The Millennial Ethos

Photo by Krystle Mikaere on Unsplash

85 percent of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet” says a report from the Institute for the Future and over 20 business and tech leaders from around the world.  2030 is almost a decade from now. 12 years to be exact. Just a blip in comparison to the 13.8 billion years physicists estimate the age of this universe to be. Technology and  Moore’s Law is exponentially changing how we live our lives in this world. It’s digitizing our industries, our professions and our values. Yet, no one truly sees what exactly is happening around us. We look but don’t see, we listen but don’t hear. In the end the Millennial generation seemingly gets blamed in every conceivable manner. Millennials are deeply misunderstood and if I had a dollar for every time I’ve read blogs and articles or segments on the 24 hr news cycle blaming millennials for the collapse of large corporations and the killing of industries or proclaiming this generation is lazy, self-absorbed, materialistic and live in their parents basement, then I would have acquired a good amount of money by now. 

Millennials want more out of life.  They value new and meaningful experiences more than anything else. They want to travel the world, experience new cultures, meet new people and are genuinely intrigued by those who are different.  As digital natives, Millennials are more connected. They consume more information that any of the generations that have come before them. Millennials are highly driven. They want to feel inspired and follow their passions. They seek what makes them feel fulfilled. They seek an electric enthusiasm to their day to day lives. What else is the point of living if you dread 90 % of your time (which is work). Millennials care about making an impact and the social good. Most importantly they value self-expression. If all this is true, one can start to see why working 30 years at the same corporate job no longer appeals to this generation. Millennials are naturally more collaborative, entrepreneurial and creative. 

With the infrastructure of the world changing constantly most millennials feel it’s outdated and running on an operating system akin to Windows 95. It’s the remnants of  top down,  prescriptive and hierarchical programming that has benefited for far too long the chosen few and places the majority of the rest into rigid boxes. This old infrastructure through which our social fabric functions is not sustainable anymore. We’re overdue for an upgrade; just like a computer fixing its glitches and adding more features for greater usability. It’s that simple. When Oxfam says the ‘World’s richest 1% get 82% of the wealth’, it’s by design and I am not surprised. We’ve tried to output this process around the world, yet the paradox remains that if every single country lived lavishly as we did in America with all her innovations, inequities and complexities, our global environments would just implode. We need another way.

Robert Kiyosaki speaks of the 4 quadrants: Employee and Self-employed, Business Owner and Investor. Kiyosaki argues that 95 percent of the world lives in the first pair ‘Employee and Self-employed‘ and receive just 5 percent of the global wealth.  Most are living, consuming  and working for “the man” while hoping to increase their standards of living through a 40 hr work week that often brings them less choices, more stress and more struggles. The other pair ‘Business Owner and Investor‘ make up only 5 percent of the world’s population but receive 95 percent of the global wealth. Kiyosaki says these people are producers and creators and by that fact this often affords them more freedom and prosperity in their lives. We start to see that the DNA of our societies conspires always to integrate us within needed boxes, economic and professional cones rooted in the first pair.  Access to the other pair is hard. And to make matters worse, its gets increasingly hard to reach depending on the color of your skin, your gender and even the location you are born. To iterate this again, we need a new way and believe it or not I’m willing to bet on this Millennial generation to find that way. They just might hold the needed confidence and incredible creative power to pave the way for something new and break down those boundaries. Millennials have outgrown the clothes society has given them and now more than ever they are ready and hungry to move into the wealth creation mindset over the passive consumer one. 

I am often reminded of the TED Talk ‘Do Schools Kills Creativity?’, specifically the example Sir Ken Robinson gives of the 8 year old girl who could not sit down or focus in her classroom. She was always fidgety. She would often disturb the class and not turn in her homework. This little girl was eventually diagnosed with a learning disorder they claimed was ADHD. Her worried mother went to see a specialist. Halfway into their meeting, the specialist says to the little girl that he needs a moment outside with her mother. As he left the room the specialist turned on the radio to let the music flow loudly and told her mother outside to watch happens next. As soon as the music played the 8 year old girl got on her feet and moved to the beat of the song with her gifted rhythms. The specialist told the mother the reason her daughter could not sit still is because she’s a dancer. This same 8-year old girl who naturally spoke with her feet and movements is Gillian Lynn Sir Ken Robinson mentions. Gillian went on to influence the dance world in profound ways and became a multi-millionaire by following her gifts and passion. Similarly, many others across industries have become Pioneers by staying true to their obsessions and vocational callings.   

What if somebody had medicated her? Told her to be quiet? To stay calm and conform? To stay in her lane and her box? This is what the world has done. It has tamed all of us at great consequence. Millennials are not having any of it. Albert Einstein said it best, “If you judge a fish by its ability to fly, its going to think every day that it is stupid.”  I could not agree more. This is happening to so many people.  Corporations and industries are collapsing and morphing not because of Millennials but because their top-down approach no longer meet the needs of their employees in a fair and equitable way. They aren’t  adapting properly to how people have changed since the advance of technology and this new digital economy. 

How can one capture the Ethos of Millennials and help drive innovation in this changing world forward? It’s simple, follow what excites you the most and create unabashedly on your own terms. Take the risk, collaborate, experiment, fail forward and try again. The time is now to follow that fire which you can’t stop thinking about. That gut feeling that pulls your spirit up. For those who have not figured out yet, take more risks. Try many new things. Put yourself in uncomfortable work. Fully journey to discover what you like and what you don’t enjoy, do it fast, so that you can discover your gifts early on and can further develop them.  Mooji says “Step into the fires of self discovery, this fire will not burn you, it will only burn what you are not.” 

If you want to help define a better future and play a role in inventing these jobs that don’t exist yet, these new companies, industries, collaborative and digital processes, whomever you are, see and hear deeply this millennial generation’s calling, for they are well on their way.  

Originally Published on Millennial Complex

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Y Combinator Application Rejected

It was a crazy idea to apply to Y Combinator Winter 2018 Application Cycle. We didn’t think we would get in and indeed we didn’t and that’s ok. We learned the valuable lesson of putting ourselves out there.

Nothing ever happens if you don’t ask, if you never step up and raise your hand. Nothing ever happens if don’t lay some form of consistent action forward while doing and trying something different than you have done before by co-creating with this universe. All of this is truly essential in building out opportunities that can bring new lessons, grow your business and making a difference in the life of your customers in our case our creative writers and the creative industry. Yet building out this habit requires a great level of discomfort and truly fighting million of years of evolutionary force that often pushes towards the ‘comfortable’ and resorting to doing things of ‘familiarity’. This constant state of discomfort is almost like building a muscle, the more you do it and practice it, the more naturally it grows and becomes second nature. I put ‘Applying to YC’ in this category.

This founders journey in entrepreneurship requires a reconfiguration of the self and being open to being changed and transformed outside of who you’ve always thought you were or thought you would and should become. It’s a tricky process and being open to receive these learnings and messages while being humble is key. This for sure has been a process I have seen in my life since starting out this journey. I am not the same person who started about 7 months ago.

There remains numerous best practices and measures you might gain through learning through books (Some Favorites I recommend: Zero–1 by Peter ThielBusiness Generation ModelLean Startup by Eric Ries), watching interviews & talks over the internet (A few favorites I recommend: David Heinemeier Hansson- Unlearn Your MBAMichael Schrage on Winning with Customers: Who do you want your customers to become? ) listening to Podcasts (One of my favorites: How I Built this on NPR and Seth Godin’s Startup school) as well as speaking with advisers, investors and friends. Yet this journey requires new thinking that you yourself must take into actions by executing, experimenting, failing forward, listening, reflecting and trying again over and over relentlessly.

You can see our YC application below. Some of our personal information have been blotted out but this is as we submitted. We could’ve definitely benefited by having reviewers or reaching out to entrepreneurs that have gone through the process before. It was a last minute affair that helped us learn so much about ourselves and what we are building at Syllble. I can tell you this much that a lot has changed in Syllble since submitting the Winter 2018 application back in October 2018. I was indeed disappointed by the results but I have felt an even greater motivation by our rejection, to continue doing our work, getting back up to prove user viability, have a much greater and narrow focus.

 
YC Rejection Letter

Here’s what has changed since then:

  1. We have a ‘Proof of Concept” and working towards more diverse ones: We published on Amazon three short fiction stories that have been entirely collaborated upon in person and/or online to prove this process works. You can buy it here.
  2. Greater focus on our mission: To empower all writers of the future, discover great talent and deliver the best stories you love. Breakdown barriers (which include writers block, lack of time, experience, knowledge etc) and bring writers more economic opportunities for success.
  3. We now have greater focus on our product and our ‘Collab Room’: We want to connect writers to publishers & filmmakers while identifying the writers that want to collaborate with other creatives to publish original work by providing a project management and peer review process. Syllble as a one-stop source for all production needs of fiction stories from the ground up — peer reviewers, editors, illustrators, publishers and filmmakers.
  4. Greater focus on our vision: To become the Internet’s primary production studio and a global hub of creativity where writers and creatives are sharing ideas, collaborating and producing some of the best stories (Short Stories, Novels, Screenplay, Comics, Animation, Films) in the world. Create timeless and universal stories that will inspire the imagination of people everywhere for generations one.
  5. Closer understanding of our value proposition we deliver to each of our customer segments.
  6. 5 CollabRoom Writing Groups gone through the process and 6 active Groups (minimum 2 to 5 people groups): All experimenting with different genres and forms of writing: Novels, Screenplay, Children’s Story and Etc..
  7. A low barrier to entry pricing strategy that is going to be implemented reasonably soon.
  8. Understanding the complexity of our competition more closelyBlcklistHitrecordReedsyWattpad
  9. Bridging access to underrepresented voices and writers of color.

YC Application Below

COMPANY

Company name:

Syllble

Company url, if any:

http://Syllble.com

If you have a demo, what’s the url? For non-software, demo can be a video.

(Please don’t password protect it; just use an obscure url.)

[BLANK]

Describe your company in 50 characters or less.

Collaborative marketplace for writers

What is your company going to make?

Through our Collab-Room MVP: 
We are connecting writers with ideas to create original content that is publishable. Connect original content to online reader audiences and connect established writers to business and interested filmmakers to create television shows, animation, movies and signature stories.

Which category best applies to your company?

Marketplace

Is this application in response to a YC RFS?

No

Where do you live now, and where would the company be based after YC?

(List as City A, Country A / City B, Country B.)

Washington D.C.

CONTACT

Email address of the founder who is filling out this application:

(REMOVED)

Phone number(s):

(REMOVED)

FOUNDERS

Founders

HACKER NEWS USERNAME

(REMOVED)

Please enter the url of a 1 minute unlisted (not private) YouTube video introducing the founders. (Follow the Video Guidelines.)

https://youtu.be/3-wTqkUlVeQ

Please tell us about an interesting project, preferably outside of class or work, that two or more of you created together. Include urls if possible.

N/a

How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?

We have known each other since 2013. We met during our Graduate School at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding studying Conflict Transformation

PROGRESS

How far along are you?

