Posts Tagged ‘earthquake’

The battle of the Caribbean islands was on!



It all started when my in- laws coordinated a trip to their country of origin, Trinidad and Tobago.  They wanted their grandchildren to see and get to know their life journey. It was great trip with lots food, fun, and of course being with family.  It got me to thinking that it was equally important for my kids to get to know my parents’ country of origin, Haiti.

So what does a fully assimilated Haitian-American do to make that happen?

I booked a cruise, of course.


Now, I had set my expectations of Haiti very high. I was 6 years old the last time I had visited. I mean on a scale of 1-10, it was on one million.  What life has taught me is that the higher the expectations, the more likely you are to be disappointed.  I brought it on myself and that is exactly what happened when we docked in Labadee, Haiti. As we approached Haiti on Day 3,  I was struck by the beauty of the mountains and how picturesque the scenery was. Then out of nowhere a dark cloud appeared over us and began a torrential downpour, an ominous sign indeed.

So back to the cruise, before I get into the nitty gritty and you may feel the need to comment about how I went about it all wrong. You are right. Who asked you anyway?  The lesson in this is NEVER take a cruise line to a country if you really want to get a feel for the culture. That was my biggest mistake.
 So we arrive in Labadee Haiti, a privately owned island, sanctioned by the cruise line in a torrential downpour. I figure since we had been on that boat for 3 days, We ARE getting off.  We are greeted by a group of men singing “Guantanamera”. I did one of those gestures where you look back and then in front of you a few times, like “What in the world? Is this for real?” I understand Haitian music is a unique blend of African, Spanish, and French rhythms but I anticipated compas/kompa upon my arrival.
 We just continued on our way but that experience was just the tip of the iceberg. However, I made sure to make eye contact as if somehow they could read my mind.
There were signs directing us to a marketplace area where we could buy from the locals. Prior to departure, it was explained that the vendors were “cruise line” approved. In other words, you had to go through a vetting process in order to work on Labadee.  As we strolled through the marketplace, I am accustomed to vendors trying to get my attention, the other guests of the cruise, weren’t so pleased. I almost wanted to yell ” Stop it, we are better than this!”.
I wanted to pick a bottle of rum, so I stepped into a small store and begin to peruse the merchandise. I don’t know who decided it would be a good idea to put a picture of Bob Marley on souvenirs with the caption ” Labadee, Haiti”.  I love Bob Marley like the next person, but I also know he is NOT Haitian.  This was not isolated either, it was everywhere.  There is so much more to Haitian culture that there is no reason to culturally misappropriate individuals.
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We have so much we could be proud of as outlined in : https://cornbreadandcremasse.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/telling-our-story-3/, but here are a just a few facts to share.
Native Haitians were pre-Columbian Ameridian named Taino/Arawak both meaning the good people.
Haiti is the most mountainous country in the Caribbean.
Haiti has the second longest coastline in the Caribbean after Cuba; 1.100 miles. Over 70% of its beaches are still virgin.
Haiti was the second country in the world to issue a Declaration of Independence, only 33 years after the United States of America.
The first and only country in the history of mankind whose independence is the result of a successful slave rebellion.
Haiti is the first Black Republic in the World.
The first country in the Western Hemisphere to abolished slavery; it would take the United States of America another 65 years to follow suit.
The first and only Black Nation to have successfully defeated a major world power in a war; under the command of Jean Jacques Dessalines, Haiti defeated the world mightiest army at the time, France’s; on November 18th 1803 after 14 years of battle.
-The only country in the Western Hemisphere to have defeated three colonial armies for its independence. The powerful armies of Spain, England and France.
-Haiti is unique in history, going directly from slavery to nationhood.
The National flag of Venezuela was created at the sea port of  Jacmel, a city in  south east Haiti.
Upon Independence, Haiti became the first country in the American Continent to constitutionally grant all Its citizen full rights regardless of gender or race.
Haiti occupied the Dominican Republic for 22 years. From 1822 to 1844, holding the entire Island of Hispaniola under Its jurisdiction. Today’s Dominican Republic was called Spanish Haiti at the time.
Haiti is one of the only two countries in the American Continent having French as an official language. The other is Canada.
Haiti is the only country in the world with Vodou as an official religion.
For much of the 17th and the 18th century, Haiti was responsible for 60% of the world’s  coffee exports.
 Even though, things were not perfect or realistic for that matter, it meant a lot to me to be able to share the experience with my family. Clearly, I need a trip to Haiti do over and when I do, you will be the first to know.
Have you ever visited a place that didn’t quite live up to your expectations? How did you reconcile your expectations with the reality? I would love to hear your comments and ideas for my do over trip:).



