Cameron Storey- Edwidge Danticat Lecture
Edwidge Danticat spoke on her ties to Haiti in an elegant, yet emotional manner. Her tone, though it remained even, conveyed a great deal of powerful emotion. As she shared in the history of her people it became obvious her writings echo the history of Haiti and the lasting marks its broken past has left on the futures of its people. The title she chose, “Love in the Time of Massacre,” helped to explain why her stories were needed. To Danticat, writing is not only a way to ensure that stories from the survivors emerge, but also a way to represent the transformation of emotions and attitudes in people.
She spoke readily of how the brutality of her home country changed people and left them scarred. The violence in her land vastly overwhelming and seemingly unending, even after many escaped to the U.S.A. One story she told, that truly stuck out, was the notion of a people so hopelessly divided. She spoke of one particular massacre that centered on whether or not people could pronounce the word “parsley” the “right way.” The Haitian people were found out by their speech, and killed because of it. Language in this instance, Danticat explained, held an immense power over the people. Those who could fake a different dialect often survived. Those who couldn’t were killed. This word, “parsley” held such great power in that place, and this notion of language being such a determiner, helped to show Danticat the power in words.
Danticat takes her role as a writer very seriously, her ties to her people remain obvious, and her willingness to share their struggle pure. To her, words unify and mend a part of what is broken. Though the struggle is real, words allow her to testify to its power and effects. This was apparent in the way she carried herself across the stage. From the moment she appeared she remained composed and spoke with dignity. She did not demand sympathy, but allowed for the stories to speak for themselves. Her language, her diction, carried the weight of disaster in a way that demanded nothing, but evoked deep empathy. Danticat represented a people and a fight that has lasted for generations, she did not demand an audience, but rather took the time to openly share. In her powerful language the depth of her ties to the Haitian people was heard. Through her words the meaning of her stories were felt instead of forced, and the power of her language felt.