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"Justice. Verite. Independance."
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
May 13 - 19, 2009
Vol. 2, No. 43
by Lily Cérat
On Saturday, May 2 in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, a mob of Dominican men with machetes tortured and then decapitated a Haitian named Carlos Nérilus. A Dominican man, Rusbert de Léon Lara, has taken responsibility for the beheading and was placed under arrest on May 6. Dominican police are still investigating circumstances surrounding the decapitation
The Dominican Foreign Ministry described the killings as an "incident between individuals" in a statement on May 5.
Haitian officials have called Nérilus' killing "barbarous" and questioned whether Dominican police could have prevented it. Before he was killed, Nérilus was beaten and tortured for hours before an applauding and laughing crowd without any intervention by Dominican police.
Haitian-Dominican leader Sonia Pierre, coordinator of the Movement of Haitian-Dominican Women (MUDHA), has spoken out about the murder. On May 7, she gave a long interview about the killing to "Haiti: The Struggle Continues" on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York. The same night, her house burned down.
Arson has not been ruled out. The Dominican Fire Department is investigating whether the blaze might have started from faulty electrical wiring. However, suspicion of foul play remains high in the DR's Haitian and Haitian-Dominican communities.
Pierre has been at the forefront of the debate surrounding citizenship for children born in the DR to Haitian immigrant parents. The Dominican government has sought to deny them citizenship.
Sonia Pierre has condemned Nérilus's brutal murder and the Dominican government's abuse and mistreatment of Haitian migrant workers, who began entering the DR in the 1950s as cane-cutters. Pierre, 47, was born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents who were recruited and contracted to cut cane when the Dominican sugar industry was at its zenith. For her outspoken stances, Sonia Pierre has often received threats, which leads many Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans to suspect arson.
"I will always maintain that beheading someone on a public square is a savage act," Sonia Pierre told this reporter in a telephone interview. "No one, black or white, Haitian or Dominican, should be treated like that As for the fire that destroyed my house, if it is found to be arson, I would be truly saddened by that. I am patriotic; I love my country and my culture. In my daily job, I only try to appeal to the greater humanistic and democratic ideals of my compatriots and government about the way all human-beings ought to be treated, Dominican or not. Xenophobia has no place in our country or in the world. Furthermore, my government must reprimand and take actions against media outlets that are propagating and inciting the citizenry to commit violent discriminatory acts and to take the law into their own hands."
The Haitian and international outrage over Nérilus' beheading has pushed Dominican reactionaries to new depths of anti-Haitian bluster and hatred. The killing was preceded in recent months by new waves of mass expulsions of Haitians.
"This is a barbaric act and it should be vehemently denounced by the Haitian government," said Marie Carmelle Paul-Austin, a former Haitian Education minister who now lives in the New York area. "In principle, our president or chief of government should firmly state their outrage, and recall our current ambassador, Mr. Fritz Cinéas, awaiting investigation, apology, dialogue and a communiqué from both governments to prevent a descent into chaos. Both governments are responsible to ensure that all citizens living on their lands are protected and respected. After all, we are not living in the dark ages."
Jocelyne Mayas is the founder of Empowerment Center for Caribbean Immigrants, a Brooklyn-based organization providing literacy and civic education to Haitian immigrants. "Human life is precious and must be respected and protected," she said of the Nérilus killing.
Mayas and her organization also support MUDHA's work in the bateys, the communities where Haitian cane cutters and laborers live.
"If the burning of Sonia's house is a case of arson, the Dominican government must tell its citizenry that such egregious acts are unacceptable," she said. "There has been a pattern of attacking Haitian immigrants, but it must not be tolerated."
Mayas is referring to the lynching and burning of three Haitian men about two years ago by a Dominican mob which believed them to be responsible for the murder of a Dominican woman store-owner. The killer was later found not to be a Haitian. "Three families lost loved ones in a situation where people took the law in their own hands and carried out despicable acts against a group whose primary crime seems to be simply that they were immigrants," Mayas said.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share an island, history and culture, but they have often not been good neighbors. Years of conditioning in schools and at home helps to pit Dominicans against their Haitian neighbors. Haiti occupied the Dominican Republic for years in the early 19th century to preempt European attempts to recolonize Haiti. The former French colony achieved independence in 1804, decades before other Latin American colonies. In fact, the Dominican side of the island which Haiti invaded was controlled by Spanish colonizers, who had returned to take possession of Santo Domingo. The Dominican state had not yet been created.
The 1937 massacre of tens of thousands of Haitians by the Trujillo regime created an equally bitter memory for Haitians.
Some Dominicans complain that too many Haitians cross over the porous border into their country looking for work. They ignore that Dominican agro-businesses and construction companies continue to go to Haiti to recruit people for cheap labor. Furthermore, many Dominican businesses rely on financial and commercial activities along the border. Haiti is the number one importer of Dominican goods and products. The two governments must continue to dialogue and devise strategies to control and secure their borders.
