Haitian empowerment & The Senegal Proposal

Last month Senegal's president Abdoulaye Wade proposed resettling Haitians in Africa. He offered, "The repeated calamities that befall Haiti prompt me to propose a radical solution -- to take measures to create somewhere in Africa... the conditions for Haitians to return... They did not choose to go to that island." Referring to the forced movement of Africans to Haiti from the 16th century he added, "It is our duty to recognize their right to come back to the land of their ancestors."

The president's spokesman Mamadou Bamba Ndiaye gave further details of the proposal: "If it is just a few people, we will offer them a roof and a patch of land... if they come in large numbers, we will give them a whole region."
(full article / video interview with president wade)

This being just one example, the show of solidarity and engagement in collective conversation around Haiti has been inspirational.

Aside from donating money or supplies, I came across this excellently simple "Ten-Point Progressive Action Plan" for how to help empower Haitians. As the author notes, donating is only step one; a long-term helping hand ought to involve educating ourselves to the larger and deeper social and political realities of Haiti and also civic engagement on some level as we continue to educate ourselves. This list is a nice and simple place to start:

(SOURCE: WIP Talk - Shailja) Our first impulse when we see a disaster of this magnitude is to help in any way we can as individuals.

However, if we take a moment to assess the big picture, we can often have a much greater impact when we leverage our collective power to lobby governments and international bodies.

I recommend Haiti Action as an excellent source of information and on-the-ground-reporting on grassroots organizing for justice in Haiti:


I've put together a ten-point list of progressive action for Haiti, based on the work of Haiti activists and progressive analysts.

1) Grants, not loans.
2) Keep corporations and corporatist policies OUT of Haiti. Stop disaster capitalism in its tracks.
3) Cancel ALL Haiti's debt to the Inter-American Development Bank.
4) Let Aristide return to Haiti.
5) Lift the ban on Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas political party.
6) Rip up the neoliberal Clinton-Obama program for Haiti: boutique tourism, sweatshops, privatization, deregulation.
7) Get the guns out, get the aid in! Stop the militarization of this disaster by the US.
8) Allow all Haitians in the US to work, and remit money home.
9) Release all 30,000 Haitians held in US jails for deportation, and grant them Temporary Protected Status.
10) Demand that France repay the $21 billion it extorted from Haiti in 1825, by warships, to "compensate" France for loss of Haiti as a slave colony.

It should be noted that progressive opinion is divided on the integrity and effectiveness of Aristide as a leader. However, there is no reason to maintain a ban on the Fanmi Lavalas political party, since collective organizing at this time could be vital to the survival of hundreds of thousands of Haitians.

On the subject of humanitarian aid:

Not all aid is equal, as we all learned from the fiasco in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

And far from being the "pitiful helpless victims" depicted by global corporate media, ordinary Haitians are mobilizing in amazing ways, with virtually no resources, while governments and international aid organizations remain paralyzed by bureaucracy. They are turning their homes into hospitals, sharing their meager supplies of food and water, while 3 days after the earthquake, international aid is stockpiled at the airport.

This just in from Sokari Ekine, creator of the award-winning blog, BlackLooks:

/////In August 2007, I visited Haiti to meet with Lavalas women. The trip was organized by Haiti Action, and I was able to meet many other activists on the ground as well. One of the women I met and stayed with was Rea. She is now using her home as a hospital and they are using whatever they can to tend to peoples' needs. Thousands of other Haitians are doing the same. Meanwhile, the aid agencies sit at the airport. Port-Au-Prince is quite a small but densely populated place. To say the aid agencies don't know how to go in, or have to wait - for what I am not sure - is stretching things a bit far./////

This underscores the importance of getting any assistance directly to Haitians, and organizations:

- that have a track record of working effectively in Haiti,
- that are Haitian-led, or partner with Haitians as equals
- that already have infrastructure and operational networks in Haiti
- that are committed to justice and genuine democracy for Haitians

With this in mind, here is a list of organizations recommended by Food First:

1) Partners in Health -- Founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, this nonprofit health delivery program has served Haiti’s poor since 1987. Donate for earthquake relief HERE.

2) Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) -- Doctors Without Borders was working in Haiti prior to the quake with a staff of 800. HERE is a report on January 13, 2009 with a link to their donation page.

3) Haiti Action -- Haiti’s grassroots movement – including labor unions, women’s groups, educators, human rights activists, support committees for prisoners and agricultural cooperatives – will attempt to funnel needed aid to those most hit by the earthquake. Grassroots organizers are doing what they can with the most limited of funds to make a difference. Please take this opportunity to lend them your support HERE.

4) Grassroots International -- has a long history of working with organizations on the ground in Haiti. Grassroots has committed to the extent possible to, “provide cash to our partners to make local purchases of the items they most need and to obtain food from farmers not hit by the disaster.” This people-to-people transfer is vital to circumvent the aid industry and support Haiti's economy. Support their efforts HERE.

"Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love."
- Martin Luther King Jr.