Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

June 13, 2012

Gros Morne mango plant closed by the U.S., but is the story true?

A Le Nouvelliste article about a Gros Morne mango plant, closed by order of the US, is being circulated online as an example of the US delivering, according to the mayor, yet another “slap to the Haitian people.” I tend to focus on foreign coverage of Haiti but I’m writing about this LN article (read the English version on because I want to encourage readers to demand the quality information they deserve about a field as critical to Haiti’s development as economic news–and this article ain’t it.

As an outsider, I learned early on that a defining quality of The Haiti Conversation is the frequency and normalcy with which rumor and hearsay is deployed to support fossilized political points of view.

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May 8, 2011

DH Film Review || When the Drum is Beating

Recently I walked out of When the Drum is Beating, a new Haiti doc that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.  I fumed on Twitter but later that night I dropped in on the after-party at a hotel bar for the doc’s stars, visiting members of a 62-year-old orchestra from Cap-Haïtien, the Septentrional. By Flatbush, Brooklyn standards the party would’ve been a flop but as far as artsy-intellectual Manhattan gatherings go, it wasn’t too bad either. “There’re a lot of newcomers to Haiti here tonight,” was how one enthusiastic Haitian mingler described the crowd. Makes sense. Much of the doc came across like it was made for a liberal sensibility that’s shocked-just-shocked by deprivation.

When the Drum is Beating is about the band and the history of Haiti from slavery through the 2010 earthquake.  That’s a lot, too much, and it shows. Thank God then for the archival footage (rare stuff, to hear a 1915 Marine narrating the US’s arrival), some poignant interviews and the festival scenes.  As a concert-goer says during fet chanpet, “When Septen plays I’m rich, when they stop I’m poor.”

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December 15, 2010

Haitian diaspora missing opportunity to help reform USAID?

(AFP/Getty Images)

Sometimes the Haitian diaspora gets so caught up in old school methods of helping Haiti (remittances, barrel shipping, Haitian politics), it forgets to read the tea leaves of US foreign policy–and act before policy gets made or shot down.  Key word: before. Reform is all about timing; miss the boat one year, the opportunity won’t come around again for another 20 years.

Making the rounds this week is an Associated Press report that Haitian firms get $1.60 of every $100 of U.S. contracts paid out since January 12th to rebuild Haiti–or, less than 2 percent of $267 million.  It is possible to tip that ratio in favor of local business owners (and the U.S. firms who sub-contract to them), but the Haitian diaspora has to act now.

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December 11, 2010

Eyes on the prize | Creating employment in Haiti

A year after the quake, do nonprofits still have cash for cash-for-work? (Howard LaFranchi/The Christian Science Monitor)

Over the last month all eyes have been on actual and potential post-election violence in Haiti but there’s more than violence and frustration going on there (see below). Business happens in Haiti, too, but it’s a topic that won’t typically be reported on in the media–to the detriment of Haitian diaspora who’re either looking for sustainable ways to help their country or who want to magnify the impact of foreign aid.

Fact: investment opportunities exist in Haiti.  Business coverage can help to foster not only more of them but more open commercial transactions.  Fact: if there’s one word that the Haitians I talked to this summer repeated most often, it’s “job.”  Despite that, most of our media and community conversations in the US, even among the diaspora, center not on job creation but on charity–as if alms ever lifted any mass of people out of poverty.

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December 5, 2010

Johnny Celestin | Revolution no answer to Haiti’s post-election crisis

Johnny Celestin, founding president, Haitian Fund for Innovation and Reconstruction

Editor’s Note: Concerned by Diaspora reactions to recent post-election unrest in Haiti, Johnny Celestin calls for order not chaos in his second post for DH.

I have been alarmed at the nonchalant ways in which observers from the Diaspora, especially friends whom I deeply respect have been bandying about the need for a revolution in Haiti.  They argue that because of claims of election irregularities, Haitians must take up arms against the current government – one more time.

They write that it would be a tribute to our revolutionary ancestors who 203 years ago, on 29 November 1803 issued a preliminary declaration of independence through military force. Yes, Haiti is in the midst of yet another crisis.  But rule of law, not more chaos and violence, is the answer that the Diaspora should seek.

For starters there is a tendency to over-simplify the Haitian revolution and downplay its impact on ordinary Haitians.