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This blog post was written and submitted by DJ Hard Hittin Harry

Tuesday January 12, 2016 marks 6 years since the devastating earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that crippled my beautiful island of Haiti on January 12th in 2010. It is a tragic day that I will never soon forget…and no one else should either.

The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake, with an epicenter near the town of Léogâne (Ouest Department), approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.  The shaking started on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 4:53 p.m. EST (21:53 UTC)

By the 24th of January, at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded. An estimated three million people were affected by the quake. Death toll estimates range from 100,000 to about 160,000  (Haitian government figures ranging from 220,000 to 316,000 have been widely characterized as deliberately inflated by the Haitian government.) The government of Haiti estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged. There has been a history of national debt, prejudicial trade policies by other countries, and foreign intervention into national affairs that contributed to the pre-existing poverty and poor housing conditions that exacerbated the death toll.

I will never forget that day. Since it actually occurred on a Tuesday afternoon, I had just finished spinning my online mix show (The Global Jam Session) at a studio in Newark, New Jersey at 4:00pm EST. I vividly recall commuting via the subway back to Brooklyn. By the time I arrived in Brooklyn, the Haiti earthquake was “BREAKING NEWS”. I began receiving a multitude of texts to turn on the TV. From that moment I, nor anyone, will never soon forget the events and images plastered all over the TV screen on every channel. Mayhem, death, sadness, and devastation emanated from Haiti to the horrified world via news outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN, and others. Phone lines and cell phone service to and from Haiti were shut down and as you can well imagine, panic ensued. Unspeakable chaos followed as family members here in the United States (as well as all over the world) desperately tried to contact loved ones, family members, and friends via news and radio stations. Local Haitian radio stations such as Radio Soleil, tirelessly operated by Mr. Rico Dupuy became the hub for the Haitian community to desperately attempt to locate their loved ones 24/7. Haitian businesses such as Savoir Faire Record Store in Flatbush were flooded with medical supplies, clothes, and food to help our people. The world continued to watch and wondered how they could help and donate monies. Yet…as the death toll and the number of displaced Haitians continued to rise…you couldn’t help to begin losing hope.

The impact of the earthquake affected me personally here in the States. The day of the quake I received word from my mother that her elder sister, my then-84 year old aunt, Marcelle St. Jean (A United States citizen and New Jersey resident) happened to be in Haiti at that time. Every year Tante Marcelle or Ti ManMan (Lil’ Mama), as we affectionately call her, travels to Haiti to celebrate her birthday as well as deliver toys and gifts to a school that her son, Rev. Marcel St. Jean (my cousin), has there called Sam Haiti. When the earthquake occurred, my aunt was one of the victims buried under the rubble, and went missing for 3 days.
Thanks to a concerned neighbor, my aunt was found in the streets and her children were contacted stateside.  Then came the daunting task of how to get to her and bring her back to the States. My cousins Bernard and Catherine flew to the Dominican Republic and retrieved my aunt in Port-Au-Prince. She was subsequently flown to a Miami hospital for treatment. On Tuesday January 19th, 2010, exactly one week after the horrific events that claimed lives and displaced thousands of Haitians, the Good Lord answered our prayers and my aunt arrived at JFK Airport bruised and battered,  yet alive. Fox 5 News even covered the story and cameras documented her safe return.  Six years later, and undaunted, my dear Tante Marcelle (Ti ManMan) will be in Haiti to celebrate her 90th birthday on January 16, 2016. She is a true warrior and survivor…and very blessed I might add!
marcel3  marcel2
We were extremely fortunate with our situation, however our hearts and prayers goes out to families deeply affected by this unspeakable tragedy. It’s been 6 years since the Haiti earthquake and although the island is on a recovery mission, there is still a long way to go. Let us never forget that day and the victims and their families.
Here are the tolls according to CNN:

  • 220,000-316,000: estimates of the death toll vary
  • 300,000: number of injured
  • 1.5 million: people initially displaced
  • 64,680: displaced people remain as of March 31, 2015
  • 3,978: number of schools damaged or destroyed by earthquake

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Written by Ashley Toussaint — read more of his work at http://www.brothertoussaint.wordpress.com

I have only been to Haiti three times. My last visit, was in April 2012. I have made a pledge to myself, to visit at least once a year from here on out. The Earthquake on January 12, 2010 was, in my eyes, this generation’s most tragic story of human loss. Was I there? No. But to watch the news and hear reports of thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands dead or missing was staggering. Like so many others, I was compelled to get involved by using my gifts, blessings, talents and opportunities to reach out to the people back home. But even before the Earthquake, Haiti had endured a decade of deadly storms, mudslides, floods and political unrest that seemed to have no cause or an end.