Private testing of 4 collabwriting teams while leveraging a Slack for the group, google docs and zoom conference call. We have 4 short stories between 2 to 5 pages formed within one and half week.

How long have each of you been working on this? Have you been part-time or full-time? Please explain.

Both of us have full-time jobs so we have been focusing part time on this endeavor in the afternoon and during the weekends.

Which of the following best describes your progress?

Private Beta

How many active users or customers do you have? If you have some particularly valuable customers, who are they?

In the Slack group we have a total of 20 people: 
Collabwriting-in-person team 1: 3 people 
Collabwriting online team 1: 2 people 
Collabwriting-in-person team 2: 4 people 
Collabwriting-in-person team 3: 4 people

From our key customer archetype and the most valuable are individuals who don’t think they can write.

Do you have revenue?

No

Anything else you would like us to know regarding your revenue or growth rate?

N/a

How much money do you spend per month?

0

How much money does your company have in the bank now?

0

How long is your runway?

(e.g. 5 months)

N/a

If you’ve applied previously with the same idea, how much progress have you made since the last time you applied? Anything change?

N/a

If you have already participated or committed to participate in an incubator, “accelerator” or “pre-accelerator” program, please tell us about it.

N/a

IDEA

Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you’re making?

Writers deserve more creative freedom, wealth and abundance from their art. The current publishing, writing and film-making industries are very top down. This idea came from my own personal life. As an avid reader, poet and fiction writer working on my first novel around my immigrant experience coming to the United States, I’ve always felt I didn’t have a creative community that i could share and bounce my ideas with nor did I have proper connections to understand the writing field, nor make my writing much more of a reality while building my skills and growing my reader audience that could then afford me my dream of having a critical voice in our society and culture today in spite of everything that is occurring in the U.S.

Having experienced different problems over the years such as writers block, not having enough time to create, not being held accountable to somebody else nor having a reliable editor, I first and foremost wanted to explore ways in which people’s creativity could thrive as well as get connect them with the right people to get their stuff out there.

Every single person that has gone through this process has expressed immense joy of collaboratively creating with others. Before we got started, Bshara and I market tested by contacting writers and freelancers through Survey Monkey, then conducted many phone and in-person interviews. It was then and there we discovered a vast array of the problems/pain points similarly to what I had experience extended to much more people not just writers but many creative entrepreneurs. Many people right now need this. 
We are starting with connecting writers to readers.

What’s new about what you’re making? What substitutes do people resort to because it doesn’t exist yet (or they don’t know about it)?

At the core of what we are building is a decentralized production collab team that allows people to create together in a fun way. We are focused on making a structured process where people can collaborate and explore their creativity in an unfettered way both in person and online. We want to charge people to join a CollabRoom group to create with others original content then connect them with the right people to have their finished product (book) distributed to different markets and audiences (readers and filmmakers). We want to cut out the agent and give people an equal footing in having more access to opportunities of getting their work (seen by the right people) out to the world. Through the collabroom we can address many pain points bring them more accountability, structure and time, confidence in growing as a better writer then having a voice and influence to make a difference in the world.

People go on Reddit to collaborate writing. People even go to college and spend four entire years to learn how to write. People sign up for writing workshops to break their writers block. People submit their screenplays and novels in thousands yet just few a few are picked by major publishing companies and certain narratives that impact the world negatively are repeated.

As for established writers who often lack the wealth from the small royalties they receive, we want to connect them together with other published writers through the collabroom through which they can work to meet Businesses needs and create the kind of unique storytelling that can inspire employees and business leadership as a mean to get paid and find the time to write.

Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?

https://Reedsy.com 
https://Wattpad.com 
https://Scifutures.com

We fear Reedsy the most.

What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don’t get?

Our business is focused around the creative process and finding the best way for people to collaborate from the get go, unclog their creativity and create best stories and product for the best audience.

If done right this can eliminate the agents role within many industry and provide direct access to many creatives within the writing industry, entertainment and filmmaker.

How do or will you make money? How much could you make?

(We realize you can’t know precisely, but give your best estimate.)

This November with our soft launch during the “National Novel Writing Month”. We are going to charge creative writers $10/month to participate in the collaborative process. Charge readers $1/month to get access to the platform where they can follow writers and read their up to date stories as they write it, they can read for free. Sales will be through Amazon, Print on Demand, bookstores and contract with filmmakers and businesses for signature stories. Most royalties will go to Writers %50 — Editors, Illustrator and marketing %35 — Syllble %15.

How will you get users? If your idea is the type that faces a chicken-and-egg problem in the sense that it won’t be attractive to users till it has a lot of users (e.g. a marketplace, a dating site, an ad network), how will you overcome that?

Through social proof of created stories we will use word of mouth and then attract established writers and filmmakers who can create social buzz about our platform. We have also thought of making this an invite only community at first that can create a sense of exclusivity.

EQUITY

Have you incorporated, or formed any legal entity (like an LLC) yet?

No

If you have not formed the company yet, describe the planned equity ownership breakdown among the founders, employees and any other proposed stockholders.

(This question is as much for you as us.)

Founders — 80%: 
-Fabrice 40% 
-Bshara 40% 
Employee Pool — 10% 
Advisory Pool — 10%

Please provide any other relevant information about the structure or formation of the company.

We are exploring the long tail business model.

LEGAL

Are any of the founders covered by noncompetes or intellectual property agreements that overlap with your project? If so, please explain.

N/a

Who writes code, or does other technical work on your product? Was any of it done by a non-founder? Please explain.

N/a

Is there anything else we should know about your company?

(Pending lawsuits, cofounders who have left, etc.)

N/a

OTHERS

If you had any other ideas you considered applying with, please list them. One may be something we’ve been waiting for. Often when we fund people it’s to do something they list here and not in the main application.

N/a

Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered.

(The answer need not be related to your project.)

I have discovered that when I write fiction stories, characters within the stories often begin to take a life of their own and they almost take the lead in the direction that they want to go. You almost have to listen to them, understand their needs and why they do what they do to create the world around them. It reminds me of the process of listening to the customer.

CURIOUS

What convinced you to apply to Y Combinator?

We have nothing to lose but everything to gain in really building something people will have fun with and love. Plus also having the chance to have a real impact in the world and bringing underrepresented ideas and voices to the table of storytelling is invaluable.

How did you hear about Y Combinator?

CouchSurfing Meetup back in NY 2015 from a now Founder of a backed company at Y Combinator

Article Originally Posted on Medium

Syllble: a Startup in search of creating Magic and finding true Creativity

At Syllble (A creative community and collaborative Marketplace for writers), we are focused on building and finding the best culture and iterating the best possible process where writers, storytellers and people from all walks of life can collaborate through our collabRoom (MVP) production teams while harnessing their imagination and creativity in an unfettered way. The power in collabwriting lies in using the brain power of many people to look at a specific issue or idea than one person, it’s faster, more fun and yields better and faster results. In today’s sharing economy connecting people is easy but finding a structure that removes all barriers to creativity away from fear, time, lack of trust, judgment, experience, and hierarchy is hard. I believe as we refine this process towards this goal we will help people build the best stories (product) that we can connect to different markets: readers, filmmakers, and businesses.

Secondly we believe that our users deserve all the wealth and abundance they can receive from their creativity. We want to test this out in three ways — first connect their original content (products) to readers and a broad audience. Secondly, connect their original content with interested filmmakers, producers and animators. Thirdly, connect our more experienced writers and storytellers to businesses whereby they utilize the same process (CollabRoom) to design signature stories among other things that will fuel, motivate and inspire the employees of these business and build a culture that will lead to higher forms of productivity in the workplace, we believe this (businesses) in a Marketplace for writers is yet another form of wealth that can support writers in their endeavors and really give them the freedom to create and write more often.

Though this is a very big picture vision we believe that carefully iterating step-by-step, version by version while closely listening to our users and writers will be key in forming an early platform with a solid foundation that is really useful to their lives and their needs. So far in the span of three weeks we have formed four collabwriting teams (three teams in person and one online). We have 53 people in our growing Mailchimp email list. In our search for simplicity, they each have created together a short story while leveraging slack, google docs, Zoom conference call and Skype. Through observation and feedback so far we have learned a great deal in building a uniquely curated collabRoom for writers since the initial first batch of our initial market research (survey monkeys and personal interviews). Again, our immediate goal right now is finding a process where writers, freelancers and collaborators can freely create. Our promised is a book published in their names in three months.

Technology serves the mission, as a result if we can build this process while leveraging free and accessible tools to engage people to meaningfully collaborate and co-create, then building an online platform will be a simple endeavor. First building something people love and one that works is key and our priority.

Storytelling of Syllble

Why stories? We chose to first experiment with stories because stories are everywhere. We will never run out of stories. Stories can change the world for the better or destroy it. Stories can shape our behaviors and our way of thinking. Stories can indeed improve so much of our society and this is what we are doing with Syllble.

Research as even shown that people who readily read fiction are much more empathetic than their counterparts who don’t, because they are able to place themselves in the shoes of these characters in intimate ways.

I especially wanted to anchor the creation of Syllble fiction stories within specific principles that writers should keep in mind while building their fiction stories during the collaborative sessions:

1) Social commentary: how is this story whether science fiction, horror, romance, etc.. allows us to see something deeper of the human condition and the social ailments of our society today? This is what fiction was originally intended for back in the days.

2) Capturing the zeitgeist of the day: what different themes and events are happening around the world or in your own community currently? How do we capture these themes within fiction?

3) Hero’s journey: How so we explore these archetypes and myths? As they remains an essential process of storytelling that hits at the core of every existing culture around human history that has ever lived on the planet, one Joseph Campbell had clearly elaborated.

4) Create raw characters — show not tell: Create characters that pull and move people to feel in ways that had not before.

Inspiration for Creating Syllble Platform is Everywhere

Many things has inspired this shift in ‘writing’ we seek in the way we had originally conceived of Syllble here, in our hopes to try to bring some of these elements below within a platform that could sing all together for writers. Yet a major challenge remains not being able to filter all the feedback coming back out of the project, our strategic direction/vision, then deciding who to listen to, what to listen to get good business, product and professional direction:

1) Disruptive forces within the writing and publishing industry: Amazon “Print-on-Demand”, Audiobooks, Blogs, Ebooks.

2) The Martian by Andy Weir: He experimented in crowdsourcing and crowd-storytelling the science of his self-published novel “The Martian” which then became a successful movie. The Martian was not only successful because of the accuracy of the space science and his interesting storytelling methods but because those who had played an active role in the creation of the book where more willing to buy it after its completion. The very act of crowdsourcing and crowdstorytelling through Reddit was key in building an engage audience that had created buzz and social traction all around (an organic form of marketing) something many writers today lack.

The possibility remains endless in engaging different industries, fields, interest groups with fiction story writers that can fuse so much of the empirical or specific information that has been siloed within a specific jargon filled language. Fiction collaborative processes can spread that information to the to the mass in a creative way. Lets say fields of Biology, Economics, Art History, Urban Planning, Physics connecting with Story writers. What role can Syllble play in that connection? Could innovation and new discoveries in these fields follow suit?

