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Haitian officials say nearly 80 percent of the current debt was accumulated by the regimes

of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier, Doc and Baby Doc. Both regimes operated under

the benign gaze of the United States that has had a long and sordid history of keeping

Haiti well within its sphere of economic and political influence.



Books by Edwidge Danticat


The Dew Breaker  / Breath, Eyes, Memory  / Krik? Krak!  /The Farming of Bones  / Brother, I'm Dying

The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States  / Eight Days Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490

After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti  /  Behind the Mountains

Beacon Best of 2000: Creative Writing by Women and Men of All Colors

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How the U.S. impoverished Haiti

By Jean Damu

The horrific disaster that has befallen Haiti is perhaps unprecedented in the Western hemisphere. Estimates now say that perhaps hundreds of thousands have died as a result of the Dec. 12 earthquake. Many in the media have constantly said, as a mantra, that the reason so many have died is because of the weak infrastructure and poor quality of construction there. The implication is that Haitians are unable to govern and build a reliable, sustainable society. The truth of the matter is that left to their own efforts Haitians would have been more than able to build a reliable democracy with adequate infrastructure. But it has never been allowed to do so; not by Europe and certainly not the United States. The article below was written in 2003. It attempts to describe how Haiti has been by design maintained as the most impoverished nation in our hemisphere.Contact your congressional representative and urge them to help move Congress to increase aid to Haiti.HaitiAction

Though the demand by Haiti for reparations from France is just, it obscures the role the United States played in the process to impoverish Haiti—a role that continues to this day.

Today Haiti is a severely indebted country whose debt to export ratio is nearly 300 percent, far above what is considered sustainable even by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Both institutions are dominated by the U.S.

In 1980 Haiti's debt was $302 million. Since then it has more than tripled to $1.1 billion, approximately 40 percent of the nation's gross national product. Last year Haiti paid more in debt service than it did on medical services for the people.

Haitian officials say nearly 80 percent of the current debt was accumulated by the regimes of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier, Doc and Baby Doc. Both regimes operated under the benign gaze of the United States that has had a long and sordid history of keeping Haiti well within its sphere of economic and political influence.

It is now well known that the primary source of Haiti's chronic impoverishment is the reparations it was forced to pay to the former plantation owners who left following the 1804 revolution. Some of the white descendants of the former plantation owners, who now live in New Orleans, still have the indemnity coupons issued by France. So in fact, at least part of the reparations paid by Haiti went toward the development of the United States.

In 1825 Haiti was forced to borrow 24 million francs from private French banks to begin paying off the crippling indemnity debt. Haiti only acknowledged this debt in exchange for French recognition of her independence, a principle that would continue to characterize Haiti's international relationships.

These indemnity payments caused continual financial emergencies and political upheavals. In a 51-year period, Haiti had 16 different presidents - new presidents often coming to power at the head of a rebel army.

Nevertheless, Haiti always made the indemnity payments—and, following those, the bank loan payments—on time. The 1915 intervention by the Marines on behalf of U.S. financial interests changed all of that, however.

The prelude to the 1915 U.S. intervention began in 1910 when the National Bank of Haiti, founded in 1881 with French capital and entrusted from the start with the administration of the Haitian treasury, disappeared. It was replaced by the financial institution known as the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti.

Part of the capital of the new national bank was subscribed by the National City Bank of New York, signaling, for the first time, U.S. interest in the financial affairs of Haiti.

The motivation for the original U.S. financial interest in Haiti was the schemes of several U.S. corporations with ties to the National City Bank to build a railroad system there. In order for these corporations—including the W.R. Grace Corp.—to protect their investments, they pressured President Woodrow Wilson and his secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, to find ways to stabilize the Haitian economy, namely by taking a controlling interest in the Haitian custom houses, the main source of revenue for the government.

After Secretary of State Bryan was fully briefed on Haiti by his advisers, he exclaimed, “Dear me, think of it! Niggers speaking French.”

Ironically, however, Bryan, a longtime anti-imperialist, was against any exploitative relationship between the U.S. and Haiti or any other nation in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, he had long called for canceling the debts of smaller nations as a means by which they could normally grow and develop. Not surprisingly, Bryan's views were not well received in Washington or on Wall Street.

Due to the near total ignorance at the State Department and in Washington generally about Haiti, Bryan was forced to rely on anyone who had first hand information. That person turned out to be Roger L. Farnham, one of the few people thoroughly familiar with Haitian affairs.

Farnham was thoroughly familiar with Haitian affairs because he was vice-president of the National City Bank of New York and of the new National Bank of the Republic of Haiti and president of the National Railway of Haiti. In spite of the secretary of state's hostility to Wall Street and Farnham's obvious conflict of interest, Bryan leaned heavily on Farnham for information and advice.

As vice president of both National City Bank and the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti, Farnham played a cat and mouse game with the Haitian legislature and president. Alternately, he would threaten direct U.S. intervention or to withhold government funds if they did not turn over control of the Haitian custom houses to National City Bank. In defense of Haitian independence, lawmakers refused at every juncture.

Finally, in 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, Farnham was able to convince Washington that France and Germany posed direct threats to the U.S. by their presence in Haiti. Each had a small colony of business people there.

In December of 1914, Farnham arranged for the U.S. Marines to come ashore at Port Au Prince, march into the new National Bank of Haiti and steal two strongboxes containing $500,000 in Haitian currency and sail to New York, where the money was placed in New York City Bank. This made the Haitian government totally dependent on Farnham for finances with which to operate.

The final and immediate decision to intervene in Haiti came in July of 1915 with yet another overthrow of a Haitian president, this time the bloody demise of Vilbrun Guillaume Sam.

For the next 19 years, the U.S. Marine Corps wielded supreme authority throughout Haiti, often dispensing medicines and food as mild forms of pacification. Within several years, however, charges of massacres of Haitian peasants were made against the military as Haitians revolted against the road building programs that required forced labor.

In one such incident at Fort Reviere, the Marines killed 51 Haitians without sustaining any casualties themselves. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt awarded Major Smedley D. Butler the Congressional Medal of Honor. That's not unlike the awarding of Medals of Honor to the “heroes” of the massacre at Wounded Knee, in which hundreds of Sioux Native Americans were slaughtered in 1890.

Reports of U.S. military abuses against the Haitians became so widespread that NAACP official James Weldon Johnson headed a delegation to investigate the charges, which they deemed to be true.

