In Dominican Spanish la ñapa refers to "the little extra" added on at the end. Just when you thought you'd gotten all that you would get, along comes your ñapa, like a baker's dozen, with one more kiss, one more pastelito, one more mango at the mercado.« previous ñapa
Sometimes as a storyteller, I wonder if I'm not fooling myself, thinking that stories can really change anything. Then, I hear a story that shows me how, little by little, under the radar, seemingly insignificantly, stories can enter the bloodstream of the imagination and begin to transform us, one reader, one listener at a time.
The (alas, true) story of the "Parsley Massacre," powerfully evoked in Rita Dove's poem, "Parsley," as well as Edwidge Danticat's novel, The Farming of the Bones, is what led a group of us to gather at the border on the 75th anniversary of that massacre, October 2012. We were a core group of ten or so, who had connected with each other through that powerful story-dissemination tool, the Internet. We were joined by close to two hundred people on the ground. That night we transformed that Massacre River, which divides the two countries, into a border of light.
We also spent three days engaged in community work and dialogue with citizens of both countries, working, talking, laughing, storytelling. That first gathering was so moving and transformative to so many of us, we decided to continue the tradition. This year, 2015, marks the fourth BORDER OF LIGHTS.
But when we were organizing that first Border of Lights, I confess: I started getting cold feet. Would three days of activism accomplish anything? We were meeting with roadblocks left and right from authorities on the ground. Maybe it was too soon to begin to change centuries of hostility and posit another story?
And then, I heard a story which gave me hope to continue trying to find solutions to seemingly insoluble problems.
Padre Regino, a Jesuit, has been working on the border for Haitian rights for close to three decades. A few years ago, Padre Regino wanted to say a mass of remembrance and reconciliation. But he, too, found roadblocks: neither country would give him the required permits to allow the citizens from the other country to attend. So Padre Regino built a stone altar in the center of the Massacre river, the "no-man's-land" dividing the two countries. There, he conducted a mass in knee-high water, giving out communion to Haitians and Dominicans who streamed in from both sides.
The story of Padre Regino reminded me at a critical moment to keep believing. Often we are told that change can't happen by the powers-that-be who are heavily invested in maintaining the status quo, or sadly, by those who have lost all hope, or even more sadly by those doubting Thomases inside us. But then we hear a story that stirs us, a way opens, a light is lit, one light lights another, and at least for one night, a river where a massacre happened flows with light.
Join our virtual vigil for Border of Lights, October 3, 2015, any time between 8-10 pm EST. Light your light! Enlighten others!
September 26, 2015
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