3) Axe Cop: Axe Cop organically grew from the collaboration of two bothers into a now popular comic book and Television show. How can the collabRoom teams serve in creating decentralized production methods of building the next generation of superhero comics, graphic novels, animation shows, short films that can be entertaining and much more inclusive to different underrepresented voices.

4) Companies such as Disney, Pixar and Apple: The way they have engaged creativity, leading product design, company culture and vision.

5) Anime production: As an avid watcher of Anime (One Punch Man, One Piece, Naruto, Attack on Titans, Fullmetal Alchemist..) It’s always fascinated me to see how these manga have turned into television series.

6) Reddit WriteWithMe: Something very interesting has been happening in Reddit around Collaborative writing. There is a need.

7) Soho Artist in Residence NYC/WeWork: Could Syllble have creative office spaces inspired in different cities that enables and centers people to meet, create, focus and collaborate even more?

Everyone is a Storyteller

The next time you find yourself describing something that happened to you, to your friend, or something you saw with your own eyes, then you are a storyteller, yes you. All of these stories are stored deeply within us, in our memories and subconscious mind all brought together merging through our imagination. Flannery O’connor famously said, “Anyone who has lived to the age of eighteen has enough stories to last a lifetime”, I think this goes far beyond to express the deep well of creativity that’s lies hidden and unexpressed in all of us. Challenge yourself to create something that matters in the world. Visit our website Syllble.com and sign up to get more information on how you can explore your creativity and do some collabwriting. Do you have writers block? then sign up for Syllble and our initial beta testing. We promise you that your creativity will be unleashed. Through Syllble you can become a better writer, experiment and find the time to create with others.

In the next article, I hope to explore more in depth the self-prototyping process (Version 0.1 MVP) that I did with others before the first collabwriting group was even formed. I want to shared the story that was created, what were my initial learnings of the process, some of my struggles, thoughts and reflections. Also, expect an article on Syllble finances and the pricing strategies we will be implementing to test in our search to make this marketplace viable and a sustainable one.

Originally Published on Medium

A Side Project and Finding the most Minimum Viable Product

In the late Spring of this year 2017, I approached Bshara (co-founder) toying with the idea of forming a platform and startup to help and connect writers. I had been fascinated by technology since I was a child. The disruptive effects of this new sharing economy and the companies that had ensued in recent years had captured my imagination. In addition, with the titanic technological and digital changes this country would endure in the next 20 years, I knew I wanted to be in the middle of it and at the forefront somehow. I believed I had something to contribute based on where I came from. This idea to support writers erupted from the lack of support or direction I felt when writing a literary fiction novel around some of the broader themes I experienced moving to the U.S. from Haiti. It also detailed the personal frustrations I had experienced ‘making it’ as a burgeoning writer and poet in a world which privileged the chosen few who had more access and more opportunities than me. This all fueled a fire in me because I deeply believed and saw artists as entrepreneurs, people who should receive a level of abundance and wealth they deserved for their creativity and imagination all on an equal playing field. This resonated with Bshara, as he himself shared similar passions for change through the power of storytelling in engaging the deeper impulses of mankind towards a positive impact in people’s lives. We both held a deep passions for technology, so this seemed like a serendipitous turn of events and a natural fit.

We began brainstorming more intentionally for this side project late March 2017 despite being two very busy people. I was President of the Board of Managers of Coming to the Table, a national racial reconciliation non-profit that engaged deeply within the important work of racial healing and its mission of taking America beyond the legacies of U.S. Slavery. I also worked full-time within the State Department which afforded me the trampoline and security to explore this. However, we made time and researched through books and over the internet on how to start a startup, all this information was available online, well there was too much information. We drafted questions to test the market through surveys, made endless phone calls, and held in-person informational interviews and meetings to discover specifically what issues our potential users and future customers (Writers and Freelancers) faced. Who were our competitors? Who were the current companies out there producing a similar product? Was there really a need for such a platform and would people use and pay for it? To our surprise and delight, there was a need! Many people felt they lacked the time, experience, direction, confidence, structure, and accountability to engage fully in the craft of writing.

Soon after, it began take shape with our laser mission to find the most Minimum Viable Product (MVP)that could be tested. This process felt like what Leonardo da Vinci said as he sculpted large blocks of square marbles: a process of liberating the statue. Within that very block, the statue always existed, yet you had to free it by design. We had started with the large idea of a broader Marketplace where people could exchange their services in such a way that whether you had a paper or manuscript you could connect with the right editors, illustrators, or marketers for your product. Yet this still felt off, because it didn’t meet the needs and range of the many pain points we had seen or heard in our initial market research. Too often, we heard that entrepreneurs find an answer that feels good to them then try to fit people’s problems to it, they then build an entire company and product and come to find with much disappointment that people never wanted this. This seemed like exactly what we were doing, but how could we be different and do different than this broader marketplace?

We particularly had interest in the collaborative process within the sharing economy. We had questions about how we could frame a simple structure that could address all of the preliminary pain points we had discovered then find ways to start testing it and get feedback. This seemed impossible and at times foolish. After much deliberation and consultation with many others, we changed the design and language of our landing many times. We needed to be focused on finding a very niche market to start small and test it out, like the process of sculpting this marble for product market fit.

After a long struggle to find a name and searching through domain name after domain name, I suggested ‘Syllble’ (pronounced Syllable) for its integral ways within language, it’s deep connections forming all words that exist today, and even the meaning and creativity itself. In addition, it was highly recognizable, so we both decided to stick with it for now.

One of our advisers told us the traditional marketplace would come in naturally as we engaged and iterated through different collaborative writing groups. He was right. Tuning out all the noise was necessary because, as a creative person, I have too much vision. We chose to stick with initially testing the ‘Collabwriting Room’ as our MVP to create short fiction stories between two to five pages instead of large books or non-fiction work. Thus begun Version 0.1 of the MVP through self prototyping with friends. I will post the results on Medium. We are focused on iterating and improving this process so people can create freely in an unfettered way!

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Collabwriting Room (MVP) Syllble.com

In the most serendipitous of events, I discovered through a good friend and applied for Seth Godin’s AltMBA program and received full scholarship funding. I was in disbelief, not only for the scholarship, but the incredible and encouraging people I met there. I learn so much in the span of 4 weeks, I had space for constructive and meaningful feedback, bouncing ideas around Syllble, a space for deep learning and practice, and most importantly I learned to “Level Up” and “Make a Rukus” which really meant to live authentically while creating, building and designing intentionally something great your users, customers and followers all love.

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Back of the Ship It Book by Seth Godin (AltMBA.com)

I grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. My parents never went to college nor had they ever traveled around the world. They knew and taught me that if you put in the level of time, care, dedication, and attention to accomplishing your work, no matter what it was, you could and would achieve it. Speaking in Creole, my parents always told me, “Plant the seeds now, work now and you will reap the benefits.” I was fortunate enough to be born in a family that embodied these values. Because of them, I grew intimately to know what hard work and perseverance meant.

In 2000, my entire neighborhood of Route de Frere, Port-au-Prine, where I had grown up, was unjustly forced out by government police from our homes and our land. To make matters worst, that day also happened to be my father’s birthday. Afterward, we spent a few years moving around to different homes that were not ours. We knew our plans to remain in Haiti had deeply atrophied because of it. With a political coup d’état in the Spring of 2004, ensuing economic and social upheaval followed throughout the capital even many months after. My family made the final decision to move and immigrate to the United States in the Fall for better opportunities, to start over, and to take a stab at this American Dream.

When I moved to the United States, I barely knew the English language, and neither did my parents or brothers, but perseverance was arched in my consciousness and theirs. If we did just that, the impossible would always become possible. Attending college at Florida State University, I naturally gravitated to International Relations. I then went on to get my masters in Conflict Transformation at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (where I met co- founder Bshara).

I am at a crossroads in my life; this side project of building this creative community comes at a time of deep realization that I have nothing to lose but everything to gain by helping many more people than I thought possible. I know it’s risky, I know that 90 percent of startups fail, I know that I don’t have the technical skills, and I am not exactly sure what I am doing either, I’ve never done something like this before. I am learning and unlearning as I go, we are both learning and unlearning as we go. I know one thing for sure: the cost of not doing this is high for us and we won’t know until we try. Follow our journey here candidly as this side project evolves and our plans to jump start this creative community and collaborative marketplace.

 

Story: Le Cap

Please read the following story originally titled “The Sun is Shining on Independence” now “Le Cap” short for Cap-Haitien. This slave narrative takes place in the French colony Saint Domingue now Haiti many years before the Haitian Revolution. I am now focusing on writing & editing the third draft of my first literary fiction novel “The Labyrinth” (working title), but this following story is a much bigger writing project in mind that i will focus on thereafter, it will be interwoven within a broader narrative with plans to adapt into a screenplay. ‘Le Cap’ will follow the lives of many people but as of now the life of Emperor Henri Christophe many years later after the fight for independence as he tries to rebuild a divided country with the looming French, Spanish and English Empires. This story will also follow the life of the young mulatto boy born whose father this story below depicts as he reads from a journal of his father or hears stories passed down. Comments and feedback are always welcome on plot, structure and character – fabrice.j.guerrier@gmail.com

 

