Honoring Haiti

I digress from this month’s forecasting theme because I am devastated by the large-scale destruction in Haiti. I would like to share a different vision of Haiti and to send my best to all those I met over the years. I learned to love Haiti from one of my first best friends in high school. She showed me a vibrant and proud culture of music and mysticism. I grew up seeing the strengths of the Haitian community in New York – indeed, Haitians rank among the more successful immigrant groups in the U.S. Later on, when I was studying for my graduate degree at NYU, my friend helped me to navigate New York’s Haitian community for my International Reporting class.

New York City’s Haitian community is clustered in three main neighborhoods: in Manhattan on 103rd and Amsterdam, in Queens’ Jamaica and Cambria Heights and in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush and Crown Heights areas. In my travels, I met Jack who co-owned, Les Delices, a restuarant in Cambria Heights, and Vioela Caze who worked at Haitian music store, Antilles Mizik Ltd. Vioela was here to study but wanted to return to Haiti where she loved the club scene in Port-au-Prince. She introduced me to traditional Haitian troubadour music and kompa, the music of the new generation. I spent several evenings with the regular attendees of the  Haitian American Student Association at NYU, most of whom were studying medicine, and all of whom were mixing Haitian culture into their American lives.

I also met strong advocates for Haiti including Gina Cheron-Merlin, at the time director of National Coalition for Haitian Rights; Kim Ives, who edited and wrote for Haiti Progres for over twenty years; Gary Pierre-Pierre, founder of the Haitian Times; Farah Tanis who launched Dwa Fanm, a service provider for Haitian victims of domestic and sexual abuse in New York City; and Steeve Coupeau who founded Haiti Advocacy to give a voice to the Haitian community in New York and he told me to show, “We are not just boat people.”

I hope they are all well, and I reach out to them to help get Haiti through a seemingly neverending crisis which escalated in 2008 when hurricanes and tropical storms killed hundreds of people, wiped out Haiti’s food crops and caused nearly a billion dollars in damage. Last year,  rising food prices further hurt families. And now the unspeakable losses.

A former colleague of mine at Forbes, William Barrett put together a guide for how to help Haiti: http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/13/haiti-earthquake-charities-personal-finance-spotting-scams.html. All the organizations listed above with links are also excellent resources.

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