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  • Writer's picturefirstrepublicloung

Paterson Stands with Haiti

Photo Courtesy of Osner Charles

Haiti’s next earthquake is imminent, but we can avoid it. On August 14, 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, resulting in a death toll of 2,207 people and counting. The heartbreak and devastation that engulfed me as I viewed images of destruction to my native Haiti was — once again — unbearable to watch. My son, sensing my angst, asked, “Daddy, what made the earth shake in Haiti?” Sensing a teachable moment, my 10-year-old and I had “The Talk” as I explained to my wide-eyed curious 5th grader what causes earthquakes.

“Son,” I started off, “the rocks that compose the crust of our planet are full of fractures . . .” As I continued on explaining the scientific aspects of an earthquake and tectonic plates, I suddenly realized that what I described to my son as a physical earthquake also fits the description of the friction that continues to plague my beloved Haiti.

As many people may know, barely two decades after Haiti won its independence, France, accompanied by more than 500 canons, demanded payment of over $20 billion for Haiti to preserve its independence. This unconscionable “independence debt” — financed by the French banks and what later became America’s Citibank — was paid in full in 1947. Before the satisfaction of this debt, however, Haiti’s eco-political tectonic plates were constantly moving. In 1915, the United States military invaded Haiti, and for almost 20 years, that action has resulted in much of the instability that has remained there. In more recent times, President Bill Clinton’s trade policy with Haiti crippled the country’s domestic rice production, further impoverishing the country’s farmers. It is worth noting that former President has since apologized for this policy and its outcome.

Just three days after President Biden celebrated his first Independence Day as President of the United States, on July 7th, 2021, Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise was assassinated at his home. This brazen assassination of the President of the world’s symbol of Black self-determination was yet another significant eco-political shift, increasing the stress that has plagued Haiti. The developed world’s perceived apathy towards Haiti’s distress, for some, has signaled a covert policy, inimical to the idea of a successful Black Republic audacious enough to be a global symbol of Black self-determination and self-sufficiency.

Already a combustible situation, it appears the next earthquake in Haiti has begun. Albeit, not in the form of displaced ground, but in the movement of a displaced people. This continued cruel and inhumane treatment which Haitian migrants endure at US Borders shakes the foundation and rocks the core of humanity. Whether looking at the horrific images of men on horseback whipping Haitian migrants or small children crying in the streets of Haiti whose parents have died in the earthquake… I see utter DEVASTATION! Nonetheless, it is still my hope that one day my next “talk” with my son regarding Haiti will be about the way we averted the next “earthquake” by abating the regressive policies of the past.

While a successful and progressive Haiti may be able to avert or adequately manage its next “earthquake,” my dear country can use your help now. Please consider joining me this Saturday, September 25 between 9am and 3pm for a “Stand With Haiti” Fundraiser to provide relief in the form of monetary or in-kind donations of supplies such as tents, tarps, hand sanitizers, gloves, towels, suitcases and more. This event will be held at two locations: Eastside Park’s Cricket Field House in Paterson and the Brown Avenue Fire House at 106 Brown Ave in Prospect Park. The event is being sponsored by the City of Paterson, the Borough of Prospect Park, the Haitian Civic Organization of Paterson, NJ4Haiti and Onyx Repository Co. All are welcome to attend and I hope to see you there.

As we say in Ayiti, “L'Union fait la force,” Union makes strength. Thank you for standing strong with us.

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