In an illuminating conversation, PBS NewsHour‘s Jeffrey Brown talks to poet, playwright, and author Kwame Dawes about the resilient spirit of many in Haiti. Dawes explains a recent project he worked on with photographer Andre Lambertson in which the duo traveled to the earthquake-ravaged country last year to do a special kind of crisis reporting. Dawes wound up meeting and talking with many locals as they attempted to rebuild their lives as well as deal with HIV/AIDS, an epidemic that over the last decade in Haiti has seen a reduction in occurrences of about four percent.
Through his reporting, Dawes got a grasp on the human condition there but rather than turn that into column inches in some publication, he chose to tell those stories in several poems. Coupled with Lambertson’s images, Dawes’s words provide a new-found understanding of the struggles of a community, of a nation.
At the end of the interview with Brown and Dawes below, listen to Dawes’s poem, “Mothers of Mothers,” while watching Lambertson’s video slideshow. Here the writer explains to Brown what inspired his poetry.
What struck me about Haiti was that the women were carrying most of the burden of the disease of HIV, not because only women had the disease, but they were the ones who would first be tested.
They would be the ones who get pregnant and have to be tested. And then they would have to decide, what do I do with this information? They would be the ones to care for the children. They would be the ones to carry the guilt when their children were carrying the disease because it came through them.
And it struck me that these mothers were the ones who were also holding the community together. I will tell you a quick story. I was in a church. And I watched an old woman walking around the church. The church had been broken down, so we were in a courtyard.
And she just kept marching around, praying, circling the whole congregation again and again. And I asked who she was. They said, she’s the mother of the church.
That woman—and she—there’s an image of her in the video poem. She struck me as a powerful example of the strength of the Haitian women.”