[News] New Orleans' Heart is in Haiti
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 18 15:55:30 EST 2010
Posted: January 18, 2010 12:41 PM
Orleans' Heart is in Haiti
New Orleans and Haiti are connected by geography,
history, architecture, and family. News of mass
devastation and loss of life in the island nation
has hit hard in the Crescent City. Almost every
that has hit the Gulf Coast first brought
devastation on our neighbors in Haiti. We are
linked not just by a shared experience of storms,
but also by first-hand understanding of the ways
in which oppression based on race, class and
gender interacts with these disasters.
Many New Orleanians have roots in Haiti, and
their revolution lent inspiration to our city.
The 500 enslaved people from the parishes outside
New Orleans that participated in the
Rebellion to End Slavery (the largest armed
uprising against slavery in the US) were directly
inspired the Haitian revolution. Even much of our
design - such as the Creole cottage and shotgun house - came here via Haiti.
A. Brasseaux has noted, "During a six-month
period in 1809, approximately 10,000 refugees
from Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) arrived
at New Orleans, doubling the Crescent City's
population...The vast majority of these refugees
established themselves permanently in the
Crescent City. [They] had a profound impact upon
New Orleans' development. Refugees established
the state's first newspaper and introduced opera
into the Crescent City. They also appear to have
played a role in the development of Creole
cuisine and the perpetuation of voodoo practices in the New Orleans area."
After Katrina, Haitian American writer
Danticat said New Orleans
more like Haiti than the US. "It's hard for those
of us who are from places like Freetown or
Port-au-Prince not to wonder why the so-called
developed world needs so desperately to distance
itself from us, especially at a time when an
unimaginable tragedy shows exactly how much alike
we are," Danticat said. "We do share a planet
that is gradually being warmed by mismanagement,
unbalanced exploration, and dismal environmental
policies that might one day render us all, First
World and Third World residents alike, helpless
to more disasters like Hurricane Katrina."
In the days after Katrina, there was no rescue
plan for the thousands of people trapped in
Parish Prison, most of whom had not been
convicted of any crime, the majority held for
nonviolent offenses that ranged from drug
violations to traffic tickets. In Port Au Prince,
nearly 4,500 Haitians held in a prison built for
800 had the walls fall around them. Many died
while others managed to escape. And the corporate
media used the fact that these prisoners had
freed themselves as an excuse to sow fear against the earthquake victims.
Now, just as after Katrina, the media is eager to
demonize and criminalize the victims as
Robertson has even added a new twist to this old
libel, accusing the people of Haiti of literally making a deal with Satan.
New Orleans' education, health care, and criminal
justice systems were already in crisis before
Katrina. In Haiti, two hundred years of crippling
debt imposed by France, the US and other colonial
the country's financial resources. Military
coups coordinated and funded by the US have
devastated the nation's government infrastructure.
Haitian poet and human rights lawyer
Dantò has written, "Haiti's poverty began with a
US/Euro trade embargo after its independence,
continued with the Independence Debt to France
and ecclesiastical and financial colonialism.
Moreover, in more recent times, the uses of U.S.
foreign aid, as administered through USAID in
Haiti, basically serves to fuel conflicts and
covertly promote U.S. corporate interests to the
detriment of democracy and Haitian health,
liberty, sovereignty, social justice and
political freedoms. USAID projects have been at
the frontlines of orchestrating undemocratic
behavior, bringing underdevelopment, coup d'état,
impunity of the Haitian Oligarchy, indefinite
incarceration of dissenters, and destroying
Haiti's food sovereignty, essentially promoting famine."
Klein reported that within 24 hours of the
earthquake, the influential right-wing think tank
the Heritage Foundation was already seeking to
use the disaster as an attempt at further
privatization of the country's economy. The
Heritage Foundation released similar
recommendations in the days after Katrina,
calling for "solutions" such as school vouchers.
Our Katrina experience has taught us to be
Cross and other large and bureaucratic aid
agencies that function without and means of
accountability. In New Orleans, we've seen
of billions of dollars in aid pledged in the
years since Katrina, but only a
of that has made it to those most in need.
statement signed by six human rights
organizations <http://www.chrgj.org/>brings these
concerns to the discussion of Haiti relief.
"There is no doubt that Haiti's hungry, thirsty,
injured, and sick urgently need all the
assistance the international community can
provide, but it is critical that the underlying
goal of improving human rights drives the
distribution of every dollar of aid given to
Haiti," said Loune Viaud, Director of Strategic
Planning and Operations at
in Health/Zanmi Lasante, one of the drafters of
the letter. "The only way to avoid escalation of
this crisis is for international aid to take a
long-term view and strive to rebuild a stronger
Haiti--one that includes a government that can
ensure the basic human rights of all Haitians and
a nation that is empowered to demand those rights."
<http://www.incite-national.org/>INCITE! Women Of
Color Against Violence and other feminist
organizations brought attention to the way that
disaster in gendered, noting that women were
by Katrina and it's aftermath. An organization
called the <http://gdnonline.org/>Gender and
Disaster Network released six principles for
engendered relief and reconstruction, stating,
"Gender analysis is not optional or divisive but
imperative to direct aid and plan for full and
equitable recovery. Nothing in disaster work is
'gender neutral.'" INCITE activists forwarded a
organizations in Haiti, encouraging activists to
support relief that focuses on those hardest hit by this disaster.
The final lesson from New Orleans is this: Haiti
will still be in crisis long after all of the
news cameras have left. As concerned family and
friends of Haiti, New Orleanians have pledged to
stay involved and not forget about the continuing
needs of rebuilding and recovery. We share a
common history, and we will work for a shared
future of justice and liberation.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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