Saturday, June 20, 2009

Before I go in on why I wrote this song let me give you a "backdrop" on what exactly a Restavek is:


Haiti's Forgotten Children

Thousands of children are living in slavery in Haiti -
taken from their families in the rural villages
or given up by desperately poor parents for the promise
of a better life in cities like Port-au-Prince, Jacmel or Les Cayes.

The promise is rarely kept.

Instead, the children, some as young as 3 years old, are whipped and abused, forced to fetch water, mop floors, wash dishes, care for babies not much younger than they are. They are forbidden to eat at the table and are forced to sleep on concrete or dirt floors.
They rarely get any schooling.

A United Nations study in 1998 estimated
there are 300,000 such children - known as restaveks,
a Creole word meaning "stay with".

The restavek phenomena, like slavery is a system that stresses ownership of the person versus the use of cheap or underpaid labor. The reason that so many of these children can be mistreated and often times beaten to death without any intervention from authorities or other adults is found in the reality that they are seen more as property than child laborers.

The life of a restavek is one that is comprised of continual day-to-day menial chores where they must serve everyone around them, and refer to them as monsieur or madame (sir or mam), even to those younger than themselves. They are strictly forbidden to speak unless spoken to. They are not allowed to display any emotions without fear of reprisal, or even voice any opinions about their daily needs. They are rarely provided with a chance for an education, an if so, they are relegated to second rate schools where they may or may not graduate based on the whim of the families who own them.

A restavek is easily discernible within the streets
of Haiti with their torn rags and tattered clothes
hanging from their strained and feeble limbs,
often times begging for food and money.

Unlike a "bonne" (maid) or a "gerant" (grounds keeper),
restaveks do not get paid for their services,
and are forced to perform chores
that others would not dream of doing.

However, the most gruesome reality for most of them
is that they are too often killed, raped and abandoned
in the streets once families no longer wish to keep them.

That such children even exist came to widespread attention
with the 1998 publication of the autobiography of
Haitian born Jean-Robert Cadet, a Madeira man
who himself was a restavek.

He returned to Haiti and heard the stories of other restaveks.

They are children like these:

"Rene' was severely beaten with a "rigoise"( a whip made of cowhide). Every strike lifted the skin and formed a blister ... He was made to kneel on a bed of hot rocks while holding two mango-sized stones in each hand high above his head. His puffy face was twisted to one side and his ragged shirt was glued to his broken body."

Modelene Doristan, a quiet girl about 8 years old,
who was brought to Foyer Maurice Sixto,
a shelter in western Port-au-Prince, by police.

"They beat me all the time at the woman's house",
she says. Modelene is whispering, pausing to pick
at a wound above her knee as she talks about her owner.

Naki MacPherson, a small boy with dark scars on his forehead and chest,
who looks about 7, but doesn't know his age. His owner beats him with a rock
when he doesn't work hard or fast enough. He is safe this day, playing a game
of marbles at Foyer L'Escale, a shelter in northern Port-au-prince
for restaveks who have run away.

A 13 year old restavek girl whose owners burned her severely when they covered her
with hair spray and lit it. "They lit the spray on the child to find out if the
spray was really flammable", said Haitian journalist Godfroy Boursiquot. The girl,
who had lived at Foyer L'Escale for three years, also told Boursiquot she was
sexually abused by the 18 year old and 20 year old men who owned her.

These restaveks are, surprisingly, not slaves of Haiti's rich, but of those too poor to hire domestic help. "Some of them live in an owner's place that is worse than the place they were living in the countryside", said caretaker Clermei de Rameau, better known as the maternal figure "Mamy George,"at Foyer Maurice Sixto.
"Some of them have slashes on their backs", Ms. Rameau said.
"Some of them get food at home; some of them don't".

"Once one of those kids was sleeping in a warehouse and a rat chewed
the bottom of his feet," said Ms. Rameau.

Social workers at Foyer L'Escale don't discover until well after the restaveks come to stay that many have been raped. Some refuse to tell their stories. One of the girls told Cadet last April how her owner had "given her the pepper", or rubbed a hot pepper in her crotch after finding someone raping her.

There are even a few restaveks who work for families that live in the street,
said Boursiquot, the Haitian journalist. Most owners are reluctant to send restaveks to public school not only because they have to pay for books and uniforms but, more importantly, they lose those hours the child could be working.

Most restaveks, alone and defenseless, live in constant fear of abandonment and punishment. Because it is a longstanding custom, an accepted slavery,
usually no one intervenes.

The Haitian National Labor Code makes it illegal only to use children under 12 as restaveks and obligates owners to pay for a medical exam for restaveks every six months, but they usually cannot or will not afford medical care for restaveks. Sick restaveks are most often abandoned.

The restavek system has existed nearly since the time Haiti was founded by freed African slaves in 1804 and has been virtually ignored by the worldwide aid community,
the U.S. and Haitians themselves.

This Is Cielo ...

All He Wanted Was A Chance ...
And A Way Out ...
To Be A Child Again.

He's Safe Now.
He's One Of The Lucky Ones.

Help The Others To Be Found.
Help To Give Them A Way Out
And A Bright Future.

Meanwhile, restaveks like Modelene, whose pink dress open to reveal a dark scar on her back where she was whipped, grow up invisible in a society that refuses to see them, and the descendants of freed slaves perpetuate a system of brutal captivity.

I too sing Haiti.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody will dare say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen," then.
Besides, They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed -
I too am Haiti.
- Langston Hughes

This is a scary, painful horror that goes uncheck in my home land. How can we as Haitian's pride ourselves in being the 1st Black Nation that was Free and yet enslave ourselves? I personally couldn't turn a blind eye to such a topic and just had to bring some kind of light to the situation in order to look myself in the mirrior and call myself a huMAN. I pray for my people everyday cause they are really suffering in more ways than I can imagine. And yet our society, no our so-called leaders of the "free world" ignore it. They rather go golfing and send our brothers sisters, mothers and fathers out to die for oil than lift a finger to help their neighbors.

I wrote this song because it's been on my heart for a minute. This is just the type of artist I am, I like speaking from my heart. I like tackling different topics, there is enough guys out there to give you songs about bling and traps etc. That's not what I'm hear to do rather you like it or not. This song means a lot to me, and i hope those that listen get something real out of it. Thank you all for taking the time to listen, and keep my people in your prayers.

Restavek's Song (Prod Mr. Vinyl)

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