Cultivating Haitian Hope


Show support for those Haitian initiatives.

Beyond her displacement camps and their many obstacles, Haiti is taking some baby-steps towards her anticipated recovery. The long-awaited plans, gradually surfacing, offer a real glance into the paths that will lead the country away from its tumultuous past. While these steps may seem too insignificant for some news organizations to notice, Haitians whose lives depend on the successful implementation of these plans applaud the initiatives. 

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Haiti Hope Project (HHP) is one such plan that brought together a coalition of businesses, government, and civil society partners to develop a sustainable mango industry in the country. Towards the end of March 2010, The Coca-Cola Company (CCC) and TechnoServe –a nonprofit organization– announced the project after a meeting held earlier in the month with Jean-Max Bellerive, the Prime Minister of Haiti. Many feel that Bellerive’s enthusiastic seal of approval of the Project hinted at new beginnings in Haitian politics and, perhaps, confirmed the government’s engagement and commitment to the development of Haiti’s economic infrastructure

 In their joint press release, the companies indicated that TechnoServe would implement the Project on the ground: a plan that would create new economic opportunities for 25,000 Haitian mango farmers and their families. The NGO has established a strong record of accomplishments in that field managing similar partnerships around the world, most notably, with banana, cashews, cocoa, and coffee.

In addition to Coca-Cola’s $3.5 million investment in HHP, INTER-AMERICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK (IDB) also pledged $3 million through its multilateral Investment Funds (MIF). “We are proud to join forces with The Coca-Cola Company in this endeavor, which we hope will become a model of how the private sector can play a critical role in Haiti’s recovery. We call on other corporations to follow their example, helping the Haitian people build a more prosperous future,” said Luis Alberto Moreno, IDB’s president and CEO.

Recently, HHP gained more momentum when it announced more partners that pledged financial support. Acting through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and in coordination with the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), the US Government publicly announced an initial investment of $1 million. Talking about the potential success of the HHP, Kenneth Merten –US ambassador to Haiti declared– it is “Empowering the people of Haiti and embracing their entrepreneurial spirit, while working in alignment with the Government of Haiti’s priorities, will be critical in helping Haiti build back better.”

Furthermore, the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (CBHF) also announced a contribution of $500,000 to support the formation and financing of mango producer groups, nurseries, and collection centers to help farmers. Total investment in HHP has reached $8 million.

Largely under the radar however, is HHP’s insistence on an improved participation of women in the labor force during its implementation phase; a beginning many hope will create a new paradigm for the inherent gender-based inequities prevalent in Haiti’s business communities.

A world away, on the educational front, a 20-year plan to reinvent Haiti’s education system

finally emerged. Critics of the Haitian government have argued, perhaps justifiably, “Talk and promises have been exceedingly more abundant than visible improvements.” However, the ambitious plan presented by the government and its foreign partners would provide free or nearly free education from kindergarten through the 12 grade.

Exposing pre-quake conditions, the Miami Herald revealed the disturbing realities of Haiti’s broken education system. Out of 800 babies born every day, a lucky seven eventually makes it into a university. Ninety percent of the schools are private and have little to no government oversight.

However, this long-term plan included a $4.3 billion expenditure over a two-year period during which a new $15 million, 320-bed teaching hospital would be constructed in Mirebalais, a town in central Haiti.  The government would also build 625 new primary schools are   triple the number of publicly financed schools. It would also retrain 90 percent of the country’s teaching force — 50,000 people — to teach the new curriculum, and it would train 2,500 new teachers a year, many through a program patterned on Teach for America.

Like the HHP, the education plan is not a shortsighted initiative. The expertise of Paul Vallas, successful school reformist in both Chicago and post-Katrina New Orleans, brought a fresh perspective to Haiti’s educational system. 

Vallas reasoned, “If you subsidize schools that are of higher quality, that are using the national curriculum, that have certified teachers that have higher quality instruction and that are either waiving their tuition or charging affordable tuition costs, that is where those parents will gravitate.” Many observers agreed that such a comprehensive approach could plant some seeds of intellect and hope in the promising future of the nation while generating a range of options for Haitians.


