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.
What do you consider beautiful?
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.
Who’s the one person, living or dead, you’d most like to have a beer with?
Mahatma Gandhi, Sojourner Truth, Toussaint L’Ouverture … I have so many, it’s hard to really decide.
How did you get into trouble as a kid?
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.
What’s your comfort food?
I love ice cream.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Vegging out. Reading a book nonstop from beginning to end, and just vegging out.
Who’s your favorite Haitian author?
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.
What do you wake up to?
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.
Where do you go to be alone?
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.
What’s hanging on your living room walls?
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.
If you could be any animal, which would you want to be?
What is an animal who’s quiet, unassuming, and yet so strong? [A horse?] Yes—and kind, and gentle, and strong—beyond measure.