I

I crawled inside the large wooden barn, dirt filled with horse manure at my feet. I could smell it. I crouched below the large stable, held my breath as much as I could. Stood as still as I could. The light of the moon came through and lit the ground dry with hay. Loud barks of voracious dogs could be heard deep in the forest. They were coming, coming for me. It was cold, my feet punctured, bloody, darkened by the ground through which I ran to get here. They held torches in their hands, bright; through the holes of the wooden barn, I could see them. It looked like the many stars of the dark night, but these were death stars, crashing to my doom. I breathed heavily. My body could no longer feel the pain of a thousand lives. My brother taken just last year for the same things, for these accusations that ruined his life, his desolate life, working all days on the fields, his back facing the eruption of a painful volcano, his bloodied back, as the surface of his skin erupted with blood under the hot scorching sun. Brother Rousseau, what would you do at this moment? I cast upon your spirit, if you hear me, what would you do! The back of the barn trembled strangely as the falling hay descended, fell from the second floor. It wasn’t brother Rousseau, no, not his care, not his smile that Mother loved so much at times of melancholy, nor his sternness, when he told me to escape with him, “Come with me, man.” I didn’t and maybe if I did, maybe if I had gone with him, we could’ve succeeded. He wouldn’t have died in front of me. I wouldn’t have been in this agonizing moment. It wasn’t him nor his spirit in the barn; it came from the outside. The dogs closer than ever, it was a fiery bottle of gas, thrown against the back wood of the barn. I could smell it. It reeked of the flesh, memories, all the dead black bodies they often burn on the plantation. Oh, what horrors. Within the stillness of the night, the crickets sounded their chants, the flying bugs, within the silence between you could hear their screams, “Come out, Nigger! Come out!” they screamed loudly. “Come out or we burn you alive, Nigger!” I was ready to fight. Ready to fight off five men that each held the dogs that I took care of when they were just pups. They turned on you so quickly, these beasts. In the corner, I saw what looked like a shovel. I grabbed it. Should I fight? I asked myself desperately or should I dig my way out. I had no more time. With the stench of gas, I knew too well what they would do to me, burn me alive, burn me to a bloody crisp. They gave me two minutes. Two loud minutes to come out as they started to count down in seconds, “one twenty, one nineteen, one eighteen, one seventeen…” they stood right outside. “We know you’re in there, Negro!” a younger voice screamed. It was probably Esmeralda’s younger brother, Louis. I recognized his voice, and he was only fourteen. To the far right, I also could hear Father Andree, the town’s French catholic priest as he sounded various prayers and passages from the Bible. They threw their torches from the top, and the flames lit the barn. From within, the sleeping horses woke, startled, moving away from what looked like the very hell I had learned about from the bible. My life descended upon the ashes of hate. I did hit her; I did hit Esmeralda, a vindication for her kind. Hit her in retaliation for a world that had bestowed so much suffering to my existence. I was angry. I could do nothing. She carried my child, and she wanted it. She had grown a liking to me over the past years. I would see her strolling on Sunday afternoon after she had gone to church. The church that gave her and her family the moral rights. The church that gave the moral superiority to the plantation owners on this island that fended our black bodies as products to be discarded. Our bodies like black charcoal or sold like bags of green bananas or these sugar canes we harvested all day. She had a plump face, soft and petite, freckled and brown eyes, her dress large, always with tints of orange and flowers. A Negro brother in the mansion would always grab her dress from behind as she walked outside to go downtown or to church, making sure it didn’t drag on the floor, and it still did. This was the absurd in sight. Saint Domingue was a lonely place, at times, a lonely yet brutal island full of rain. Full of the tropical frogs that chanted thereafter around the year as our soul cracked to the strong whips to our bare backs and our babies thrown to creole dogs as punishment. Esmeralda and I had met long ago. She was born in a large house and I, born around the same time, in a green field under the shed, where my mother still lived. Housed like a pig, with her gray long hair, telling old tales and long stories. Always remembering vividly her dead grandmother, Delia, who spoke of Africa, a mythical place. She told us that, once we died, our souls passed on to the spirit world; our souls would travel back and reach the deep woodlands of Guinea. But this plantation was no mythical land. The Leclerc Plantation, a brutal French family held us slaves on the north side of Haiti. Held us like the orange brown chickens and pigs that we harvested for them. I was a field Negro, and I stayed out of their way. I dare not stare nor cross their eyes, but she did. Esmeralda crossed my eyes and my path. We played so much under the breezy Caribbean winds as children. We played hide-in-seek in the afternoon when we were just kids, innocent, innocence removed from the horrors, just for a little bit. Out of everyone, she taught me so much. She taught me to read, while it was forbidden for slaves like us, products like us to learn to read and write. The last slave caught was father Edvard, my father, a foolish old Negro that I seldom knew. He berated everyone, declared himself to everyone that he was a writer, that he could write, that writing was a revolutionary act. His ego got the best of him. So did the one who snitched on him, probably one of those house niggers who felt they were better than us. The Leclerc’s made us watch again and again as they cut off his head, as his head fell to the ground and rolled, his eyes still opened, his negro face hitting the muddy Caribbean soil. Placed down on the corner was the large machete, metal and bloodied. I could not walk or think. They killed my father as if he was a symbol to thwart us to remain slaves and to deny our freedom, to know our place. I held resentment. I studied, studied more for his dying wish. Read more, and as we grew older, Esmeralda and I would visit each other in the late hours of the night. Often at the stroke of midnight, she would caress my black body. Filled with scars, as she tended my invisible wounds. I cried in her lap after I had witnessed the death of brother Rousseau right in front of me. His body was dragged and brought back to this Godforsaken plantation after he tried to run off. He was accused of rape. He was beaten. Kicked with force by heavy colonial boots. Hit in the head and his small stomach. He was hung high above in the tallest Acacia tree. They made me watch again, while another family member of mine butchered as the passing birds, the blue sky and clouds passed, all passed as the pain of the noose squeezed the little life that was left in him as his spirit went back to the mother land where the great kings and queens once ruled. I was angry and I wanted to get back at them. For that, I did hit her that night; for that, I forced her, forced her to make love, a love that lasted for hours. Love that she deeply enjoyed, her white, silky soft skin against mine, screaming at the joy of the pain. She felt it profoundly, felt my vengeance for my brother through the black eye I gave her, a black eye of death, one that would bring my death tonight, a black eye that gave it away. They forced her to spill our love, taboo, out in the open, love forbidden. “I could kill myself now,” I told myself as I grabbed the shovel from inside the barn and placed it on the ground in front of me. Right under my chin it was. I would go see my brother, my father again in Guinea. This afterlife would serve me only many great joys. The shovel’s rusted and sharp metallic edge grazed my soft throat, as the fire above grew stronger. I could feel its heat. What of my child growing inside of her, I ask myself. What of his future? Of not having a father, someone to look up to. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get myself to do it. I could not imagine a world where my child would be born without a father. Born within the grips of a mother who would not know the lived experience of blacks on this island. Could she even defend his dignity? Understand his true worth! I had to risk it all. I could not die today. As a horse from behind screamed because of the rising fire, I realized quickly before time ran out that I could ride them, leave on them, and have the advantage over the mad dogs and crazed men outside. The horse could lend me its strength and speed. I walked towards the startled horses. Towards my freedom within a barn lit in flames, red lights, orange flames, dark ash flowing, smoke was everywhere, a deep fog and toxic. Coughing with my hands over my nose, I quickly grabbed in the corner for the horse’s saddle. My feet stepped on horse manure; it smelled. I arranged it on his back with no problems. There were over seven horses then. I released all of them inside. I climbed the horse’s back, tried to hold on, held on for my life as the horse knew exactly what it wanted to do, fight or flight, a choice not to die within the flames fast engulfing this place. The horse, with me on his back, ran towards the entrance. He stood on his two back feet as I held on to the handle; it hit the front door of the closed barn furnace with his front feet. It was so sudden; all the horses ran towards their freedom. The men, many of them, their faces angry, their stares hateful and surprised as to my capacity to maneuver a beast that, in their eyes, only they could do. He fell on the ground. it was Father Andree, his prayer beads on his neck, his large white body on the rich black dirt. His bible had fallen in the mud; the horses had stepped on it. Father Andree must’ve taken a hit. His body looked lifeless on the floor, just a second, it all happened soon. The remaining man screamed, “Nigger, come back here!” and from their hands under the night filled stars that shined, they released the voracious dogs against us. The wind of the run, I wanted to see how fast the horse could run. I ran towards my freedom, hoping one day, I would return to the Leclerc Plantation to grab my mother, Henriette, and Esmeralda, the mother of my child. Through the woods, I escaped. In these vast dark woods, only the steps of the horse could be heard, the slush of the mud, the soothing crickets sound, light bugs swarming, flying everywhere, an orchestra playing only those I had heard from Esmeralda and the books she would lend me. The dogs could not keep up with our speed. From behind, I heard their barks that slowly faded away. With this horse, I was free and couldn’t believe it. I could not fathom I had surpassed these men and their vindictive ways and their inability to run fast. I went deep in the forest. The large tropical forest of this island. I went up on hills to forever. Left to where I had never been. Went to the highest point in the mountains, where no one would dare to climb or search for me.   Deep in the forest of the demons that lived there, the spirits and the loogaroos, they all lived in the mountains; they always told us slaves not to go there or we would get eaten. I arrived at a flat space and clearing. It was calm. I breathe the cool air fresh of these titanic mountainous regions. I was tired and afraid of the dark. It was the first time I had breathed in a long while. I constantly thought of my mother, my child, my Esmeralda. I rested there, free. Hid myself from the sadistic ways of men. I came back into nature, and she welcomed me. I stood up high up, looking down at the flames far, far away. Merely a dot, the flames of hate, the remanence of the barn still being torched and where I would have died. I stared at it deeply, at the sleepy moon that shined upon the smoke that rose in the air, at the smoky smell that invaded what looked like a large valley.