While the U.S. occupation was not without some successes—the health care system was improved and the currency was stabilized—it was in other economic spheres where the most damage was done. For the entire 19-year duration of the intervention, maximum attention was given to paying off Haiti's U.S. creditors, with little to no attention given to developing the economy.

In 1922 former Marine Brigade Commander John Russell was named as High Commissioner of Haiti, a post he held until the final days of the occupation. Under Russell's influence, all political dissent was stifled and revenue from the custom houses was turned over, often months ahead of schedule, to Haiti's U.S. bond creditors, who had assumed loans originally extended to Haiti to pay off the French plantation owners' reparations!

By 1929, however, with the Western world's economic depression and the lowering of living standards throughout Haiti, serious student strikes and worker revolts, combined with Wall Street's inability to lure serious business investors there, Washington decided it was time to end the military occupation. When then President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Haiti in 1934 to announce the pullout, he was the first head of a foreign nation in Haiti's history to extend a visit.

Despite the American military pullout, U.S. financial administrators continued to dominate the Haitian economy until the final debt on the earlier loans was retired in 1947.

Soon after the U.S. withdrew from Haiti, a Black consciousness movement of sorts took hold that was the precursor of the “negritude” movement popularized by Aimee Cesaire and Leopold Senghor. Francois Duvalier, an early believer in “negritude,” came to power in the late 1950s, popularizing ideas that resonated with a population that had withstood a white foreign occupation for many years.

By the time Duvalier grabbed the presidency of the world's first Black republic established by formerly enslaved peoples, Haiti had experienced more than 150 years of chronic impoverishment and discriminatory lending policies by the world's leading financial institutions and powers. The economic forecast for Haiti has not improved, even with the democratic election of Jean Bertrand Aristide, since he has been consistently demonized in the U.S. and world press

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Haiti, Oh Haiti

     By Marvin X

Haiti, Oh, Haiti
rich African history
in battle
in religion supreme
Haiti, Oh Haiti
defeated Spanish, French, English
your only sin
never forgiven
by the devils lingering on your island in the sun
there are those who say evil shall prevail
but evil shall eat crow
this the devils shall know
Haiti, Oh Haiti
as you did the Spanish, French, English
Come forth
Toussaint, Dessalines, Boukman
Come in the name of Voudun
Check the devils at the crossroads
Haiti, Oh Haiti
Where is your president who loved the poor
flown into exile by those devils across the shore
your grave yards are not junk yards
but fields of life, hope, love
honor the dead, remember your history
you devoured the Spanish, French, English
Let the earth consume the evil ones
yes, the innocent must suffer
til the valiant children take control
in the name of ancestors
the living and yet unborn.

1995, revised 2010

Remarks by the President on Recovery Efforts in Haiti  (January 14, 2010)

*   *   *   *   *

Cuba increases aid to HaitiAna Ivis Galán GarcíaOn Wednesday morning, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla received his counterpart from the Republic of Suriname, Lygia Louise Irene Kraag-Keteldijk, who is on an official visit to our country.

As part of official talks between the two ministers, Rodríguez gave a detailed explanation of the situation of Cuban cooperation workers in the sister Republic of Haiti after the terrible earthquake that occurred on Tuesday.

In that context, he clarified that there are currently "403 Cuban cooperative personnel, 334 of whom are working in the heath sector as doctors and paramedics," in the devastated country. He said they had been able to confirm the status of all those working "within the city of Port-au-Prince. Only two of them received very slight injuries, and the others have confirmed that they are all right." . . .  He said that plans are underway to more emergency aid to the sister Caribbean nation, consisting of "a quantity of medicine and heath materials. An additional number of doctors are to travel there." Granma

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Dr Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Former President of Haiti

15 January 2010 
We thank all the true friends of Haiti, in particular the Government and the people of South Africa for their solidarity with the victims of Haiti.  

The concrete action undertaken by Rescue South Africa and Gift of the Givers is a clear expression of ubuntu. Ubuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.  As we all know, many people remain buried under tons of ruble and debris waiting to be rescued.  When we think of their suffering, we feel deeply and profoundly that we should be there, in Haiti, with them, trying our best to prevent death.    

To symbolize this readiness we have decided to meet not just anywhere, but here, in the shadow of the Oliver Tambo International Airport.  As far as we are concerned, we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, to share in their suffering, help rebuild the country, moving from misery to poverty with dignity.  Friends from around the world have confirmed their willingness to organize an airplane carrying medical supplies, emergency needs and ourselves.   

While we cannot wait to be with our sisters and brothers in Haiti, we share the anguish of all Haitians in the Diaspora who are desperate to reach family and loved ones.   

      Soufrans youn nan nou se soufrans nou tout.

      L’Union fait la force. Kouraj! Kenbe! Kenbe!

      Youn soutni lòt nan lespri Mèm Amou an. 

Our love to the nation now labeled the poorest of the western hemisphere.  However, the spirit of ubuntu that once led Haiti to emerge as the first independent Black nation in 1804; helped Venezuela, Columbia, and Ecuador attain liberty; and inspired our forefathers to shed their blood for the United States’ independence, cannot die.  Today this spirit of solidarity must and will empower all of us to rebuild Haiti.                       
                                                                       Ukwanda kwaliwa umthakathi.

                                                                       Thank you.

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       By Ayodele Nzinga

Haiti land of sun
dried tears, constrained
and picked, sliced like
the body of charlemagne

beautiful lush Haiti
raped again and again
abused for daring to stand
up, bold enough
to throw off yokes

take back bitter landscape
bruised by plunder
Toussaint's hoarse cry
vibrates like thunder

in the soul of a
dream still being
murdered but even
now won't die

struggling Haiti
moaning letting
go the land and taking
to boats only God
could keep afloat

the u.s. got closed doors
liberty got closed eyes
turned her back
after picking Haiti dry
leaving Haitians to die

where is the grace in
capitalism's democracy
america naked in Haiti
strolling without justice

marines robbing banks
stole Haiti, jefferson failed
Haiti, wilson pimped
Haiti like an aging whore
anything goes but
Haitians off shore

punishing Haiti's black
heart for beating, tear
out it's soul, pray out loud
in hatred and fear
the spirit whiter and is
buried there

among the broken dreams
bloodied sweat of revolutionaries
and other dead visionaries

*   *   *   *   *

About Haiti

A letter to President Barack Obama

The following document is a lightly edited version of a petition which should have been sent to President Obama at the start of his term as President of the United States. The original had been signed by a large number of (mainly) Caribbean people including many academics.

