On my way to the Awesome New Republic show at Sweat Records last night, I stopped at a red light at the corner of MLK Boulevard and NE 2nd Avenue. Through my open windows came the sound of hundreds of voices singing, and I could see through a tall iron gate a huge, slow procession of people and floating candle light. I asked a man walking by what was going on. “Jericho,” he said.
In the Bible, God tells the Israelites to march around the great walls of Jericho once a day for six days blowing shofars. On the seventh day, he commands them to encircle the city walls seven times, shouting and blowing their horns. They obey, the walls of Jericho crumble, and the Israelites capture the city.
For nine years now, thousands of Catholic Haitians have gathered on the grounds of the Notre Dame d’Haiti Cathedral, in Little Haiti, to commemorate the biblical story. The Miami New Times has pointed out the irony of Haitians celebrating the historic destruction of a city ten months after an earthquake demolished their homeland. But last night’s revival was not ironic. The feeling of the hundreds of voices rising and falling together was pure. There was joy in it, and there was pain.
At one point, an old woman dropped to her knees alongside the gate and, clutching iron, screamed “Hallelujah” until she was hoarse. In that word, I understood that the worshippers don’t see any irony in the revival. The fall of Jericho and the fall of Port-au-Prince can be reconciled. God willed both, they believe. And he had a reason.