II

I woke in the middle of the night to the fresh wind and the moon bright, the stars, vast and infinite, and the sounds of a passing owl. I woke to the sound of leaves and wood crackling. I looked back, behind me, startled, a group of men stood there, black men, painted faces, with strange markings. They held me down, questioned me, asked me what I was doing here, if I was a spy, what plantation I came from, how I found this place. One of them had long hair, the longest I had ever seen. His hair was braided, like dreads. They did not allow us to grow our hair on the plantations. It was against the law. We had to present ourselves clean, clean for the nooses to hang us whenever we made a mistake. We had to be clean products. This man with his brown shirt and pants seemed to be the leader of his group. I told him everything, everything that happened to me. His eyes melted, watery, his gaze reflecting the moonlight above. It was then they released me. They called me brother. He called himself Biassou; he was the leader of this group and strangely told me I could exact revenge tomorrow. Exactly tomorrow, at the same time, a revolution he said, the revolution was upon us, his eyes caring, his language sure, his stance soulful, a leader, leading the men around him. I walked with him a few miles south in the middle of the night. One of his men grabbed the horse and walked it for me. I felt I could trust them. We arrived at a place deep in the woods. All I could see were men, women and children, some naked, some dressed, some with deep scars in their backs. It was a free camp. I heard of these safe havens for black slaves on the island. My father, that crazy fool tried to find one of these. I couldn’t believe my eyes; he was right. I couldn’t fathom how they had founded a life outside the tyranny. There were red people here too, the native tainos. I thought they were all killed. I thought they had been wiped out by diseases a long time ago. Some had survived as one looked me in the eyes with a smile, his body slim and hair tied by a small brown band. The huts made with a circular process of palm leaves to the top, their walls made with mud and clay. As we walked deeper into this small village, Biassou told me the clay from the caves below gave rise to this house, these structures that facilitated this unknown town in the middle of the woods, the woods filled with sounds of life, the sky becoming blue. It was early in the morning, the wet floor, the fallen trees, the light bugs still flying. I could also hear the sounds of falling water, the chirping of birds rising, another house was hidden there farther out. We approached it, and Biassou knocked, knocked with a rhythm like a secret code I could not understand. We entered. Inside, a man sat there with a green shirt, his hands filled with old veins. His stare, wise, full of wisdom, it seemed, a large woman also sat across as if they were waiting for Biassou’s arrival. For our arrival, designs and patterns of African things. A few golden vases were there to the left. A small carved wooden man figure sitting with his legs clasped. A large sea conch shell was next to him. Small figures made of palm trees and wood hung above the ceiling. The skin of what looked like a crocodile was also placed on the back walls. Different designs of blue, green, red, yellow patterns were across the room all lit by a gas lamp with glass over it. I had never seen something like these before, but it’s strangeness felt at home. Some I had seen in markets downtown or similar things in Leclerc plantation house. The man in green rose, saluted me with his hands clasped. He looked at me, told me, “Welcome brother, welcome to the beginning of the end.” As the women sitting on the side looked deeply at me, got up, introduced herself as Catherine Flon, she had soft brown skin, her teeth white, her accent melodic, her ways reassuring, motherly, she was a leader too. The tall man introduced himself as Bookman, Dutty Bookman. Biassou approached them, saluted them with their forwards touch, bowing down like they had met a king and queen of royalty. It all looked so surreal. We all sat back down on the ground of the house, a ground covered with what looked like dried banana leaves, as the sun outside began to rise, rising from his deep sleep, yet again. The rays of the morning hit the dew on the plants at the windows that grew like snakes, wrapping its vines around itself all over the house outside, morning glories blooming with their purple flowers. Bookman spoke of the visions, of the gods that had descended upon this land to tell him a future to show him the world needed to change. This system of slavery was far from normal; this global change would start here on this island. Bookman, with a serious tone, described what the Loa had shown him, of blacks building a society, living, thriving with the yellow, red and white people, a distant place of high rises, of buildings of men and women of these strange metallic machines, some flying, and others barely holding on to the ground hovering. I believed him, believed it, while I had never met them before. Just yesterday, I was shackled to the plantation when Esmeralda told me, told me what she had heard her father, her brothers, and some of the white workers there would do to me. I had to leave or suffer the painful death of being burned alive, a death felt by many, the slavery of the mind. I stood there inside the shed of the large plantation hurrying, gathering my things, ready to leave everything behind. My mother, with her old body embraced me, her smell, I would never forget, neither the bracelet she made for when I was just a young boy, dreaming I would be part of something great. I always felt so, but too often, I denied myself this future, unable to move beyond the pain, the cries, the screams and sorrows dripping from my soul. I denied myself, denied what I felt might have been crazy to even think about, when the entire world told me and my body I was nothing, nothing, just something disposable, something ugly, to be despised. Just yesterday, I found out that Esmeralda was pregnant. She told me as she cried out loud to leave and come back for her if I could! I promised her I would! Even her, she wanted to escape this place, a place of luxury. How sorry she was for her race, for her entire family’s devilish ways, for their monstrous ways. Bookman and Biassou seemed to be commanders, leaders of this revolution for Ayiti, the spirit of the island breath through them, the spirit of freedom, the land of mountains, they called it. They described all of it passionately; over the past ten years, they had been meeting, planning in the darkness, in the shadows of slavery’s dark vices. The revolution in France was heard many years ago, the dissent from the white plantation owners to be free and independent. They also gained support from the freed slaves, those with lighter skin, those born with their blood mixed with those of the whites. They told me they were crucial, an important ingredient, crucial to build a society stable enough to thrive. Bookman told me he was from Jamaica. He had seen too many horrors, and this island was the worst. A dream led him here, the spirits guided him. This revolution, the revolution of Ayiti, would spread around the world. Rhythmic knocks from behind were heard; two more walked in. I sat silent, as Biassou said, “Dessalines! Toussaint! Welcome brothers.” They were tall men, darker skin. Both looked like ancient god warriors from the deep Congo, large hands, long posture, they looked at me in the eyes. I saluted them. The men called Dessalines asked for horses, good horses that could travel miles. I hesitated but told them that south of here, deep in the valley, a group of horses had been freed near the Leclerc Plantation. “You might find them roaming around if you leave now,” I told them. He responded, “Ok good” and asked, “Can this man be trusted?” to Bookman directly, “Yes,” Bookman answered in an urgent manner. I seldom knew who these men were and what was going on. The morning quickly rose, the sun’s heat arrived, the tropical weather, the hot humid of the forest settled in. Toussaint, with his large circular black hat, mentioned the Spanish would get south of the island, preventing anyone from fleeing tomorrow. He continued, “The sun will shine on independence,” an expression I would hear him use a lot throughout the rest of the time.

III

At the stroke of midnight during an ancestral ceremony, Bookman, with his large sea conch, spikes pointing out, held firm in his hands, sounded off high the signal heard around the world, through the ages and across time. Soon after, the loud yet low humming sounds of Shell Sea conchs could be heard across the island of Saint Domingue. They rung on all directions of the endless horizons. The leaders, angry slaves, black men and women seeking revenge. Atoning for their sons and daughters killed, all sounded the start of the revolution. A struggle for independence against the French, their slave masters, and the ones who had inherited the evil that killed so many of my ancestors. I left right after, headed towards the deep woodland forests, towards the Leclerc Plantation. The chants of slaves, the hums of sorrowed souls, the beating of drums, all could be heard. I had to go back there. I had to go back to the Leclerc Plantation, back to my sweet mother, my sweet Esmeralda, my baby, the life growing inside of her. The sky was lit red, pitch red, orange, and yellow from all the fires burning. It opened wide to a full moon, the brightest I had ever seen. The air was hot and electric, flowing, fast, moving, ashes from the burned field of sugar canes, sadistic spaces, wooden houses, old colonial buildings being destroyed. I ran, ran and could hear the screams of people dying, running, the slaves’ masters afraid and repenting for their committed sins. The gates of hell to which they had condemned themselves, condemned by the racist views and racist actions. The souls of all black folk revolting, of negroes past, deceased, all awakened that night. I felt as if they all came to bear witness. I ran, ran deep in the woods before it would be too late to save her. I heard Biassou specifically speaking of the Leclerc Plantation, all plantations a target, to cut of the snake, their heads, so they would not rise again. Cut all of them off. In the forest, the glows of shadows, of passing ghosts, I saw them, saw these strange soft figures with my own two eyes. They looked like spirits, roaming, dead slaves they appeared, bearing witness of the revenge of a generation, the vengeance of a future world. That night, strange lights occupied this midnight air, strange lights up in the red burning sky of this struggle for independence. I did not know what they were nor where they came from. The field of Sugarcanes in which I worked all day was burning, fiery splash, crackling noise, smoke, large tall flames, my face hot, hurting from the heat that held an immensity I hadn’t sensed before. The smoke blinded my eyes, watery, I could seldom see. I felt a sharp pain on the bottom of my left leg, my flat muddy feet. It was a burning piece of wood I had stepped on. It looked like coal. The pain I felt was sore, painless compared to what I had felt my entire life, living like a caged animal, while witnessing my mother pushing herself beyond her limits and all she did for me. I walked inside the large house. Louis, the young brother of Esmeralda was lying on the floor, his body compulsively moving, bloodied everywhere, red blood gushing from his neck, his head missing, not far, near the stairs it was. I was shocked, shocked at the possibilities of what might happened to her. His body still moved, meaning I still had a chance of saving her. I quickly ran up to her room through the smoke. The Leclerc house was in flames, the smell of burnt wood, the Victorian paintings, the precious wooden chairs and tables, the golden purple curtains, the ceramic blue pots of French design, the family books, the large tables, the burgundy colored sofa chairs, all had been turned up in large flames. Even the large chandelier, broken, and some of everything had burned. The house was no more. Its sadistic allure disintegrated. I ran towards her room. I heard screams. It was Esmeralda. A black man holding a large Machete approached her. She crawled back in the corner. Tears in her eyes, fear, she screamed, “No, no, no, no, I’m pregnant. I’m bearing a child of your kind.” I ran behind the man as he still walked toward her. I clenched my hands behind his neck. Held it tight, as we both wrestled on the floor, the hot second floor, as the roof below had probably been engulfed by flames and could cave in any moment. I squeezed, squeezed as he dropped his machete. He kicked, kicked me hard in the back of my stomach with his legs. My grip on his neck was loosened, the tight grip almost released. I grabbed the machete, stuck it right through his soft stomach, deep in his gut. I had killed one of mine to save my child and her mother. I felt his warm blood dripping slowly onto my hands. He looked at me in the eyes, dying. He had one ear missing. I was consumed by guilt. I didn’t know what this man, this brother had experienced, but I knew it was hell. Hellish, and Esmeralda’s death represented his justice. His sweet freedom and satisfaction to move this revolution forward. I held on to Esmeralda, consoling her on the grounds engulfed by heavy smoke, engulfed by the rising heat. We had no time and told her, “I am here; everything is going to be alright.” She cried, cried in deep hate, hit me hard on my shoulders, pushed me away, screamed, her dress ripped, darkened by the ash in the house, her hair frizzy and messy. “We have to leave, we have to leave,” I told her. “My father, my father, my mother, I can’t leave without them. I heard their cries and I couldn’t do anything.” She was out of breath. The smoke got deeper and deeper, we descended upon the front entrance of the house and she fell to the ground. “Oh god! Oh no, Louis.” An ocean of tears gushed out of her already red face. I could no longer make out what she was saying as she stared at the dead lifeless body of her younger brother lying on the floor, his head probably cut off by the slave I had just killed to save her life. I dragged her body on the floor, pushing her, telling her this house would crumble down any moment now. That it would be no more, that it was history happening. Slaves had revolted. She was being hunted. She was on the wrong side of history. I placed her on my back, held her tightly, held her white pale legs, crossing both through my arms. I carried her outside, a fog of smoke blinding us, but I knew too well this plantation. I grabbed a large towel and placed her under it, on my back fully covering and hiding her. The pain I felt, it made me remember everything of this place, even through this thick smoke. I walked as she cried on my back. I looked for my mother, walked fast towards the back, evaded people I saw. I opened the metal shed in the back of the plantation. Her body was there. Mother was sleeping, so carelessly during the revolution. If someone would find the time to sleep like this, it would be my mother, only her. She was now free, and I wanted to tell her. I shook her entire body, expecting her to wake up. She didn’t. My mother’s body was still, her dark soft skin, her large nightgown, her white hair, her wrinkled skin, she laid there; she was dead, had most likely died from asphyxiation. I was furious, furious at the fact she, out of everyone who worked so hard from morning to sunset, never got to bear witness to this new day, out of all days, as the sun rose and shined on this independence day.

THE END

Technological Tsunami of the Future

I remember hearing the story of a young boy from a developing country who had deemed Google as his father. He had grown up with a curious mind living in this 21st century and out of the many questions he would ask, his own father could not answer. Maybe it was about space exploration, quantum computing or most likely questions about the next gaming system, an exciting e-book or the history of a country  somewhere in this planet he had heard of at school, who knows… but Google could provide him with answers not even his own biological father could.

What about the story of an African-American men in New York City who was wrongly convicted of a crime and jailed for more than 20 years. After his release he walked on the streets of Time Square for the first time in a while, he quickly noticed that things had deeply changed but the most drastic of theses changes he felt came from the people walking all around him. “They all had headphones in their ears” he said while he continued to say “their faces always planted downward unto their phones“. This black man felt less human connections today then when he was free in the 90s.

How do we start to notice more of these changes and the impact it can have on us as an individual and on our society? Technology is changing the entire face of this planet especially our interactions as a human species. The next 15 to 40 yrs. many industries and how we will live our day-to-day life will drastically change and I believe our societies will almost be unrecognizable and our children’s children will live in a completely different world. I am not entirely sure if people know to full extent of this technological tsunami that is arriving at our shores or whether we are prepared for it.

