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Daughter of the Dust by Cae Joseph Massena (Haiti)

As I’m getting ready to start  to commemorate for World Refugee Day,  I am reminded that my father, a Haïtian philosopher was granted asylum as a political refugee in France, after intellectuals where hunted down in his homeland of Haïti, I am reminded of the loss there. 

How he swore never to speak Creole again as soon as he reached France. I am reminded of the silence he kept about this part of his life, and I am reminded about the stories I never got to hear, because he wouldn’t speak about it at first and because mental illness ended up silencing him after that.

I’m reminded of the people who have lived similar experiences and who like him, just couldn’t tell their stories. I’m reminded of the people who would have wanted to tell their stories, but couldn’t because they never made it there, to safer shores. I’m reminded of the people who are about to embark on this long perilous journey and whose voice we might hear in the future if they make it to safer shores. I’m reminded of the women, the men, the children, who after indescribable losses, did make it on the other side,  and did tell their stories, but whose words described such horrors that people around them couldn’t listen, couldn’t hear. I’m reminded of the strength it takes to tell these stories and of how crucial it is for such a day to exist, and for all of us to take the time to hear these stories, to expand our awareness, and to honor them with our deepest care and attention.

As I ponder on these losses, of these unheard stories, I  realize how the theme of taking refuge and of displacement is actually overwhelmingly present in my songs. A fact that I had never realized before. Indeed, I titled one of my songs «Shelter from the storm » in a record named « Daughter of the Dust » and, today, only today, as I am getting ready to commemorate, I’m finally taking the time to wonder about this.

I wonder if this art, this voice of mine, could be an attempt at reconstructing a story that I never got to hear.

I support World Citizen artists, Because I  believe in art that helps us to « Rise » again in the face of prejudice, as Maya Angelou encourages us to. Because I subscribe to Nina Simone’s understanding of art as a way to promote the importance of freedom. Because I believe as she says that there is no excuse for “not knowing who our heroes and heroines are. Because artists are not only the art they produce, and can and should think ands do art outside of the boundaries of the art industries too, as they are living and breathing humans on a path of discovery with thoughts and opinions and battles that are just as important as their work. Because I believe that art is an endless exploration of an ever evading truth and that recognizing our connectedness as world citizens can only help this exploration.

French Haïtian singer songwriter Cae, is the author of E.P. « Daughter of the Dust ». A vocal coach and scholar, she has toured around the world alongside famous singer songwriters such as French-Senegalese Tété, Moroccan Zahra Hindi or Australian Jeff Lang. She is also a co-founder and artistic director of France based Collective « Sister Sider : Les voix sont libres! » a collective dedicated to women lead alternative Black expression involving voice as a medium for political and artistic exploration. She is currently based in Accra, Ghana, where she is in an artist in residence at Alliance Française, working on fostering gender equality through art.


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