clarett is or what motivates and interests him. Through his conversation with Friend he’s told us not to make his plight any “bigger” than it is, so the lit-theorist in me has to oblige, even if I feel that it is a bit Biggerish.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Third World Order it is....

"You could imagine my surprise two years later in 1996 when while listening to Funkmaster Flex’s radio show on New York’s Hot 97 I heard the beginning of what I thought was Roberta Flack's pristine “Killing Me Softly.” My first thought was that Flack must have passed away, or something else tragic happened to her, because I couldn’t figure out why Flex would be playing this soulful classic on his hip hop program. Then I heard it, the Roy Ayers sample that had..." Ferentz Lafargue

Most of you were right there with me in 96 so I don't need to go on any further. As I was writing an entry on our beloved Fugees the other day I journeyed over to Youtube to see if they had the "Killing Me Softly" video, of course they did, what was I thinking. A phone call, a need to stretch my aching back, oh yes, I realized that I somehow had left the kitchen faucet on went over to turn it off. Using the opportunity to get a snack and a drink of water I didnt make it back to my screen until the tail end of the video when I caught something that shook my senses almost as profoundly as the first time I heard the group's rendition of "Killing Me Softly."

After years of hearing folks bemoaning the demise of the legendary Fugees, I think we should've seen the writing on the wall when they made this video. Clearly, they had other things in mind then satiating our wanton desires for infectious covers of soul classics....

Third World Order it is....

The Nightshift Chronicler.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rock Dis Funky Joint

I'm not sure if any rapper carried a group like Wise Intelligent did Poor Righteous Teachers back in the day. I bet if you name any other rap group you'll be able to come up at least with some kind of argument for the value of the various members. For example A Tribe Called Quest could have never flourished without Fife and even a cracked out Flava Flav somehow continues to merit participation in Public Enemy. I don't really have much else to say about this group besides the fact that I liked them back in the day...Plus I'm sure y'all would just rather watch the video then hear about the woman I used to date from Trenton who used to get really animated whenever PRT was brought up in conversation. Listen to her talk you'd swear they were the Beatles....

Without any further ado I present to you Trenton's version of Run DMC...

Thanks again Youtube for another find....