how the movement functioned

Konbit Solèy Leve was set up as a horizontal, non-hierarchical, non-registered movement. The concern was that by making the movement too rigid and hierarchical would create in-groups and out-groups, which is exactly what the movement was trying to avoid. By not having a president, vice-president, etc, the movement could avoid being co-opted by powerful people. By having no official status or bank account, the movement could avoid being accused of exploiting Cite Soleil for NGO money.

The idea was that individual neighborhoods involved in the movement should form legal organizations so they could leverage resources for their communities, but that the movement itself would stay an amorphous umbrella under which they all could unite. Not everyone agreed with this, and felt that Konbit Solèy Leve would be more powerful if it could accept funds from NGOs or make alliances with political parties. There were people who disagreed so strongly with the structure (or lack of structure) of Konbit Solèy Leve that they left to form their own organizations.

Operationally, this is how Konbit Solèy Leve worked: there was a meeting every Saturday at 2:00pm at a school in Solèy 4 (geographically the center of Cite Soleil), and anyone who showed up for that meeting made the decisions for the movement that week. There was no official membership process or list - basically, by showing up and participating, you were a member of Konbit Solèy Leve. Anyone could propose something for an agenda, and consensus had to be reached before action would be taken. If the action needed resources, the first step would be to see what could be gotten locally (i.e. using battery acid instead of paint to whitewash walls), to get local contributions, and if not, go to external friends to get the contributions needed. Some things would be planned, and some would be spontaneous – the main priority was that any positive activity in Cite Soleil should be supported by people from every block, and any opportunity should be shared between all of the blocks.  There was an extensive phone list of everyone who had ever been to a meeting and mass SMS would go out about any sort of activity or opportunity that came up outside of a meeting.

The lack of structure did exactly what it was intended to do – it protected Konbit Solèy Leve from being co-opted by a political party, NGO, or particularly powerful block. It also was incredibly messy and slow-moving as decisions had to wait for Saturday meetings and had to arrive through consensus. Membership was fluid and people and neighborhoods came through and left, with a small core of volunteers whose presence remained constant over the years. The movement constantly changed shape to fit whatever the priority was at the moment. But the one thing that defined it for the first several years were the Saturday meetings – the open forum that anyone could participate in, from any block, man or woman, civilian or gangster, young or old, Soleyan or outsider. The Saturday meetings would stop when the turf war between Upper and Lower Cite Soleil prevented people from crossing Route 9 to get to the school in Solèy 4 – after that, the movement was forced to rely on SMS networks and social media to organize, as physically assembling in one place had become significantly more dangerous.

Visit the website for the Cite Soleil Peace Prize

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