Haiti is back in the news. Famous Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean has announced his bid to run for the president of his country of origin, and not all Haitian people are happy about that. Back in January this year when the nation experienced a terrible earthquake, many people throughout the world were made aware of the struggle of the people of this nation. A call went out and a huge mobilization went forward. Many people responded and millions of dollars was collected to help the nation recover. After a few weeks, the media had slowed down its reporting of the people of Haiti, and instead started reporting about the whereabouts of the money that was donated by the American public. I question why there were reports that the Red Cross was still holding up to 65% of the money that was handed over to them for the express purpose of helping the Haitian people. Up until this time, people are still living in tent cities. I believe that with the millions of dollars that was stolen from given by the people of the world to those organizations that were charged with helping, by now there should be much more stability in the country.
Before this terrible earthquake happened in Haiti, I have to admit that I wasn’t focused on and knew nothing of the modern history or any of the struggles of Haitian people. All I thought I knew was what I was told–which boiled down to the people were “voodoo worshippers” and that they were the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. But now I have to ask the question: if they are the poorest, then there’s a reason why. What is the reason? What are some of the issues that Haitian people are facing?
I have to start my research of the nation from my small place. So I went on to Google’s search engine and I found this telling video of Haitian Migrant farmers in Miami. Of course, I shamefully had no idea that there even were migrant Haitian farmers, and this ignorance on my part doesn’t surprise me. It’s just more of the same thing for black people throughout the diaspora. We are so woefully uninformed about ourselves and each other. So I start right here trying to learn about my Haitian brothers and sisters–bearing witness through video of what it is that some of them go through.
But even with the struggle of the Haitian migrant farmers who work in Miami, there is another level of deeper brutality of those who are migrant farmers in The Dominican Republic. Because of extreme and desparate poverty, Haitian people are driven to working as migrant farmers in The Dominican Republic. Often the people are in the country illegally, by trick or by design, and with no identification papers. Without any protection, they are often brutally exploited. They work up to 18 hours a day for the equivalent of $2.00 to $3.00. They face in modern times the slavery their ancestors resisted and triumphed over, 200 years previously. Sometimes, the employers in collusion with the government can force a mass deportation of the workers right before their paydays, thus depriving them of even the pittance that they are owed.
What is it that is being done to fight for the rights of these Haitian people? I have found a number of reports and articles that speak to this terrible issue of exploitation. But there is one article that I found in the Christian Science Monitor about a young Haitian man, ex migrant farmer, who is tirelessly working to help his fellow brothers, who endure back breaking labor in the sugar cane fields of The Dominican Republic. Often their issues concern identity. They have no way to prove who they are. They are treated as ignored nobodies, non entities in the shadows of the Dominican Republic’s tourist industry. This non person status is even conferred on their children who are born in the DR. So this young man named Johnny Rivas has made it his work to help the people. He works tirelessly, finding the people, asking certain questions and using the information to create the identification cards for them through his Jesuit run organization, Solidaridad Fronteriza. Having an identity helps the people to fight against some of the exploitation that they are normally exposed to.
It’s truly a blessing to be able to learn about my Haitian brothers and sisters and some of the struggles that they endure. But I intend to do research about how these strong black Africans fought off the French and forged their own nation after being stolen from Africa all those centuries before. These Africans were the only ones who were able to do this and they deserve our respect and admiration, even in spite of the difficulties they are experiencing at this time.
- Dominican Republic to Target Illegal Immigrants (abcnews.go.com)
- Haitian migrants leave DomRep with cash incentive (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- As Refugees from Haiti Linger, Dominicans’ Good Will Fades (repeatingislands.com)
- Group: DomRep annuls ethnic Haitians’s citizenship (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- OAS human rights body warns Dominican Authorities over Treatment of Haitians (repeatingislands.com)