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7358: A Further Response to Lafortune from OU (fwd)

From: qret6394 <pharris@ou.edu>

Last eveing when I came across the posts from Mr/Dr. (?) Lafortune I was
rather disturbed by the content (which was somewhat indecipherable) and
its negative cast. Thus my initial response was to simply clarify some
of the erroneous statements he made with regard to my professional
standing and such. Now that I have slept on this I would like to make
further comments with regard to the message he piggy-backed onto Richard
Morse's post.

First, and I speak from my point of view only, it is by no means a
"convenience" to study Vodou especially from the distance of Oklahoma
where: 1) it has definitely been a challenge to put a committee
together, since most of the research and faculty expertise pertain to
Native American Studies. Granted, I could have gone elsewhere but for
personal reasons that are beyond the need to know of list members I will
not address these. The fact remains that from a purely academic vantage
it has been a challenge to work on a Ph.D.that focuses on
Haiti/Caribbean area in this region. But, I believe all things conspire
for reasons that are not often apparent. For one thing, I have had the
privilege of introducing Haitian area studies to students, many of whom
do not much less know where Haiti is, and heretofore only relied on
media distortions for their "understanding "of Vodou 2) teaching the
number of classes, and the number of students that I have (and do) at
this point in my student career, has also not been a convenience. For
example the three nights I teach could be devoted to preparation for my
general exams, writing research proposals and so forth. Yet, what I have
gleaned from my Haitian experiences has been such a profound gift, that
it bears a reposnsibility for sharing it with others and by way of that
sharing hopefully making inroads to dispelling myth and ignorance. While
not necessarliy convenient, this has not been a burden.3) travel from OK
to Haiti is extremely expensive ($850.00 if your'e lucky). For a grad
student and parent the cost is even more prohibitive. It has not been
convenient to go into debt or to do without  4) travel to and living in
the Haitian countryside is contrary to anything that slightly resembles
convenient. 5) it is not convenient for students to flop whoppers in
order to scrape the money together to go to Haiti, when they could be
doing  other more enjoyable things with their time and resources. But
these students are inspired, and motivated to go see and experience for
themselves....and to apply their individual talents and skills to
enhance the quality of  life of others (ie. the wind generated energy
project, the visitng clinic project, the adult literacy project and so
forth). Is any and all of the above convenient...NO. Rather it is
informed by, and undertaken out of, a sincere concern, and honest desire
to make some kind of positive difference in what all too often seems
like an indifferent and cynical world.

Second, with regard to Lafortune's rehtorical question : "Haven't you
done enough to the Haitian people?" and his obvious conflation of  the
US Occupation (1915-1934) with more current Vodou research and
scholarship ...well I can only respond that I, nor my parents, were even
born at the time of the occupation.. Maybe he meant "you" as an
impersonal/general "you". If this is the case then how is his
generalizing  any different than the generalizing prejudice foisted upon
the Haitians by others who don't know any better and don't care to know
any better? I am not asserting that history is dead and that its effects
are frozen in the past.This could not be further from the truth of the
matter. What I am asserting is that there are ALL KINDS of people out
here in the world who recognize the problems and want to make some
meaningful  contribution to 1) creating an awareness here and 2)
alleviating human misery there (that indeed has its roots in the past).
There is an invaluable connection between the two. Moreover I am not not
asserting the arrogance of paternalism and a furtherance of a
debilitating dependency. My previous posts, and my work, strongly
advocates the integrity of self determination and empowerment.

Third, and I have stated this before...Vodou while a valid religion is
so much more than a religion. I would not want to put a phenomenon of
such grand depth and breadth in such a small and objectifying box.

Fourth, as to the talk of leaves and teas that can apparently do harm to
us poor unsuspecting (?) folk, I am quite puzzled as to why Lafortune
mentions these at the end of  what seems to me like embittered diatribe.
I will not venture to guess but instead invite him to explain what his
intentions and aims were in this regard.
Still standing.
U. of OK