Haitian Reggae Gospel

Date June 16, 2011

It was early morning, just before breakfast. I had been up since 6 am, wandering around, and helping our host, Charadieu, carry water in 5 gallon buckets back to our hut. When Thomas and Jagat started jamming with another local, I walked over with my camera to catch the moment, not expecting all that would come from it.

“Viv Jezi!”

Jagat was a musical mainstay during my trip. Singing ballads to Haiti, strumming soothing reggae rifts. Thomas, in green, was fascinating to watch. His rhythm, his voice — his obvious, unadulterated joy at singing. He told me later that it was divine inspiration. He seemed completely in the present moment in a way that inspired me.

My last morning, Charadieu informed me that the Baptist pastor for the community was dying and had asked if it was true that the American “blans” had come to visit Savenette Cabrale. When informed that we were there to help a local school, he asked to see us. The pastor had run the local church for close to sixty years, since he was 17, and visitors to his town were rare. He sat weakly on his mattress on the floor of his hut, propped up by his wife. As we spoke softly, I learned that Thomas was his son. “I have something for you,” I told him and ran back to my hut to get my laptop.

I believe it was the first laptop the pastor ever saw, as well as the first time that he saw his son on video. He and his wife had tears in their eyes as they watched Thomas sing. I shared with the pastor Thomas’ comment about divine inspiration, and my deep appreciation for his state of being as he sang. I would be proud to have a son who sang like that.

I did my best, as an outsider who knew little about him, to add my little piece to his sense of completion on this planet.

He died eleven days later.

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2 Responses to “Haitian Reggae Gospel”

  1. Tamara said:

    Lovely, Shayne. I did not know Thomas’s father had died. What a message he was able to hold in his heart as he died…he planted a very good seed in his son and who knows in how many other’s lives. Would that we all die with a “sense of completion on this planet.”

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