- Faith & Family
A silent march and mass were among the activities held last weekend in commemoration of the third anniversary of the earthquake that shattered the lives of the people of Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. But there were other events of note as well including a panel discussion that included the Honorable Francois Guillaume, Consul General of Haiti in Miami and one of Haiti’s most celebrated engineers, Jocelin David. In North Miami, a city whose mayor [Andre Pierre] is Haitian-born, political leaders gathered to talk about what still needs to be done in Haiti’s rebuilding process. And young adults, many of whom are Haitian, participated in the third annual Save Haiti Bike Ride from Miami to West Palm Beach.
It has been three years since a 7.0 earthquake destroyed most of Haiti’s capitol, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding cities, killing an estimated 300,000 people while leaving another million-plus homeless. Today, after withstanding an outbreak of cholera and two recent storms, some 400,000 Haitians remain in makeshift tents, clinging to survival.
Marleine Bastien, executive director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, Inc./Haitian Women of Miami, was the coordinator of the march. She says her emphasis now rests on securing President Barack Obama’s signature on legislation that would approve a Haitian Family Reunification Program.
“The Obama administration renewed the Cuban Family Reunification Program in 2010 under which over 30,000 Cuban beneficiaries have been paroled since 2009,” she said. “Haitian-American advocates for nearly three years have urged Obama to create a similar program for Haitians. Haitians could then wait for a green card safely here rather than in devastated Haiti. Three years ago, the president pledged his support to speed up the recovery in Haiti. Today, Haiti remains in need and her people still suffer.”
Guillaume points to the need for funds donated towards Haiti’s recovery to be placed in the hands of the government not in the accounts of over 560 NGOs [non-governmental organizations].
“Over the years the international community had lost confidence in Haiti’s government due to the problems we had over the past 15 to 20 years,” he said. “But this is a different Haiti and a much different leadership. Only one percent of all pledged dollars have gone directly to our government and only 56 percent of the pledged dollars have been distributed. President Michel Martelly and Prime Laurent Lamothe have shown that they are more than capable of directing Haiti’s future. But we encourage people to visit Haiti and see what it’s like for themselves. Much has been done even though often times what you will read is what has not been accomplished.”
David led an insightful discussion on the role that techtonic plates have had on the island and the importance of following more strict building codes. He added that because Haiti rests on a series of faults, that the likelihood is great for future earthquakes as severe as that in 2010.
Support from Blacks in Miami
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson noted during last week’s press conference of local politicians, that the majority of the rubble has finally been removed from the most devastated areas of Haiti. She too pointed to the need for money to continue to be distributed wisely and expediently.
“The U.S. has to remain steadfast in its commitment to our Haitian family,” she said. “The lives of too many innocent children are depending on it. Step by step, progress is being made but when you hear the stories of people who lost their loved ones, homes and life as they knew it, you know we must remain committed to helping Haiti rebuild.”
State Representative Daphne Campbell said she is committed to making sure legislation is passed this year that will benefit Haitians.
“It’s time that the U.S. kept its promises,” she said. “We deserve to be treated like others have in the past [Cubans]. We are responsible, in part, for Obama’s being reelected because we voted for him. I think he’ll do the right thing. We’re going to make sure he and his administration follow through in 2013.”
By Kevin McNeir