People of African descent must remain vigilant and engaged as the first Black Republic struggles to recovery from one of the most horrific catastrophes ever experienced in the Caribbean region. It is still hard to grasp the enormity of the disaster that has unfolded live before our eyes. More than 150,000 have died, many of them unceremoniously dumped in mass graves that cry out for a collective, communal rendering of “last rites” so that the spirits can find peace in their sojourn. That scene is amidst thousands of crushed buildings and miles of contorted infrastructure. There are also legions of mangled human beings with broken bones and bleeding bodies, survivors desperately pleading for supplies piling up at the airport that move ever so slowly through an inflexible, insensitive, bureaucratized, militarized pipeline. A system paralyzed by mindless “protocols;” scattered reports of “violence” and ill-defined “looting,” but mostly vast multitudes self-organizing themselves to create sheet and blanket towns to avoid the searing heat, the frightening trembling of the earth and share whatever they have with each other. Still, there are spontaneous outbursts of prayers and songs, ancient songs and prayers flowing from Boukman to the bosom of Africa. There are also orderly lines of drained but hopeful people stretching as far as the eye can see, trudging to supply trucks to grasp a single bottle of water with smiling children glancing up at soldiers saying “thank you” in English. Even in the face of this unspeakable disaster, life is springing back like green shoots pushing up from the ashes of a fired-charred forest as petite, improvised marketplaces appear and vendors commence to peddle their wares again.
This is the Haitian people, spirit filled, faithful, strong, resilient, innovative, and fearless. People who waged and won an improbable Revolution to declare the first Black Republic; a people, the Haitian masses, who have suffered in the face of ruthless invasions, occupations by a parasitical elite and self-aggrandizing political class. These are the people, the Haitian masses, who must be, will be at the center, the driving force of Haiti’s rise out of the shambles of an unimaginable natural disaster and tortured history of foreign intervention and misrule. These are a people and nation that I have come to love from the depths of my soul!
Long after CNN has ceased to report the “Breaking News” and the story has fallen out of sight and mind at CBS, NBC and Fox, the New York Times and Washington Post, African people and all friends of Haiti must remain vigilant and engaged. We must be in the forefront of the demand that the U.S. government and the world establish constructive, people-centered relationships with the new Haiti. In the short term, we must demand that the 18-month restriction on Temporary Protective Status be lifted and extended for as long as circumstances on the ground in Haiti dictate. Moreover, the U.S. should accept a large number of displaced Haitians until conditions warrant their repatriation back home. Haiti’s entire foreign debt should be cancelled immediately to create the conditions for the nation’s reconstruction and revival. In addition, as I have previously recommended, the reconstruction and revival will require a Global Marshall Plan devoid of the destructive kinds of policies that have routinely been imposed by the IMF, World Bank and bi-lateral foreign aid programs.
We must be vigilant and engaged as new Haiti emerges. NGO’s and volunteer assistance organizations must increasingly be guided by the master plan for Haiti, developed by the Haitian people, and coordinate with the appropriate government Ministry charged with implementing various aspects of the plan. The Government of the new Haiti must become a robust, competent, effective, transparent and accountable vehicle, providing the resources to enable an energetic, resourceful and determined people to fulfill their aspirations. Demanding transparency and accountability must be an integral part of our vigilance and engagement. We must mobilize and organize within the United States and globally for a Marshall Plan to match the vision of the new Haiti, as articulated by the people. However, we must also demand that these resources be directed to lifting the long-suffering masses from misery and poverty. Government must not be a sieve through which resources flow to provide aid and comfort for the political class and further enrich self-serving elites.
People of African descent must mobilize/organize in the U.S. to partner with our Haitian American sisters and brothers in the reconstruction of Haiti. Haiti may be at “ground zero,” but now is the time to engage and be part of the process that lifts the first Black Republic to unparalleled heights of economic prosperity and power. Haiti has long been denied its rightful place in the sun as the nation that achieved the most significant human rights revolution in history. Haiti was a beacon of freedom and hope that was denied an opportunity to be a base for global Black empowerment. Now is the time for people of African descent throughout the Pan African world to pool resources to invest in Haiti so that its nine million people will become one of the great economic success stories of the 21st Century. If we are vigilant and engaged, people of African descent, with the support of friends of Haiti and people of goodwill, will have the opportunity to finish the unfinished Haitian Revolution. It would be a feat and blessing that would cause all of those who suffered bled and died in forging this glorious event, and those upon whom indignities were heaped for more than two centuries, will smile with gratitude, knowing that their commitment and sacrifice was not in vain!
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website and www.northstarnews.com. To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Individuals and organizations interested in contributing to the relief, recovery and reconstruction effort in Haiti, including investing in the future of the country, should review the Haiti Support Project’s Haiti Relief Fund Initiatives at www.ibw21.org.