Ezili Danto’s Note: This interview is written by Samuel Maxime and first appeared on DefendHaiti, July 17, 2011.
The Personality of Goddess Ezili Dantò
by Samuel Maxime
Born in Port-au-Prince, Ezili Dantò, formerly referred to by her colonial name, Marguerite Laurent, is a dynamic leader in the 21st century Haitian culture.
Ezili possesses a beauty hard to overlook but one shouldn’t forget she is a brilliant lawyer, poet, actress, writer and advocate for the Haitian people.
Ezilidanto’s Spoken Word Dance Theater Company produces performances and workshops on traditional Haitian dance and ceremonies. Dantò has authored three plays and has performed in colleges and universities including Carnegie Hall in New York.
As founder and President of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN), Ezili has been an indispensable voice to the plight of the Haitian people. She has fought for human rights, advocated for social justice and has been driven to enlighten her compatriots and the world about her culture.
Ezili is a defender of Haitian ideals. She served as an international consultant to the Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and never hesitates to point out and correct wrongs done against her people, her brothers, her sisters. She fights for truth, tradition, progress in the spirit of Vodun.
|Ezili in Miami
|Ezili on RT
|Ezili Carnegie Hall
|Ezili Bwa Kayiman
We wanted to get to know the personality of this goddess, whom we call, Ezili Dantò. In an effort to do so we put her to a Proust Questionnaire.
What is your favorite virtue?
Loyalty, faith with action, fearlessness.
Your favourite qualities in a man.
Ruthless honesty, maturity, compassion, empathy combined with affection and kindness. Honorable with the courage to love unconditionally.
Your favourite qualities in a woman.
Strength, femininity, courage and vulnerability combined. I dislike career chicks who have lost their ovaries along the way and replace them with the old boys’ balls.
Your chief characteristic.
What you appreciate the most in your friends.
Ability to weather the rainy days.
Your main fault.
Impatient. Too intense, work too hard, play too little.
Your favourite daily occupation.
Ezili Dantò’s work.
Your idea of happiness.
All the world’s children safe and well-fed, get to play, have innocent loving childhoods. Personally, give me Ibo lele’s jazz by the ocean, a cool summer breeze winding through laughter as we relax with friends and family.
Your idea of ultimate misery.
Not finding something to make me smile for a whole day.
If not yourself, who would you be?
Nina Simone without the angst, just the music. Gran Toya, who in his youth, taught Janjak Desalin, the greatest warrior to ever live, how to fight, shoot and throw a knife.
Where would you like to live?
In a world where all people have clean water, safe shelter, organic food, accessible health care, personal security and where being a Haiti farmer means you’re employed not jobless. Oh, and I’d like to live in a world where everyone has unlimited access to the writings and performances of Ezili Dantò, lol.
Your favorite color and flower and animal.
Petwo red. I like the mapou and tall oak trees more than any flower. My favorite animal is the white tribes and settlers we direct ancestors of the aboriginals to the world must civilize so there will be peace and some non-toxic life left on planet earth.
Your favorite book ever.
The 81 verses of the Tao Te Chin.
Your favourite author and or poet.
The Ancients who created chante and lapriyè Ginen yo. Modern authors and poets include –Octavia Butler, Isabel Allende, Edwidge Dandicat, Khalil Gibran, Franz Fanon, Paulo Freire, Ayi Kwei Armah.
Your favorite poem.
It’s hard to choose. I have so many. But I’d say –The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes; Self Evident by Ani Difranco; Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow – a soliloquy in Shakespeare’s tragedy MacBeth; The Road not taken by Robert Frost, First Writing Since by Suheir Hammad and the first verse of the Tao Te Chin.
Your favorite fictional heroes or heroines.
The hero, heroine in my next Ezili Dantò/HLLN post. Any of the heroines in an Octavia Butler book.
Your favourite actress and actor.
I loved Jamie Foxx in “Ray.” His singing, acting, entire persona in that film. He was Ray Charles incarnate. If I had a piece of art like that out there, I’d take my Academy Award and retire in peace.
