I got an email from on Christmas Day from Emily Troutman describing Christmas in Haiti.
In a hidden alleyway, a half-dozen children gather around. They live in Village de Dieu, a small slum, which is not, in any way, godly. It is surrounded on all sides by canals of garbage. It is cholera-stricken. It is sunny and busy and broken in the ordinary ways.
At the entrance to the neighborhood is a once cheerful metal welcome sign, now rusted. Around the corner, a pack of kids looks at me very seriously. I didn’t intend to give a quiz, but after each question, they confer quietly, like a committee.
What color does Santa wear?
“Red and black,” offers Daniel, age 10.
“Red and white!” says Augustema, 8. She shushes Daniel.
Where does Santa live? They’re not sure. What does he do? Silence.
Is he old or young?
“Old!” says Augustema, smartly, looking to her friends. She’s winning.
And so, what is Christmas? Here, they shuffle their feet and look sideways at each other. That’s a tough one.
A year and a half ago, Troutman was a hustling young photojournalist from Baltimore who was trying to make a name for herself. She ended up becoming a United Nations Citizen Ambassador, largely due to her activism and her video “My Message to World Leaders: One Person at a Time”, as well as a regular contributor to AOL News. She has been in Haiti on and off for the last twelve months. This Christmas finds her still there.
Troutman is one of those people you meet on the internet who change the way you look at life. I can’t remember now how we originally linked up, but it was very likely some exposure I had to her video “Why Congo Matters”, a fantastic example of her photojournalism. Emily’s comment about my blog in response to the compliment I paid her via email—I love your blog– esp. the premise of keeping politics personal on some level—had me hooked. And it was her video commentary that inspired me to try to put together a few efforts of my own that have found a small audience on Youtube.
In the past year, Troutman’s missives have chronicled the many trials and few tribulations of the Haitian citizenry in a very intimate and personal manner. She’s spent most of her time on the earthquake ravaged island amongst the storm’s survivors. Her email starkly contrasted the conspicuous consumption that typifies Christmas here in the U.S. with the subsistence level existence Haitian children still endure a year after the capital of their country was destroyed. In a lot of ways she is like the people who on the blogroll of my personal blog, whose perspectives and reporting often reveal much more to me than I am able to get from my cable news networks.
Emily, all I can say today in response to this poignant slice of life you showcase in your article is “Merry Christmas, and keep up the good work.”