Ten years ago my family and I survived one of the most devastating natural disaster in recorded history—yet so many tens of thousands of Haitian people did not.
It has been a long journey for me to begin to recover emotionally and psychologically over the past decade, made harder by the fact that so many commitments to support the Haitian people’s recovery were broken. On this day of mourning, contemplation, and resilience, I want to share my last ten years of writing, art, interviews, analysis, and reflection on the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The Haitian people continue wage a beautiful rebellion for their freedom, despite the betrayals and exploitation they’ve suffered. (Following this introduction I provide those resources).
Writing and recording my song, “Te Tranble” (The Earthquake in Haitian Creole) with my friend and collaborator Daniel Rapport for our band The Blue Tide, was deeply cathartic and healing for my soul— I dedicated the song to the boy who died while I was wrapping his head with bandages. Engaging in ongoing therapy has been vital to my mental and emotional health and well-being.
But it is the mass uprising of the Haitian people fighting for clean water, housing, healthcare, education, and freedom that has helped me most in my recovery. The people of Haiti have endured callous, vindictive and devastating attacks and neglect since the earthquake; the world’s powerful predator nations could see only wounded prey where they should have seen human beings in need of support. And yet the Haitian people have never surrendered. The mass protests over past year have been epic—and that is saying a lot, given Haiti’s history as the only country in world history where enslaved people overthrew their masters to start their own nation. As Kim Ives’ wrote, “If 2018 was the year that the uprising against President Jovenel Moïse and his Haitian Bald Headed Party (PHTK) began, 2019 was the year that it grew to become a full-scale revolution in the making.”
This mass social revolt has been spurred by many things over the last decade; the U.S. and U.N. prioritizes inflated security concerns over immediate humanitarian relief in the aftermath of the earthquake. The unfilled promises of rapid rebuilding housing and schools by foreign powers almost pale against the shameful NGO humanitarian aid swindle; non-profits hoarded money intended for Haiti—including the Red Cross’s $500 million for Haiti home construction resulting in only six permanent homes. Meanwhile, Haitian workers have been exploited by U.S. and foreign corporations; the U.N. introduced cholera disease into the Haitian water supply that killed many thousands, the U.S. interfered with the Haitian elections in an efforts to install a puppet regime.
It has been the PetroCaribe scandal that sent the Haitian insurgency to new heights in recent months. Haitian president Jovenel Moïse defrauded the country’s poor out of billions of dollars of Venezuela’s PetroCaribe oil program aid. Once again, the Haitian people are showing the world what’s possible through collective struggle. Ives’ writes,
As PetroChallenger Gilbert Mirambeau, Jr. (whose viral August 2018 Tweet helped spark the “Where is the PetroCaribe money?” movement) said in a recent interview: “This is not a struggle against a government. It is a struggle against a system.”
Indeed, “system change” is the watch-word one hears often from the youths skirmishing with police patrols. The threat that 2019’s “lock-down” mobilizations present to the capitalist system in Haiti, where factories and businesses have been shuttered for weeks on end, has motivated many leading figures of Haiti’s comprador bourgeoisie – like Reginald Boulos or Bernard Craan – to fund and posture in support of the revolt in an attempt to salvage the system. The intransigent Jovenel, with his backing from an equally pig-headed U.S. President Donald Trump, is threatening to bring the whole kit and kaboodle down, they fear.
As I write these words on January 12th, 2020, my heart is filled with hope and possibility that the Haitian people will shake off their neocolonial overloads and help inspire world wide movements to replace capitalism with an economic, political, and social system that is based on solidarity, love, and generosity rather than profit, exploitation, and oppression. The human obscenity that is President Donald Trump called Haiti a “shithole country,” but as I wrote on the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, Black Haitian Lives Matter, and I pledge to continue to build the international uprising to force the U.S. to recognize this fact.
Here, then, is the catalog of resources I have contributed to in an effort to help people understand and support the people of Haiti.
Rethinking Schools: Shock-Doctrine Schooling in Haiti
Neoliberalism off the Richter scale
By Jesse Hagopian
“Te Tranble” (The Earthquake) performed by The Blue Tide
Democracy Now Interviews Jesse: “The Sound of Screaming Is Constant”–Haiti Devastated by Massive Earthquake, Desperate Search for Survivors Continues
The death toll rises as Haiti is crushed by a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake. Bodies lie in the streets as people continue to cry out from underneath the rubble. Little aid has come in as the situation becomes increasingly desperate. The number of dead is almost certainly in the tens of thousands but could be 100,000 or more. We go to Port-au-Prince to get a report from a young American father who is helping to care for the injured in the hotel where he was staying when the quake struck.
Seattle Times: Seattle couple in Haiti suddenly become medical workers
Jesse Hagopian and his wife, Sarah Wilhelm, of Seattle, were in Haiti when the earthquake hit. Suddenly, they found themselves administering first aid to victims.
The unemployed Seattle schoolteacher roped into saving lives outside a hotel in Haiti last week is finally starting his long journey home.
Common Dreams: Trump, “Shitholes,” and White Supremacy: Building Resistance on 8th Anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake my Family and I Survived.
Real Change Feature:
by: Rosette Royale , Assistant Editor
Jesse Hagopian was in Haiti with his wife and child. Then an earthquake struck. All that he experienced there has impacted him, and his family, deeply.
Jesse wrote this piece with raw emotion reflecting on the third anniversary of his family surviving the earthquake in Haiti and the savage response of powerful nations around the world.
Seattle Times: A year after the earthquake, Haiti still needs help
Oped by Jesse Hagopian
A year after a 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti, much of the pledged assistance still has not reached the Haitian people. Guest columnist Jesse Hagopian writes about what still needs to be done.
Friday, 16 September 2011 11:39 By Jesse Hagopian, Truthout | News Analysis
Published on Friday, April 23, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
Common Dreams: Unshakable Truth in Haiti: Reflections on Genocide