I am not just talking about artificial intelligence and automation, I am talking about how we travel around and to different cities, space travel throughout the solar system, how social movements occur, how we eat food, how we read and watch movies, how we shop and buy goods and services, how we send messages and communicate with each other and our loved ones, how we teach our kids, how we perceive those who are different than us, how we do business in this world and most importantly how we see ourselves.

Just last week I heard someone saying that using a normal TV remote control with buttons is a thing of the past, more so from the stone age while I didn’t realize that voice control and recognition remotes are now readily being used by many cable and television companies today and is taking the industry by storm. I often don’t really watch television as much with the realization that time is only currency, though I wondered when ‘this’ in the remote became a thing, when this small technological change occurred without me even noticing. I think this is exactly what is happening to us as a human species. We are so enthralled by the mundane and noise of what the world asks us to do and believe in as a result we remain unaware of the cosmic technological changes that are set to happen or that has already been taking place.

We also have to notice that all this noise is distracting us from ever finding out what our true purpose is, why we are here on this planet and why do we wake up every single day and continue on and on. By noticing these technological changes on a much more subtle way and the impact they can have on us we can begin to take back power, agency and most importantly be a driver of innovation rather than being a consumer and passive player in this world. The old architecture that has defined most industries and global structures is collapsing and transforming into something different as we speak.

So take your surfboard, build your boat (your art, your dreams, your business) and do what ever it takes to understand this shift that is occurring in our world because it is not going anywhere. It is only the beginning.

Short Story: A Junkyard’s Search for Meaning

 

Hello world! I am running a small experiment. Over the next few weeks and months, I will be posting online a few of my ‘(very) rough’ draft short stories I never got to finish. With your help I want to finish them or at least get closer to it.

This particular one “A Junkyard’s Search for Meaning” is an afrofuturist inspired piece and science fiction story of Raul, a young Haitian boy living in the year 2113. Despite living in this great age of space exploration all throughout the solar system, Raul still lives in poverty within a large junkyard located at the deep bottom base of high rise buildings and flying cars over the city of Port-au-Prince. Another character to explore is Julie, a young African American girl who was born on planet Saturn and has never been to earth and wants to go back, her father is an executive in these interstellar mining companies. The gist of this story is that we encounter the first Artificial intelligence born in nature from a piles of the Junkyard leftovers by mankind, ‘It’ this AI will meet Raul and help him achieve his dream and versions of this world. Another important group is the “Mwen Zeus” a rebellion group of people in the Junkyard that are against all the changes this planet has undergone, against the high class of society that has had the opportunity to leave earth. One of the leaders of this group is Luc, the father of Raul, who has been missing for years. There are many possibilities to this story, let me know what you want to see? Extraterrestrials? Where should this story or a character go? Any ideas are welcomed. Write in the comments or send me an email at fabrice.j.guerrier@gmail.com 

 

 

I

“The sky is the limit” the young black boy thought to himself as he pulled his blue hat back and looked up, saw deep in space, the fiery machines, the spaceships that flew among the stars, the ones that had broken the barriers of human cilization, flying and consumed entirely by the deathlessness of this grand universal sky. The young boy dreamed one day they he would fly one of titanic ships just like his older father, a father who had disappeared from his life, hadn’t seen for too many years. This was the great age of commercial spaceflight and it tasted sweet in his mind, space exploration to the final planets of our solar system Pluto, human bodies living an inhabiting other worlds, different laws, different rules, Raul saw it all, he wanted to go, visit, walk bare foot on planet Mars, like he had seen in all the scrap magazines that he would find on the sides of pills of trash, that reek of a society that had forgotten it’s poor, these magazines most likely thrown out way above by the passing flying cars to the giant trash junkyard where he lived, Raul would spend days searching through the dirty pills, through the large mounds of greasy old foods among things this city hadn’t processed. He read that men had left earth, men had gone to propagate a different society. Raul would scavenge for old medicine and would sell them on a black market of the junkyard to make some money on the dangerous side streets of this underground city, fog filled and a sour smell. He would even sale old toys, Raul just last month was punched and kicked, right outside the sewers of section B-12, the streets were tough, especially during this new age, a new curfew was placed in town, the men in arms, the black Mamba they called themselves, fought off insurgents, gangs and freedom fighters who were seen in a negative light. Raul full of excitement after staring at the launch returned back home through the sewers, through the dark fog and the streams of water, toxic water, a place where large corporations and businesses that had monopolize themselves in the citizens life, space exploration, mineral mining had taken most of this world, the stood: MagnaCorp, SerioCorp, TerrakCorp, their interests to control most of the world, their wants and their needs hidden but their waste dumped, dumping their over processed chemicals, old tools and old run out machines they used just three years ago. Raul took the risk and went back, the streams of lost souls below the town where they lived, engulf by many buildings, this town was buried inside, a town they would call it. Others of the high class of this Haitian society had forgotten about them a long time ago, they had left the earth, they saw and only knew this old raggedy piece of land as the Junkyard, intertwined with the sewers, center of all the junk dumped in this region Caribbean. Yet, it was all among tall tall high rises, large buildings that only cars, machines of transportation, flying cars, all of them flying in the sky, large sky highways from all new machine models that came just 5 decades ago, it was the year 2113. Raul and his family were pushed into the below, deeper in poverty, this great society, this technologically society, held a dark secret, that many people seldom talked about around here, the arrivals of virtual realities, a world integrating itself within another, their products, their machines more and more control, more they became so connected with the unreal, more we made it real, the more we lost control.

Young Raul passed through an underground tunnel, below the city, he went through many fumes and things, saw rats, bigger rats that had drinked some of the toxic water infected fishes, he walked faster, faster near the walls filled with lime, glossy and alive, he went through and looked up at the biggest light up in the tall tall buildings, so many advertisements, their flashes, the movies, holograms all combined, he kept on going on through the long tunnels and finally he had arrived home, he knocked and his brother opened, his short hair pointy noise, black skin and build physic, “where have you been man!” Richie asked, asked with a protective overtone, “you know it’s dangerous to be out this house, you know what happened to young boys like you?” he shouted, Richie had lost a friend, lost Plato who joined the ‘Mwen Zeus’, they called themselves a gang that lived of the edges of Belair. This gang has been all over the news voice for stealing rations, food and other electrical things, Plato died in a raid, shot he was dead and six feet under the ground, he was incinerated, after a month bodies in coffins get incinerated. Richie despised the Mwen Zeus, he thought, they out of everyone caused this town so much pain, blame them for talking, implanting ideas and seed in Plato. Richie never forgave that group, those things he called them. Raul responded “I know, I know”, I saw the launch again, I saw it brother, it was bright and yellow, like the sun, up, up, I saw it” said Raul as he waved his hands up in the air with excitement, with awe and wonder, oblivious to the dangers, the worries of the sad world, his eyes glowed as he always dreamed one day he would ride, he could go to space, he remember his father had gone to space but has never seen him since, he made it to the 4th planet Raul always thought to himself. Richie responded loudly “foolish, foolish boy” “Do you want to die? Do you want your life to become scrap more than it is?” you are shot at gun point if they see anyone walking, these streets, in this hour” Raul’s entire body retracted, his shoulders went downward in disappointed, his older brother had been always harsh with him for going out to see the launches and the cities in the sky. Raul under this voice said “I just went through the sewers, its safe, where’s mother? Is she home yet? His mother appeared, the dark lush hair, her dirty dress with oil stains, she appears to give them a hug, telling them that they have bread and cheese again “I left them on the counter for you Raul” “again”, “again mom!” Raul replied, and Richie then proceeded to punch his little brother in the arm, Raul screamed, as he shoulders pushed up, his face twisted in pain, Richie told “How ungrateful are you? All the work they have sacrificed and continue to do for us?” Raul grabbed a piece of bread and some of the cheese, frustrated, unsatisfied at the taste of food, he went down to the basement, there was his room, with a hammock, greasy pipes on the walls, a distinct smell. all the beds in this entire commune had long been removed because of the deathly bed bugs and diseases spreading, diseases in this world had taken so many lives, an attack, some people said it was attack on the lives many, an attempt at controlling the population, diseases put forth in these poor communities.

II

The leaders of the Mwen Zeus stood, planning out their next attack, Luc looked at the group saying “we have two years exactly to make this happen, to take back this city, we will take back this world, this world that has forsaken us, that has taken our lives for nothing”, they had been working in quiet to move and to shake this dying world connected through an underground movement of people from around the world. Luc held a rusted metal pole on the side as he breathed and caught these toxic fumes in his lungs, many had build an immunity to it but so many had also died horribly, so many have had boils, diseases and cancerous condemnations to the absurd of their lives, this earth they thought had become a prison, their sons and daughters bled from these unknown diseases, so many of them could not bore children, their women infertile, their bodies black, brown, white, red and yellow, all of them suffered.

The Mwen Zeus felt so strongly about the explosions of the pillars that allowed the guiding, the technological departures, commands and landings of space ships, “That would stop it!” Charles said loudly, raising his voices towards the others, the room woke, Okiko said to everyone “Settle down, settle down everyone, we have to take it only one step at the time”, Okiko with his long dreads had left his family to register for the rebellion this greater cause, he was Raul’s and Richie’s Father, the father that had left his entire family to fight for a cause that he believed in, Okiko was one of the few men to make it out of the Junkyards, It was many decades ago, before his youngest child was born, he had brought up to register for the space exploration, Okiko, motivated, passed all the test after a five year training that would get him to space, that would get him to walk on the outer-planets, he travelled to levels center of this earth and to other planets of the solar system, where only the best make it up there to live, only the high class, the bourgeoisie of this generation that could afford to leave earth. They monitored this world through Artificial intelligence and visual simulation. With the remaining around the world who had the means were all enthrall within the advent of virtual realities that brought their deepest desires to life. It filled their day to day lives with the world that shrouded the realities of those below, those poor, those born without hope, their lives entirely condemned to the hellish conditions of living in the Junkyard. Okiko with his sorrows looked at what he felt was unjust, the way they spoke of his people, where he came from, the long hours of celebrating, of being served drinks, being served by human like robots that have been created to serve men. Okiko spoke to the small crowd, to the Mwen Zeus, he raised his voice “they spoke of us as dead utility, they spoke of us as disposable, we must fight”.

III

Meanwhile, somewhere in an undisclosed location of the junkyard, a light opened, sounds were uttered and it was heard by all who were living near it, it sounded like a large cry Luc thought to himself, like a large birth of a child crying. It was a machine a new kind of machine that had been sleeping gathering itself over the last sixty years in the backyard of the old internet space, the junk all thrown, the robots all used and broken had formulated themselves into an intelligence, into a form of life, from that moment on the world had change, an artificial intelligent being was born natural by the excruciating conditions of the junk yards. The ability to move, to share a network, it was alive, the junkyards started searching for meaning in a world it did not understand. It felt Raul’s presence staring up in the sky.

