Dr. Opal Palmer Adisa is a Jamaica-born award-winning poet, novelist, performance artist, ethnologist, educator and more – a true renaissance woman. She is has written for over 100 publications, and has performed of her work all over the world. Adisa holds a BA from New York University; two MAs from San Francisco State University, English and Drama; and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.
Still Standing: Ayiti Will Never Die is a book of photos, poems and stories based on Adisa's two research trips and interviews conducted with the help of a translator, mostly in the makeshift camps around Port-au-Prince and market near Jacmel. Adisa photographed the women; promised to relay their stories omitting real names and adding minor fictional details. She'll return to Haiti once more and complete this project for publication by 2016. 60% of the book's proceeds will support a local grassroots organization in Haiti.
Yveline is a woman in her mid fifties. She has been a seamstress all her life. She doesn’t remember where she was when the earthquake happened, but she is glad she is alive, as well as her daughter, her daughter’s husband and their child, her only grandchild. She has not seen or heard from her husband of thirty years since the earthquake, and although she suspects that he is dead, she remains hopeful.
Molita – No Luck But Want a Chance
Dr. Opal Palmer Adisa
I never have any luck with men. I am through with men. Don’t want any more. My son’s father said he loved me at sixteen and I opened my legs for him. My grandmother raised me and warned me to keep my legs closed. Men are nothing more than sweet broken promises.
I am so grateful that my children and I are all safe after the earthquake. It took me more than two weeks of walking and calling my daughter’s name, Sharaphine, Sharaphine, Sharaphine, until my throat was parched and clogged with dirt, but we found her. I just hugged her to me. I’m afraid to send my children back to school or anywhere too far in case. Just in case.
I don‘t know how we’re going to manage. I have a sister in New York, and before the quake she was helping me to get my papers. I had my birth certificate and had even gotten a passport, but I lost everything in the earthquake.
I tell you I am just unlucky – unlucky with men, unlucky in life. There is just my children and me. We have each other and we have love. I love my children. I want to do more for my children; I just wish I could do more for them. Provide a home for them so they are safe and make enough money to send them to school and buy books.
I didn’t really want to be anything other than a mother when I was a little girl. I wanted to get married and have a house. But that is not for me, not now anyway. I’m not going to listen to any other man, no matter how kind and sweet he might be in the beginning. They are always kind and sweet in the beginning just like my grandmother used to warn me, then when they get your sweetness they take off like a horse galloping away.
I love my grandmother. She raised me after my mother went off in search of work. My grandmother still sends me food that she grows in the little village where she lives. Since the earthquake she sent a message telling me how happy she is to know that the children and I are all well. She tells me to come and live with her, and leave the tent living alone. I don’t want to stay in the tent, but I don’t want to go and be a burden to my grandmother either. I never liked working in the hot sun or growing food.
I want more than hard, backbreaking work that still leaves you poor, without running water or electricity. I want more for myself and my children. If I stay here in the city, I might be able to get my birth certificate and a passport again. I might get a chance to move to New York with my sister and bring my children and they can go to school. My oldest daughter wants to build strong houses for people to live in. My son wants to drive a truck and bring food and other stuff to people, and my youngest daughter who is ten, Sharaphine who was lost from me for more than two weeks, she wants to be a teacher and teach children. She loved her teacher, but we think she died in the earthquake. So many good people died.
I just want a chance to do for my children. I want to keep us safe and happy. It is hard to do that in Haiti, especially now after the earthquake and the spreading of cholera.
Molita is a twenty-eight year old woman with three children, each of whom has a different father. Before the earthquake she worked as a clerk in a store, and her youngest son’s father would occasionally come by and help with books or uniforms for school.
Yveline - I Love Sewing
Dr. Opal Palmer Adisa
I’ve been sewing all my life. All my life, since I was nine years old, maybe even younger, but that was when I stopped school to help mama. There were six of us and our Daddy left one day and never came back.
Mama tried, but she needed my help so she apprenticed me to a woman who sewed. I lived with that woman, Madam Bertin, who had me sewing until my fingers bled. But she taught me the trade, and I have supported myself ever since.
This machine was the only thing that remained after the earthquake. That’s the only way I knew that that was the place where our house was. I guess I was meant to sew. I love this machine as much as my life. Living in this camp, in this tent with Gaelle – my daughter – and her husband and my grandchild, this machine helps us to buy food and other things. No matter how hard times are, Haitian people like to look good. They want clothes for their children. They want a piece of cloth stitched with colorful threads to spread over a box that they use as a table.
I don’t remember much as a child. My life was hard. Carrying water every morning and evening with the other children. Walking barefoot and cutting my soles on broken bottles or tin cans. Mama was kind. She was tired and even now when I close my eyes I see Mama’s sad eyes. She died before I was fifteen. We didn’t have money to take her to the doctor. She became sick just sudden, burning up with fever, vomiting. Two days later she died in my lap, as I sat on my haunches, her head resting in my lap as I spooned sugar water into her mouth. I don’t like to think about that but I remember just before she turned her head she looked at me and smiled. She smiled big then closed her eyes and died. That’s all I remember as a child.
I don’t want anything for myself, but I want a house for my grandchild. I want to sew my way out of this camp. Save enough to build a house that belongs to us. My husband and daughter always tended a little garden before the earthquake. I want to find my husband’s body and give him a proper funeral. He was a good man. We loved each other.
I want my granddaughter to go to university. My daughter didn’t get to go, but she went all the way to high school. My husband and I worked hard to make sure she went. I sewed and fell asleep at this same machine, and even stitched my finger. That’s what I want for my granddaughter to go to university and for us to have a house of our own again.
I want to see Haiti have a chance. There are some bad people here, but most of us are good and hard workers. We deserve a chance. I want the world to know we deserve a chance. We are a good people. My granddaughter deserves a home.