Anniversary Media Blitz of Haiti


Transparency and accountability from NGOs

Still strong one year later

Port-au-Prince, Haiti— Year 2010 was arguably the longest of Haiti’s 206-year history, reflect some historians on the plurality of unprecedented events taken place in the country starting on January 12. Some recalled with up most clarity and disbelief as global television screens bled horrific images of apocalyptic episodes seared into memory months after months. If the magnitude 7.0 earthquakes did not steal someone’s mom, dad, uncle, limbs, friends or neighbors— at the very least, it stole barrels of tears. As the first anniversary sneaks up on surviving Haitians, buckets more will flood the overwhelming emotions they will feel on that day.

While no stranger to chaos of catastrophic proportions, nothing could prepare Haitians for such a tumultuous year. Historically, Haitians have survived their colonial overlords, imperial invaders and occupiers, several violent revolutions, authoritarian dictators, political mediocrity and international dismissal; nevertheless, the succession of ill-fated events of 2010 was inconceivable even by wildest Hollywood accounts.

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With an estimated population of 9.8 million people, 3 million of whom lived in the epicenter of the earthquake, the loss of life was colossal. Novices to earthquakes, Haitians—young or old– had nowhere to run, no one to turn to, no emergency response system in place or any infrastructure to provide shelter as more than 230,000 lives succumbed to 20 million cubic meters of cement blocks.

Consequently, the immediacy with which the world responded to the devastation captured hearts and mind of Haitians everywhere. Global pledges did not lack empathy, monies, non-governmental organizations (NGO), UN peacekeepers, philanthropists, and regular humanitarians to help the victims, nor did they lack unscrupulous child traffickers and other type of criminals seeking to prey on the vulnerable. Worldwide media migrated to Haiti and, according to their coverage, were in culture shock seeing inhumane condition humans lived in.

News organizations told tales of a prehistoric people living on less than two dollars a day, led by a government deeply rooted in corruption. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, they emphasized, lacked fundamental necessities, infrastructure, and leadership and would be lost absent a strong international humanitarian presence. It was the story of a population, nearly 50 percent of which was illiterate, caught in the pre-industrial era, and then there were survivor stories, amazing rescue images.

For Haitians however, confusion, gargantuan losses and chaos highlighted their side of the story. It was about finding moms, teachers, husbands, sons and daughters muted by the debris or among burning corpses on the roadsides. Their story featured another routine foreign invasion with more than 12,000 uncontrollable NGOs carrying a $1-billion purse donated on behalf of the affected and 24,000 foreign troops sometimes bearing contemptuous residual sentiments from a lengthy history of crippling international policies. It was a race against time and the gripping suspense of unpredictability.

The Haitian saga evolved in sporadic leaps and bounces over the last 12 months with hundreds of aftershocks, ineffective governance, temporary shelters turned into permanent housing, rapes, floods and Tropical Storm Thomas. Furthermore, imported cholera snatched more than 3,500 extra lives, including 45 voodoo lynching prompted by ignorance and fear. Post-election violence soon stole the headlines prompting Edmund Mulet, UN’s top man in Haiti, to threaten to disown them unless government officials changed existing discourse.

Largely under the media’s radar, encouraging signs of progress offered glimpses of hope to many Haitians, including the emergence of an ambitious 20-year plan promising the reinvention of Haiti’s education system with a projected $4.3 billion expenditure over a two-year period. In addition, this plan would provide free or nearly free education from kindergarten through the 12 grades and 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 tripling 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.

Among many other significant programs were the Haiti Hope Project (HHP) that brought together a coalition of businesses, government, and civil society partners to invest about $8 million to develop a sustainable mango industry in the country. Coca Cola, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (DBHF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Multilateral Investment Funds (MIF) led HHP initiatives. TheWorld Food Program provided work and food for many Haitian families and coördinated efforts of the four major medical organizations (the Red Cross, MSF, Doctors of the World and FRIEND) have made medical care available to them. However, the introduction of the cholera strand to the Western world did no justice to remarkable and sometimes exhausting efforts of the medical community. Many other significant and positive contributions, immersed in the agony of the victims and fraudulent election fracas, went unnoticed.

On Jan. 12, 2011, Haiti will experience a media blitz similar to the six-month anniversary spotlight. Media corporations, big and small, will raid the capital and small towns to report on reconstruction processes. After all, Haiti’s trauma fit well with the media’s framing mechanisms: drama, villains, victims and heroes.

We urge foreign Journalists — with the support of the Haitian press community – to engage in robust community relation efforts and capture the Haitian experience contextually and objectively. This would guarantee news coverage that works ‘for’ Haitians as opposed to a repetitive story ‘about’ a prehistoric people with awkward cultural norms. In addition, this comprehensive approach would also help Haiti take advantage of a constellation of factors holding potential for success.

We also encourage journalists to resist usual episodic framing devices by trying to understand the conundrum that is the Haitian actuality and refrain from using reporting styles requiring them to detach their values from the stories and actors. These practices would only project an illusion of objectivity and fairness in their coverage.