Analysis Violence

Native Advocates Reaffirm Demand for Investigation Into Police Killing of Navajo Woman

Kanya D’Almeida

Andrew Curley, a member of the Red Nation collective, which spearheaded the protests, told Rewire in a phone interview that Loreal Tsingine’s family is still in the dark as to whether, or how, the officer who shot her will be held accountable.

On March 27 a white male police officer shot and killed a 27-year-old Navajo woman, Loreal Tsingine, in Winslow, Arizona. Over a month later, the community is still demanding an investigation into the killing; they say it is symptomatic of an entrenched pattern of police violence against Native residents in towns that border the 27,000-square mile Navajo Nation, a territory that extends into Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

Tsingine, the mother of a 9-year-old girl, died on Easter Sunday after Officer Austin Shipley, responding to a complaint of shoplifting at a local convenience store, shot the woman five times when she allegedly brandished a pair of scissors. The office apparently perceived them as a “substantial threat” to his safety, according to a press statement issued by the Office of the President of the Navajo Nation.

Eyewitnesses to the killing claim the officer shot Tsingine while she was handcuffed on the ground, according to local news reports. Later, as she was twitching and gasping for air, the officer refused to perform CPR on her, and prevented concerned bystanders from doing the same, one eyewitness told the Arizona Republic. Shipley is currently on paid administrative leave.

The following Monday, Tsingine’s family gathered with Native advocates and Black Lives Matter activists for a vigil outside the Winslow Police Department. Their list of demands included an independent review of the murder and a thorough investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into Arizona’s systematic racial profiling of Native residents.

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Andrew Curley, a member of the Red Nation collective, which spearheaded the protests, told Rewire in a phone interview that Tsingine’s family is still in the dark as to whether, or how, the officer who shot her will be held accountable. Family members recently gathered with the local community to reaffirm their demands, including a call for financial compensation, but state officials have yet to respond.

“Immediately after her death, the case was transferred out of Winslow to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (ADPS) in Phoenix, which means the community can no longer take their grievances directly to the Winslow police,” Curley told Rewire. “Erecting such geographic barriers to justice is a common tactic used by the police, part of their efforts to discredit the victims of police violence and create a bureaucratic maze in which time slows down and the community loses focus.”

“Over time things become more opaque,” he went on, “and this is how institutions like the police force protect their own members. For us as a community, it means we have no trust in the process, no guarantee that the department investigating itself will be free of bias.”

Eileen Luna-Firebaugh, an associate professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, agrees.

“Police officers are performing a public job, they are being paid with public funds and they have a responsibility to the public—they need to know that the light of public scrutiny is on them,” she said in a phone interview with Rewire. “I firmly believe that the investigation of an incident [like this one] should not be done by the sheriff’s department or any law enforcement agency but by a civilian agency that’s part of the city, that has access to all relevant police records, and that can compel testimony.”

“If an investigation is carried out by an impartial third party and not by the police department itself, then the community is more likely to believe its conclusions,” Luna-Firebaugh said.

Currently, advocates say, there is little to no trust between border town residents and law enforcement personnel, an unsurprising reality given the rate of racial profiling that reportedly occurs on the outskirts of the vast Navajo Nation, particularly in towns like Gallup and Albuquerque in New Mexico, Cortez in Colorado, and Flagstaff and Winslow in Arizona.

In 2008 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona analyzed hundreds of thousands of records pertaining to highway stops, searches, and arrests and concluded that Native Americans who were stopped by ADPS officers were over three times more likely than white drivers to be subsequently detained or searched.

The ACLU’s report stated that these disproportionate search rates were “not justified by higher contraband seizure rates.”

More recently, the Flagstaff Police Department’s annual report for 2014 found that Native Americans comprised 45 percent of all arrests made that year, despite accounting for just over 11 percent of the town’s roughly 52,000 residents, 80 percent of whom are white.

For Curley, who has been stopped multiple times on the highway for such minor violations as a cracked windshield or the use of a GPS, racial profiling is only the first step in a much more insidious process—the murder of Native residents by law enforcement personnel.

