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Notes from Event

Page history last edited by Cyndi 11 years, 8 months ago

Return to PSC CUNY Haiti Solidarity Homepage 


Pierre-Henri Barthelemy -- performance.



Carolle Charles - Addressing the question: "Was the earthquake a natural disaster or a poverty disaster created by a failed state."


Is the earthquake a human disaster due to the lack of state policies or the state itself. Earthquakes don't create poverty. The scope of catastrophe forces us to look at other dimensions. We have to understand the human part by considering history.


We start with the revolution. Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s  Silencing the Past: in 1790 French slaveholders saw the Haitian slaves as obedient. Rebellion was unthinkable. The rebellion undermined concepts of slavery, race and colonization. The revolution was the most radical and democratic in human history. The impact of the revolution was total and challenged the old social order of imperialism.


What we see is a failure of specific social project and agenda where the majority of the stake holders of the original revolution have been excluded leading to a human catastrophe.


UN Development index ranking of Haiti: 149

income per capita

life expectancy 52


infant mortality


Less than 5% control more than 46% of the wealth.


2 projects -- emerging elites of the mulattos

          -- majority of those who were slaves


Those in Port au Prince have seen those outside as outsiders.

We don't want to reproduce the existing social exclusions.


The same categories of exclusion in colonial system was reproduced in the structure of what followed from the revolution.


Practice of impunity, insecurity,

1867 up to Duvalier; Frappe in 1991

Despotism is the mode of Haitian government


External relationship of Haiti with other powers. Haiti has suffered due to a kind of ostracism. The debt that had to be paid to the French (1825-1910); resulted in the US occupation from 1915-1934. The American occupation killed the independent ports of the country. Centralization in the period of occupation led to 1950-70 migration to the cities and more centralization.


1987 collapse of Duvalier led to a weakening of the Haitian state due to practice of social adjustment"


Al Jazzeera documentary on the political aspects of rice production. 70% of rice in Haiti is now imported from US forcing people to migrate to the cities. The growth of Port au Prince has been astronomical.


The people of Haiti cannot sustain themselves by their own food production. USAID contract with Chemonics International to distribute "comet rice"


The failed state of Haiti has a lot of contradictions. Making the failed state are the 10000 NGOs -- explains why there is an absence of government. Almost 60% goes to wages and overhead rather than to Haiti. Doctors without Borders is better than most.


Part of the feminist agenda was to undermine and use the failed state in Haiti: in 84/85 Aristide created the Ministry of Women and Women's Rights as a token without funding. But  the feminists took it over and did many things in a short time: criminalization of rape, decry of adultery, change in labor laws.

Ted Henken (Moderator)


Sept. 2005 -Katrina, New Orleans. Many of the lessons we've tried to learn from the experience still need to be learned in the crisis that has followed from the earthquake in Haiti.


As a response to the what happened in New Orleans, Henken has organized a group of students to do service learning in New Orleans, will happen again this spring break. CUNY will be responding to the situation in Haiti.


We must listen to the people who are most affected; they must be the ones in leadership positions.


As members of a union we must pay attention to the labor issues: who is doing the work of rebuilding and who's benefitting from it. Who can take control or call the shots or get rich on other people's history.


Baruch has held a teach-in on the situation in Haiti.


As Carolle Charles has said, we've been hearing a lot about the poverty of the country but it misses the point. Haiti is not just a poor country, it is an unequal country and an unjust country.



François Pierre-Louis

Associate Prof. Poli Sci at Queens College


Been in US since 14 years old. Jailed by military when organizing after Duvalier. Whay go back? I miss it all the time. Those there have to organize their society and community in spite of tragedy. I go back because of the inspiration.


Naomi Klein: Shock Doctrine. Economic shock therapy has to be preceded by some kind of trauma. This kind of catastrophe occurred in Haiti. We can't prevent natural disasters but we can lessen their impact if the right conditions are in place. Why did so much destruction occur?


Let's focus on the rebuilding effort. IMF and World Bank brag about the fact that they had a plan to rebuild the country  before the disaster. More heads of state have visited Haiti and have plans for rebuilding. The donor community Fr. Ca. EU, Brazil, and Financial institutions will be meeting in NYC. Clinton has been anointed Haitian Tsar by Banker Moon and is creating a redevelopment plan. The plan is being reviewed in Haiti. Talk of replacing the state with a US protectorate; talk of replacing current govemt with a govmt of national unity.


No plans have been developed with input from the community

All emphasize rebuilding for competing in free market; alienation of worker's rights

Debate continues among Haitian elite on how to profit while millions suffer.

NGOs who have received the aid have been unable to provide an adequate response.

The failure of the NGOs to address the needs of the population. While the people are in shock, NGOs are working to restructure the society.

US refused to recognize Haiti’s independence in 1865.

The construction plans attempt to disenfranchise the poor of the community; displacement of poor to create tourism center.

Since election of Aristide the intl community knows that they do not have Haiti in total control as they did under Baby Doc Duvalier. The state will not remake Haiti as they wish so money has gone to NGOs.




Tony O'Brien

Crisis is a capitalist crisis. Not unlike Peru. International Committee is working with Faculty of Medicine for Haitian textile worker wage increase; anticapitalist left is the only hope for Haiti. Intl working class solidarity is needed. Solidarity with Haiti means solidarity with all workers. How can we deepen the worker to worker direct solidarity.


