On January 12, 2010, Haiti was devastated by an earthquake that left 220,000 people dead, 1.5 million homeless, and 19 million cubic meters of rubble and debris in Port-au-Prince. The earthquake also brought people of all kinds together to raise money and contribute man power for relief efforts. One of these people is Kerry McLaney, who feels the fight isn't over.
McLaney ("Yes, I'm a white Haitian") is still trying to help her homeland. This Wednesday she opens a photo series of Haiti, "Beyond the Mountains, More Mountains," at Adjust Gallery. Read on to find out why McLaney was called little devil girl growing up and how she used her iPhone to help save Haitians' lives.
New Times: Tell us a little about your background.
Kerry McLaney: I was born and raised in Haiti. I still claim to be the whitest person born there, white skin, bright red hair...not a common sight in the predominately black country. I was known as ti fi dyab (little devil girl) to the neighborhood kids because they believed my hair was the color of fire. I moved to Miami with my mother when I was 16 because of the extreme political unrest, however I would go back and forth to visit my father until he was killed in 1998, 4 days after I turned 21. This show is dedicated to him.
Why commemorate the anniversary of the earthquake?
It's about continuing the awareness. I have dedicated my life in helping rebuild Haiti in any way possible. Many people have already forgotten about the tragic event but for me, I will never forget. Haiti is my home.
Did the earthquake in Haiti affect you or your life in any way?
I spent the next month of my life doing things I never imagined. I helped deliver babies, assisted with amputations, disposing of bodies and even had to meet with the Prime Minister of Health, Jean-Max Bellerive.
I was so grateful for my iPhone because I was able to look up what the medications were since I have absolutely NO medical training. I worked 18-hour days, I showered outside under the stars in makeshift shower stalls, I slept in tents with hundreds of other volunteers I had never met, I lost 10 pounds in the first two weeks.
What can you tell us about your images?
The photographs are very personal to me because they remind me of my childhood. I can vividly remember each shot as a kid riding in the car looking out the window. They are nostalgic and powerful.
It's important for me to show a side of Haiti that is overlooked in a way, landscapes devoid of people...to show the beauty of a country that usually isn't shown. Friends of mine have asked, "there are mountains in Haiti?" My response, "yes, and they are beautiful."
The Haitian proverb "deye mon, gen mon" (behind every obstacle is another obstacle or beyond mountains, more mountains) which serves as the title of the exhibit, is pretty pessimistic. Do you feel that the situation in Haiti can be summed up by that?
It's truly an unfortunate situation with Haiti. It was once known as the "Pearl of the Antilles" because it was the wealthiest country in the Caribbean. Since then, Haiti has only suffered more and more. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tremors, floods, cholera...what people don't really know is the strength of the Haitian people. They are resilient! When I volunteered after the earthquake, one of the volunteers gave me one of those rubber wristbands, which I still wear, that says, "Hope for Haiti" and I believe it.
Check out "Beyond the Mountains, More Mountains," presented by Miami's Independent Thinkers
and 305 Creative Group, from 5 to 10 p.m. this Wednesday at Adjust Gallery (150 NW
24th St., Miami) and maybe pick one up to help the cause. Proceeds will go towards helping Haitians still