The Haiti I love, the Haiti I hope for

Haiti has captured the attention of the United States in this extreme moment of grief and loss.  Weeks since the initial event, assistance to organizations and efforts for Haitian relief have begun to decrease.  As Haiti is still recovering, we must keep our Haitian family in our thoughts and prayers. If you do not know who you would like to contribute to, we recommend Yéle.

For Haiti we feel saddened, but not defeated.  We know that hope in times like this is not naïve, but bold.  A nation founded by enslaved African revolutionaries, boldness is literally, what Haiti was built on.

In this entry, two friends of Haitian descent, Mirline Labissiere and Johann Richard share their reflections on the earthquake, media representations of Haiti and their heritage.

Mirline Labissiere

January 12, 2010 I sat there watching CNN not fully digesting the “Breaking News” that Haiti had just experienced a 7.0 earthquake. Thirty minutes later as I continued to watch CNN the gravity of the situation still had not sunken in. I told myself that the media is probably just exaggerating what has happened in Ayiti. The country that I love and just vacationed in only a few months ago could not possibly have been shook by such a tremendous force. Perhaps, had it been reported that a catastrophic hurricane had hit Haiti it would have penetrated my senses sooner.

Unfortunately, I was not able to hold onto my disbelief. As modern technology would have it, pictures, videos and Skype interviews started to flood the airwaves. Picture after picture confirmed the disaster that took place in what the news outlets continuously referred to as the “western hemisphere’s poorest country.” Not if that wasn’t enough, CNN and others thought it best to repeatedly highlight Haiti’s shortcomings: “Haiti this. . . Haiti that . . .” Well to me, the Haiti I wanted to hear about is the Haiti that had its Presidential Palace destroyed, the Haiti that is losing thousands of their gems, the people, due to a delayed and mismanaged rescue effort.

I suppose the media is just doing their job. But, I’m Haitian and this is not just breaking news to me. Haiti is a place I visited as a child–when I was in awe of the view of plush green mountains that greeted me as I descended the steps of the airplane. My memories of Haiti are of good times, tasty food, sultry weather, not of what is being played on television.

What has happened in Haiti saddens me more than I’m able to express. My Ayiti Cherie has suffered yet another terrible blow that I know, she will eventually bounce back from since we are a resilient people. Until then, I will continue to feel heartbreak, anger, helplessness and hope from what I hear about Haiti.

Johann Richard

Born in Mexico to Haitian parents, I arrived in the states – New York – at the age of 2. It was there that I swapped my first language (Spanish) for French, Creole and English and began my “Americanization” so to speak.  But in the midst of it all, I would always take the opportunity to learn and listen to my elders about our Haitian roots & culture. I can still remember as a little girl sitting in my grandparent’s living room listening to the late humorist and raconteur Maurice Sixto tell the story of Ti Saint Anize.

After about 20 years, I finally made it back to Haiti. Volunteering with a medical mission team from NOAH, I was able to visit a good portion of the country and help my people. It was that journey that gave me a true sense of purpose and direction in life and motivated me to make a long-term commitment to my people.

I first received news of the January 12th quake via text message as I was pulling up to my home. It hadn’t really settled in nor made sense at the time. Actually, I don’t think it settled in until the influx of Skype interviews and mobile uploads began pouring in over the news and net. I remember every person in the Haitian community waiting and agonizing over word from loved ones still there.

To be honest, I felt really small. Similar to what I experienced during 9/11. Overwhelmed.  I found myself glued to BBC and CNN news every evening. While grateful for the abundance of those willing to help us in this time of need, I was saddened at the picture painted of my native country. It’s rare that one hears of how we once flourished, even helping other countries break free from their oppressors. Or how resilient we as a people are when confronted with adversity. Even more rare, is history behind why my country has suffered so much and still does.

All I can now hope and look forward to is the end of suffering. I look forward to the rebuilding of Haiti. More so, how I, the youth of Haiti, can help and restore our country.

Given that Haiti was once France’s richest colonies, colonialists referred to it as “the Pearl of the Antilles.”  Rarely in the news do you hear people connecting the dots between Haiti’s distant past and it’s current state.  As Mirline notes, all we hear is that Haiti is the “poorest country in the western hemisphere.”  The following sources provide important historical background.  If you find any more sources, please let us know.

Haiti-A Call for Global Action, Honor Haiti, Honor Ourselves; Forget Haiti, Forget Ourselves by Randall Robinson

Dr. David Hinds provides historical background on Haiti and its relation to the earthquake’s devastation.

Also, please sign the debt removal petition at:

We can help.  We owe much to this nation.

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2 responses to “The Haiti I love, the Haiti I hope for

  1. Very well spoken. It is essential to have people of Haitian descent speaking about this disaster. All we hear is people who know absolutely nothing about the country, its people, its mentality when facing the catastrophe. And I heartily agree with Mirline Labissiere – never having been there myself – that its residents are a strong and resilient people. Or so History has shown. Great text.

  2. Ayiti’s history…speaks volumes to the present, and gives us insight to the paths to be taken for the future. Your collective efforts, positive works, and love for your homeland will be the exact type of spirit (multiplied) that will make all the difference as Ayiti rebuilds. Bravo! Keep sharing and enlightening the masses!!

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