The Papaye Peasant Movement: A Model for Us All in Haiti
UUSC is partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, March 10-17. In the post below, trip participant Linda McKim-Bell, UUSC's Pacific Northwest regional coordinator, highlights the example that the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) sets for all of us. The UUA-UUSC Haiti Volunteer Program is made possible through the contributions of UUA and UUSC donors and a generous grant from the Veatch Program of the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, in Manhasset, N.Y. I was overjoyed and inspired by the excellent, strategic, and determined organizing that I witnessed at the Papaye Peasant Movement's headquarters. UUSC's partner has realized an organizing model and built a viable authentic utopian community among the most disadvantaged and disempowered people in this hemisphere. It was an extraordinary gift to see the realization of Paulo Friere's ideas built into a strong and effective organization of 60,000 souls. These ideas evoked our first UU principle affirming the worth and dignity of every person. Meeting Chavannes Jean-Baptiste and hearing how he started with two groups of 20 people in the 1970s was something I will never forget. He used radio, visuals, and an MPP songbook to reach those who had never been taught to read. He built a large training center to teach peasants how to create political power and to live healthy lives on the land. This reminded me of our seventh UU principle: the respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part. As he opened a banner that showed the big fish eating the little fish, then one showing the little fish forming a larger fish that ate the big fish, I was reminded of the two recent sermons in my Pacific Northwest region. The Rev. Bill Sinkford of the First Unitarian Church of Portland and the Rev. Jon Luopa of Seattle's University Unitarian Church have been urging their congregations to organize to defend our democracy and to promote our liberal religious ideals to recover a more economically just society. I imagined this organizing model being used with UUs in the United States. There was respect for democracy built into the government of MPP — another UU principle honored. At every level, decisions are made communally after deep discussions. As I was working to build a fence at the eco-village for earthquake survivors I looked down the hill at the new community center. It was a symbol of renewal, survival, and a belief that, yes, things can change. You can think deeply, organize carefully, and work hard. I thought about how to bring this message home to my churches in the Pacific Northwest. The story of the success of MPP can be used to inspire UUs to make change in the United States. If they can do it in Haiti, we can do it!