NEW YORK, NY, January 20, 2010 – The 7.0 earthquake, which struck Haiti January 12th, was one of the most catastrophic disasters ever experienced in the Caribbean region. Much of the Capital city of Port Au Prince is in shambles and other cities in the Southeastern region of the country have been devastated as well. This cataclysmic event comes in the wake of a series of hurricanes and tropical storms that have ravished the nation in recent years. However, as I stated in an article last summer, it also comes at a time when the “stars appeared to be aligning in favor of progress for Haiti.” A new sense of optimism and hope was beginning to spread as security and political stability improved under the Government of President Rene Gracia Preval. Haiti was abuzz about prospects for economic development and investment opportunities. The week before the earthquake hit, an article by Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald proclaimed “Haiti Experiences Hotel Boom.” The earthquake has interrupted momentum towards significant progress in Haiti.
But, “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” The Haitian people are remarkably resilient and strong. It was this strength and resiliency that enabled their forebears to become the first enslaved people in recorded history to rise up to defeat their slave masters and establish the first Black Republic in the world! Indeed, the whole world is indebted to Haiti for the shining example of the capacity of a courageous people to shatter the shackles of oppression against overwhelming odds. The Haitian Revolution was a triumph for human Rights.
The United States of America is especially indebted to Haiti. Haitian troops fought in the decisive battle of Savannah in the Revolutionary War, and the crushing defeat of the French army by the Haitian freedom fighters persuaded Napoleon that he should cut his losses by selling the huge Louisiana Territory to the U.S. for a mere $15 million. As a result of this deal with President Thomas Jefferson, the size of the American nation dramatically expanded, creating vast new opportunities for security and wealth for millions of new arrivals to this country. America should always have treated Haiti as a “special neighbor.” However, the history of America and the world’s relationship to Haiti has been far from magnanimous. Haiti shattered the myth of “white supremacy” at the height of the propagation of racism, the holocaust of enslavement and the onslaught of European colonial conquest of the western hemisphere. Therefore, the Revolution, which established an independent nation, was an unwelcome development. Accordingly, Haiti was stigmatized, marginalized, isolated, coerced into paying reparations to France for its “loss of land and property”, and eventually invaded/occupied by the United States. During the “Cold War,” the U.S. supported the brutal dictatorship of the Duvaliers and in general has fostered policies that contributed to the “impoverishment” of Haiti.
It is through the prism of this historical context that we must view the current catastrophe in Haiti. In that vein, nothing short of a Global Marshall Plan is required to reconstruct the first Black Republic. With the U.S. government taking the lead, this horrific crisis presents the challenge and opportunity for the world to mobilize massive resources to rebuild Haiti as an expression of historical gratitude. But, this Global Marshall Plan must be devoid of the failed IMF and World Bank policies, which have crippled Haiti’s development efforts in the past. First and foremost, the Marshall Plan must address Haiti’s vision of its future based on a blueprint devised by the Haitian people.
Though the effort to rebuild Haiti is a global responsibility and we welcome the contributions of people of every race and nationality, people of African descent have a special obligation to play a leading role in this process. The Haitian Revolution was a bright beacon of hope for African people in the gravest hour of collective tragedy in our history, the MAAFA, the holocaust of enslavement. The reverberations of the Revolution spread like wildfire on the African grapevine and the news of an independent Black Republic symbolized the promise that oppressed Africans everywhere could realize the dream of freedom and self-determination. As noted above, however, Haiti was punished for shattering the myth of white supremacy. As long as Haiti is derisively referred to as the “poorest nation in the western hemisphere,” people of African descent everywhere are diminished. Therefore, in this hour of horrific disaster, people of African descent must be in the forefront of the demand that U.S. government, the international community and corporations in America and the world embrace and implement a Global Marshall Plan.
Beyond the demand for a Global Marshall Plan, however, people of African descent must mount a massive, coordinated effort to rebuild Haiti. Haitian Americans are already in motion through Wyclef Jean’s Yele Foundation and a myriad of local, state and regional efforts across the country. The Haitian community is energized and organized. The challenge is to mobilize/organize African Americans, Caribbean Americans, Afro-Latinos and Continental Africans to contribute to the relief, recovery and reconstruction process in an unprecedented expression of kinship and solidarity with our Haitian sisters and brothers! For the past 15 years, “Building a Constituency for Haiti in the United States” has been the unique mission of the Haiti Support Project of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century. Our focus has been galvanizing African Americans and other people of African descent to partner with Haitian Americans to contribute to the process of democracy and development in Haiti. We believe that the relationships developed and the invaluable experience gained during this period has uniquely prepared the Haiti Support Project “for such a time as this.”
To avoid duplication of effort and to respond effectively to the needs of community- based/grassroots agencies and organizations on the ground in Haiti, we believe it is important to achieve a coordinated relief, recovery and reconstruction effort. In that spirit, the Haiti Support Project (HSP) has instituted the Haiti Relief Fund to achieve this goal – www.ibw21.org . The Haiti Relief Fund’s major priority will be targeting faith and community-based organizations engaged in basic service delivery, capacity building and job creation that are not likely to receive assistance from the large scale traditional humanitarian relief organizations. HSP has the relationships with the Haitian Government and key partners on the ground to make certain contributions are directed to organizations/agencies that serve the needs of the people. To ensure transparency and accountability, HSP has created a Haiti Relief Fund Oversight Committee comprised of reputable/credible individuals from the Haitian American and African American community. One hundred percent (100%) of the contributions received will go directly to organizations, agencies and projects in Haiti.
HSP’s Haiti Relief Fund enjoys widespread support across the country. In addition to being recommended by the National Urban League, the National Action Network, National Coalition for Black Civic Participation and Churches United to Support Haiti, HSP has entered into a collaboration with the American Urban Radio Networks (AURN) to promote and solicit contributions for the Haiti Relief Fund. And, Warren Ballentine, Host of the Warren Ballentine Show, Radio-One XM/SIRIUS, Bev Smith, Host of the Bev Smith Show (AURN) and Mark Thompson, Host of Make It Plain, SIRIUS/XM are actively publicizing the Haiti Relief Fund as a credible vehicle to receive contributions. Moreover, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and the Haiti Support Project has developed a range of other important initiatives and collaborations designed to address the crisis in Haiti.
With the Haiti Relief Fund and associated collaborations and initiatives, we are prepared to undertake what history will record as one of the greatest triumphs of the 21st Century, the recovery, restoration and reconstruction of the first Black Republic. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of this disastrous earthquake, with our collective resolve and effort, Haiti will once again be restored to its rightful place as a beacon of freedom and hope for people of African descent and all humanity!
Full details about the Haiti Support Project’s Haiti Relief Fund and related Initiatives can be found on the website www.ibw21.org. For further information, please call 718.429.1415.