A woman celebrates her Haitian homeland at the 2009 Inauguration. -© Nijla M.






The above text comes from a facebook event posting for a Haitian Earthquake Benefit. Though well-intentioned, it comes in a long line of similar sentiments that paint Haiti in a desperate, debilitated light. While accurate, such sentiments and beliefs don’t take into consideration the rich, complex history of Haiti, and the context of its present societal condition/s.

Haiti was the the first post-colonial Black, independent nation in the world. Enslaved Haitians fought for their freedom, against the French, under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture, a former slave. From the beginning, their status as an independent black nation put them at odds with the United States, which was still heavily embroiled in the buying and selling of black human beings, and considered Haiti a threat. After Haiti gained its independence from France in 1804, the U.S. and much of the international community boycotted the nation. It seems that this very history has informed the lop-sided relationship between the US and Haiti, wherein the US has imposed strict trade embargoes and deportation policies on and against Haiti. A US-sanctioned occupation of Haiti, lasting from 1915-1934, also drastically impacted the country’s economy and citizens’ ability to maintain self-sufficiency, by forbidding them to own land.

Thus, when we talk about Haiti and it’s people, it is important to consider the way that history makes may for the present. This is a country of extreme importance to the spirit of resistance, to international independence and leadership. I remember reading about Toussaint L’Ouverture when I was a child, and being in awe of him and the slave rebellions and uprisings that freed a country. I remain in awe of the tremendous contributions to art and performance that this country has shared with the world, in the paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat and the foundations of Katherine Dunham’s dance legacy. And I won’t sit by while news stations reduce starving, black human beings to “violent looters.” I won’t sit by while others speak of present-day Haiti and it’s poverty in some isolated vacuum, without taking the time to understand the role of the United States (and the wider international community) in its contemporary condition.

Long live Ayiti!

To make donations to Haiti Earthquake relief, please see the links to organizations below:

Yele Haiti-Wyclef Jean’s organization. Text 501501 to donate $5. The money will be added to your next phone bill. http://www.yele.org/

Haitian Women for Haitian refugees & MUDHA – movement of Dominican Haitian Women. These groups are organizing an immediate delivery of first aid.  Send checks to: “IFCO/Haiti Relief” 418 West 145th Street, New York NY 10031

Haiti Soleil Berkeley group working to empower Haiti’s youth. http://www.haitisoleil.org/

the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund (H.E.R.F.) has given concrete aid to Haiti’s grassroots democratic movement as they attempted to survive the brutal coup and to rebuild shattered development projects. We urge you to contribute generously, not only for this immediate crisis, but in order to support the long-run development of human rights, sustainable agriculture and economic justice in Haiti. ALL MONEY GOES DIRECTLY TO GRASS ROOTS ORGANIZATIONS.

There are two ways to donate:

By Pay Pal at: <http://www.haitiaction.net/ About/HERF/1_12_10.html>

or Mail check made out to:
“Haiti Emergency Relief Fund/EBSC”
donations tax deductible
send mail to:
East Bay Sanctuary Covenant
2362 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
EBSC is a non-profit 502(c)(3) organization tax ID#94-3249753
We will acknowledge all donations