Citizenship in crisis-Haiti

Photography: Ouigi Theodore on Iphone 8S




This entry is being shared live from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Transition, citizenship and history have always been at the center of how I approach design.

A few days ago (March 16th,2020) JetBlue cancelled our flight from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti back to NYc. No sweat John Midgley and I went on to play tennis and enjoy the Haitian night. That night we stayed calm and hoped for the best.

The next morning I spent an hour looking for my passport, again no sweat because I had no return flight and I was at home in Haiti. I did end up finding my passport and John found himself a return flight on a different airline and made it back to NYc.

1995-6: After 30 years of residency in America and well into her seventies my grandmother decided to apply for citizenship. A friend of hers prepared a cassette tape (we are talking about 95-96) with study material to prepare her to take the oral exam. On the tape there was a question about World War II that the friend referred to as world war “eleven”. The Roman numerals appeared to be ones to the friend. My friends and I laughed and joked about world war eleven for an entire year. Little did I know and understand the power of what grandma was preparing for and how it would affect me years later.

Days after our flight was canceled, President Jovenel Moise went live to announce that factories and schools would be closed. Large gatherings would not be permitted until further notice-cool that’s normal. The international airport would also be closed for a period of one month at minimum-All flights were cancelled. What??! All visiting foreigners in Haiti started scrambling for ways to leave, unless you chose to wait things out.

Exit option 1: For us Americans a one way ticket on a commercial flight (Jet Blue or American Airline) to Miami at roughly $200 and another ticket from Miami to your final destination. Option 2, which quickly became the only option because the commercial flights were not guaranteed was a charter flight. The charter flight was a sure shot but cost $1200 to Miami. Yep! $1200 one way.

Things got even more tense when we (four New Yorkers) walked into a local supermarket the day after and the local buzz was that foreigners were the ones bringing the virus into Haiti. What?!! Street justice is common here and some locals saw us as a threat. And all we wanted to do was grocery shop and prepare for self quarantine.

1995-6: Grandma studied day in and day out. Any chance she had, she was listening to her study tape and asking questions. At one point I felt like she knew more about American history then my friends and I who were laughing about world war eleven. I couldn’t answer some of the most important questions that kept swirling in my head. How much American history did I know or should I know? I started to realize that every immigrant with hopes of being a citizen, no mater how many years of residence was at the mercy of an exam (100 questions) that most natives would fail. Was the exam designed to see if we were committed to understanding how America functioned historically or as an elimination process?