Unfortunately, owing to the sudden ill health of the person most involved with the petition, it was never sent to its intended recipient.


• When Haiti is devastated and at its most vulnerable

• Without a functioning government or governmental infrastructure

• When the party representing the majority of the people is barred from the political process

• When the acknowledged national leader of the Haitian people, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, having been kidnapped by the US Ambassador to Haiti and transported out of his country is now in exile in South Africa.

*   *   *   *   *

Barack Obama, Esq.


The United States of America

The history of Haiti will break your heart. Knowing it, the weak will despair, but the caring will strive to break the chains of tragedy" - Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General, the United States of America


Dear President Obama

First of all, accept our congratulations on your historic win in the recent Presidential elections in the United States of America. This victory is even more significant as 2008 marks the bicentennial of the abolition of the transatlantic trade in Africans to the USA. We are sure that this coincidence of events makes people in the African diaspora almost want to shout, "we have overcome"; but we know there is still so much more to be done in the area of racial justice both in the USA and in other parts of the world, some close to the USA and affected by its policies. Haiti is a case in point.

For nearly two hundred years the Haitian people have been demanding justice, freedom from external oppression and an end to the denial of the human rights of their nation and people.

We, the undersigned, are a group of people of many nations, of all classes and callings moved by what we consider an overwhelming moral imperative to seek assistance for Haiti in breaking a vicious circle of defamation, economic oppression, external political and military interference that has unjustly constrained for nearly two centuries, the exercise of Haiti's hard-won independence, freedom and liberty.

Because of these malign factors the Haitian people have been reduced to penury; most are unemployed, many are starving and their land and environment degraded by decades of over-exploitation. A proud people whose forefathers once produced enough to make other peoples wealthy and powerful, are now prevented from exercising their own free will and genius in deciding their own destiny.

Because of these factors the Haitian people are among the poorest, most malnourished, unfree and frustrated people in the world. They are oppressed by repayments for debt largely incurred by corrupt dictators.

Despite these factors the Haitian spirit remains free, undaunted and optimistic. The Haitians want to be free - to be themselves, to employ their own genius and strength as they did in their unique struggle for independence, defeating powers mightier than themselves to abolish slavery and to assert their independence and freedom.

Now, as they languish prisoners in their own land, justice and humanity demand that the Haitian people should be able to reclaim the dignity and respect they have earned by centuries of their struggle for human rights and dignity for themselves and for other nations and peoples.

The circumstances surrounding this demand are so important and so extraordinary that we believe it is important to set them out in some detail.

Abolishing Slavery, Establishing Universal Human Rights

In 1893, Frederick Douglas, himself an emancipated slave, in an address to open the the Chicago World's Fair, said:

Until Haiti struck for freedom, the conscience of the Christian world slept profoundly over slavery…. . Until she spoke no Christian nation had abolished negro slavery. Until she spoke no Christian nation had given to the world an organized effort to abolish slavery. Until she spoke the slave ship, followed by hungry sharks, greedy to devour the dead and dying slaves flung overboard to feed them, ploughed in peace the South Atlantic painting the sea with the Negro's blood. Until she spoke, the slave trade was sanctioned by all the Christian nations of the world, and our land of liberty and light included.

You are aware that two hundred and four years ago the people of Haiti, having defeated the armies of France (twice) and of Britain and Spain, the greatest powers of that time, declared their independence and simultaneously abolished slavery. The Haitians were the first and only people in the world to abolish the evil system that enslaved them.

Their struggle effectively destroyed the trans-Atlantic Trade in Africans and accelerated freedom for those enslaved in the British and other empires.

The Haitians did more: the Haitian Revolution invented the concept of universal emancipation, guaranteeing the freedom of any enslaved person who set foot on Haitian soil.

The Haitians went even further: Haiti was the first, and for a long time, the only state in the world to recognise the universal equality of rights for all human beings regardless of sex, economic condition or any other consideration. It was the first state to implement human rights universally and unconditionally at a time when the only free people in other modern states were white adult male property owners.

Human freedom was then and is now, of transcendental importance to the Haitians.

Haitian soldiers formed a large part of the French military assistance to the United States in its own War of Independence from Britain; Haitian soldiers were crucial in the Battles of Yorktown and Savannah, Georgia.

A few years later, Haiti made an even more important though indirect contribution to the development of the fledgling United States. The Haitian War of Independence so weakened France that Napoleon felt compelled to shed his country's enormous territories

in North America. Thomas Jefferson's purchase of the Louisiana territory—nearly a million square miles—doubled the size of the United States. It added all of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, large portions of 9 other U.S. states and the city of New Orleans—an area which today comprises almost a quarter (23%) of the total area of the United States.

In 1816—with their economy still in ruins after a twelve year war of independence, while blockaded by greater powers and prevented from international trade, the Haitians made an heroic and decisive contribution to the independence of six major countries in Spanish South America. Haiti gave the then penniless and friendless liberator Simon Bolivar soldiers, ships, arms,, ammunition and provisions to prosecute the liberation of South America. The Haitians asked in return only one thing from Bolivar: that whenever he liberated a country he should also liberate those who were enslaved.

It was the Haitian support of Bolivar in his liberation of South America which made possible the Monroe Doctrine by which the US forbade European attempts to re-colonise South America.

Clearly, Haiti has made enormous contributions to the cause of human freedom and the world owes her an unpayable debt..

The world has not been as kind to Haiti.

At the first conference of free American states in 1824, Haiti, the seminal influence and prime mover, was not invited.

American & French Hostility

Haiti's self- Emancipation and her offer of freedom to enslaved people from any other country had provoked the hostility of the United States, with its own economy still rooted in slavery. France resented the loss of the richest economy outside of Europe and, with Britain, feared the contagion of freedom on the remaining Caribbean colonies of both empires. Haiti was barred from international trade by the great powers and suffered considerably since she was unable to earn her way to development.

To survive, Haiti needed to be able to sell her products, mainly sugar. After 20 years of Haiti's independence and a blockaded and deteriorating economy, Haiti was told that France would recognise Haitian independence only if Haiti paid an indemnity of 150,000,000 gold francs - nearly three times the cost of the Louisiana Purchase. The Americans refused to recognise Haitian independence unless France did.

The Haitians were in no position to bargain, weakened by the trade embargo and by internal conflict. The French demand to Haiti was delivered by a fleet of ten warships armed with 500 cannons. Haiti agreed to pay the ransom which was then equivalent to the value of France's total national budget or ten years of all Haitian exports.

