Religion and Multiculturalism

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Reed’s views on religion reflect his multicultural concerns. He often writes on the topic of Vodoun, an African religion that is known in the Americas as Hoodoo or Voodoo. Unlike Christianity, which is monotheistic, Vodoun is pantheistic and even animistic in its various forms. Reed offers some commentary on the influence of Vodoun in the New Orleans Mardi Gras in “Shrovetide in Old New Orleans,” but his most extended analysis and exposition on African-originated religions is found in the essays “I Hear You, Doc,” in the same volume, and “Soyinka Among the Monoculturalists,” in Writin’ Is Fightin’.

“I Hear You, Doc,” is the chronicle of Reed’s trip to Haiti, where Vodoun is practiced extensively. Reed finds Haiti to be a country of contradictions but not the grisly place many Americans believe it to be. The political situation, according to Reed, is no different from that of many U.S. allies. Reed discovers Haitian culture and religion to be refreshingly energetic, contrary to the stereotypes disseminated by U.S. media. He first encounters relics of Vodoun shortly after his arrival at the Port-au-Prince airport, which is decorated with a huge mural of a Voodoo ceremony. Prepared for all eventualities, Reed travels with a “Watson Cross,” which allegedly melts when it comes in contact with the evil eye (Haitian president Joseph Nemurs Pierre-Louis is said to have been brought down by the evil eye). Reed sees evidence of...

(The entire section is 469 words.)