January 14, 2010

Zombie Fans: Please Support Haitian Disaster Relief!

Zombie fans: you have a special obligation to support the disaster relief efforts in Haiti.

On Tuesday, a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, ravaging the city. Well over 100,000 may be dead and more remain trapped under rubble and unable to be rescued. Although international organizations are mobilizing to aid the country, Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere and therefore one of the least equipped to deal with such a disaster.

I believe that zombie fans have a special obligation to support disaster relief in Haiti. Why? The whole zombie genre that we enjoy is historically based on the exploitation of Haitian culture. It's time to give something back.

The zombie genre began with exaggerated and sensational written tales about Haitian "voodoo" such as the 1929 book The Magic Island by W.B. Seabrook. From the beginning of these exploitive colonial tales, Haitian culture and Vodou has been misunderstood and vilified in North American popular culture. The figure of the zombie, a product of this exploitive vilification, has morphed into the flesh-eating ghoul of George A. Romero's films and further evolved into the violent crazies of films such as 28 Days Later, but the beginning of the zombie was built on the backs of the economic and cultural exploitation of Haiti.

We've enjoyed these films, whether genuinely when they are as rare, respectful and subtle as Val Lewton's I Walked with a Zombie or we've enjoyed them ironically when they are as crass and exploitive as Voodoo Woman. Either way, the zombie genre we love originally came out of the exploitation of Voodoo culture for Hollywood thrillers. Many generations have grown up fearful of Haiti and Vodou based on the stereotypes in these films.

Because the genre we love came out of historical and economic exploitation, an economic exploitation that has left Haiti to become one of the poorest nations in the world, I think we need to give something back in the country's time of need.

If you have ever enjoyed a zombie book, comic, or film -- I hope you will think very seriously about donating to your country's Haiti disaster relief efforts.

The following organizations are accepting cash and in-kind donations:
The following organizations are accepting SMS donations in the US only:
  • SMS text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts
  • SMS text “YELE” to 501501 to Donate $5 to Yele Haiti’s Earthquake Relief efforts