Category: Haiti


As part of my diversity and inclusion work I am often called upon to share with students my own experiences with racism, xenophobia or bullying. To do so I often channel my experiences growing up as a Haitian-American in New York City in the 80s and early 90s where it was not uncommon to be blamed for the A.I.D.S. epidemic, or my favorite schoolyard yarn, having a classmate come up to me and ask “hey do you have HBO?” Of course, I say yes because I don’t want them to think my family’s too poor to afford cable, only to be undone because they were really just setting me up for the punchline, “you have Haitian Body Odor?” I can no less untangle these experiences from 1980s New York than I can graffiti, peep-shows on 42nd St, or ostentatious businessman Donald Trump.

While I grew up a stone’s throw away Trump’s neighborhood in Queens, age and socioeconomic class kept us from ever crossing paths in the schoolyard. But when I think of 80s New York, his over the top persona is one of the first things that comes to mind. Therefore, when I heard that now President Donald Trump had recently referred to Haiti as a “s**thole” country, and that in June he had allegedly declared “all Haitians have A.I.D.S.” I was surprised—not by the fact that this particular resident of the White House had uttered such a thing—but rather that it had taken so long for him to explicitly name drop Haiti.

You see what I know now, but what it took me some time to learn, are the nuances of how racism works. At seven, ten, thirteen, or even sixteen years old I thought that an appropriate way of dealing with denigrating comments toward Haitians was to either laugh them off, or downplay my Haitian identity in some way. This usually meant giving the impression I was Jamaican or from one of the other Anglophone islands, or by the time all traces of my Haitian accent were gone, simply asserting myself as an American.

However, once I was done laughing it off, or ingratiating myself to some kids at school as something other than Haitian, I would soon learn that not only would the crude jokes about Haitians not cease, but also that either Jamaicans, Ecuadoreans or Puerto Ricans (the other prominent ethnic groups in my neighborhood) would soon bear the brunt of similarly menacing barbs. I eventually learned over time that not only was it important to stand up for myself and my own nationality, but also that I had to be courageous enough to standup and voice my discontent when mine was not the group being denigrated.

This is part of a lesson that I seek to impart to students when recounting the derogatory comments about Haitians that I had to learn to overcome.

Whether the topic is microaggressions, racism, bullying, or the importance of being active bystanders, I share my experience with anti-Haitian bias to illustrate how over time the same person could be a victim, an accomplice, or the person who stands up to help repair the harm.

In terms of President’s Trump’s comments specifically, it should not surprise anyone that the same person who actively discriminated against African-American renters, viciously sought to cast Mexican immigrants as racists, and pursued a ban on Muslims, would likewise not think highly of Haiti. While it may be true that many of us think better of ourselves, and believe that there is far less than racial animus in the United States then there is, we can ill afford to treat the current presidency as a 4-year long Thanksgiving Dinner where an unhinged uncle is holding court dropping one racist, sexist, transphobic barb after another. We also cannot continue pretending that this unhinged uncle is an anomaly that came out of nowhere.

Put differently, for the bulk of President Trump’s adult life, and roughly my entire life, Haiti has been virtually absent from school curricula and pretty much been presented as a “s**thole country” in much of American popular culture. A perfunctory reference to the Haitian revolution and a current events check-in during the Duvalier coup in 1986 were the only mentions of Haiti in my classes that I can recall before entering college. Likewise, when I embarked on a quest to read every book in the children’s section of my local library, the only book I remember finding about Haiti essentially presented it as a once great island that is now…essentially…a “s**thole.” From an early age most of us are taught to think more favorably of certain countries than others and undoing the damage done from this work is an overwhelming task.

For some this may be a turning point moment and your support in countering demeaning characterizations of Haiti such as those uttered by President Trump is welcome. However, for far too many other people like me, this is not a new struggle and one that shall persist long after this media moment has passed.

In closing it is well worth us all remembering that Haiti is no more a “s**thole” than American city streets are paved with gold. And moreover, Americans’ struggle to embrace Haiti’s complex reality is akin to our fight to explicate what binds together, Abilene, Berkeley and Charleston.

Haiti: 4 years after the quake | Al Jazeera America

The “who’s to blame” question seems dated and irrelevant to the issues at hand.  I for one can barely get past that it’s already been four years.  Regardless of what angle you’re approaching this story from, the facts are the facts:

Hundreds of thousands of people dead. More than half a million displaced. An entire metropolis more than 60 percent destroyed.

And honestly I cannot say I’m likely to watch this program, but I thought I’d share anyway for those who’d be interested: Haiti: 4 years after the quake | Al Jazeera America.

