The time came for my parents to return to their beloved Haiti. For their children to meet them for the first time. My twin sister and I were three years old. My brother was five. My older sister was seven. But my father fell ill. He had a rare tumor that could only be treated in the United States. Still, they went back home.
My father opened a small radio and electronics repair shop. My mother worked as a tailor for the elite. My father's customers wanted to pay him by credit. The elite did not want to pay my mother. Life was not that smooth in Haiti. Their children remained strangers, clinging tightly unto their grandmother. His illness worsened. She became fed up. Three months later she returned to New York. Three months later, he rejoined my her at their new world.
December 1965, a month before I turned six, my grandmother, my mother's youngest sister, and us four siblings flew back to the States. Yes, we came back home. But our accents turned us into foreigners. My grandfather followed a year later. My Mother's younger brother and second sister had already migrated to the States a year or two earlier.
1966, exactly one month after our
arrival, my father died. My mother became a widow at age 34. She also became an assistant designer at Leslie Fay. She moved us from Brooklyn to a white neighborhood in Queens. First she had to sue the landlord. But she was strong. So we moved the night before the big 1969 storm hit New York.
Next morning there were a hundred knocks on our fifth floor apartment. Somehow, the neighborhood kids, and the million other who lived in my building, knew we had moved in. And they demanded we come out in the freezing three feet drift snow, with their sleds, and our gloves, and play with them. At that time, to me, it did feel like The American Dream.
But these events happened before my mother became bipolar. It was years before the Haitian boat people arrived. And the earlier wave of Haitian professionals were forgotten. And our history took another turn. And we became the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Yes. All this happened before Obama. All this was before Trump. It was all before we became members of the shit hole countries...
Glicee print on fabric
72" x 36"
Mica D'Orleans Photography
My mother was restless. She did not want to stay in Haiti. She wanted to start a new life in a new world. My father was twelve years her senior. But I am not sure what motivated him to come here. In Haiti, my mother worked as a primary school teacher, and a seamstress. Then again, most young women of Haiti's small middle class knew how to sew. My father was an electrical mechanic. From others I heard he could fix anything electronic.
In 1954 my parents came to the United States. Their decision was not political. They were not running from Papa Doc. She was 23. He was 35. They just wanted to experience something new. My mother decided to become a designer. She attended the French Fashion Academy and FIT, then found work in the fashion industry. She was good. She was meticulous. She was slow.
My dad worked as a television repairman. Their plan was to save enough money to return to Haiti and start a business of their own. Their dream slowly began to unfold. That is why, two months after each of my siblings were born we were shipped back to Haiti. We were four in all. In Haiti we were called the little Americans.
"I strongly believe that with art you can capture a person's interest and peak their curiosity of different cultures, races and beliefs to break down the barriers created by our news media. It is hard for me to take a classic picture because I have no intention of repeating what I've seen or love, so I turn to deconstruction. For instance, rearranging an image so that it is slightly off, or looking for blurry or "bad" images to give them a picturesque quality, or idealizing the mundane... Things of that nature are what I try to capture." Mica D'Orleans
Red White Haitian Blues: The American Dream