Being DARK when Complexion Matters


There is ONE DAY before I leave for Hispaniola, but can I be honest about something? I have had some experiences in other countries that have made me a bit apprehensive about what the experience will be like doing this work in the Dominican Republic… especially when told that the Haitian women are treated a bit harsher than the Dominican women.

I already hear some saying, “Why are you even concerned with color?” or “It is only an issue if you make it one…” I would encourage you to expand your exposure to experiences broader than your own.

As I travel, I am finding that before I speak, people classify me. It happens in the U.S. as well, but it is different when I travel abroad. These experiences have spoken volumes to me about how I view myself, by the way… especially after growing up with people asserting how much continental “Africans don’t like African Americans.” One reason why I have embraced and emphasized the identifications that include “African” is because (while on the continent) before I opened my mouth, continental Africans embraced me as African and tried to figure out where I was from on the continent.

So far, my passport has been stamped in two countries: South Africa and Qatar. Gene and I traveled through Qatar last year on our way to South Africa and decided to spend the night. Gene IS ADVENTUROUS so he wanted to get out and walk around. I was noticeably the darkest melanated person outside of a gentleman working at the hotel.

I noticed that people looked at us a bit as we went in and out of stores. We went to what was the equivalent of a Currency Exchange to get some money because Gene wanted to go into shops and try some authentic food. We happened to be there during their prayer time, so we had to wait for the tellers to come back to their posts. We don’t speak Arabic, so it was quite the experience finding someone that could help us.

Anyway, when we arrived at a dessert parlor, Hadhim Dates & Treats, we chose our desserts and as the young man was checking us out he said to me, “You from Nigeria?” My husband explained briefly that we were from the United States. Hmmm… I began to understand that he saw my husband as one who may be from the area (somewhere in the Middle East), but saw me as an African. He assumed that my husband had gone and gotten him an African bride.

The next morning, we caught our flight and continued on to South Africa. Anyone who is familiar with South Africa’s racial classifications knows that there are people who may have the complexion of my husband or darker that are not classified as Black, but Coloured. (Coloured people are lighter complexioned or mixed race people, and had certain privileges Black Africans did not have during Apartheid.) That was a different experience for Gene. He was even told that he could identify as Coloured if he wanted to… He didn’t like that… It left him feeling out of sorts.

We even noticed that when Afrikaans people (and others considered white in South African) heard our “American accent,” they were enamored by it and us. They admired that we were from the United States. And before our eyes we watched these individuals change their interactions with us and begin to smile and treat us better than our South African family that was hosting us. We didn’t like that either. We are no different than Mama Maureen and our family that hosted us. We are the same people.

In both of these contexts in foreign countries, I understood that my deep complexion caused them to identify me as a Black African and my relationship with Gene as an interracial one.

I am not sure what context I am likely to face when I visit the island of Hispaniola. Hispaniola was the first island inhabited by European explorers and there is a unique dynamic that occurs there between the left one-third of the island and the right two-thirds of the island. Haiti is on the left side of the island and there is very little variation in skin tone compared to the Dominican Republic on the right side of the island which has been a country of people mixed with European, African, and Native American blood for centuries. Haiti and the Dominican Republic sit side by side on an island with histories as juxtaposed as the phenotypes of the people in the two countries. (Haiti has a rich history that influenced land acquisition in the U.S. that you can read about HERE.)

I wonder what THIS experience will be like for me… or will I experience anything noteworthy  at all? Will I be identified by my dark complexion and be classified based on the social contexts of the island of Hispaniola? Lol… I am sure they will know soon enough when I struggle to communicate beyond saying, “Mwen rele… Andrea…”

Still…
I am OPEN to this new experience.
I am OPEN to broadening my understanding about people and their cultures.
I am OPEN to learning more about myself and how I can best position myself in this world.

And I will let you know if being darker in complexion mattered for me in the DR, too.

Oh yeah… If you would like to contribute to the birth work I will be doing with Dominican and Haitian moms and babies, you can do so here –> http://www.drdoula.com/dr2017-donation1.html

I have almost reached my goal! Thank you for your support!

