CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
In the Green Room

Haitian Women of Miami’s Marleine Bastien

I Want to Wake Up With My Heart Singing

Marleine Bastien is the founder and executive director of Fanm Ayisyen Nam Miyami/Haitian Women of Miami. Before participating in a panel on what immigration reform might mean for Miami, she took questions on beauty, childhood mischief, and her morning routine in the Zócalo green room.

Q:
What do you consider beautiful?

A:
I think Miami’s beautiful—today is beautiful. I mean look at the sun, it’s beautiful. Actually it seems really criminal to be confined between these walls; you feel like running to the beach barefoot and getting into the water.

Q:
Who’s the one person, living or dead, you’d most like to have a beer with?

A:
Mahatma Gandhi, Sojourner Truth, Toussaint L’Ouverture … I have so many, it’s hard to really decide.

Q:
How did you get into trouble as a kid?

A:
Advocating for other kids. I’ve always been strong-headed, and I got in trouble with my teachers for standing up. I went to a private school in Haiti, College Bird, where all the bourgeois kids went, and my family was a farming family. Sometimes the teachers, they favored the bourgeois kids; they tried to discriminate against the less-rich families. So I always stood up to those teachers. My friends and I, we still laugh about it today. There were four of us—they called us the rebels of College Bird.

Q:
What’s your comfort food?

A:
I love ice cream.

Q:
What is your greatest extravagance?

A:
Vegging out. Reading a book nonstop from beginning to end, and just vegging out.

Q:
Who’s your favorite Haitian author?

A:
Edwidge Danticat is one of them. I love her writing. Jan Mapou. Who else? I read a lot of books from Paul Farmer. I love Haitian history. I love to read the history of how Haiti, even though people consider it the poorest country in the hemisphere, I love the fact that after its independence it supported other nations in the Americas to help them free their slaves.

Q:
What do you wake up to?

A:
What do you wake up to? I wake up to my prayer. I’m a Bahá’í. I’m lucky if I’m at peace enough to wake up with a prayer in my head. But if I’m stressed out, I have to relax a little bit, meditate a little bit. But I like it when I wake up with my heart and brain singing. That’s my best day.

Q:
Where do you go to be alone?

A:
In my room. I don’t have a lot of free time. I love to travel by myself; I’d love to go around the world. That’s my vision before I die: to build schools, to allow girls to have an education, but with a peace.

Q:
What’s hanging on your living room walls?

A:
Haitian paintings, and one that I really favor—a painting by my brother, a well-known Haitian artist, that shows how women are multi-talented, they can conduct so many different activities and remain whole and engaged and compassionate and strong.

Q:
If you could be any animal, which would you want to be?

A:
What is an animal who’s quiet, unassuming, and yet so strong? [A horse?] Yes—and kind, and gentle, and strong—beyond measure.