In 2004 the ransom was estimated to be worth 21 billion US dollars almost exactly three times Haiti's GDP – three times the total value of all the goods and services produced by 8 million Haitians in the year 2008. Haiti borrowed the first installments from a French bank and over the next 122 years - until 1947 - struggled honorably and sometimes unsuccessfully to pay for the right to be free. No other country in known history has had to buy its freedom twice—in blood and in cash.

The inevitable consequence was the continuing deformation of Haiti's economy and the stunting of its development by the continuing transfer of a substantial proportion of Haiti's national product to its former slave-master, which had already grown rich and powerful on three centuries of exploitation of Haiti's land and slave labour.

Armed Interventions by the US.

When the Haitians faltered in their payments because of natural disasters such as drought, flood or hurricane, American bankers undertook to lend them money to pay the French. When the Haitians fell behind on their payments to the US, a series of armed interventions ensued, in protection it was said of American lives and property. These U.S. invasions culminated in the seizure of the Haitian banking system and its tax collection system in the most drastic intervention of all, in 1915. That intervention lasted 19 years and was notable for introducing the Jim Crow system of racial discrimination into Haiti, the strengthening of class and colour antagonisms and the installation of a brutal and corrupt army modeled on the Jim Crow occupation force. The racist military policies divided the Haitian community, introduced forced labour and so harassed the poor that they finally provoked a second struggle for freedom which was one of the most brutal episodes in colonial history.

Long before Franco bombed Guernica, exciting the horror and revulsion of civilised people, the Americans perfected their dive-bombing techniques against unarmed Haitian peasants many of whom had never seen aircraft before.

Additionally, the Haitians lost their constitution when the occupiers imposed a constitution that repealed certain guarantees—including that forbidding foreign ownership of land—and imposed a one term limit on Presidents.

The result was a flood of foreign investment, and, as the Second World World War loomed foreign corporations began the frantic clearing of land for rubber and sisal plantations. Thus began the deforestation of Haiti.

Deforestation was accelerated by a campaign by the Church to reject the living Haitian tradition of Vodun—a blend of African spiritual systems emphasising community decision making and interaction, respect for the natural environment and for elevating the sacred. Trees were sacred in Haitian/African culture, looked upon as living energies that provided strength to the people. Cutting down trees was relatively taboo; but these core African values were uprooted during the anti-Vodun 'Rejete' campaigns (1940-41) when the Catholic Church attempted to get rid of Vodun as its rival religion and philosophy in Haiti.

A century and a half before, the Haitians had been described by Europeans and Americans as devil worshippers and cannibals. These 18th century libels were resurrected in the Vodun 'Rejete' campaign and they were again resurrected in the first decade of the twenty-first century to justify the decapitation of democracy in Haiti by the kidnapping of Haiti's lawful President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

From Duvalier to Aristide

After the official end of the Occupation in 1935, the Haitian Army continued the campaign against Haitian democracy and self determination. Heads of state - selected by the elite and endorsed by the army - functioned at their pleasure. In the disputed 'election' of 1960 the Haitian army met its match in a Haitian physician with sociological credentials – Francois Duvalier. Quietly and without fanfare he built up an army of barefoot thugs whose unquestioning personal obedience and ferocious violence shielded Duvalier and enabled him to control the Army and to anoint his playboy son as his successor.

The history of the last fifteen years of the 20th century and of Haiti's brief taste of democracy do not need retelling in detail.

A brief recital of the salient facts is, however, in order.

The Duvalier era ended when massive public protests drove the young dictator, Jean Claude Duvalier from office in 1986. The hero of these protests and the spokesman for the people was a young parish priest, Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was the target of many murderous assaults by the Duvalierists and their allies.

Duvalier's departure was succeeded by a period of confusion which ended in 1991 with the election of a new President of Haiti under a new Constitution which limited heads of state to one four year term at a time.

The new President's aims were simple: that all Haitians be treated justly as God's children, that all have food and shelter, and that all take pride in their own Kreyol language and culture. He said he wanted "to build Utopia on the dungheap" left behind by the dictators Elements of the Duvalier army, backed by elements of the business and elite classes promoted a coup which ended with the attempted assassination and departure into exile of the lawfully elected President Aristide after only six months in office.

Mr Patrick Robinson, a distinguished Jamaican jurist (now President of the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague) went to Haiti on behalf of the Inter American Human Rights Commission in 1994. He reported

The people in Haiti have the same emotions and aspirations as the citizens of any other state in the organisation. They have within themselves an enormous capacity for warmth and love and friendship and endurance and a great yearning for peace, justice and democracy. But a people do not endure the hardships, the deprivation, the violence, the victimisation and the enormous disappointments that the Haitians have experienced over the past 32 months without their faith in humanity and their expectations of decency and justice being challenged in a serious way .…[We] received information of severely mutilated bodies deposited on the streets, and a member of the delegation actually saw one such body. The purpose of these acts is to terrorise the population . human corpses are being eaten by animals . numerous reports of arbitrary detentions routinely accompanied by torture and brutal beatings . …The Commission received reports of rape and sexual abuse of the wives and relatives of men who are active supporters of President Aristide; women are also raped, not only because of their relationship to men who support President Aristide, but because they also support President Aristide; thus, sexual abuse is used as an instrument of repression and political persecution.

After years of official terrorism against his supporters, the United States negotiated the restoration of President Aristide who served out the few remaining months of his term.

The international community which had promised Haiti help in restoring order by developing a trustworthy police force and assistance to build Haiti's infrastructure reneged on almost every promise. Even commitments by the IDB to lend money to build sanitary water supplies were sabotaged by order of the US Treasury. There is not a single reliable water supply in a nation of 8 million people. There was however, unremitting pressure on the Haitian government to privatise the nation's few income-earning assets.

A new president, Preval, was elected and he served out his term.

In 2001 former President Aristide was again inaugurated as President after another overwhelming electoral victory. A campaign, led by the same elements responsible for the first coup but this time directed and openly supported by various agencies of the US and Canadian governments, including the CIA, the State Department, the International Republican Institute, USAID and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), promoted the formation of a small and divided Opposition formed by a assemblage of Haitian NGOs and supported by elements of the corrupt army dissolved by President Aristide.

This opposition, on the basis of a few disputed election results unconnected to the election of the President and before he took office, , refused to work with or even speak to President Aristide to resolve political problems. The opposition, which at all times represented no more than a small minority of the Haitian people, was supported by powerful non-Haitian elements, American, Canadian and French, in their demand that President Aristide must leave office.