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October 10, 2010

Johnny Celestin | Helping the Diaspora to Rebuild Haiti

Johnny Celestin, founder and president, The Haitian Fund for Innovation and Reconstruction

Editor’s Note: I recently attended a New York panel hosted by the Haitian Roundtable on the diaspora’s role in rebuilding Haiti. One speaker, Johnny Celestin, founder of a new Haiti investment fund and diaspora liaison at the Clinton Foundation kept it real about the diaspora’s obligations and offered tangible to-do’s and opportunities. With his permission I reprint his speech, edited for the Web, here.

The issues before us today are so important that we can’t concern ourselves with the possibility of offending sensibilities.  So without being too controversial, I would like to start with the hypothesis that the Diaspora is invisible and therefore irrelevant in the current debate about Haiti.  This irrelevance is nothing new but it is most acutely felt here in the United States because of proximity, the sheer size of Haitian Diaspora in the US, and its influence on the Haitian economy.

Let’s start with a few figures. They are the context within which we are here to discuss the question, “What is the role for the Haitian Diaspora?”

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August 9, 2010

Diaspora Haitians, go home despite the distrust

Street vendor in Jacmel, Haiti. (Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak, Flickr)

by Deborah D. David

Of all the obstacles to face when returning home to Haiti, I never would have guessed my own people would be one of them.  Years ago when I was preparing to graduate college, an organization in Port-au-Prince hired me to work with ti machann, street vendors. I was really excited; I’d written my senior thesis about microcredit in Haiti.  What my university work could not prepare me for however, was the resistance of my Haitian co-workers to the “just come” in their midst.

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July 9, 2010

DH Editor’s Update|After two weeks in Pótoprens

An inevitable traveler’s illness sidelined me for the past few days so I’m posting snapshots of some of what I’ve seen, heard and thought about over the last two weeks.

Helping Haiti is over-rated “Are you going down there to help?” — Back home, that’s the main and often, very excited, response I received when I said I was going to Haiti.  And I’d think, Why would I do that? What on earth could I do that Haitians can’t? But I’d reply, “No, I’m going to report.”  Then I’d change the conversation because, how to explain that I’m more interested in covering whether and how Americans (including Haitian-Americans) are helping Haiti to develop, less so, which Haitian lived a particularly miserable life this week.

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May 8, 2010

DH is reading…

The new website that tracks how and who spends the US$9.9 billion in donor pledges is good news.  But applauding the UN and the Haitian government’s transparency effort would be like congratulating a parent for acting like one so I won’t go there.  One clue as to how ineffective this site may be however, comes from the UN’s top man on the island:

“It also provides a portal through which the people of Haiti can monitor use of the funds and hold their elected representatives accountable for how those funds are spent.”

Half the Haitian population is illiterate.  And it’s fair to presume that the remaining literate portion won’t spend regular time online in at least the next year or two. Second major point, with the exception of the president and the prime minister there are no elected representatives on the 21-member [SEE UPDATE BELOW] reconstruction commission tasked with rebuilding Haiti over the next 2-3 years.  So this site can’t possibly be for “the people of Haiti”–which means, the Haitian diaspora has to step up. This site will only be as informative and effective as the media and ordinary people force it to be.

June 2010 Update: elected reps do sit on the, now, 28-member reconstruction commission.  Voting members include 12 Haitians and 12 international representatives of the major donor countries.  Four members, including one representing the diaspora, hold seats but can not vote. Click here for the finalized list. This should quell early fears that Haiti’s elected government won’t lead the reconstruction, no?  It seems that Haitians, through their elected representatives, will have a say in the reconstruction.

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May 7, 2010

DH Editor’s Update (plus, We Got Buzzed!)

Early this week Peter Beinart, the Daily Beast’s senior political writer buzzed Develop Haiti on the Beast’s “Smart People Recommend” board.  Beinart made his name as the wunderkind former editor of The New Republic and considering he’s not yet 40 his other credentials make you wonder what you’ve been doing all your life.  To me though, he’s just my prof at CUNY’s J-School and one of the best (read: most encouraging and refreshingly-without-ego) editors I’ve ever had.  Beinart’s new book, which sounds like a caution to President Obama to rein in U.S. foreign policy, will be on my reading list when it comes out in June.

Speaking of June, I’ll be in Haiti then (and waiting to hear whether DH got the grant).  I’ll be reporting, writing and drinking Barbancourt for most of the summer so holler if you’ll be there, too.  Teach me to speak more Kreyol than “Nap Boule.”

And I’ve saved the best news for last.

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