Written by Comments Off on Haiti: 4 years after the quake | Al Jazeera America Posted in Haiti

Haiti Three Years After the Earthquake | Americas Quarterly

My recent article for Americas Quarterly on Haiti three years after “douze Janvier”

Just as older Haitians tend to delineate Haitian history as before and after President François Duvalier (1957–1971), younger Haitians are now using the January 12, 2010, earthquake (or douze Janvier) as their baseline for articulating Haitian progress. While the rubble and tents continue dissipating from view, the fact that many Haitians now colloquially break down Haiti’s timeline as avant (before) and après (after) douze Janvier, reiterates the indelible mark this event has left on Haiti—one that will be felt for decades.

via Haiti Three Years After the Earthquake | Americas Quarterly.

Written by Comments Off on Haiti Three Years After the Earthquake | Americas Quarterly Posted in Haiti

“Dear Ayiti” from Letters to Ayiti by Fanm Kanson Network

I spotted a link to this video on my friend Alice Backer’s kiskeácity site earlier today and thought I’d share. Dear Ayiti is a project of Fanm Kanson and as pointed out by Global Voices’, Janine Mendes-Franco, this will be the first in a series of videos in this series.

"Dear Ayiti" from Letters to Ayiti by Fanm Kanson Network – YouTube.

Martelly’s Online Popularity a Deciding Factor in Haitian Presidential Victory

Given that nearly half of Haiti’s population is under 25 years old and 80 percent of Haitians own a cellphone, Martelly’s affiliations with Haiti’s technorati and his decision to run a nimble campaign that carefully tapped the Haitian youth’s hunger for social media and mobile technology proved to be this election’s deciding factors. As blogger Giovanny Mehu declared in a recent post, “Mr. Martelly is one of the few President[ial] candidate[s] to be taking social media by storm, if not the first in the Caribbean.” While 70-year-old Manigat did conventional radio and TV appearances, Martelly not only matched her presence in these traditional mediums, but he also live streamed presentations and launched online and text-messaging campaigns. For example, in one promotion Martelly supporters on Twitter were encouraged to adorn their profiles with pink Twitter ribbons (or twibbons) bearing the slogan “Vote Tet Kale,” thus turning their pages into virtual billboards for Martelly’s campaign.

via Americas Quarterly – Martelly’s Online Popularity a Deciding Factor in Haitian Presidential Victory.

Standing With Haiti: One Year On Friday March 25th, National Black Theater

Standing With Haiti: One Year On Readings, Rhythm, & Reflection


Kent Annan of Haiti Partners & Author of “After Shock”

Panel Discussion Including:

MIDWIN CHARLES Esq. Founder, Midwin Charles & Associates LLC
VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, Journalist, CNN/ Anderson Cooper 360
FERENTZ LAFARGUE, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Literary Studies, Eugene Lang College, The New School


MARCH 25TH 2011
125th Street & 5th Avenue


Re-Imagining Haiti Highlights & Public Programs!

Marking the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that ravaged Haiti in January 2010, CCCADI and MoCADA come together to present Re-Imagining Haiti. This collaborative exhibition offers contemporary work by artists who are examining the spirituality, aesthetics, and re-construction of Haiti. Through an open call, visual, performing and literary artists – as well as musicians and filmmakers – were invited to submit work that is centered on a conceptual rethinking of the cosmological and socio-political conditions in Haiti at the present moment. Over twenty artists were selected to participate in Re-Imagining Haiti featuring works in painting, photography, video, installation, illustration and mixed media.

via Re-Imagining Haiti Highlights & Public Programs!.

CFP: “The Idea of Haiti: History, Development and the Creation of New Narratives”

Call for Papers: “The Idea of Haiti: History, Development and the Creation of New Narratives”

Book editor is seeking chapter contributions to an interdisciplinary edited volume on Haiti. The book, “The Idea of Haiti: History, Development and the Creation of New Narratives,” critically interrogates Haiti’s past in order to illuminate potential challenges to and current achievements in Haiti’s reconstruction in the 21st century. The editor seeks essays about the how the idea of Haiti has been constructed and how it informs the politics of aid, internal conflicts and contemporary representations of Haiti and Haitians. All proposals will be considered, however, of particular interest are essays that focus on urban and rural planning, religion, local and national governance, foreign assistance and gender issues. Please email one file that includes: a 350-word proposal, and an abbreviated CV (5p or less) to Millery Polyné,, by FEBRUARY 18th, 2010. You may also mail the documents to Millery Polyné, New York University, Gallatin School for Individualized Study, 1 Washington Place, rm 604, New York, NY 10003.

About the Editor:
Millery Polyné is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at New
York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. He has published in journals such as Small Axe, Caribbean Studies, Journal of Haitian Studies and Wadabagei. He is the author of From Douglass to Duvalier: U.S. African Americans, Haiti and Pan Americanism, 1870-1964 (University Press of Florida, 2010).

Jan. 12 Rally in NYC: Marching for Change in Haiti! on Vimeo

New Yorkers explain why they are coming together on January 12, 2011, the one-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, to march and rally in solidarity with the Haitian people.

via Jan. 12 Rally in NYC: Marching for Change in Haiti! on Vimeo.