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Fete Gede, also known as the Festival of the Dead, is a key celebration in Haitian culture. It’s a national holiday centered around Voodoo culture. Haitians across the country join each other in song and dance to celebrate lwa or spirits of Voodoo.

What’s Fet Gede?

Fet Gede (also knows as Fèt Gede or Fète Gede) is like its Haitian celebrators: joyful, resilient, and unordinary. This celebration offers time not only to celebrate death but to face it. Let’s take at the origin of Fet Gede and why it’s important.

Origin

Fete Gede isn’t just a celebration of spirits; it’s also an ode to Haiti’s endurance. Fet Gede originates from the long-standing history of slavery in Haiti.

Before 1804, Haitians were enslaved under French rule. Haiti, or Saint-Domingue as it was known back then, was a violent place for slaves. They lived in dirty conditions and were often mistreated.

Voodoo was an outlet for slaves to stay emotionally healthy and remember their homeland. The practice of Voodoo stems from West Africa and started as far as 6,000 years ago. It‘s an ancient religion that centers around ancestral beliefs.  Enslaved Africans often masked Voodoo rituals under the disguise of Catholic traditions.

In fact, Haitians believe Voodoo is the reason for their freedom. It served as an inspiration for Enslaved Africans to rebel against the French. In a now-famous ceremony called Bois Caïman or Alligator Woods, thousands of Enslaved Africans came together in a Voodoo ritual against the French.

During the ceremony, EnslavedAfricans  leaders were possessed by the lwa spirits. Everyone danced, sang, and prayed that the white men would be defeated. Ultimately the ceremony was successful, as

Haiti is one of the few colonies that won its independence thanks to its slave rebellion.

Voodoo left a significant impression on the Haitian culture. It’s not a surprise that Fet Gede continues to be the most important religious holiday on the national calendar. It brings the community together to bring the dead alive again.

#BuyAfrican: Top 10 African Designers You Should Know

Significance

As mentioned before, all followers of Voodoo in Haiti celebrate Fet Gede. In Voodoo, it is considered to be an honor to communicate with spirits. The spirits follow and guide followers throughout life.

The significance of spirits is especially crucial for Haitian funerals, and like funerals, Voodoo priests and priestess perform special rituals to summon the spirits.

During Fet Gede, Houngan (priests) or Manbo (priestesses) perform rituals as well. Spirits “mount” or possess followers. There are hundreds of spirits or lwa in Voodoo.

However, Fet Gede is a celebration of the Guédé (Ghede or Gede) family—spirits of the dead.

Date

Haitians celebrate the Gede spirits during the entire month of November. Many cultures consider the early days of November to be the most sacred. Then, the spirits of loved ones can return earthside and advise their family and friends. All Saints’ Day is a Catholic celebration in November to remember the dead, just like Fet Gede.

Fet Gede falls on the same day each year, as people take to the streets on November 2nd to connect with the dead.

Music and dance

Both music and dancing are important expressions of devotion in Voodoo. For the gede to fully possess worshipers, the houn’torguiers or Voodoo drummers play intense music. The fast-paced music and dancing allow the worshipper to lose control of their body. Participants may scream and flail or even faint.

The possessed person can bless the people around him or her. They can connect with the dead, share their stories, or even reveal how they died. Without Voodoo rhythmic dance and beats, the ritual is impossible.

#InspiredByHer: Annie Jean-Baptiste  is the Head Of Product Inclusion, Research and Activation at Google. She is passionate about making the web and Google’s products work for underrepresented communities while ensuring that Google is a place where everyone shines for their differences.

 

Annie Jean-Baptiste

Can you please tell us a bit about Yourself, Background, Role and what inspired You to be in tech landscape?

I am a 31 year old first generation Haitian-American. My brother inspired me to apply to Google after he interned there. It’s been my only full time job- I’ve been there for over 9
years!

Product inclusion is about bringing an inclusive lens to the product design process. We are building products for users all over the world, and so we want to ensure we have diverse
perspectives at the table throughout the process, especially at critical points.

You have a huge mandate and responsibilities at Google. Can you walk me through what a typical day looks like for you?

I meet with product teams and help consult on new and existing products and features. I help them understand what underrepresented users they need to bring into the fold at
critical moments in the product design process. I also work with senior leaders to make sure we have buy-in and accountability for product inclusion.

Another big part of my work is research- we are looking at what practices lead to positive and inclusive outcomes in product design, and will be launching a white paper on our findings this
year

Technology is a male-dominated field and Breaking into the tech industry can seem challenging for women of color, who usually don’t see people who look like them in the industry. What steps should be taken to attract more women to tech and rectify the imbalance?

We need perspectives of women of color and many other underrepresented groups to truly build global products. By understanding that diverse teams lead to increased innovation and better products for everyone, we will see more underrepresented people in tech. There are so many rich perspectives that come from women of color and so we are committed to inclusion in culture and product

What is your go-to work look?

I love supporting underrepresented designers. Google doesn’t necessarily have a dress code, so my look varies. I love leather and vegan leather, metallic colors, and fun heels,
but could also be wearing combat boots. Some of my favorite designers: Aminah Abdul Jilil, Andrea Iyamah, Cushnie. I make an effort to support underrepresented designers whenever I can!

What professional accomplishment has given you the most satisfaction?

Hearing from users that they feel seen. When a user talks about using a product and knowing they were thought of in the process, it validates the work and pushes me to work
harder!

What does it mean for you to have a commitment to diversity/Inclusion? How have you demonstrated that commitment?

It means treating it like any part of your strategy. Having metrics that matter, accountability frameworks, sponsorship and a clear theory of change or hypothesis around what needs to change or how you can change to see structural shifts that bring equitable outcomes.

What would be your message to women trying to get into technology? What do you wish you had known?

Find your voice and use it, but use it in a way that’s authentic to you. I’m an introvert, so for me, that can mean writing something down, or letting my team know id like an agenda
beforehand so I can collect my thoughts before a meeting. I’d also say to push yourself. My former manager, Karen always told me to lead with yes, and I think even if that was scary,
it’s helped me grow and be able to find my passion.

How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

#InspiredByHer: Ezinne Kwubiri, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at H&M North America

There is an amazing group of women inside and outside of Google that have my back, that advise me and lift me up. It means celebrating each other, being honest with each other,
providing opportunities to one another, and truly feeling like when your squad wins, you win. I win. I’m super blessed to have support like that and try to be intentional about reciprocating
and paying it forward!

Your team’s guide ‘building for everyone’ will be released in summer 2020. Tell us more about it?

It’s about best practices and our research. It also gives a behind the scenes look at the Googlers who have powered the work. There are also concrete examples across
industries, from medicine, to fashion, sports and more. If you have a product or a service, or you serve customers, thinking about inclusivity in your process is important so that you solve core user needs.