No substantive reason has ever been presented to support this demand.

Decapitating Democracy

In the early morning of February 29, 2004 the US Ambassador—James B. Foley— arrived at the private residence of the President and his family and left with the President and Mme. Aristide in a heavily guarded motorcade to the airport where the Aristides were placed on a plane to Africa, manifested as 'CARGO'.

The unmarked aircraft was later identified as one that had previously been used in the illegal rendition of suspected terrorists. This plane sat on the tarmac in Antigua for several hours while arrangements were apparently being made for the delivery of President and Mme Aristide to Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, whose President had apparently agreed to accept the Aristide on terms that have never been disclosed.

A worldwide wave of disapproval of this kidnapping and rendition placed the blame squarely at the door of the United States.

A delegation led by Randall Robinson of TransAfrica and Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California together with Sharon Hay Webster, a Jamaican member of Parliament and aide to Prime Minister Patterson of Jamaica, travelled to Bangui by chartered plane to rescue the Aristides and bring them back to the Caribbean, to asylum in Jamaica.

The government of Jamaica, despite being threatened by the new US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, accepted the Aristides until they could arrange permanent asylum. They were received by President Thabo Mbeki in South Africa where they remain to this day.

The United States, Canada and France, operating through the UN Security Council, then imposed upon the Haitian people a government headed by a Haitian businessman who had lived outside of Haiti for most of his adult life.

Under this unelected regime, a so-called 'peacekeeping" force of US Marines and later, of soldiers from other countries, provided the armed state power to maintain 'law and order'.

However, this force in collusion with remnants of the discredited Haitian Army and police, (according to credible journalistic and other investigators) presided over a reign of terror in Haiti, where convicted mass murderers and other known criminals held the real authority. They behaved as they had after the 1991 coup, employing indiscriminate torture, systematic rape, leaving horribly mutilated bodies in the streets, and slaughtering women and children in random assaults on the habitations of the poorest.

On one notorious occasion, various foreign diplomats including the Canadian representative at the OAS, attended a celebration at which the criminal gangsters were saluted by the "Prime Minister" as "freedom fighters".

More than ten thousand supporters of the legitimate government have been murdered or are missing presumed dead, many more have been arrested or went into hiding to avoid arrest, torture including rape, or murder.

The legitimate former Prime Minister was arrested and imprisoned without cause or due process as were other prominent Aristide supporters including Anne Auguste, Haiti's leading folklorist, Fr Gerard Jean-Juste, a nationally prominent Catholic priest, and others who were considered threats to the illegal regime. They were all treated inhumanely and with total disrespect.

The consequences of the destruction of popular democracy in Haiti have been catastrophic: the national disaster preparedness system became non-functional and thousands of Haitians have died in weather-related events that they may otherwise have survived.

Last year, millions of Haitians—supporters of the legitimate regime—stood in long lines in the heat of the Haitian sun for hours to vote, as they said, for the return of President Aristide.

Despite their overwhelming support for one candidate, one of the other candidates threatened to go to court to try to annul the election in which his votes were less than a third of the winning candidate. Nothing can better illustrate the intransigence and irrationality of those who oppose the unlawfully deposed president of Haiti.

Terror is still abroad in Haiti. Two prominent supporters of the Lavalas movement, Lovinsky Pierre Antoine and Maryse Narcisse were kidnapped last year. Mme Narcisse has been restored to her family after a worldwide outcry. Pierre Antoine is still missing and the government has done nothing to investigate his disappearance.

All over Haiti poor people have been reduced to eating earth to stave off hunger. The women mix clay, salt and a little fat to produce patties which are baked in the sun before being eaten. Women, too malnourished to breastfeed their newborns, watch them die in their arms.

What Haiti needs

Haiti needs, first of all, reconciliation, a period of peace and order and negotiation to reclaim its democracy and to develop among all its citizens, a true respect for the universal human rights implemented in Haiti, for the first time on the planet, two centuries ago.

Haiti needs peace and order to build the institutions, facilities and infrastructure which it has been unable to build because of foreign interference and exploitation.

Haiti needs a programme of long-term development, designed and implemented by the Haitians themselves without interference from outside.

Haiti is hungry and its farmlands and forests have been depleted, degraded and destroyed as a result of the fatal interventions from abroad. Haiti needs assistance to feed its people and to restore the population to acceptable standards of nutrition.

Haiti needs to resume and accelerate its programme of building schools and universities and training people to prevail against the threat of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

Haiti needs roads and water supplies and a governmental apparatus that will design and implement them.

Haiti should be able to expect, as of right, justice and fair treatment from the United Nations, the Organisation of American states and the Multilateral Financial Institutions.

Haiti has suffered and is suffering from unfair treatment by many of these organisations of which she was a founding member.

Finally, President Obama, we who sign this letter do not presume to speak for Haiti.We believe that you will want to hear from the Haitian people themselves.They have spoken eloquently over the centuries in building the economies of other countries, in fighting for and winning their own freedom and in promoting and accelerating the freedom of others, including the United States and many South American states.

We believe we speak on behalf of humanity, being moved by the unbearable suffering of a people who have contributed so much to human freedom and dignity. We believe that achieving justice for Haiti is an undertaking important to the history and integrity of our civilisation and to the cause of the human rights of all people, everywhere.

We believe that you are uniquely qualified by history, by temperament and by your office to make the decisive intervention that will cure centuries-old injustices and free your country and Haiti from an entanglement which devalues and in some ways, delegitimizes humanity's constant struggle for the secure establishment of the inalienable rights of mankind.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, humanity cannot be half slave and half-free. If Haiti is not free, none of us is free.

It is long past time for outsiders to stop their deadly interference in Haiti's affairs and time for any who can come to Haiti's assistance to do so, on Haiti's terms. Haiti needs a new relationship with the United States, a partnership that promotes human rights, debt relief, reciprocal trade, sustainable development, Haiti's domestic agriculture and food security, an end to foreign occupation and justice for the victims of official terror.

This is a long letter, but as one of our signatories has noted, for Haiti, the suffering has not simply been long, but apparently endless.

We are confident that you will see the justice of the Haitian case.Millions of people in the United States and in the Caribbean and Latin America and in Africa owe a debt of freedom to Haiti. It is a debt that is long past due.

