January 9, 2012
“Can the Rocks in the Water Know the Pain of the Rocks in the Sun?” Eight Ways We Can Help Haiti Today

On January 7, 2012 an annual gala celebrating the 208th birthday of Haitian Independence drew over 500 people — mostly Haitian Americans.  In a program replete with Haitian folkloric dancing, singing, proclamations, humanitarian awards and speeches, I was invited to speak on the topic of “How we can individually and collectively help Haiti,” via the perspective of the Haiti Fund at the Boston Foundation.”   Drawing upon the five principles for inclusive reconstruction enumerated by 150 representatives from the Haitian Diaspora and Haitian nation at a conference at U Mass Boston in March 2010, I highlighted how the Haitian Government and Haitian NGOS have been sidestepped by the massive amounts of foreign aid designated for Haiti. 

 

Using a Haitian proverb as a metaphor — “the rocks in the water cannot know the pain of the rocks in the sun” — I suggested that if we want to help Haiti, we have to listen to each other’s pain in a deeply divided society.   If we want Haiti to move forward, then everyday Haitians and Haitian authorities, national and local, must be consulted as to where the aid should go and whether our reconstruction plans are what they need or want.  We must equip grassroots Haitian organizations to lead Haiti’s rebirth, investing in the entire country, not just Port-au-Prince.  And we must honor the rich culture of Haiti, creating culturally appropriate solutions from within rather than imposing models developed somewhere else.  Furthermore, unless we make the empowerment of Haiti’s women top priority; unless we work tirelessly to establish the rule of law and end corruption and impunity; and unless organizations in the Haitian Diaspora commit to building bridges and advocating in the U.S. Congress for Haiti, as true stakeholders, then Haiti will not move forward.

 

I was deeply honored to receive a plaque at the event and to be acknowledged as an honorary citizen of Haiti.

 

For my full remarks, see Rocks in the Water and Rocks in the Sun Jan 7 2012.