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  • To Honor the Work of Karen McCarthy BrownA Letter to Friends and Colleagues
  • Robert Machover, Claudine Michel, and Gail Pellett

As most of you know, our beloved Karen, inspiring scholar of religion, is suffering from a particularly rare form of dementia. Before the disease dominated her life she was working on getting her pathbreaking book, Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn, translated into French. Karen had identified a remarkable translator in Paris and a distinguished French publishing house to take it on. Now that project is stalled for lack of funding. This is an appeal to a broad community of friends and fans to help raise money for this endeavor to honor Karen. It also honors Mama Lola.

The French version of the book has been long in coming but it is more than ever needed as many vicious media attacks on Vodou and Haitian society have taken place after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010. In the aftermath of the quake, at a moment when Haitians are seeking sources of support even beyond material relief, some believe that Vodou as national religion and source of humanistic values has much to offer to the project of national reconstruction and reconciliation. Haitian culture is not well understood, so the book is an opportunity to continue to educate and inform. Ultimately, this translation will help restore the Haitian ancestral religion to its proper place and will serve Haiti well at a time of such extraordinary challenge for the country and its people.

With this letter, we invite you to join the group of scholars and friends who believe that it is time to make this important book available both in Haiti and in the Francophone world more generally. We hope this can happen within this coming year. Our goal is to raise the necessary funds to undertake the project by December 2010. To get there we need your help now.

Some of you may wish to contribute direct financial support as a way to honor Karen and Mama Lola and this extraordinary book. You may also have contacts with foundations or sources of grant funding and may have a broader network of friends and colleagues that should be alerted to this effort. Karen [End Page 5] herself, her husband, Bob, and friends like us, Gail and Claudine, would appreciate any ideas you might have.

Again, we express our gratitude for your participation in this community effort to honor the work of both Karen McCarthy Brown and Mama Lola and the extraordinary relationship they nurtured in the process of working together for more than thirty years. It is also about continuing Karen's long legacy of restoring Vodou as a legitimate belief system that offers hope and communal support to its adherents in Haiti and beyond.

We join our voices to thank you for supporting Karen's most cherished dream; we also thank you on behalf of those who have long awaited the translation of Mama Lola. If we can answer any further questions about this project, please feel free to contact any one of us.

With our most sincere appreciation,

Bob, claudine, and Gail [End Page 6]

Robert Machover
Milford, New Jersey
Claudine Michel
Department of Black Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara
Gail Pellett
Gail Pellett Productions
New York, NY


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pp. 5-6
Launched on MUSE
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