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June 2020 Learning Letter

At Nou Hope, we have always been a people who love, learn, and work together as we embrace the hope of Christ in the communities in which we partner. Together, we engage in solidarity and mutuality, hopefully expectant of transformation. This is what it means to be in relationship, which is one of the most important aspects of our partnership. 

Back in January, we dedicated 2020 as a year of learning alongside our Haitian partners. During our January trip, we assumed that posture and engaged in conversations we'd never had. This month we'll share what we learned about the trauma carried in our DNA and slavery taking on new forms today. 

Trauma of Chattel Slavery

We don't often pause to consider the trauma that is carried in our DNA and in the systems and structures around us. Acknowledging Haiti's brutal history of colonization makes clear that dehumanizing relationships are long existent. Beginning with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the indigenous Taíno people were the first to be enslaved and eventually disappeared (through disease and murder). [In January, we were given a private tour (in French) of the only existing Taíno Museum, located at Cormier, viewing artifacts that are rarely seen (check out a video of the museum here). At the museum we gained perspective of the first people to live on the island.]

In 1517, the first African slaves arrived on the island of Hispaniola, which eventually became a major port of transatlantic chattel slave trade for European colonization. It is estimated that nearly 930,000 West Africans - from at least 45 distinct ethnic groups - who survived the Middle Passage, were taken through the island. By 1787 approximately 450,000 Africans were enslaved in Saint-Domingue (the French name for the seceded part of the island from the Spanish to the French, now known as Haiti).

While Haiti is known as the first successful nation born out of a slave revolt on January 1st, 1804, oppressive structures and systems have lived on. For a brief history of Haiti, see this video. This background gives us context for the conversation that ensued with our Haitian brothers and sisters.

On January 25th, in the sweltering afternoon, we sat down under the shelter of the Terre-Salei school to talk with NEPAC leaders about their larger vision and proposal for development. After attending to business and explaining that we desired to learn more about the people in the communities through conversation, we posed the rarely discussed, difficult question: "How does slavery continue to live on in Haiti, today?"

The discussion was honest and raw. You could hear traumatizing pain in the stories like that of Professor Wakun from LaMare (pictured above) who told of his ancestors who were brought from their homelands in Africa and mixed together. Each ethnic group having not only its own language, but competing authorities or elders, created a power struggle and confusion among those enslaved. Over time, they formed their own language (and Voodoo became the religion that brought the people together, in revolt of their enslavement by Christian oppressors). As conversation continued, others shared with us that today, the same problems exist in a new form. Haitian people are not unified because while they speak the same language, they don't understand one another. There are always people grabbing for power, leaving others oppressed, and rendering development inhibited. 

Today, NEPAC leaders are working, through the common language of following Jesus, to bring people together - all people from the 19 surrounding localities, not just those who are a part of the Church. They are revolting against systems of long-standing oppression by seeing each person for who they are - made in the image of God. Rather than creating systems that benefit a few, the people are working cooperatively, together embracing the hope of Christ, which brings freedom.

At Nou Hope, we recognize the complexity of the role our white ancestors played in colonization and slave trade, and lament how we have benefited from standing on the backs of black people, while carrying out modern forms of colonizing. Our tangled history and common language as followers of Jesus brings us to walk alongside one another, as we not only hope in, but actively work toward a better future.

Thank you for partnering with us as we love, learn, and work together!

Join us as we continue to explore a host of topics that bring us to name that which is often unseen, lament, grow in celebrating where God is at work, and empower one another to embrace the hope of Christ.  

Nou Hope
3600 S. 9th Street
Lafayette, IN 47909

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Nou Hope · 3600 S. 9th Street · Lafayette, IN 47909 · USA

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