My first visit to Haiti as an adult in 2004 had a great impact on my life. I noticed that the people (my family to be specific) did not have much in the way of material wealth, but their resourcefulness, resilience, courage, strength and laughter were something that truly inspired me. They welcomed me into their humble abodes with open arms, hugs, kisses and smiles. They shared everything. No running water was available, like many families. Thus, someone would fetch water from a nearby stream and warm it up each morning so that I could have a warm bath (outside). We all bathed outside. This is the way they lived. No running water and no electricity (with the exception of a gas powered generator which they used at night).

We were considered fortunate, as the only house on the entire block with electricity. And that was their reality, 24/7. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Port-au-Prince. We went to soccer matches played on gravel roads, listened to live Haitian hip hop rap battles on rooftops. We walked through the streets of Carfour and met my cousin’s friends and neighbors. He even took me to the neighborhood gym, with weights made of pales of cement and used make-shift weight benches. This was their Haiti and now my experience of it.

I left Port-au-Prince with a totally different view of the world. While I complained about the things I did not have, in the way of material riches, I should have been praying to God to give me the strength of my brothers and sisters in Haiti. My experience was so profound, that I actually stopped going to church; I didn’t know what to pray for. After visiting my family abroad, I realized I had everything I needed. People at my church back home would cry on the altar, while pastors laid hands on them, to bless them with the ability to pay their water and light bills? Really? How could I return to Miami, get in line at the altar and pray to God for luxury?

Obviously, not everyone who visits their relatives back home come away with the same experience. Some people get on the plane and never return. Some people get caught up in the rat race and forget about the struggle of others. Living in middle-class America is not easy. We have bills and obligations to meet. We have our own lives and struggles too. I’m not here to be the judge of what is more important. However, if you have family back in Haiti, their should be some sense of duty to at least stay connected.

I tried my best to stay in touch. I said that I would go back each summer, but I would not return to Haiti for seven years.

A boy throws stones into the ocean during sunset in Petit Goave, Haiti.

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(The following post is from guest blogger, KT Velez. You can check out her blog: My name is not Katie.)


My girls will never knew the Haiti I knew…and I will never know the Haiti my mother knew….
My eyes have been welling up all day. I’ve sometimes coughed out a weep out of nowhere it seems. Then it dawns on me that I am going through all the feelings and emotions of mourning. I feel like someone I knew personally has died. I am wearing all black today. My hair is pulled back. I’m not wearing any makeup. Like a good Haitian in mourning should! I wasn’t told to. I woke up and instinctively did it. I realize that I am also having those moments that only come after you have lost something precious.
1.The realizations of what you no longer have. 2.What life will mean to you now that “its” gone. and 3. How will you cope without that thing or person? How will you fill the void? When I got engaged…I realized my mother would not witness her baby girl get married. When I got married I realized she would not see any of my children born and so on and so forth. When I started to earn a decent living, I couldn’t whisk her away on a cruise or buy her nice things. She was gone. Haiti is like that for me and so many others. It IS our mother land. We don’t have to fly all the way to Africa and walk amongst strangers to find our connection with the universe. We have our ancestry right here in our backyard. Over 200years of History as a FREE NATION. When I heard of the destruction of all of our landmarks,the Royal Palace, Sacre Coeur Church, Hotel Christopher, Petionville, Chans Mas, la ville and so many others, I realized that a part of me had also been destroyed.
I had longed for a day to “show off” my country to my husband and my children. Of course, there was never a good time to go. Its too dangerous! You’ll get kidnapped! You’ll get sick! Then our first daughter was born…she’s too little to go. Then we had our second daughter… she’s to young to go. For the “good time” we continued to wait. Now…There is no waiting. We are on hold indefinitely. My cousin and his wife were saving money to one day return to Haiti for good. Who can return now?
What my mother saw, I longed to see…What I saw, my daughters will long to see…but maybe what my daughters see, will be what we have always been waiting for. I pray that we see a New Haiti in our lifetime or in our children’s lifetime. May God watch over Haiti.