Data from the Center on Criminal and Juvenile Justice suggests that Native Americans, who comprise 0.8 percent of the country’s population but account for 1.9 percent of police killings, are more likely to be killed by police officers than any other racial or ethnic group, including Black people.

“Think about how we get to that scenario: We get there through stops and arrests,” Curley said. “That is when the state is more likely to use its authority, its violence, against Black and brown and Native bodies. Once we’re arrested, we’re more likely than white people to have a violent encounter with the police—this is when their perceived fear of us, their paranoia, comes to the fore. This is when they see a pair of scissors and claim their lives are in danger.”

For Melanie Yazzie, a founding member of the Red Nation who is currently working toward a PhD in American Studies at the University of New Mexico, paranoia among law enforcement is a natural byproduct of unfinished settler colonialism.

“The mandate of white settlements in border spaces has always been to contain and manage the threat of Native existence,” she told Rewire in a phone interview. “White populations in these spaces largely embrace patriotic values of American nationalism and exceptionalism, which are absolutely essential to maintaining U.S. capitalism and imperialism.”

“But these towns lie adjacent to a huge Native nation—we call the Navajo Nation the Sleeping Giant—and are home to large populations of Native people who, by definition, were supposed to have been eliminated, exterminated, long ago with the creation of the nation state we call the United States of America.”

“The fact that we are literally everywhere,” Yazzie went on, “that we continue to exist, to have political authority, explains why certain technologies of state control and violence are so extreme in these spaces.”

She said for Officer Shipley—who, according to local media reports, already had a documented history of using force against civilians—to “execute a 100-pound Native woman” in the middle of the day at point-blank range is “disgusting but entirely consistent” with patterns of violence against Native residents in border towns.

As statistics have shown, this violence is not limited to state actors but extends in a continuum that includes vigilante violence and hate crimes, Yazzie added. She pointed to the twin murders in Albuquerque in 2014 of Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson, two homeless Navajo men who were beaten to death in their sleep, as a particularly stark reminder of the threat Native people face, from multiple fronts, on a daily basis.

While Tsingine’s death has rightly stoked fear and outrage within the community, it has also reignited a fervent quest for justice. As Jorge Rivas reported for Fusion last month, Tsingine’s murder prompted Albert Hale, a member of the Arizona State Legislature’s Native American Caucus, to pen a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, urging the Department of Justice to “address the community’s longstanding and deep-seated concerns about systemic misconduct toward Native Americans” and initiate an investigation of the Winslow Police Department.

For advocates like Yazzie, there is a long and messy road ahead.

“The question we often ask ourselves as members of the Red Nation is, ‘What does justice look like, really?’” she explained to Rewire. On the one hand, advocates are wary of seeking answers in a system of mass incarceration but on the other, they are aware that families of the victims—many of them further marginalized by poverty—often do not feel safe while perpetrators walk the streets.

“The climate of fear in Winslow right now is incredibly high—people have said that if Shipley is not found guilty, if he is not locked up for murder, they are just going to move away rather than live in constant fear of being his next victim,” Yazzie said.

She said her collective is working closely with Tsingine’s family, as well as with members of Black Lives Matter, to find new frameworks of self-determination and justice.

“In some ways this is a conversation that is just beginning, at least in places like Winslow,” she said. “We had over 300 people at our first vigil, people who were speaking powerfully, who didn’t want to be silent anymore, and that to me was really important. We are demanding justice, we are thinking deeply about what it means, and we are moving forward,” she said.

News Race

#SheWoke Fuels First Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls Event

Christine Grimaldi

Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Robin Kelly (D-IL), and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) formed the caucus in March at the behest of #SheWoke, a collective started by seven advocates and thought leaders across the country.

The formal launch of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls (CBWG) examined barriers and pathways to success during a wide-ranging discussion Thursday.

Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Robin Kelly (D-IL), and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) formed the caucus in March at the behest of #SheWoke, a collective started by seven advocates and thought leaders across the country. CBWG is the first of its kind to represent Black women and girls among the 430 registered congressional caucuses and member organizations, which includes the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys, the lawmakers said at the time.

Portions of the inaugural event can be viewed via two videos on Watson Coleman’s Facebook page. The caucus also partnered with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) for a second event on Black girls in the school-to-prison pipeline. Ebony magazine Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux moderated the #RethinkDiscipline discussion.

“As we move forward in this launch, I can tell you that I’m looking forward to consistent, persistent work with an insistent attitude,” Watson Coleman said Thursday morning. “I believe that there’s been a vacuum of understanding our value, our challenges, our experiences, and our accomplishments.”

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CBWG Co-Chairs:
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)
Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL)
Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY)

CBWG Members:
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)
Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH)
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI)
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC)
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL)
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI)
Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ)
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL)
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD)
Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO)
Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI)
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC)
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

#SheWoke’s Ifeoma Ike and Nakisha Lewis told Rewire that the collective, and the caucus, grew out of conversations about Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old woman who died in police custody under controversial circumstances last year. The New York-based roommates realized that they had a lot in common with Bland—including the same vulnerabilities. No amount of educational achievements, professional successes, or other accolades could protect them from joining the long list of Black women who preceded Bland in death.

“She really could have been us,” Lewis said in an interview.

Ike and Lewis organized with other members of historically Black Greek letter organizations to form #SheWoke and translate their conversations into action. The group then reached out to Kelly’s congressional office to bring the movement to Washington. #SheWoke began working collaboratively with the lawmakers and their staffers about how to bring in research on school discipline and other pressing issues, as well as how to better connect impacted communities with elected officials, Ike said in a separate interview.

As a former Capitol Hill staffer who worked on the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys, Ike recognized the importance of a national platform to elevate the discussion and bring change to the local level. Going forward, #SheWoke would want the CBWG to coordinate hearings that allow Black girls to tell their stories and speak their truths before Congress.

“What we’re trying to challenge people with is to try to look at everyday people as the experts on their own lives,” Ike said. #SheWoke is planning to do the same through talkback sessions with young girls, professional women, and seniors across the country.

Firsthand accounts matter because Black women’s and girls’ lived experiences vary. A Black woman in Texas or Louisiana would likely have a far more difficult time trying to access Planned Parenthood services than her counterpart in New York or New Jersey, Ike said. Genderqueer, gender-nonconforming individuals, and “all the people who have been left out on the margins” also need to be a part of the conversation, Ike said.

Melissa Harris-Perry, the Maya Angelou presidential chair at Wake Forest University and editor-at-large at, echoed the need for intersectionality in her remarks at the caucus’ first event.

“Despite important commonalities, all African American women do not share the same ideas, beliefs, and burdens,” Harris-Perry said. “Age, region, queer identity, and skin color shape Black women’s lived experiences. Black trans women are uniquely vulnerable to public and state violence. Black women living with disabilities face barriers we frequently overlook. Black girls in foster care or struggling with episodic homelessness will have very different challenges than those with more stability.”

Such variations, however, “do not invalidate the importance of thinking about [B]lack women and girls as a group,” she said.

Harris-Perry said the late Angelou would commend the congressional co-chairs for developing the CBWG and ask the larger legislative body, “What took so long?” Harris-Perry ran through the list of overdue conversations: the disproportionate vulnerability to violence, unequal opportunity, criminal injustice, and health disparities that Black women and girls face in their day-to-day lives.

In addition to Harris-Perry, the event included speakers representing nonprofits, advocates, academia, and in the case of Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, experts in the realities, and consequences, of the criminal justice system. Sharon Cooper, Bland’s sister, is a #SheWoke member.

Ike said she was “amazed at the interactions in between the formalities” of the event. Conversations focused on veterans’ rights, homelessness, school discipline, disability issues, mental health issues, and more, she said. A discussion on how women of color continue to bear the brunt of the gender pay gap underscored the lack of parity for Black women and girls—and the need for a forum to discuss policy prescriptions.

“The theme that I kept feeling was equity,” Ike said.