TWO MORE SLEEPS!


When my guys were little, they did not understand the concept of measuring days before something would happen. They wanted to know, “How many more SLEEPS, Mommy?” They usually asked as I was tucking them in at night. “Is this the last sleep, Mommy?” It made so much sense to them.

I had not thought about that much until this morning.

SERIOUSLY… I woke up and saw Gene getting ready for work and the first words out of my mouth were, “Oh no… I only have ONE MORE SLEEP!” It turns out, I was wrong… I quickly realized that I have TWO MORE DAYS… I mean TWO MORE SLEEPS!

I am SOOOO EXCITED about this opportunity to serve the women of Hispaniola, but I am also making the most of these last couple of days I have with ♥ my husband ♥ … I am REALLY enjoying my time with him while my sons are with their Summer Mommas (my older and younger sisters) in Alabama. I am also enjoying the time to myself… This time is GOLDEN.

I do not know really know what to expect when I travel to the Dominican Republic on Thursday, but I know I will have a life altering experience…
I know I will have an opportunity to assist Dominican and Haitian moms in labor…
I know I will need to employ some of my high school Spanish to navigate my environment…
I also know I will learn some things about myself and others I don’t anticipate learning…
I am confident I will expand as a human being…
And I have a surety that I will return different than the way I have left…

So TWO MORE SLEEPS

If you have been meaning to make a financial donation to the birth work I will be doing in the Dominican Republic and haven’t gotten a chance, you can still donate so here –> http://www.drdoula.com/dr2017-donation1.html

 

Dr. Doula

What a Difference a Boat Ride Makes


6With SIX DAYS left before I leave, I have been thinking about the Dominican and Haitian women I will be serving. I am thinking about our similarities more than our differences… not just as women, but as women of African descent.

I know all do not acknowledge African heritage across the island, none the less, there are those who do. And I also acknowledge that there is no difference between those Africans that were sent to Hispaniola and those sent to mainland North America.

In an effort to break their wills and ensure dependency of the enslaved on their oppressors, it is well known that one of the techniques used to weaken familial bonds and resistance from enslaved Africans was to split up families and sell them in different places. That means that the greatest difference between myself and the women I will be serving is where our ancestors were disembarkedwhere they got off the boat.

Across the island, there are areas where, similar to the U.S. mainland, there is a variation of shades of complexions. In the case of Hispaniola, the delineations in hues and shades can be seen in the stark contrast between the people of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Regardless of how these separations are made in different countries based on historical political context, culture, language, etc., I still see the commonalities. And for those who are experiencing poverty and economic depravity… I am reminded that we are (literally) the same people even in our diversity.

For me, this why your financial support is so meaningful and important. You are helping me reach out to support family during “the most powerful and most vulnerable” time in these women’s lives – CHILDBIRTH.

You can contribute to this work here –> http://www.drdoula.com/dr2017-donation1.html

Here is some additional information about the work I will be doing while in the Dominican Republic. 

I will be a part of a team of nine birth professionals volunteering at Hospital Presidente Estrella Ureña in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. I and three other women will be working the night shift from 11pm – 7am shift each day.

The conditions and the treatment the women receive at the hospital is below what most would consider unacceptable. The moms and newborns have only what they walk in with unless their families provide for them. We will seek to offer material comforts through the provision of sheets for the beds, water, and some ‘luxury’ items as gifts for mom and baby. These luxury items will include a small bar of soap, underwear, sanitary pads, and a toothbrush for the mothers; and a onesie, socks, a receiving blanket and a few diapers for the newborns.

Both the mothers and their newborns are often treated in ways that many would consider inhumane. The women deliver in a room with 10 other beds, sometimes two women to a cot. They birth in their street clothes, on a plastic bed, without food or water, and with no loved ones or support at their side; and they may be separated from their babies for up to 24 hours. We will be working around the clock shifts to bring comfort, support, and love to these women and babies.

Continued blessings, love, peace and light for your path.

Dr.Doula