"It is really sad, what's going on over there," said a North American woman in New York, who follows the Haitian-Dominican situation. She spoke on condition of anonymity. "After all, the reason why it is so cheap to vacation in the Dominican Republic, like nowhere else in the region, is because of the nearly slave-like wages the Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans are paid. Those folks, although voiceless and nameless, contribute heavily to the boost and development of the Dominican Republic."
Indeed, Haitian and Haitian-Dominican labor predominates in the DR's vast construction sites, hotels, resorts, farms and road projects."Many Americans and Germans vacation in the Dominican Republic," the woman said. "They need to be made aware that their presence as tourists on that side of the island is nothing less than turning their heads away from victims of a neo-holocaust situation."
MAY 17 IN BROOKLYN, NY:
FARAH JUSTE CELEBRATES MARTHA JEAN-CLAUDE, FLAG DAY AND HAITIAN MOTHER'S DAY
par Kim Ives
Singers Martha Jean-Claude and Farah Juste are both symbols of their respective generations.
After General Paul Magloire's dictatorship imprisoned her for publishing a play deemed subversive, Martha fled Haiti in 1952 to exile in Cuba, where she became a famous singer on Havana's night club circuit and later a prominent supporter of the Cuban Revolution. She also became a symbol of Haitian-Cuban solidarity.
In 1966, Farah also fled a dictatorship, that of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier. Like Martha, she began a career of singing politically engaged songs at a young age, first with the "Soley Leve" [Rising Sun] collective in 1972, and then later as a solo artist.
Using their great talents, both singers articulated an anti-dictatorship and anti-imperialist message.
Before her death on November 14, 2001, Martha asked that Farah record an album reprising several of Martha's most well-known compositions. In 2008, Farah traveled to Cuba where she recorded an album entitled "A Tribute to Martha Jean-Claude," accompanied by the musicians that used to play with Martha. The album was arranged and produced by Richard Mirabal, Martha's son and one of her principal musicians.
On May 17, 2009, Farah Juste will perform many compositions from that album at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. It will be her first major New York performance in many years.
Farah, also known as "La Reine Soleil" [the Sun Queen], presently lives in Miami, where she has presented a Haitian Independence Day concert every Jan. 1 for the past 25 years. This past Jan 1, some 3,000 people jammed into Miami's prestigious Carnival Center for the Performing Arts to hear her repertoire from the new album and her old stand-by songs.
The new album and repertoire includes "Chanson pour Martha" [A Song for Martha], a special, touching tribute Farah wrote to Martha.
Her performance will also include such show stoppors as "Haiti Demain" and her signature song "Alleluia for Haiti."
The May 17 concert will include other upcoming Haitian artists: Frero and Lovely with the acclaimed new group "Les Rois d'Afrique" [The Kings of Africa]; Elektra and Jensen from the compas juggernaut Phantoms; King Wawa, a reggae / compas crossover act from California; and Wooly Saint Louis Jean, a gifted vocalist coming direct from Haiti.
Farah Juste will also autograph copies of her new Martha album, which will be on sale at the show.
Farah is part of a generation of great women artists including Annette "So An" Auguste, Myriam Dorismé, Fedia Laguerre, Toto Bissainthe, and Carol Demesmin. They all to different degrees participated in the anti-Duvalierist struggle and viewed Martha Jean-Claude as a model and pioneer.
"It's natural that I struggle for social justice," Martha said in an interview explaining the political nature of many of her 50 songs and 8 albums. "To sing the song of the peasants, that's what is in my heart. I lean toward these people. My songs are what one calls protest ballads."
Sunday's event is sponsored by Haiti Liberté newsweekly in conjunction with the Medgar Evers Haitian Student Association, the Medgar Evers Student Government, and the Medgar Evers French Language Department. It will commemorate the creation of the Haitian Flag in Archaie on May 18, 1803 and also Haitian Mother's Day, which is celebrated later in May than U.S. Mothers Day.
(For tickets or more information, call Haiti Liberté at 718-421-0162. Tickets cost $25 in advance until Saturday, May 16 and $30 at the door. Tickets are also available from Radio Pa Nou at 810 Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn and at many other locations throughout the New York City region.)
HAITI SPECIAL ON WBAI MAY 14
This Thursday, May 14, from 9:00 - 11:00 p.m. over WBAI 99.5 FM and WWW.WBAI.ORG, please join "Haiti: The Struggle Continues" for news and commentaries about Haiti and Haitians around the world.
In this special 2-hour edition of "Haiti: The Struggle Continues" we will provide a comprehensive report on this past Sunday's talk by Annette "So An" Auguste in Brooklyn on the difficulties in the Lavalas Family party.
The Haitian Collective at WBAI, which produces the program, can be reached at 917-251-6057 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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