Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hamptons for Haiti

I recently shipped off some signed books and the spec art I did for Hope for Haiti.

The piece was done as a visual hint at what the book would become, when my agent, Rubin Pfeffer, took the manuscript to market. And now the painting is going to be auctioned off with other works to benefit Haiti.If you are in the area, go support it and have a blast!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A special treat from NY, via Ayiti

Please listen to this beautiful music by Wynn Walent, which is available for free download or purchase at the bottom of this post. Wynn is working in Haiti at St. Damien's Hospital, doing such crucial work to help the lives of Haitians. I met him while waiting for Bryn to get back from the morgue where he and his crew pick up unclaimed bodies and bury them with a real funeral. I was walking around the compound of St. Damien's and Wynn came up and asked if he could help me. I told him I was waiting for Bryn and he let me cruise around with him until Bryn got back. I really enjoyed hanging out with Wynn while I was in PaP and now hearing these tunes is a treat that I had to share with you.

Here is Wynn at work. Bringing boxes of rice to folks in a tent camp near Tabarre.

Go buy this album and all proceeds go to his Haitian friends who need help. Talk about cutting out the middle man. I cannot think of a better way to spend a small chunk of cash, than on these lovely tunes, and in support of this hard working guy.

And, as always, my friends, please help me pass the word about all the beautiful souls who's work shines like the sun at St. Damien's Hospital in Haiti. 

Thank you.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Elections, Elections

Dear Haiti,

May this year be different.

May you find yourself with the best candidate chosen, peacefully.

May you find yourself empowered by the change in power, not derailed.

May your public servants act like public servants, and not follow the example set for them by colonizers, slave owners, and US appointed dictators. May your leaders lead, not leave. May they give, not take. May your elected president be lifted high by the will of all the people, so that he or she might set the nation on the right track.

My fingers are crossed, candles lit, prayers given.


Hope for Haiti Book Release Party! And the Watson Holiday Studio Sale!

Saturday, November 20, 2010



What next?

I can only hope and pray for the Haitian people to be strong and survive each new wave of struggle, and for my friends working in Haiti, to be safe, effective, and maintain hope.

The protests and violent clashes happening all over Haiti right now stem from a long history with the UN peacekeepers, but most recently, the claim that Nepalese battalions left Nepal as a cholera outbreak hit their land. When they got to Haiti, they were filmed by Al Jazeera dumping raw human sewage into the Arbonite River, a source of water for millions of Haitians. Within five days of dumping, the epidemic began. If this proves to be true, the UN may be responsible for thousands of deaths.

Nobody should die from easily preventable diseases.

This could be my little son. But because it is happening in Haiti, where bad things just happen, somehow we can observe this and not be moved to do anything about it. It is simply "NEWS" and news is what we see on a screen or paper, and news is something to observe but that does not apply to us. Why is that? I believe we, the citizens of the world, but specifically the developed world, are guilty of criminal negligence that we allow the poor to simply exist in conditions so sub-human, that diseases like Cholera can sweep through entire communities. We allow certain types of people to be the winners and others, the losers. We are ok with this, clearly, because we do nothing to change the systems that cause these situations in the first place.  Cholera would not spread through Haiti if there were sewage systems in place, if there was clean water readily available, or if families had homes to live in not mud soaked tents sitting in raw sewage, crammed next to a half million other families.

Will we continue to accept the world the way it is? Because it has been like this for ages, does that mean we should allow it to continue? Well, I ask one question I hope you will give some consideration. What if it were your children, your parents, your brothers and sisters, your wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend who were suffering under the unbearable deficiencies of basic provisions? Would that motivate you? Would that motivate me?

Of course it would.

So then why does it not motivate us now?  Can we look at a photo of a Haitian and find our own father in the face? Brother? Sister? Son? Can we take ourselves out of our bubble and empathize with human beings who may live far away, but who laugh like us, cry like us, eat and dance and sing and flirt and cuddle, just like us?


*thanks to Washington Post for the news photos

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Go and Know

It is easy to forget a place you have never been to. But when your skin, your eyes, your ears, your feet, and your tongue, make contact, it becomes a part of you forever.

I remember the gorgeous faces of northeastern Brazil like it was yesterday. I also remember walking the dusty road all alone in Macao.I remember a pick up soccer game with kids in Baja. I remember playing a conga drum in a steep hillside park in Hong Kong. I remember dancing with my wife at a locals-only bashment in Jamaica. I remember being scared to death of the traffic in Cairo, but even more entranced by the sound of Arabic coming from the muezzin. I remember the expressions on the faces of Palestinian kids who lived in poverty a few blocks away from a brand new San Diego style mall. I remember getting hopelessly lost with my buddy in a birch forest in Siberia. And now I carry memories of Haiti. But, travel alone, is not the goal. There is also the duty of understanding a place and a people more fully.

