Cross-posted from the Trinidad & Tobago Review Column, posted on Miriam Chancy's website.
Trinidad & Tobago Review Column, Sept. 2012
Prince Luc, artist, Director, FOSAJ, w/Papier Maché Carnival Puppets, Jacmel 2012©MJA Chancy
Who has never dreamed? Of a desired object, person, or state of being? Who has never dreamed? Who has never dared to dream?
A week ago today, I sat in Cyvadier, on the outskirts of Jacmel in southern Haiti, and listened to Guerda Constant tell me the story of her ad-hoc work with rural youth, work she does in addition to her full time occupation working with NGOs. I listened to her telling me of how she speaks with young Haitians, especially in rural areas, hoping to raise in them an awareness of their own gifts, of the beauty of their country, despite all evidence to the contrary. Guerda told me the story of one little girl gifted with a beautiful singing voice. She asked the girl what was her dream and the girl responded that she had none. Guerda pressed her, asking her what she thought of when she let loose with her friends, what she wondered about. The girl responded that she did not wonder about anything. And when you are alone? Guerda asked, what do you think about. And the girl answered that she did not think about anything in particular but that, occasionally, when a day, or two had gone by and she had not eaten, she would make her way to the side of a river running close to her house, find a spot, and sing there, alone, until she felt better, until the pangs of hunger left her and the song lifted her beyond the pain and despair. This gift, this song, Guerda asked, thinking of the long history of Haitian troubadours, don’t you dream of doing something with it, of singing for others? No, the girl answered. Here, I can’t afford to dream. Guerda is one of many Haitians working to restore the capacity to dream and to hope to the youth of Haiti. But we may well wonder what it means when a generation of children cannot dare to dream, refuses to dream, because they have already seen too much, or too little, to warrant what must strike them as reckless optimism.