Via PRI: A Haitian artist fights to preserve the vodou religion

A Haitian artist fights to preserve the vodou religion

Credit: Swoan Parker/Reuters
A vodou worshipper takes part in festivities on the first day of the Haitian Festival of Ancestors in Port-au-Prince.

Erol Josué is a dancer, a recording artist, a vodou priest, and an expert on the vodou religion’s culture and history.

“They beat me in the name of Jesus,” Josué sings in one song. “They burn me in the name of Jesus.”

The lyrics of this old vodou song date back to slavery days in the 18th Century, but their warning rings true today for some vodou practitioners — or vodouisants — who feel under attack. The old joke goes that Haiti is 70 percent Catholic, 30 percent Protestant and 100 percent Vodou.

For Josué, this is no joking matter. Last year, he took a government job as head of Haiti’s National Ethnology Office. He’s on a mission to get Haitians to realize that they need to embrace their vodou heritage — whether they agree or not.

Ground zero for the tension is Bwa Kayiman, a site in northern Haiti. A late-night meeting there in 1791 set in motion what would become one of history’s most successful slave revolts. It’s essentially where the country of “Haiti” was born — as a union of different tribes, faiths and languages.

“It was the moment the slaves said, ‘we’ve become Creoles today; we’re no longer African. We won’t fight to return to Africa, but for this land,” Josué said.

These days, Bwa Kayiman is a mess. On a visit with a team of ethnologists, Josué found a handful of historical sites unmarked and decaying. This is supposed to a heritage site, but buildings have been built illegally, including Protestant churches.

Josué is not happy.

“Vodou has never been a religion of conquest,” he says. “We don’t raise awareness to convert people to vodou, but to educate them about the importance of the national identity, the importance of respecting the sites, of respecting the patrimony. The churches and houses that were built on the Bwa Kayiman site is, personally, a kind of sacrilege. But it’s also an attack on the state.”

This “attack,” as Josué puts it, comes mainly from the evangelical movement. Unofficial estimates suggest about half of Haitians are Protestant these days, a rise fueled in large part by American-funded Evangelical missions, churches and schools.

Elizabeth McAlister is a Haiti scholar at Wesleyan University, and a long-time friend of Josué’s.

“The evangelical movement desires to reduce vodou entirely, if they could they would have a Christian revival and transform the country to a Christian majority,” she says.

McAlister says there’s no question that foreign religious influence is affecting Haitians’ attitudes about vodou but she says that even many Haitians feel the vodou religion and culture is something they would rather leave in the past.

“Among educated and other people who see vodou as always having been denigrated, always having been insulted, the discourse on vodou are either that it’s an illegal practice or it’s a practice of superstition done by the ignorant,” she says. “Meanwhile, so much of the culture is infused with the principles of the form. So, it creates a tension, psychologically — how does one represent the culture, and how does one come to terms with being from this culture which is so saturated with this religion?”

Vodou’s influence is felt just about everywhere in Haiti, from the country’s music and art to the latest locally-designed fashions and accessories on display in uptown boutiques.

As head of the Haitian ethnology office, Josué has demonstrated and lobbied to create the first national holiday to honor vodou. Like it or not, he says, vodou is soaked deep into Haiti’s local and international brand — as an aesthetic, a philosophy and a way of life.

“You can be what you want, but stay a Haitian. Stay a proud Haitian,” Josué says.

Ferreira’s reporting was supported by a grant from the International Reporting Project.

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Electoral Geography: How Growing Majority-Minority Districts Effect Elections

Voting BallotWhen talking about ELECTORAL GEOGRAPHY and the importance of analyzing the effects of a changing voting population, the 2012 U.S. Census revealed a change that probably does not shock most. ETHNIC groups are on the rise and non-white majority districts are decreasing. MAJORITY-MINORITY districts have the ability to impact REDISTRICTING of voting boundaries every ten years.  The ruling political party of the state conducts the redistricting, and if it can be proven to be done in their favor, it is known as GERRYMANDERING (illegal yet is still happens-Right…I don’t know either…).

Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article that explains how highly populated ETHNIC ENCLAVES can be dealt with and used for political advantage.

“So if Democrats are in charge of the redistricting process in New York in 2020, perhaps they can find a way to squeeze out another Democratic seat or two by splitting up minority voters. And if Republicans are in charge in Texas, perhaps they can avoid giving up as many seats to Democrats by diluting the minority vote in cities like Dallas and Houston.”

Basically, if there are too many minority voters who might have a tendency to vote for a Democrat in the district, they will have more votes than they need to win the district, so why not spread them out over more iffy ones?

Similarly, if a state losses or gains a larger portion of people due to MIGRATION or NATURAL POPULATION INCREASE, the 435 representative seats will need to be REAPPORTIONED (redistributed) across the states.  States such as California, Texas, New York, and Illinois who already have a large number of majority-minority districts, might earn themselves more fighting power on the FEDERAL level.

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Repost from: http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/since-1982-minority-congressional-districts-have-tripled-graphic-20120413

Since 1982, Minority Congressional Districts Have Tripled—GRAPHIC

By  and David Wasserman

Updated: May 29, 2013 | 9:33 p.m.
April 13, 2012 | 6:54 a.m.

In 1980, the nonwhite share of the U.S. population was 17 percent, and by 1982 there were 35 majority nonwhite districts. In the 2010 census, the nonwhite share of the nation’s population had ballooned to 28 percent, mostly fueled by Latino growth. But over the same time period, the number of nonwhite majority districts has more than tripled, to 106. For the first time ever, a majority of states–26–will contain majority nonwhite districts, in part thanks to new deliberately drawn minority-majority seats in Washington state where Asian-Americans are the largest minority group.