Evidently, the Haitian people have a story to tell, a human tragedy told from their perspective. Without a profound understanding of their way of life, tangible solutions could be as elusive as they were in 2010, a sure way to build resentment for the foreigners and possibly derail recovery efforts. The role of Haitians in pulling their country from under the rubble is pivotal and the media has a responsibility to voice the voiceless, demand transparency from all the actors and expose unethical practices. As many observers have alleged, the most deceptive humanitarian heist may be taking place in Haiti while the level of squalor and desperation lingers unabated.

It is not the actions of individuals the make them heroes, rather the values and meanings attached to those actions. On the anniversary of its darkest day, Haiti is undoubtedly full of Heroes on the heels of disruptive year 2010 and the first thousand of them would probably not be foreign internationals.


via Rapadoo Observateur

Commentary Politics

In Mike Pence, Trump Would Find a Fellow Huckster

Jodi Jacobson

If Donald Trump is looking for someone who, like himself, has problems with the truth, isn't inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn't understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs, then Pence is his guy.

This week, GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump is considering Mike Pence, among other possible contenders, to join his ticket as a vice presidential candidate.

In doing so, Trump would pick the “pro-life” governor of a state with one of the slowest rates of economic growth in the nation, and one of the most egregious records on public health, infant and child survival, and poverty in the country. He also would be choosing one of the GOP governors who has spent more time focused on policies to discriminate against women and girls, LGBTQ communities, and the poor than on addressing economic and health challenges in his state. Meanwhile, despite the evidence, Pence is a governor who seems to be perpetually in denial about the effects of his policies.

Let’s take the economy. From 2014 to 2015, Indiana’s economic growth lagged behind all but seven other states in the nation. During that period, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Indiana’s economy grew by just 0.4 percent, one-third the rate of growth in Illinois and slower than the economies of 43 other states. Per capita gross domestic product in the state ranked 37th among all states.

Income inequality has been a growing problem in the state. As the Indy Star reported, a 2014 report by the United States Conference of Mayors titled “Income and Wage Gaps Across the US” stated that “wage inequality grew twice as rapidly in the Indianapolis metro area as in the rest of the nation since the recession,” largely due to the fact “that jobs recovered in the U.S. since 2008 pay $14,000 less on average than the 8.7 million jobs lost since then.” In a letter to the editor of the Indy Star, Derek Thomas, senior policy analyst for the Indiana Institute for Working Families, cited findings from the Work and Poverty in Marion County report, which found that four out of five of the fastest-growing industries in the county pay at or below a self-sufficient wage for a family of three, and weekly wages had actually declined. “Each year that poverty increases, economic mobility—already a real challenge in Indy—becomes more of a statistical oddity for the affected families and future generations.”

In his letter, Thomas also pointed out:

[T]he minimum wage is less than half of what it takes for a single-mother with an infant to be economically self-sufficient; 47 percent of workers do not have access to a paid sick day from work; and 32 percent are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines ($29,685 for a family of three).

Despite the data and the struggles faced by real people across the state, Pence has consistently claimed the economy of the state is “booming,” and that the state “is strong and growing stronger,” according to the Northwest Indiana Times. When presented with data from various agencies, his spokespeople have dismissed them as “erroneous.” Not exactly a compelling rebuttal.

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As a “pro-life” governor, Pence presides over a state with one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation. Data from the Indiana State Department of Health reveals a “significant disparity” between white and Black infant mortality rates, with Black infants 1.8 times more likely to die than their white counterparts. The 2013 Infant Mortality Summit also revealed that “[a]lmost one-third of pregnant women in Indiana don’t receive prenatal care in their first trimester; almost 17% of pregnant women are smokers, compared to the national rate of 9%; and the state ranks 8th in the number of obese citizens.”

Yet even while he bemoaned the situation, Pence presided over budget cuts to programs that support the health and well-being of pregnant women and infants. Under Pence, 65,000 people have been threatened with the loss of  food stamp benefits which, meager as they already are, are necessary to sustain the caloric and nutritional intake of families and children.

While he does not appear to be effectively managing the economy, Pence has shown a great proclivity to distract from real issues by focusing on passing laws and policies that discriminate against women and LGBTQ persons.

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a “religious freedom” law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only “amended” it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his “conservative values,” rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

These facts are no surprise given that, as a U.S. Congressman, Pence “waged war” on Planned Parenthood. In 2000, he stated that Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals and advocated that funding for HIV prevention should be directed toward conversion therapy programs.

He also appears to share Trump’s hatred of and willingness to scapegoat immigrants and refugees. Pence was the first governor to refuse to allow Syrian refugees to relocate in his state. On November 16th 2015, he directed “all state agencies to suspend the resettlement of additional Syrian refugees in the state of Indiana,” sending a young family that had waited four years in refugee limbo to be resettled in the United States scrambling for another state to call home. That’s a pro-life position for you. To top it all off, Pence is a creationist, and is a climate change denier.

So if Donald Trump is looking for someone who, like himself, has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs, then Pence is his guy.

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.


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