I desire to learn firsthand because I have discovered the gaping chasm between what is portrayed and what is real. The most evident example of this is the news. If I believed what I see on the news, I would make many assumptions about Haiti and about Haitians. But, just as our history books in my education were filled with fiction, so the news is filled with sensationalism and half truths. They are not encyclopedia companies, they sell ad space. And so if our only source of information about a place is from the news, we will make judgments on the people based on the incomplete story.

I will be speaking quite a bit with kids about my book, Hope for Haiti, and about Haiti itself. What a poor job I would do if I did not go and find out for myself. And so that is what I did. I investigated. I made contact. And, I asked Haitian kids questions I knew American kids would ask. I listened to the questions the Haitian kids were asking about the American kids. I feel like I am able, now, to begin to facilitate a dialogue between these two groups of kids who are more similar than they are different.

Many American kids really want to help the kids in Haiti. They have learned about the earthquake in school and have participated in various fund raisers. But we should take care to realize it is not a one way road. We can learn from Haitian kids and they can learn from us. Who knows what future can come from two groups of kids who are aware of each other, who know the other cares for them, and who can honestly dialogue together like grown ups. (Oh, I mean, like grown ups are supposed to dialogue.)

If you are interested in bringing me to your school, library, youth program, juvenile detention center, or church, please feel free to visit my website or email me. I would love to share this book and this movement with you.

Art Haiti

Here are a few of my Haitian colleagues in the field of art and illustration. Artists share many things, but the most significant is the burden of carrying the weight of the world within our souls and the struggle to let it out through our various media.

Alix Delinois
See his amazing work here.

Alix Delinois is a brilliant illustrator and fine artist. On his site you will find pieces of both. Make sure you check out his beautiful yet simple ink drawings of scenes of St. Marc, Haiti. Most recently, Mr. Delinois has been in the press for his illustrations in Eight Days, A Story of Haiti, by Edwidge Danticat. Buy the book, quick!

Self-Portrait :: Unmasked

NAZ: See more of his work here.

And from the galleries to the tent camps, check out this artist's take on his recent surge of earthquake inspired work.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Just a few short weeks ago, I walked around the perimeter of what would become the first free secondary school for kids from the slums of Port au Prince. At the time, it was barely recognizable as a school. In fact, the foundation was still being dug out by hand.

In what seems like a blink of an eye, the hard working Artists for Peace and Justice crew has pulled a fast one. A really fast one. Yesterday the school was open for business and kids took their places, positioned to change Haiti from the inside.

Education, for those of us who take it for granted, means the world to those who are on the outside looking in. I am grateful for the miracle workers at APJ and St. Luc's who work so hard to help clear the roadblocks for the Haitian youth.

Go see for yourself the incredible trajectory of this school project. And support them in their efforts to equip young Haitians with the tools to rebuild their country.


Monday, October 11, 2010

October 12, 2010. A Letter to the Reader

Hope for Haiti

October 12, 2010

To the reader,

Nine months ago, I sat at my easel with my head buried in my hands. I had no idea what to do. I felt helpless, hopeless.

January 12, 2010. A powerful earthquake leveled one of the world’s poorest and most unstable cities. Instead of the typical devastation one might expect from a quake this size, destruction and chaos maxed out at levels truly unimaginable. 230,000 people dead with many more than that horribly injured. The government sat fatally crippled and powerless. Orphaned children wandered through the rubble, night and day. So many bodies overwhelmed the morgue that they lay piled in the streets for weeks. I cannot think of a more precise depiction of hell.

My agent, Rubin Pfeffer, knowing how affected I was from the news of the earthquake, sent me one photo and one question. And it was the spark that lit the fuse. "What would your reaction be if it were a book?" After that, I never looked back. I spent every waking hour writing, editing, sketching, and painting. All in all, Hope for Haiti was written, illustrated, printed, and published, in less than nine months.

At the time, the global media reaction to the earthquake was swift, inspiring a wave of humanitarian support. While this was both unprecedented and unexpected, the longevity of such a movement was questionable. There‘s a reason it is called The News. Nobody remembers last week, let alone last year. And, sadly, much of the money donated to Haiti ended up in banks’ long term parking. While these companies are profiting from the interest they are earning on donated funds, the Haitians continue suffering. Today, more than1 million refugees still live in flimsy tents and improvised shelters in Port au Prince, not to mention those living in the semi permanent slums. Food and clean water are still in demand, and everyday items are painfully expensive.

This is why I wanted to create this book. Because, as I sat at my easel and thought about the future of Haiti, I was sure of only one thing: We will forget.

Movies, TV, Internet, anything and everything that comes across the airwaves will fade away, replaced with the next big thing, or more often, the next lame distraction. But, books… In an age of impermanence, this at least is timeless. I want to put a book on the shelf of our collective future in hopes that we might not forget this event, nor our connection with the people who endured it.