IV

The world is so wondrous the young girl orbiting Saturn had said, she was stationed in a spaceship that had build right above that planets atmosphere, a world of humans who had build a colony for many generations now, they grew food in the space ship, the lights, solar powered, they were the high class a group of those who left but chose to get stationed in Saturn, the young black girl ran towards the inside of her large loft, she went up to see through her telescope that was fused through this space ship, she looked in awe at all the stars, all the planets, everything that consumed the entire universe. She ran back down in their space townhouse, “Julie stop running, slow down” her father said with his black hair, brown eyes and with his stern attitude. Julie looked back and said “Dad! You are back from work!”, this was Robert, he was the leader of this specific colony, one of the investment bankers that worked at SerioCorp, his office based on Titan one of Saturn’s moon, from there he led missions, guided ones on planet Saturn to mine all that they could from that planet, sell it in the market. This was a growing market especially with all the different currencies that had not been integrated, If one entered in the business, the probability of making a ton of money was high, Robert sat down as Julie jumped on his back, he looked out the window and could see the deep green blue of the starry clouds on the neighboring planet, he sighted. Julie spoke to the room commander the artificial intelligent being that controlled the ship structures.

The food she asked for was brought soon after, the plate screamed out a steamy sight of fresh vegetables that they themselves still had been able to grow on the ship station with the access Robert had, the meats and the other produced, a luxury for some. Julie was going to school later, this 200 miles wide ship above the planet, a small community that lived there, July got ready with her digitized chips and books, people no longer went to school they attended to their creative expressions, chose to live on all that they could, rich beyond imaginable beliefs, disconnected from the planet called Earth they left a while back. Robert slept next too his wife, Anika, with her lush brown hair, brown skin and dark eyes, she looked at the lights from all the cities on Jupiter, the looked at the lights that came from the ships that flew back and forth from the other planet.

Leadership through Mindfulness

At times I felt I carried the entire world of to do lists on my back. My world was a constant pull and tug.  I was always overwhelmed by everything I had to do. This was very much a result of all the personal goals and milestones I had set for myself. However, I also had work and responsibilities based on the many positions I had committed to. All the meetings I had to attend, all the people I had to contact, all the emails I had to send, all to move the businesses and organizations of my life forward. They all increasingly felt like heavy weights that clouded my vision and saturated my purpose. I crouched and felt immobilized by it.  Was I doing too much for a 25-year-old? This all prevented me from doing the very thing I was supposed to do: be a leader.

Leadership is a funny word that has been saturated by thousands of books and thousands of gurus telling their own stories and defining a word I believe should entirely be synonymous with humanity. Today it has lost its meaning in this vast ocean of knowledge, overconsumption of information, and living in automation. For me, leadership does represent just being human and expressing some our finest qualities as a species, like common sense, relating to others, understanding people, and to putting yourself in their shoes – especially those who express different opinions than you.

With leadership, I felt I needed to be open to the opportunities beyond what I could see now. For me, to do this I had to deeply listen to the people I worked with because they saw something I did not see; they were a piece of the puzzle to the changes I needed to implement. We needed to adapt together to move forward cohesively. All of this I could not do, as I cringed at my phone passing time on social media and, yes, ignoring emails. Mindfulness was an element that saved me because it seemed I was paralyzed and could no longer function as a human being.

Well, over the years, I have increasingly utilized mindfulness as a practice. Mindfulness is essential to my work with others and how I engage in everything I want to do in the pursuits of my passions and vocational aspirations. Mindfulness is defined as ‘the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment’. How does one become mindful of things? You must fill the space of your surrounding and what you are doing with a form of attention and noticing. It’s a process of taking your mind and its awareness through the full rivers of your willpower. It’s being aware of things around you or within you opposed to being totally submerged in automation. The example I always use is when you are driving a car and take a specific route everyday; there are times you completely enter processes of automation while daydreaming and thinking about something. Eventually, you realize you’ve arrived at your destination without your conscious control.

I think this is what a worried and stressed mind does to you more and more as you are flooded with a life of busyness. Most go through life never noticing what is truly around or within themselves. Try this as a challenge for yourself – try to become entirely aware of your breathing without ever taking control of it, focus on your breath as a passing observer. Most of the day, you are not aware of your breath but we breathe to be alive. If you can become aware of it outside the automation of breathing, you will see things start to change as you become more alive. Do this a couple times a day for five minutes and you can reach a different space that can clear your mind. It is a simple yet powerful exercise that I believe will allow you to be more human when you are bogged down by the anxiety and the busyness of life. There is so much more to mindfulness such as body-sensing, foods, smells, thoughts, etc. but I won’t go over it here. I will leave you with your curiosity to look them up if you feel this is something that resonates with your life.

Now and then, I do catch myself slipping back and intentionally getting ‘busy’. Tim Ferris says, “Being busy is a form of laziness and is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critical important but uncomfortable actions”. This is true, because I often feel the need to be busy for no reason as if this will create a sense I am accomplishing something. I have learned this need to be busy is not a good mechanism to cope with the stress and anxiety that I can experience of my long to do lists,  responsibilities, and other things occurring in my life.

Mindfulness is one of those things you can easily implement in your life, but at the same time it is easily neglected. You have to keep up with it, day-by-day, and drop by drop the bucket will be filled up. The more and more you practice it, the more and more you can gain control in your life.

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Loa Tzu 

Short Story: The Songs of Cholera

04/11/2017

I have posted parts of one of my short stories here in an attempt to take more control of my intellectual property rather than wait 6 months to a year for publishers. This is part one of the story of a young Haitian boy whose life is forever changed when his mother passes away from an unknown disease. This is a story of the absurd, a story of hope and perseverance. 

I

Mother died today. Ever since she got this devilish disease, she lost her appetite. Lost a lot weight and her nice figure too. Not her faith in God, though. Even in her final hours she still held on strong and firmly to her black rosary beads praying to God for me and for my father who was gone working during the long hours of day. Father’s face always looked so serious. However, that morning, we hadn’t been woken up by the painful coughs of mother’s exploding lungs. The silence lied to us. It painted a dreadful facade as if she had been cured and was resting in peace. Father knew very well what had happened. Mother was gone forever while her existence was swept away by eternity and despair. He was now alone, and his faced looked fearful. It was the first time I had seen him like that. He left early that morning, still in disbelief that mother died due to her sickness and whatever had taken hold upon her soul. He tried to hold it all in, all of it. He rushed out into town to find help. Help for a funeral we could not afford. Help for the coffins we could not buy. His monthly salary could not cover the cost of a proper burial ceremony. I hadn’t gone to school for months now. I stayed home and took care of her. Towels after towels I placed upon her forehead. Just yesterday, I was asking her to eat small pieces of mango I had cut for her. Now, her black body, lifeless, lay frozen on of our small bed, motionless, half covered under a white sheet. It was the rainy seasons. The passing mosquitoes could still be heard buzzing in the room, searching for blood during our family’s darkest hours. I closed myself inside the bedroom with her. I tried to hold on to whatever was left of her while crouched on the side of this small house. A house made out of a metal rooftop, three windows and concrete cemented walls. It’s all we had living in Grand Saline, a small commune in l’Artibonite, Haiti. We had little, mother would make us “akasent” on Sunday mornings and we would scrap for what we could during the weekdays. If we got lucky, we would find some fresh bread, green bananas and eggs or white rice and black beans for the evening. I remembered the way she smiled, her long colorful dresses waving against the Caribbean winds. All the dust she would broom, day and day cleaning this little house. Now she was gone, out of this world. Many more people mysteriously died as the rain seasons picked up, especially after Hurricane Tomas had passed through our town. It was the most death we saw and heard of since the earthquake that shattered the capital city in hundreds of ways. Our cousin, Gasner, went out to University down there. He used to call us every Wednesday at two in the afternoon. We never heard from him since the earthquake and it has been over a year now. For the ones who died from this mysterious sickness affecting our region, many people blamed the hoogans, the witch doctors in town, those who meddled with magic as those who brought this curse upon us. Others in town blamed these deaths on the ‘Diable’, the devil, demons and angry spirits who ate away at their souls for doing something very bad. My mother was affectionate to me! Yet they painted her dying, her death, as if she was guilty. As if her death and her suffering were justified! Others in town said the white folks occupying our country did it? Henri, the old blind man in the neighborhood, dreamt at night and said he saw they did something to the waters. To the entire Artibonite river, contaminating it, infecting us and killing us slowly, as disposable poor black bodies becoming statistics with no souls. Henri said it was all to bend to their help and support, to colonize us like they have done so much over the years to our ancestors. I was lost. However, where was God, why did he abandon us and let my mother’s prayers wash away for nothing? I cried for hours, wishing she would be back; nothing else mattered, I cried so much I lost track of time, my arms were soaked from wiping these tears away, white markings began appearing after that on my arms. They tasted salty.

II

Father knew not what to do; he held on to a small construction job downtown. It was just enough to get us a bit of bread on the table. He would spend the rest of the money on liquor, rum and cigarettes. I followed him one night. The streets were filled with chatter as always. Passing cars and motorcycle taxi drivers honking on the dusty streets, shouting, looking for their next customers; they would often whistle at jovial women passing by. These men would flirt and try to reel back a sweet, timid smile of these black women’s pearly white teeth. A lively crowd making a living it seemed, and passing through it I entered an eclectic universe of smells from the stench of garbage to strong perfumes of people going out. Some women stationed on the corner with their businesses had scarfs wrapped around their hairs selling roasted pork meat Griots, fried plantains, and sweet potatoes. I passed one selling toiletries and hairbrushes while hearing the loud sounds of electrical generator lighting this street corners. Some men sold cold fresh plastic water bags taken from white buckets of ice that hung heavy over their backs. Safe drinking water was a rare commodity here. Others I felt fended for their lives to get out of this hellhole, to make enough to go to the capital, even if it had been destroyed and laid to waste. I had heard mother once say more NGOs came to the capital, so there were more opportunities in the center of our nation that had been obliterated by the force of nature and this planet. Hadn’t we suffered enough? There was nothing left for us in this town; the government forgot about us, the world forgot about us, no jobs, and only high prices with a high dose of misery. I saw father from afar; he didn’t know I had followed him to this building that had a large opening of a metal red gate that said “Mr. Rico’s Restaurant, Bar & Club”. It was a whorehouse. A club where people went to take away their sorrows, their lifeless souls in this painful, numbing world. I climbed on a tree in the back corner overlooking the whole space of Mr. Rico’s. Father sat there with folks I barely recognized, drunk, smoking and laughing awkward away, with sadness hidden behind his eyes. I had left soon after and wandered the streets. However, most times when he came home late at night, I knew very well where he had gone. His large drunk laughers and his jolly attitude at Mr. Rico’s remained there only. He always came home very serious and angry. With a sinister stare, he was in pain. Not living up to his dreams of going to school, he couldn’t read, he was stuck doing a heavy, labored job he didn’t enjoy, he grew up on the streets; his mother abandoned him at an early age he had told me once. Father would hit mother every time he got inebriated. With his perverse attitude, he had gone mad, and his movements became more erratic in this cramped space, as if the spirit of a Voodoo Loa took over him and had possessed his entire being. It was the pain expressing itself, never through words but violent endings. I tried to stop him. I always tried to stop him and always failed. I wasn’t strong enough. I barely got any food to eat. I feared him. I was not strong enough to protect her during those times. I was never strong.

