I say in the title, "Wyclef, my heart cries for Haiti too." And it does, and it has, and it will - still. Because with all of the monetary aid pouring in, with all the "temporary suspensions" of debt and policies, Haiti will continue to be at the mercy of countries (including our own), who fail to understand - worse yet care - how self-determination works for those who've not had the luxury of calling the shots.
My heart cried for Haiti when I wrote the following column for my small South Florida paper back on November 15, 2002 after a wooden vessel ran aground just southeast of downtown Miami near Virginia Key. It was an attempt to explain what I saw as yet another example of the entrenched, White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchal (WSCP) behavior continuing to divide and conquer Blacks and Browns - at the expense of the Blacks this time:
Cuban Adjustment Act continues to create discordRather than laying out all the historical reasons why our government - in consort with others - has much for which to account in Haiti, I think Earl Ofari Hutchinson's, Where Was the World When Haiti Really Needed It? sums it up pretty well and is truly worth the read.
A 50-foot wooden vessel ran aground about 500 yards from Miami on Oct. 29. Onboard were well over 200 Haitians migrants seeking a better way of life. At sea for a number of days without food and water and weakened by those conditions, they began jumping and/or dropping their young children overboard into 10 to 12 feet of water, hoping against hope that they could elude the Coast Guard vessels that had been following them for two hours and make it to shore. Twenty-one Haitians had to be rescued from the water after jumping from that overloaded boat.
And what of those who made it ashore? They ran onto the busy, six-lane Rickenbacker Causeway, trying desperately to stop motorists, hoping they could somehow escape the Border Patrol agents they knew would detain them. Their ultimate goal? To flee the abject poverty and despair of the hemisphere's poorest country where two-thirds of the population is unemployed or underemployed and most people survive on less than $1 a day.
But unknown to them, their return was all but guaranteed by a Nov. 8, U.S. Department of Justice announcement which restated the United States post-9/11 stance taken in December 2001 - "As of Nov. 13, all undocumented migrants who arrive by sea - except Cubans - will be detained without bond and placed in expedited removal."
The reason the Bush administration reversed its policy of releasing all asylums seekers into the community after they had established a "credible fear of persecution?" They claimed that releasing the Haitians could threaten national security by prompting a mass exodus, tying up Coast Guard resources that he said should be committed to "homeland security" and the "war on terrorism."
And what of the large number of Cubans who've come ashore in the Keys alone last year? Were there no resources committed to them? While most asylum seekers from every other nation continue to be released within days in Miami, practically all migrants from Haiti are jailed. Does anyone else out there see the blatant double-standard being applied to those of a decidedly darker hue?
Fast forward to earlier this week when, described by a Nov. 12 Miami Herald article as an "escort to freedom," two Air National Guard jets scrambled to accompany a yellow single-engine cargo plane carrying eight family members from Cuba as it taxied into Key West International Airport. According to an airport employee, the article went on to say, "They were dressed like they were on vacation, smiling and casually walking with Customs and INS agents as two Key West police cruisers followed them."
Secure in the "wet foot/dry foot" policy of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, this group had nothing to fear once they set foot on American soil. There was no need for desperate measures. They were home free because Cubans who arrive at designated ports of entry into the United States - i.e. airports, seaports and land ports located at the border - are released on bond and granted permanent residency after a year.
And according to an April 1999 memorandum, then INS Commissioner Doris Meissner "clarified" the policy further stating, "Cubans - along with their spouses and children - who arrive at other than designated ports of entry into the United States are eligible for parole, as well as eventual adjustment of status to that of permanent resident, under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. This policy clarification, effective immediately, helps define in specific terms those Cubans who are eligible for parole and adjustment of status under the Cuban Adjustment Act, regardless of how they arrived in the United States."
Even if a Cuban national is in the United States without having been admitted or paroled by INS, all they have to do is first surrender into INS custody, receive a grant of parole and wait one year before applying for permanent residence under the CAA. With the grant of parole, he/she is then eligible to apply for employment authorization.
Though the CAA was not a product of this administration's watch, its perpetuation and retooling of this obvious "divide and conquer" piece of politics smacks of the days of Jim Crow - a period in this nation's history that seems unwilling to die the ugly death it deserves. By affording special status to one race, another is completely devalued and a wedge is driven between the two that will, yet again, take generations to heal.
My heart cries for Haiti as I see how this recent (because it's hardly the first), natural disaster continues to play out the privilege and racism inherent in our society. Though I felt these parents' pain as I sat watching this interview by Ann Curry on the Today Show, the "quiet riot" deep in my gut said, "If only their pleas were for ALL the children." Listen, and tell me if you hear the inherent privilege seeping out amidst the anguish:
And when you're done, listen to Wyclef having to defend his NGO -Yéle Haiti:
Look, having worked with Black non-profits, I admit there's always the probability of someone absconding with some or all of the organization's funds - and I even understand why, which is oftentimes different from why whites do it, but not always (neither makes it right). But that's not, IMHO, what the current attack on Wyclef is all about. Quite frankly, I think it's about the possibility of HIM, HAVING THE ABILITY NOW, TO DO WHAT MANY WHITE, NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED NON-PROFITS (the Red Cross for example) HAVE BEEN DOING FOR AGES - period. That, and the fact that - due to the high volume of donations he's receiving - he's blocking their "Let's line-our-pockets" blessing (some people just want ALL the damn money) of course. The outrage, coupled with the massive encouraging of people to donate any and everywhere else BUT Yéle Haiti, is quite telling - if you just listen.
As for me, I'm giving my few pennies (and my volunteer efforts as soon as I can find a way) to a "Native Son" who really knows the people, the language and the lay of the land - instead of those other "saviors" (the Changeling included) who are rolling in - and out.
UPDATE I: Wyclef to Oprah: "Haiti Don't Need No More Photo Ops"
UPDATE II: Credit Card Companies Profit Off Tragedy in Haiti
UPDATE III: US Mercenaries Set Sights on Haiti - this piece from Jeremy Scahill at The Nation is particularly disturbing given the reputation of mercenary groups like Blackwater (now "Xe") in Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans. A brief excerpt:
On January 15, a Florida-based company called All Pro Legal Investigations registered the URL Haiti-Security.com. It is basically a copy of the company's existing US website but is now targeted for business in Haiti, claiming the "purpose of this site is to assure construction and reconstruction companies considering a Haiti project that professional security is available."With THESE GUYS on the ground - Yéle Haiti's the least of the world community's "aid" problems! Unless of course they seek out their "protection" services.
"All Protection and Security has made a commitment to the Haitian community and will provide professional security against any threat to prosperity in Haiti," the site proclaims. "Job sites and supply convoys will be protected against looters and vandals. Workers will be protected against gang violence and intimidation. The people of Haiti will recover, with the help of the good people from the world over."
UPDATE IV: It's not All about That!: Wyclef Jean is fronting in Haiti - from the Haitian Information Project on Black Agenda Report.com.
I have to say that I was not aware of Wyclef's familial connections to the U.S./CIA-backed overthrow of Aristede. I obviously need to read more shit! That being said, I still will not donate to the Red Cross in this effort.