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(guest post by blogger KT Velez , you can read more from her at: http://ktvelez.blogspot.com)

We had spent the whole morning traveling in the heat and dust. We drove down long, bumpy crater filled roads. These roads haven’t seen a paving in years and the earthquake only made worse, Worst. There were areas where literally the hole in the road was so big, traffic had to drive all the way around almost on the “sidewalk” to get through. These obstacles make what should be a short trip in any metropolitan area a long and arduous journey. You really have to ask yourself…do I NEED to go to this place???

Before setting out. A 30 mile ride for example took us nearly 2 hours to complete. From the inside of the vehicle you could see that it was not a long distance. I can close my eyes and plot out all the landmarks to retrace my steps. But the traffic and the roads make it so difficult. On the way to our work site we saw many things. “Street kids” begging in the street. Marlene told us that even if she took them in; they would not stay. They have the street in them and they only know the ways of the streets. She says they are also very promiscuous. This was all explained at a stoplight. As we drove off, my eyes stayed on the children we had left behind. They could not be more than 10 years old.

We were keeping track of the other two vehicles with us. One loaded with our valuable supplies the other with our precious cargo, our team mates. We stopped often to let a vehicle catch up with us or vice versa. There was a stop where our driver was getting antsy. He said, this is a bad area, I don’t want to be waiting here too long. We could get attacked. We need to get out of here. I looked around and honestly I couldn’t see the difference from one place to the other. We were up and down streets lined with market place. Some of the merchandise looked really familiar. Are they selling donated clothes? They weren’t new. Are those donated shoes? Food? All I could see was huge mounds of various categories of things lying on a bag or a sheet on the ground. Shirts, jeans, sneakers, you name it. None of if was new. There was an area selling just auto parts. Another area where you could get your engine power washed with filthy water and the service wasn’t for free. There was an overpass for what used to be a river going through a town. It was now dry and filled with garbage. On one side, they were burning the garbage. Paper or plastic? Both! Not a lovely smell at all.

We come to what I like to call a beach road. It’s where you have land on one side and you can see the ocean in the distance behind houses and streets. The road goes in and out of towns but there is always the ocean winking at you on one side. I thought oh we must be getting close. The roads here were not as bad. We picked up some speed and were moving nicely through,taking in the sites. This didn’t last very long. There was a huge truck in the middle of the road, just sitting there. Typical Haiti. We go around the truck and there in the middle of the road is a dead man, face down under a sheet. Only his feet and part of his head were sticking out. We drove a little further and there was a large crowd at a bus stop all huddled together. A little farther and there was a tap tap bus in the middle of the road. Empty. No passengers. The top was almost completely dismantled and turned alllllllll the way left. We put two and two together and figured that the truck must have hit the tap tap and flung the poor man out to his death. And there was no ambulance in site. There would be none coming either.


I thought to myself; this is worse than a black cat crossing in front of your car! This is a bad thing to witness on the day we arrive to Haiti. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. But like many resilient Haitians we all had to move on because soon we would arrive at our final destination for the week. Like it or not this would be home for the next 5 days. We had a lot of work to do. First on the list was unloading those bags. By the time we arrived we were already spent. It was like an episode of survivor. Do we rest or set up camp? With only 5 days on our lease we had no time to spare. We met our Ohio Partners and we got to work setting up 4 tents.
From that moment all of our bodies were about to embark on a 5 day assault. I can honestly say I have never worked so hard in all my life. The “work” began the moment the gate closed behind us and didn’t stop until we got on that plane and arrived back home. The work, the loving, and the serving the helping the aiding…we did all of it. This trip trumped all others because we were among the people. We didnt show up, set up shop and leave on a daily basis to other towns. Though this type of aid brings much needed supplies, medical help and relief. We set up shop and we stayed. We stayed with the people, we ate amongst the people, we saw what they were going through up close. For some maybe too close. For others we can’t seem to get it out of our systems. The vast disparity between where we lived in Haiti for a week and no matter where we live in the United States is difficult to comprehend. It wakes up a part of your being that rarely gets stirred and leaves you stuck between two worlds.

Support the Haiti Disaster Relief Effort

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