Your favourite leader in exercise.
Any Haitian dance teacher.
Your favourite artist (painting) and musical artist, Haitian and foreign music.
My favorite libation bottle painter and Haiti vèvè artist is Kesler Pierre. Favorite musical artists are Beetovah Obah, Jowee Omicil. Rasin artists like Azor, Bonga, Zao, Dadi Beaubrun, Majorie Beaubrun, Martha Jean Claude, Carole Demesmin, Frisner Augustin, Tiga, Yatande, Azouke, Fanfan Damas, Nadia Dieudonné, Erol Josue. My favorite Jazz and blues artists are too long to mention, but Sam Cook, Nina Simone, Abby Lincoln, Lizz Wright, Jill Scott, Gladys Knight, Edith Piaf. Favorite performance poets are Gil Scott Heron, The Last Poets, Chuck D, India Arie, Mos Def, Suheir Hammad, Ani DiFranco and all the fellow poets who’ve shared a stage with me this last decade.
Your heroes, or heroine in real life.
Ti pèp la. The Haitian masses and the warriors of the Haiti revolution led by Jean Jacques Desalines, Kapwa Lamò, Henri Christophe, Boiron Toner and the women of the Haitian revolution -Defile, Gran Toya, Mari Jann, Mari Claire Heureuse, Sanit Bèlè…
Which characters in history do you most dislike? Haiti and foreign.
If I had a magic wand – I’d wish a world where Christopher Columbus and Bartholomew De la Casas had not been born and the indigenous world and planet left in peace.
“The controversy brings to mind U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) co-chairing a joint hearing of the Western Hemisphere and International Development Subcommittees of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The topic of the hearing was “Rebuilding Haiti in the Martelly Era. Participants were asked for three solutions to Haiti’s reconstruction problems, provided they could “wave a magic wand.”In response to the televised hearing, Haitian activist and founder of the Haitian Lawyer’s Leadership Network (HLLN), Ezili Danto, had this response about the mythical magic wand and the morass of international exacerbation of Haiti’s misery: “If I had a magic wand – I’d wish a world where Christopher Columbus and Bartholomew De la Casas had not been born and the indigenous world and planet [were] left in peace,” she writes.” Excerpt from Georgianne Neinaber’s “Sex for Work in Haiti,” LA Progressive, July 22, 2011.
Your favorite food and drink, Haitian and foreign.
Seafood – king crab legs, shrimps, scallops, tilapia, in garlic, garlic and fresh herbs, with a good chardonnay, lots of greens, tomatoes and red onions, banan peze, pickliz. Skip the rice. Add a chocolate mouse for desert. I like to drink any fruit juice, especially a tall, cold pineapple drink, reclining under the full moon, quietly listening for the heart wisdom of the long ago Ani.
Your favourite names for people.
Ezili Dantò, Ogou, Simbi, Ayida Wedo, Zaka, Legba, Ayi – We must resurrect and lift up the Ancestors and our own stories.
What you hate the most in life.
The dishonest and cowardly. Passive aggressive people.
The military event/ or activist social or political event that took place and you most admire. Haiti and foreign.
The seventeen-month stand of Emmanuel Drèd Wilmè against the united forces of the greatest superpowers on earth and the continuing fight of Desalin’s descendants against the return of the former slaveholding nations to Haiti, as landowners and leaders with Clinton at their helm. I bow before those who still are courageous enough to call themselves Lavalas, despite the entire schooled Haitians neocolonial disdain of Lavalas. Ayibobo pou kouraj sa a!
The reform that has happened in the world you most admire.
The invention of the Internet.
The reform you wish will be made for Haiti.
Get rid of the US Embassy and all the Euros hypocrites, false aid, the NGOs and their schooled, assimilated Haitians and let the Haiti masses breathe. If the Oligarchy and Euros were forced to not block Haiti fair trade, allow domestic production to flourish, recognize Haitians are 70 to 80% farmers and that they own more land than any other peoples in the Caribbean and their Vodun and simple life honored and respected – then my wish for Haiti would begin to be fulfilled.
