Welcome to MCC Haiti.

The "Single Story"

At MCC staff orientation we reviewed the power of Story to paint and depict people's lives, and even entire groups of people. Specifically, our speakers Ewuare Osayande and Harley Eagle invited us to think about the danger of the Single Story which can be used to dehumanize and convince those with power that they are set-apart and more than "the other," whoever that "other" might be. (See Chimamanda Adichie's video below.) These ideas feel a bit abstract, but I hope to ground them with some examples here.

In Haiti, we can see how popular media and personal accounts from more affluent nations -- those with more "power" -- have perpetuated a Single Story of Haiti as a poor, deprived nation. As a result, Haiti's story is somehow simplified and Haitians may be seen by the majority of non-Haitians as people who are weak, needy. The fullness of Haitian's individual stories are left out in the retelling.

“Show a people as one thing, only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Reading communication pieces from NGOs and many charitable groups intending to do good work in Haiti, a reader may come away with the perception that the subjects in these stories are defined by the awful circumstances they encounter.

Therefore, after reading an account about a struggling single mother who has contracted HIV and is searching for employment to feed her family, we may be tempted to see her primarily as a poor, struggling widow, instead of a human being whose story did not start with her current struggles, nor is it defined by them.

“The closer you get to the lives of people, the more you recognize the most obvious things. Firstly, they are not defined by the circumstances of their suffering.” - Voices of Haiti: A Post-Quake Odyssey (Lisa Armstrong & Kwame Dawes)

We all are affected by the power of Story. Stories shape our understandings and perceptions of the world.

I am aware that those with more power in the world can also be viewed via a Single Story. The NGO worker or missionary in Haiti could be seen positively or negatively - as either arrogant, wealthy, or saints.

So what is the antidote to the dangers of the Single Story? One would be to tell many stories, and to tell fuller stories. I hope that we can do that as part of our Advocacy work with Mennonite Central Committee.

The danger of a single story - Chimamanda Adichie, as viewed at our MCC Orientation

Country to city, city to country

Short Film - Haiti & The Dominican Republic