We are


*   *   *   *   *

Cuba Increases Aid to Haiti

In the area of healthcare and others the Haitian people has received the cooperation of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded country. Approximately 400 doctors and healthcare workers are helping the Haitian people free of charge. Our doctors are working every day at 227 of the 337 communes of that country. On the other hand, no less than 400 young Haitians have been graduated as medical doctors in our country. They will now work alongside the reinforcement that traveled there yesterday to save lives in that critical situation. Thus, up to one thousand doctors and healthcare personnel can be mobilized without any special effort; and most are already there willing to cooperate with any other State that wishes to save Haitian lives and rehabilitate the injured.

Another high number of Haitian youths are studying medicine in Cuba.

We also cooperate with the Haitian people in other areas within our capabilities. However, there is no other form of cooperation worthy of the definition but that of struggling in the field of ideas and political action to put an end to the endless tragedy endured by a great number of nations like Haiti.

The head of our medical brigade has informed that "the situation is difficult but we are already saving lives." He said this in a brief message sent a few hours after arriving in Port au Prince yesterday with an additional group of doctors.

Late at night he said that the Cuban doctors and the Haitian doctors graduated at the ELAM (Latin American Medical School) were being deployed in the country. At Port au Prince they had cared for over one thousand patients while urgently commissioning a hospital that had not collapsed and using tents where necessary. They were also preparing to rapidly set up other first-aid centers.

We take wholesome pride in the cooperation that at this tragic hour the Cuban doctors and the young Haitian doctors trained in Cuba are giving their brothers and sisters in Haiti!

*   *   *   *   *

The Lament of a Crushed People: in Port-au-Prince

                                                                  By Dr. Rose Ure Mezu

Where are they now – the people laden with gold?

Who keep caskets made of silver, and other gems

And sleep in beds encrusted with rubies in diamonds

The ones who blow uncounted wealth in fat bonuses

Where are they? For Haiti needs that gold and other gems


Give what you have, peoples of the earth, give and, again give

Rich, middling and even poor, keep the riches a-coming

In cent, dollar, in their hundreds and hundreds of thousand

For the count of a crushed people remains untold

The lament of the crushed puts it beyond hundreds of thousands

So, keep them a-coming- Pound, Franc, Yen, RMB,

the Euro, the Naira, Rubble—keep them a-coming

For what the Robber nations with their blockades took

From Haiti, riches and its spirit of freedom are worth more.

Beyond tomorrow comes death and this gold is the useless


See the vagaries of fortune, this is the way of the world,

The Day before Yesterday, all was well

The Day after Tomorrow all will never be well

Injured bodies strewn around, wounds bleeding raw

Fear-wracked faces; and from hoarse and crying voices

We now hear the lament of the crushed people of Haiti

“Why? Why? Why?” the young boy yells in anguish.

This is the song of the Forgotten, the Forsaken of Port-au-Prince

Song of a valiant people crushed by nature gone crazy and wild

Song of a once free people forever unused to any expectation

From fat, amoral leaders so accustomed to giving them nothing


In Port au Prince of Haiti, the Earth shook, and split open

And my peoples’ voices croaked in pained lamentations

Mouths open in loud screams of unutterable pain

Wounds gape open and flies buzz busily around

The Forsaken Dead litter the now untidy open spaces

Become open graveyards where the living scamper for shelter

Roaming aimlessly like zombies, dazed look in their wide eyes

Vacant eyes, dead eyes, staring, peering, looking without seeing

What a world we live in! No fireball in a festive bonfire


He queries, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”

O, Haiti, in these days, in your crowded ancestral spaces

That is where to search out your dead - among your living

These open spaces now bestows equality to the living and dead

Its air filled with the stench of the decaying among the living

And the griots’ voices tremble in songs of remembered joys


Gone, gone now are the fun memories of those days of bliss

In this tropical Isle poor and suffering but full of warmth

Here, the golden sun blazed as youths cavorted in its warmth

Here, palm branches swayed in grace in the evening breeze

The air once so sweet it tasted like flavored tangerine


And in those days, you could see the babies of Port-au-Prince

Poor but greedily drinking the free milk of green coconut fruits

Poor but healthily nourished with the free bounty of sunrays

Poor women of the city used to stride by balancing on their heads

Country baskets filled with bananas, pawpaw, oranges—all

Those golden fruits from a benevolent sun and gentle Earth


But that was before the tom-tom fell silent and the music stopped

But that was before the Earth became not a mother but a wild,

Vengeful Murderer, crushing hands and legs, sandwiching

Limbs trapped between crumbling floors of cemented concrete

It is enough to rend the heart to see my people so, so crushed!

Thus, Sufferings abound galore in total destruction and desolation

Young girls and boys walking with helpless arms widely stretched,

Walking, running, screeching silent screams of anguish unutterable

Images in conflict with the unflinching valor of ancestral braves like

Toussaint, Dessalines, Boukman—heroes of a self-emancipated nation


These people so often tried in the furnaces of suffering

Will rebound for sure in renewed grace and strength 

Will in time rebuild and regain their fierce freedom spirit

Their painful desolation of 1/12 will usher in a Haiti reborn

This your rite of passage has sown seeds of future growth

As nations of the Earth touched by fiery darts of sublime grace

Rise to the Divine mandate to be each one another’s keeper

Led by a cool, fresh-faced leader Obama imbued with compassion

There sprouts in awakened hearts the promise of a new world order


People of the world, let us forego the second mink coat for Haiti

Let us forego the Cadillac 2010 Escalade, or Bentley for one a year old

Let us forego one more smoke and save the price of a pack for Haiti

Let us forego the gambling tables of Monaco and Vegas for just one week

Let us forego one day safari in Kenya for the price of water for Haiti

Let us forego one sly retort that starts a quarrel for one prayer

Let us forego the leisure time for an hour of diligent writing for Haiti

For writing, painting, sculpting, creating lyrics—all are activism

For only love and sacrifice will help to rebuild Port-au-Prince for Haiti

For only love will remake Haiti and at the end save Our Common Humanity

January 14, 2009

*   *   *   *   *

I am H.A.I.T.I.
I don’t want your fucking pity. Thank you for the $5.00 you send me through your cell phone. But really, how about you give me a fair price on my natural resources. I am H.A.I.T.I., I don’t want your charity, I just want the dignity to provide for my own sons and daughters. I am H.A.I.T.I., keep your IMF and World Bank money, money you give me with strings attached that keep me in bondage. I am H.A.I.T.I., I don’t need prayers from DEVILS like Pat Robertson. I am H.A.I.T.I., you see me crying black tears of oppression and dejection on your HD TV. . . .
Thanks for the rice you drop from the sky for me, but really, instead of $498 million you give me for my natural resources, how about you pay a fair price and instead offer me $5 billion for my exports. That way, I can build my own rice fields, I can have my own emergency services, I can build my own houses and schools with grade A concrete so when there is another earthquake, my children won’t perish in the process. . . .Browncondor

*   *   *   *   *

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti: potted history

The following is a precis mainly from this Guardian G2 article by Jon Henley, which does not yet seem to be up on its website.