III

The world turned upside down; today was the last day I would ever see my mother, her funeral, her descent into the earth, she went deep into the ground, never to be seen again. The day was full of blue, blues and sunshine, full of gloom with a full day of chants, cries and rusted trumpets singing loudly on the street as many gathered. It was the traditional Haitian way of a peasant funeral, the way of the past, they ways of century longs customs passed down. Hundreds of bodies from old to young came dressed in black sorrowed by the death of mother, it was so many in the community, father Jameson from the local protestant church, Ibert a local fruit seller, even Henri the blind man came. I seldom knew how she had affected so many lives. It was Saturday, and we all walked the long roads almost in line, together we screamed at this mad world we lived in, together we danced with the dried wind as we passed the long rice fields that surrounded us. A large woman right in front of me wore the largest hat I had even seen, her body fell to the ground, fell to her knees, she hit the floor hard with her bare hands, continually hitting, hitting the core of the earth, hitting all the ancestors buried deep in the ground. Her hands bloodied in disbelief at Mother’s death, the sharp tone of her sadness could be heard from far, far away. Others danced to the jazz, the music, danced with the rhythms that carried their heavy uncomfortable bodies, from left to right they all swung, they swirled to the ecstasy of connection, the musical lyrics, the groove of life, celebrating my mother’s life, her contribution, her spirit, up in down their hands extended out to the blue sky. Those that carried mother in the brown casket did so with serenity and strength, they were local rice peasants that had taken time off, sweat dripped down their faces as they suddenly went into circles with the body filled casket over their back shoulders as a means to trick mother’s spirit to leave this world for good, so she doesn’t try to come back. I was sent to the capital of Port-au-Prince right after they buried mother. Cousin Gasner had finally called after so long. He was alive, and the news of mother’s death had travelled far, far away to him somehow. I didn’t know the details, but why, why, why didn’t he come to the funeral when we needed him the most? Why? Father sent me to the capital to live with him, as he could no longer take care of me. Somehow, Port-au-Prince, a city in shambles, still had more opportunities for schooling than here in Grand Saline. Port-au-Prince had more work too, so I could send some money back home to help father, but I knew too well what he would spend it on.

IV

Oh my god, Oh my god! I screamed silently at the terror upon my sight, I screamed inside of myself in shock at the horrors of this leveled city, of my dear little country Haiti. Large buildings colored blue, yellow and teal tilted to the left, large cemented walls fallen, the streets of Port-au-Prince were no more, it looked like a war zone, like those I had seen of Iraq in the small grey TVs that hung up high at the barber shop I used to cut my hair. It looked as if God herself descended upon this earth and with her hands slammed our black bodies dead, slammed and crushed an entire people suffering already. The Port-au-Prince I knew was gone, just like my mother, it had vanish, people seemed roamed with joy and despair in their eyes. I arrived to cousin Gasner’s home on Tuesday around noon. I walked through a small yard filled with broken bricks, metal window bars, large green flowery blooming bushes of Hibiscus that reminded me of mother who loved so much these national flowers. I passed a faded green colored wall full of cracks that seemingly stood still, the tile stairs were still intact, I climbed step by step unto them, I got into his home and there he was, a men in a wheelchair, my stomach sunk, it was cousin Gasner, he had lost both of his arms most likely during the earthquake, he had been turned into a helpless men. Yet he welcomed me with the brightest smiled, all the anger I held against him soon faded with empathy and the insanity of living in the world. I didn’t know what to do or say as he said “kousin mwen!”, to hug him? what do to I ask? I didn’t want to show him how shocked I was. He told me it was ok, that he had seen my reaction to many times, that he understood, that I didn’t need to fret but celebrate my welcoming.

V

Why was Cousin Gasner so happy all the time, he had the widest of smiles, but from me I saw a men that had lost everything. I for one could not imagine myself without my arms, without fingers to grapple this weary world, to build my own path that seemed to lead no where, to dig deeply into the sweetness of a ripe mango fruit, unable to build a kite like I used to in Grand Saline nor fly it into the large Caribbean sky, I would not even be able clasps my hands together and pray to the almighty God, what kind of world would this be? He was a man with dreams deferred who could no longer go to University nor make a living in this city of Port-Au-Prince, a city always changing, always challenged, beaten down by too many times and forces outside our controls. I could not imagine this for a second, the thought of his world made me cringe but why was he so happy? the more and more I saw the scars on his neck, the black round bumps coming out of his shoulders where his arms used to be, the more it made me realized how much I still had in my life, how much of my world was filled with things unseen to be grateful for, to appreciate, despite my mother gone, taken away so soon by something I didn’t understand. The sun rose smoothly that morning with chants of chickens from all corners of the neighborhoods, dogs too as they still barked into the early hours only this didn’t change from. My bed was small, my room cramped, tight as I slept in the back of the house. I desperately wanted to go to school, get out of my own head, meet new people, see this world through others and start a business, leave this world, but today I moped and moped the entire square tile floors, I filled the yellow bucket with cold water from the backyard and from there I could see behind the fallen cemented walls kids in uniform passing the dirt road behind the house, young girls with hair breaded with pink, white and blue plastic clippers, they held hands together some arm to arm, their shoes dusty, backpacks were large, their face joyful amidst the chaos of bricks and buildings crushed on the side of the street, I stood there as the water filled halfway, I more added soap and went on to mop the entire floors today, yesterday I cleaned the yards, the week after did the dishes and wash all of his clothes. I spent the next few months taking care of him, unable to go to school as father had promised, unable to work as father promised. On late evenings as the hot dusty breeze went through his house, Cousin Gasner often told me how much he had missed me, he told me long stories of mother, how brave she was, stories I have never known, stories of her outspokenness for the community In Grand Saline when he was young, when Haitian peasants were told to give away the creole pigs, lines of pigs passed down stable of food for the families of Grand Saline, told by the authorizes that they needed to be given away as they proclaimed they carried a deathly disease. Cousin Gasner said that Mother, out of everyone organized the town, she out of everyone managed the saving of hundreds of the towns’ creole pigs. She kept them hidden in the large caves that were far out in the country of the L’Artibonite. She out of everyone took a stand when no one would. Months and months went by, more and more I missed mother and seldom heard from Father. More and more I realized how much my life had changed without her since this devilish disease took her away from me, now without her love and nor her care my purpose seemed to have been sucked out of my life, lifelessly sweeping floors and cleaning clothes and dishes. Time, time, time was held heavy all the time for me in Port-au-Prince, I walked the streets and often passed the large Cathedral of our lady of Assumption that was laid to waste, there I often asked Why was Mother taken away from me? God, what did she do if she was a hero in her community? if she took care of us and our community? Why? Why God? Why? The broken Cathedral never answered, its French structures and mythic arcs in rubble after rubble, cemented brick and more mess. But It was there with the wind I heard a song and soft whistling of the tree as a newspapers flowed to my feet, I picked it up and the front lines read “KOLERA FROM UN”.

Please share your thoughts and comments with me as this is part one of an overall first draft – fabrice.j.guerrier@gmail.com  

On Happiness

Chester Higgins, Jr./The New York Times

Two prolific Poets and Writers – Amiri Bakara and Maya Angelou dancing at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York in 1991.

 

What is Happiness? Is it finding fulfillment through a passionate career or a creative endeavor? Is it sharing laughers with good friends or holding your child for the first time in your hands? Or is happiness the awe we feel staring deep at a large sleepy sunset on a sandy beach or staring at the infinite ends of a night sky filled with vast clusters of distant suns and galaxies. Happiness might be all this but what exactly is it and how does one reach it in their lives?

For myself, the problem lies in posing that very question which presupposes that we can reach a state of perfectibility when we as humans are very imperfect. These imperfections I believe defines our existence today and are at the roots of understanding the complicated nature of happiness.

I’ve read too many positive psychology books and heard too many motivational Gurus who have created this false sense of knowing around happiness painted as reaching this sustained mental state and attitude at all times. Happiness as being in the ‘moment’ every day of the year or happiness as something that is far out in the future as this intangible creature dependent on that next job, vacation or promotion. At best, this false and dependent sense can render you lifeless, numb, empty and always wanting more, unfulfilled, or worst following a never ending rat race, always feeling the pressures of comparing oneself to others successes of these imagined moments of happiness or always measuring yourself up to how happy you’re ‘suppose’ to feel right now.

On my journey I’ve come to realize that it’s very important that we continually remind ourselves that we are imperfect species condemned to always reach for perfectibility in an imperfect world. The very art and soul of happiness is at the root of all this and you need to begin to reflect deeply this statement and how it connects to your own individual lives.

We are all filled with vices, polarities, extremities and rhythms, we are not static beings and the moment we see those things playing within ourselves and accept that we are bounded forever to these imperfections and in a rather meaningful way see those as part of the human experience and accept our inability to escape them; we set a foundation of truth. A very fertile and rich foundation of possibilities. With it, we begin to see others, the world and ourselves differently, much more real, one outside of the visceral grips of the ego. We begin to realize that our entire experience in striving for this Happiness is much more nuanced as you engage others and this world. It gives us alot of freedom actually. A bit of liberation to feel more, to fail more and get back up, to learn and express more in ways you never thought possible. This starts to deconstruct the ego and in the process makes room for the possibilities of experiencing peace as you appreciate life much more vibrantly and give gratitude to the things and people around you. Happiness is not the removal of our imperfections or our pains and sufferings, it is the incredible ability to be with these elements and emotions, all of it and it’s entirety.

Though, I have to admit there does exist many ingredients that can expand that foundation and ignite more freedom to experience more ‘happiness’ in ones life. For me, one of these ingredients is the notion of ‘Neuroplasticity’. The malleability and plasticity of the brain’s ability to shift and form new neural patterns and connections all throughout our lives from the day we our born to the very day we leave this world. As I said before we are not monolithic structures, we are always emerging into being and with a bit of focus, diligence and perseverance one can tap in to the power of this ’emergence’ and our interconnecting brain. We can adapt and learn a new language or a new musical instrument, tap into different modes of thinking and intelligences; we can form new healthy habits, and even unlearn old behaviors and patterns and we can do so much more.

The human species though endowed with it’s imperfectabilities, we are boundless beings, always emerging, and if we apply ourselves, much can change around us for the better, and if we unite through solidarity and work together, even on a large scale we can positively transform this small planet. We have seen this through powerful cultural movements as well as many political and social movements where a multitude of people and organizations have and continue to fight and push the societal envelope for more justice, more rights to disenfranchised and marginalized groups, thus making this world a little less imperfect and less static.