When I traveled to Haiti, I prepared myself for emotional trauma. But that is not what I left with. While the destitution is pronounced, the sense I walked away with beyond anything else? Hope. I met so many positive, intelligent, creative, ambitious kids who have all the potential in the world, if given the right tools. If anyone can forge a new Haiti, these are the ones to do it. Helping them find ways of not only surviving but thriving, turning Haiti from an exporter of only refugees, to an exporter of all kinds of produce, music, art, literature, and anything else that might benefit the nation and its people.

This is not about a simple handout, pity, a lecture from a well off country on how to do things "right", or anything else that diminishes the culture and qualities of Haiti. Instead, we come together in support of those in our human family who bear more burden than the rest, and shoulder the weight together.

Thank you for supporting this book and the efforts behind it, including We Give Books, and my publisher, Putnam/Penguin, who, through books sales, is giving a generous donation to Save the Children’s Haiti Earthquake - Children in Emergency Fund.



P.S. You can order online through sites like the ones below, or you can order personalized, signed copies directly from me. Click here to order directly from me.

How much do we love Senegal?

World Briefing | africa

Senegal: Students to Arrive From Quake-Ravaged Haiti

President Abdoulaye Wade plans to send a plane to Haiti on Sunday and return on Wednesday with 160 Haitian university students whose studies were interrupted by the devastating earthquake there in January, a government official said Friday. Mr. Wade, left, originally offered free land in Senegal to Haitians left homeless by the disaster because, the spokesman said, he considered them sons and daughters of Africa since their ancestors, too, had been taken to the Caribbean as slaves. Both countries are also former French colonies. The talk of free land has stopped. At a speech last month at the United Nations, Mr. Wade invited the students and said he planned to begin bring Haitian families to Senegal next year.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I only really sketched a few things on the trip. I did one tiny thumbnail each time I sat down to draw, and that was only when I was in the country. See images of cactus fences, corrugated tin gates, country roads, and memorable scenes. These were images I saw but could not photograph for whatever reason. Even if the memory shifts over time, now at least I will have these visual notes.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Youth Power, Ayiti

Many friends and family helped chip in toward balls and pumps for the kids here in Haiti. This is a group of kids at a World Vision ADP center in Hinche. I spent the afternoon prior to these pics with the kids reading Hope for Haiti and discussing everything from schools and prisons, to the early history of Haiti. I asked the kids to help me tell kids in the US about Haiti and they did a great job of relating information they thought would be important for them to hear.

When we were finished, I asked if they would like to come back in the morning and play soccer with me. They all showed up right at 9, and we passed out the balls you guys helped me bring. They were so excited, but I was sad I only had a limited amount. Because, of course, that next morning, instead of just 20 or 30 kids showing up, the word had gotten out and there were at least a hundred. But, some of the kids from the previous group helped me distribute the balls so that kids in different neighborhoods could share the balls. That way it would reach the greatest number of kids. I really was impressed by the unselfishness that many of these kids displayed, even though I could see in their eyes they wanted their own ball.

I had a blast playing soccer with these guys. There are some amazing little soccer players in Hinche!

Later in the week, Bryn had set up some visits for me in Port au Prince. Here I am reading the book to a bunch of awesome kiddos who live at a place called Angels of Light. This is a compound with health care and education as well as housing for hundreds of at risk kids, many of whom are orphans.

The interpreter would translate and then quiz the kids, asking what they had just read.

I asked the children for help, because I am not Haitian and because if I was to go speak with kids in the US, I would need them to tell me what kinds of things to share. Some kids were shy but a few had some ideas of what I could tell the American kids.

After this group, I went to another group of older students to do a reading and discuss Haiti with them. This is the director of the camp.

Empty containers are lined end to end to create a protective encampment around the center. A guard stands watch 24 hours a day, and inside the kids are given lots of love and encouragement.

I loved the beautiful murals that are painted all around the walls of the center. It made me smile thinking that the kids get these wonderful images every day.

The next stop was Baby House, a private house that was bought to house and protect a number of very young orphans. Many of these kids were injured in the quake, but their smiles were so strong. They were too young to read the book to so I showed them the paintings and talked about what they saw in the pictures. They were so precious.

The next day I stopped by with Bryn, who was delivering something, and all these kids came running, "Jesse! Jesse!"
I got to give them hugs and hold their hands as we walked around the center. The kids were so affectionate and it was heartbreaking to consider the fact that they no longer had parents taking care of them. I will not forget them and they will live in my prayers forever.

Below is one of the leaders of the center. He was an orphan raised by Father Rick, and now that he is old enough, he is looking after the new orphans. It is so inspiring and encouraging. This young man is the hope for Haiti. Not the distant hope like these tiny kids, but the immediate hope for the immediate future. Please join me in helping young men and women like this. Support the active groups in Haiti who are making a real difference in the quality of life of these wonderful children.

St. Damien's Hospital


Artists for Peace and Justice