1492 Ayiti (meaning mountainous area) discovers that Christopher Columbus has bumped into it accidentally. Calls the island Hispaniola, but Spain finds more gold elsewhere, and leaves the island to buccanneers.

1665 France claims the island

1695 France and Spain divide the island, the French bit, Haiti being called Saint-Dominigue. France brutally exploits the island's rich productivity, importing up to 40,000 slaves a year to replace the dead.

1791 Inspired by the French Revolution two years earlier, the slaves have their own revolution against the French. 12 years of civil war follow.

1804 Haiti is independent, but has to pay France 150 million francs in gold. The final repayments are made in 1947, but only by incurring huge debts with private banks. In 1900, 80% of the Haiti GDP was going in debt repayments.
Despite this, culture flourished until a revolution in 1911, followed by 20 years of US occupation. Political instability from 1931-1957, when the brutal dictator Duvalier took over. He and his son killed between 30-60,000 people, terrorised the population, and stole the country's wealth. 80% of international aid donations were embezzled.

1986 Baby Doc goes into exile in France, taking an estimated $900 million with him (though Wikipedia says he lives modestly in Paris).

1986 Post dictatorship unrest.

2000  political confusion. Pres Aristide popular but ?corrupt. Removed by US Marines.

2004  UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) in place. "Critics have criticized MINUSTAH as an attempt by the United States, Canada and France to oust Haiti's democratically elected populist president Jean Bertrand Aristide, neutralize his supporters of Fanmi Lavalas, and secure the more pro-Western government of Gérard Latortue." (Wikipedia)

I peer reviewed an academic article a few years ago that alleged abuses by UN troops, but it was withdrawn because of apparent political bias.

Present position

The country is 98% deforested, making it liable to floods, topsoil loss and landslides.
Overpopulation: 9 million, 80% under the poverty line.
2009 GDP $2 per day per capita.
Unemployment rate 75%
66% work in subsistence farming.
Much activity in drugs, weapons, gangs, kidnapping and extortion.
80 deaths per 1,000 live births.
149th out of 182 on the Human Development Index
168/180 on the Corruption Perceptions Index
225,000 children live as house slaves.

*   *   *   *   *

Richard, thanks ever so much for your "potted history" of Haiti.

I have watched closely, maybe too much, the broadcasts of MSNBC and CNN. I have yet to see any interviews of Haitian intellectuals--its writers, its artists, its historians. Many of them are right here in this country. I have seen a basketball player and a musician. Neither was very articulate. Both merely encouraged donations to relief organizations and solicited for the impoverished Haitian. Neither knew or understood the underbelly of Hait's tragedy from an intellectual perspective.

For national programs its another tragic situation, another kind of exploitation of the victimized. These writers and artists would provide and flesh out a less pitiful, dehumanizing portrait of Haiti's 200-year struggle to sustain its humanity. I have heard of no planned Special that would provide a view of Haitian painting, Haitian writers (poets and novelists), and Haitian historians.

Even though Francois Duvalier was a dictator and an oppressor and exploiter of his own people after he became paranoid "Papa Doc" autocrat there was more of him as an educator and nationalistic exponent of Haitian culture (during the 40s and 50s) that is often glossed over. In short, we need a better representation than we are now receiving from the "white" media. You'd think that there would at least be an encouragement of reading books by Haitians about their native land. In love with Haiti, Rudy

*   *   *   *   *

You are so right about the depiction of the Haitian people in the media. I have always been in love with Haiti and the Haitian people; have studied their history, art, and literature; bought their books of poetry and prose; have their paintings--vibrant and rich, full of color and warmth and movement--hanging on my walls; attended their exhibitions of art in museums and galleries in Washington and Baltimore; listened, rapt and attentive, to their brilliant lectures; been astounded by the depth of their philosophy and religion; appreciated their films and filmmakers; and taught their literature in my classes. If only I had time to write an article . . . maybe . . . I'll think about it. Much love,  Miriam

*   *   *   *   *

Dear Rudy,

The bitter irony of Duvalier's career is well-known.   Yes, he did begin his career as a humanitarian and philanthropist.   His decline into madness is also well-known.   What is equally horrendous is the fact that the United States supported him for no other reason than his avowed anti-communism.

The relationship of the United States with Haiti is scandalous.  Few people are aware of Frederick Douglass collapsed diplomatic mission to Haiti.

The great African American historian Rayford W. Logan, was the author of The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with Haiti, 1776-1891 (1941).  Logan was one of the most distinguished African American historians, and yet many black studies majors have never heard his name.—Wilson

*   *   *   *   *

The major media called

Part 1

By Ezili Dantò

HLLN for Haitian Perspectives,
January 16, 2010

" Lè n ap badinen ak lou, fòk nou atann a kout grif nan plen figi"—
When you’re playing with a wolf, you must expect to be scratched in the face.

The major media called, a Black woman working for a major TV station. She wanted to do a special about Americans who go to Haiti and sacrifice all to help the poor Haitians. Can you help, she asked. My boss wants me to interview missionaries who sacrifice electricity, comfort and TV?
You don't want to know what I have to say, I said. She got defensive. Said she was trying to change the narrative of the story that she knew about false aid false charity, false organized benevolence and that the NGO humanitarian niche was corporate welfare on the backs of impoverished Haiti. But she had a job to do and maybe if I couldn't talk about helping the poor Haitians, being Haitian-born and all, maybe I could tell her who could. I said, in all sincerity, there are those charity people who are conscious and who have done a good job in Haiti. Call Partners in Health. They are legitimate because Haitians are trained to help themselves there, I said. But they probably won’t meet the common story line narrative you want because I assume you’re looking to interview a white person, right? Or, a Black American?