Raymond necil merteau -- BMCC  professor and Queens College. Two important points that make this

1. 1804 independence; after assassination of the father of the country there was a conflict between North South and West; the first president  there have been two revolutions (social) 1803 - old classes vs. new classes (failed); 1946 social rev. to reunite the Haitian people. Intl forces have played a major in the failed state but since 1804 to the present few presidents have focused on the Haitian people. We Haitians are also responsible. Until that attitude changes there will be no change.


Jean Claude, NYCT -- Was in Haiti on Jan. 12. We need to talk about how to help the gum to improve the education system. We have a moral obligation as educators to do this. The system there is not equal opportunity. Only if know someone can you go to university in Haiti.  Should we get involved to help the dpt of education in Haiti at the university level. The university must be decentralized outside of Port au Prince.


Francois Pierre-Louis (reply) - I say to American audience that we need your support because Haitian policy is determined here. Cheryl Mills is advising the president. Bill Clinton/Hilary Clinton are making many decisions. We have a political opportunity to put pressure on them to change the way things have been done in Haiti up to now.

After the emotions pass, we may forget what happened in Haiti, that there was an attempt to make it a protectorate, etc. Don't forget Haiti. We can speak to our government here as Americans.


Carolle Charles (reply)

Addressing the second speaker: the elites after the revolution had the same aim (black and mulatto) of exploitation and exclusion. The educational system we must remember was part of the partition plan; relief groups are talking about taking over Haitian education; the idea was floated to buy land and form a village; they said that the Haitians aren't doing it and "we can't wait."

Centralization: even in 1970 when the factories came, they located in Port au Prince. The whole reconstruction ahs to be considered in terms of decentralization. Government needs to be spread which will empower other cities; people will then move back to the country side. Jobs will be there, community centers will be developed. Plans are not considering this.


Mona Lisa -- What about utilizing notion of Dubois' concept of the 'talented tenth'? Are you aware of organizations accepting hands on volunteering.


Nicole Fulare (cuny part time and LIU) -- I call displacement gentrification; Haiti is not for sale or lease. We need to teach young children in the country; the elite are taken care of; those on the street need to be helped by an international movement to provide education and therapy for children. Conference at LIU Haiti Earthquake and its Aftermath. The media have been racist. The Cuban doctors and Chavez's help has not been mentioned by the media. Many speakers from the UBI.


John Catalano - BCC adjunct - we need to pay attention to the American military using the earthquake as an excuse for occupation. We need to be clear that we're opposed to occupation.


Carolle Charles (reply)

Talented tenth: I have a problem with it. It's an elitist concept that conflates race, color, and class. What is behind that project? Dubois was an elitist with an elitist project. You can also see it in the Caribbean through Dubois' contacts there (particularly among the mulattos).


François Pierre-Louis: One university fell four stories; 700 people died. The university's function: morning (young) and afternoon (older state employees seeking more education). The latter died. 200 teachers dies in a hotel collapse. Talented people died. We are going to need talented people to support, teach, etc. Therapists are need for the generation of children. Teachers, administrators, mid level engineers are needed. No nation can rebuild without international solidarity. The work is going to begin in 6 or 8 months. We need to look for volunteers, esp. young people.


Haitians abroad send in to Haiti more money than international aid. Even more important it has a human capital in the Diaspora. It has to be organized. Going now may be creating more of a burden. You need to be organized as a diaspora first so that work is not wasted. Listen to where -- listen for what organizations are out there.


Lorraine Cohen (LGA) - Q: What kind of politics are represented in Preval? What does he represent after Aristide? Is there any manifestation of a political organization around a conception of what they want?


Lenny Dick (BCC) - We have to figure out ways to reach a wider audience. The conversation needs to continue at other campuses.


Dr. Verna -- discussion of the science of mental health need of the community; we need to be sure that our human potential infrastructure is in place.


Int'l capitalist class has no need for educating the population. Demonstration 4 March; students in California

4:00 Governors office at 43rd str., and then march on MTA about student metrocards. Actions will be occurring all over city on that day.


Francois: Spend 2 minutes talking about Haiti in class. [thank yours]

Question about Preval: Francois has worked for and campaigned for Preval. He's the kind of guy who is [les egrainee sp?]. Let it go. He will not undertake an initiative if you don't take it yourself. He's a great strategist. He finished his term twice and stayed in Haiti. He made a campaign without ever talking. I joke a lot with him and push him; sometimes he thinks I'm too much of an optimist. I know he's under a lot of pressure from outside. He won't tell people he won't do things, but he will sit on it. [Carolle: But the outsiders might do it any way. We have to create a new structure to prevent it] Francois thinks it won't happen on Preval's watch. He deeply cares about the people and population. He does not steal. I may have my differences but not on this issue. The elite dominate the radio stations, knowledge, companies, etc. If you cross them... Preval is in a difficult situation; all the politicians want to get back to power and the into' l powers have an agenda. He's a good president compared to past presidents. He doesn't arrest dissidents. When you have a govmt that only gets 5 cents on the dollar coming into the country, you have a limited ability to do things. He doesn't want to promise things he can't do. Get active, follow what's going on. Haiti is going to be a prize for the intl community.


Carolle: Thanks for being here. One of the best ways is to make donations; more than that in some time the country will be more open for volunteering; volunteer with Habitat for Humanity; I'll be going with them this summer. Go with an institution you trust and that is accountable and that works with the community. OXFAM, Francose [sp?], other grass roots organizations. Don't give to the big guys where the money doesn't go to the population.


Barbara Bowen: There is a future here for a curriculum; for volunteer opportunities.

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