The natural talent you wish you had.
The ability to take the sting out of my work without losing the truth.
How do you wish to die?
I don’t. Life is eternal. Death is only a transformation of energy.
What is your present state of mind for your professional life.
I’d like to retire on a boat traveling the seven seas, writing best selling books, occasionally formally teaching Haiti history and cultural while raising and educating strong children, singing the songs of Ginen. Yes, to the Ginen beat of the drums that make themselves known.
What is your present state of mind for Haiti –on political, economical and cultural issues?
Politicians aren’t allowed to provide change. The chaos and misery in Haiti feeds the profit over people rulers of the world. So, that Machiavellian machine has given Haiti someone to entertain them at the carnival and masquerade permanently. The business term is “re-branding” the old to make it seem different. The European tribes own economics as long as they print money and own the banks and trade. Haiti’s culture is our only remaining asset. It will survive in Haiti’s Living Libraries wherever they may end up and kept safe, as a sacred trust, for when the Black woman, mother of all the races, is recognized as divine again.
For what fault have you most toleration?
I tolerate most human mistakes but a man who hits a woman, or anyone who abuses a child or another less powerful is not tolerable.
Are you connected and how?
The Ezili Dantò/HLL Network and with the magazines and journals that publishes our writings, blogs and commentaries.
Your favorite Haitian news-paper or site or radio. Haiti and foreign.
I like AHP, The Ezili Dantò Network and Listserve, Akasan TV. I don’t watch the mainstream media. Don’t own a TV so the trash they report doesn’t disturb.
Any news addiction and action about which specific subject regarding Haiti.
I am happy whenever I don’t hear the colonial narrative on Haiti. Clean water, clean water, clean water – “Zili Dlo, dlo pwòp pou tout moun” is our current favorite HLLN Haiti project.
Your favourite language:
The truth and nothing but the truth!
Do you believe in God?
No. I believe in Good.
Your favourite motto in life.
Be the beauty you want to see in the world. Extend only love. Failure is not an option. Whatever happens, don’t let the world have your sense of awe, wonder and expectation for beauty to become manifest. Keep moving forward. Keep your innocence, that’s success.
Forwarded by Ezili’s Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network
Ezili Danto’s Note: In the above HaitiDefend interview, Mr. Maxime chose the title but Western ideas of the divined are colonized, so if it had been my choice, I would replace “Goddess” in the title with perhaps the more resonant word, “warrior-mother” to represent something more than the Western idea of Goddess. To lift up the principles of nature (Lwa) that instinctively create, give birth through love, by powering through, through nurturing, honor and honesty, are feminine in consciousness, rhythm, gender and vibrationally feminine in spirit.
Bwa Kayiman, 2011 :
Seremoni Bwa Kayiman, the Vodun ceremony that began the Haitian revolution., Aug. 14, 1791, monologues written by Ezili Dantò
“Duvalier’s Chalan is back, not to clean up the streets by arresting the barefoot poor but to evict the homeless quake victims” –Ezili Dantò (Open for business.)
“They’re open for business on top of our decomposed dead bodies, on top of our crushed bones, on top of our intense grief. Open for business on top of our ground water contaminated by their diseased feces. They’ve made so much money. 16-months later they still haven’t stop counting collected donation profits, anticipating more huge returns. They’ve even calculated how much they’ll make pushing our decomposed dead bodies around to sell the grieving, Clorox hungry, walking dead Haitians still living under hurricane-soaked tarps more of their aquatabs, antibiotics, foreign vitamins, bottled water and Monsanto hybrid seeds. Open for business building an oasis on top of an open grave, investing in remains. Rwanda-Clinton says Haiti is open for business, now.” – Ezili Dantò, May, 2011, excerpt from “I pay this price for you.”
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