So you
probably don’t want to speak to the Haitian woman who runs Partners in Health in Haiti. Her name is Loune Viaud. If you want your story line, you’ll have to bend things a bit and go to people she supervises. I’m sure you’ll find a way to ignore Loune Viaude. So, call Partners in Health. They’ll help. But how about also going on our website ( and finding the review we did on the Timothy Schwartz’s book on false aid. He was an American anthropologists working in Haiti. Really, she says, very excited. Yep. And maybe you can’t give that perspective now during this glaring momentum of US media rush to polish its “we good Americans storyline,” but keep it in the
back of your head, won’t you?
She hung up saying she thought she could trust me to help her with Haiti because someone she knows suggested the two people who are trustworthy on Haiti are Ezili Dantò and Ron Daniels. She couldn’t get Daniels on the phone she said. So, she tried me. We’ll, I said, I am certain Daniels will give you the storyline you’re looking for. (See, Pro-democracy groups protest Ron Daniels/Haiti Support Project symposium with coup d'etat supporters and orchestrators - )
The media has called a lot since the earthquake.
Suddenly, we're very popular because Black bodies are strewn on the streets of Port au Prince. Every reporter who is somebody is rushing to take a picture. Oh how terrible, terrible they say. Head wounds, crushed limbs, mothers wailing, Haitians in the Diaspora desperate to know what’s going on, have their families all died, are they choking for air under the pulverized concrete as their heart stop, severed leg sit on their lap?
What did you hear Zili? those Haitians outside of Haiti, say to me. Haitians, whose $2 billion annual remittances to Haiti is the only real aid Haiti gets. Is all of Kafou really gone? My family lives there. My sister was going to have a baby. She just got her papers to come to the US and be with us. Anything you hear Zili, please are planes landing in Haiti yet? Can I take a boat there? I’ve got to go home. I want to see my sister.
We’re trying to locate her sister. We’re trying to find out where our three collaborators who were in Haiti helping us with the Douglas Perlitz and such cases, are? They’re families want to know if we know anything. Three of the schools we help are buried under shattered concrete. Over 800 children and we don’t know where the teachers, our friends, my family are. But the media want me to feed their feeding frenzy, talk to them about American missionaries who sacrifice all.
I haven’t slept more than half an hour since 5 o’clock Tuesday, January 12, 2009. Before than we were working at over capacity, stretching to give voice to Haiti’s pain and oppression. Shouting at Jericho walls for twenty years. Before then we were ignored. Now they want us to tell them how we feel about 6,000 US military arriving on Thursday, two days after the worst earthquake disaster in terms of damage and lives lost, and stick to how wonderful it is that the US cares so much for the people of Haiti that its giving us such priority and forget about before January 12, 2009. Concentrate on now and how we all must come together now. Mwen bouke - I am tired. I want to give them
what they want.
But yesterday I died again. We’re buried alive under the concrete weight of the US/Euro narrative on Haiti. No one sees us. But we are Ayiti and we’ve died a living death too many times to take death seriously.
We’re traumatized, bruised and bloodied. But we’re still here because we can handle this and all that we know is still to come as we're "rescued' some more.
Still, as one insightful Haitian, who wanted to remind me why we are Ayiti, said to me: "Chat konen, rat konen. Barik mayi ap rete la...Dinasti a pa ka peri."
Kenbe rèd, pa moli Ayisyen m yo. Ginen poze. "Lè n ap badinen ak lou, fòk nou atann a kout grif nan plen figi" - When you’re playing with a wolf, you must expect to be scratched in the face. Nou la!

HLLN / January 16, 2010
See the updated HLLN's: Emergency Relief with human rights and dignity at WHAT CAN YOU DO:
Conscious Disaster relief with human rights and dignity

*   *   *   *   *

Broadcast Coverage: Compassion and Self-Congratulation

One moment looters brandishing machetes trot through streets of Port-au-Prince lined with corpses, and soon after, Robin Roberts, a host of “Good Morning America,” kneels over a sleeping child, tenderly stroking her back.

On Friday, Ms. Roberts informed the adoptive parents in Iowa that ABC News had tracked down their daughter in her orphanage, unscathed and napping soundly. The network framed the moment with the words “Exclusive: GMA finds missing baby; adoption reunion miracle.”

Disaster is both one of the hardest and easiest sights to watch on television; the medium feeds on paradox, presenting extraordinary images that horrify and also comfort. Since the earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday, network and cable news shows have organized the chaos with raw, graphic footage, as well as with beautifully edited vignettes, some scored to music, that calibrate the balance of hope and despair.

In a disaster this huge, television reporters are the heralds of the fund-raising effort. News organizations repeatedly let people know how and where to donate money for Haiti, and those reminders allow Americans to feel that they can do something useful. They also help television news organizations by reminding viewers — and earthquake victims — that journalists serve as a pillar of the rescue mission, on the scene to do more than just gather information. . . . The Haiti story doesn’t need hyping; if anything, television understates the horror by balancing harrowing sights with miniature portraits of hope.

The NBC weatherman Al Roker returned from Haiti to the “Today” show on Friday, and Mr. Roker, the usually jolly co-host, didn’t have too much to say. The situation is “awful,” he said. “The pictures almost can’t convey what’s going on down there.” NYTimes

*   *   *   *   *

Jean Saint-Vil of Canada Haiti Action is interviewed by Pat Van Horne

 regarding realities and myths about Haiti  January 20, 2010.

*   *   *   *   *

France to cancel Haitian debtFrance was owed €58 million (US$84 million), of which €4 million was already cancelled. The rest was due to be cancelled in stages over several years until 2014. This will now be sped up.Jamaica-Gleaner

*   *   *   *   *

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work

By Edwidge Danticat

Create Dangerously is an eloquent and moving expression of Danticat's belief that immigrant artists are obliged to bear witness when their countries of origin are suffering from violence, oppression, poverty, and tragedy. In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on art and exile, examining what it means to be an immigrant artist from a country in crisis. Inspired by Albert Camus' lecture, "Create Dangerously," and combining memoir and essay, Danticat tells the stories of artists, including herself, who create despite, or because of, the horrors that drove them from their homelands and that continue to haunt them. Danticat eulogizes an aunt who guarded her family's homestead in the Haitian countryside, a cousin who died of AIDS while living in Miami as an undocumented alien, and a renowned Haitian radio journalist whose political assassination shocked the world.

Danticat writes about the Haitian novelists she first read as a girl at the Brooklyn Public Library, a woman mutilated in a machete attack who became a public witness against torture, and the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and other artists of Haitian descent. Danticat also suggests that the aftermaths of natural disasters in Haiti and the United States reveal that the countries are not as different as many Americans might like to believe..CaribbeanLiterarySalon

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

*   *   *   *   *

The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)


posted 14 January 2010




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