Sak Rete OU? PUBLIC Posts
by Veroneque Ignace, Founding Artistic Director of Kriyol Dance! Collective.
Edited by Marie Antoine, Kriyol Dance! Collective's Public Voice
During undergraduate studies at Williams College, I began to cultivate my interest in public health. As a Chemistry major, concentrating in Africana Studies, and engaging in intense dance study, I was involved in educational and practice-based experiences that supported rigorous learning and understanding of people, culture, science, and health. From hearing my first public health seminar at the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, to studying abroad learning about the Chilean health system’s structural inequity, to completing an honors thesis on inherited trauma, racism, health, and wellness, my passion for public health matured. These opportunities paved the way for the most impactful personal and professional experience I would have in 2015 post-graduation - the failure of my first community-based health initiative, Resist. Restore.
Immediately following Williams, I endeavored to co-build Resist. Restore. Inc., a “global-health-arts” initiative aimed at using community engagement, arts, and scholarship to address the multiple effects of trauma among people of African descent, living in under-resourced communities, in Haiti, Jamaica, and the United States. This initiative very quickly was organized as a short-lived non-profit organization.
As if in a fantasy, I sought to fulfill a vision to eliminate issues of health inequity, systemic oppression, and mental unwellness in communities of color internationally. After two years of struggling to implement the theory behind Resist. Restore. in practice, it became crystal clear that I was ill-equipped.
Two community events and a blog could never solve the problems that impacted me and my communities. This experience provided insight about the lack of skills required to make something like Resist. Restore. work. I realized I needed to clarify my understanding of community, public health practice, and the issues that I sought to address.
While Resist. Restore. failed in practice because of this, the experience of that failure propelled me to further my education at SUNY Downstate Medical Center School of Public Health in Community Health Sciences. Additionally, Resist. Restore.’s design clarified that my interest in public health is tied to its application with community organizing and arts. Together, these became the foundations of my current work with Kriyol Dance! Collective, an action-oriented and community health-based performance group I built in 2016, and with Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative (BDAC), a NYC-based cultural arts direct action firm that works to incite creative progressive social change for leading art and cultural organizations nationally.
What makes Resist. Restore. such a significant experience is that it encouraged me to have on-the-ground experiences that demonstrate an investment in public health through community-based participatory projects and public arts programs. Over three years, my professional experiences as a scholar, artist, and public health practitioner, have been defined by exactly this.
Having had these experiences, I believe that the rigor that I have worked these past five years - on themes of community wellness through innovative and transdisciplinary approaches - support my desire to strengthen my skills and become better equipped to lead initiatives that dramatically improve individual and population health.
All in all, I still have a lot of work to do. I recognize that and I’m prepared to do it. I am getting comfortable with the discomfort of growth, and with the fact that my process may be slower than originally anticipated. Reflecting on this journey, in this way, is an opportunity for me to both re-prioritize my wins and my losses, while also sharing a public message for anyone who can identify with this narrative.
This is how we stay accountable to ourselves and to each other; the work continues...
Sak Rete Ou? (What's Stopping You? in Haitian Creole), holds space for reflections, meditations, poetry, video blogs, and capacity to captivate readers through creative writing. To the question, sak rete ou?, we respond "Nou Se Kriyol!" (We are the Children! in Haitian Creole), implying and calling on the strength, kindness, and revolution of our Haitian ancestors to move forward!