[News] New Orleans' Heart is in Haiti

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Mon Jan 18 15:55:30 EST 2010



<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jordan-flaherty>Jordan Flaherty

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jordan-flaherty/new-orleans-heart-is-in-h_b_427108.html?view=print

Posted: January 18, 2010 12:41 PM

<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jordan-flaherty/new-orleans-heart-is-in-h_b_427108.html>New 
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 
<http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jd2WQ0Muz2Zy2IlpGEWqPIACGZGQ>hurricane 
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 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1811_German_Coast_Uprising>1811 
Rebellion to End Slavery (the largest armed 
uprising against slavery in the US) were directly 
inspired the Haitian revolution. Even much of our 
<http://blog.prcno.org/2010/01/13/haitian-roots-in-new-orleans/>housing 
design - such as the Creole cottage and shotgun house - came here via Haiti.

As historian 
<http://journal.thelouvertureproject.org/archives/hurricane-katrina-new-orleans-and-haitian-history/>Carl 
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 
<http://i3.democracynow.org/2010/1/13/haiti_devastated_by_largest_earthquake_in>Edwidge 
Danticat said New Orleans 
<http://www.uta.edu/huma/agger/fastcapitalism/4_1/harrifordthompson.html>looked 
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 
<http://www.colorlines.com/article.php?ID=20>Orleans 
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 
"looters." 
<http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/34851879#34851879>Pat 
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 
powers 
<http://louisianajusticeinstitute.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-us-owes-haiti-billions-briefest.html>drained 
the country's financial resources. Military 
occupation and 
<http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/15/bush_was_responsible_for_destroying_haitian>presidential 
coups coordinated and funded by the US have 
devastated the nation's government infrastructure.

Haitian poet and human rights lawyer 
<http://open.salon.com/blog/ezili_danto/2009/05/11/hlln_on_the_causes_of_haiti_deforestation_and_poverty>Ezili 
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."

Author 
<http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2010/01/haiti-disaster-capitalism-alert-stop-them-they-shock-again>Naomi 
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 
suspicious of 
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4851428.stm>Red 
Cross and other large and bureaucratic aid 
agencies that function without and means of 
<http://www.counterpunch.org/flaherty12162006.html>community 
accountability. In New Orleans, we've seen 
literally 
<http://www.ncrp.org/news-room/news-2006/233-after-katrina-what-foundations-should-do>tens 
of billions of dollars in aid pledged in the 
years since Katrina, but only a 
<http://www.leftturn.org/node/573>small fraction 
of that has made it to those most in need.

A 
<http://chrj.org/projects/docs/100114HaitiStatement.pdf>recent 
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 
<http://www.pih.org/where/Haiti/Haiti.html>Partners 
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 
especially 
<http://www.incite-national.org/index.php?s=90>victimized 
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 
list of 
<http://vivirlatino.com/2010/01/18/responding-to-the-situation-in-haiti-incite-womens-health-justice-initiative-statement.php>Women-run 
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.



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