Haitian Americans Pledge Relief After Killer Quake
New America Media, Interview, , Odette Keeley Posted: Jan 14, 2010
Editor's Note: Amadi Ajamu, a reporter for Black Star News in New York, says the earthquake in Haiti is “the worst thing that could happen to a nation that is the epitome of black independence and struggle.” Haiti still has not recovered from the ravages of four hurricanes that struck the island in 2008. Ajamu was interviewed by Odette Keeley for "New America Now", a weekly radio show of New America Media on 91.7 FM KALW.
Amadi, what kind of aid to the victims of this earthquake are you helping organize?
Here in New York, there are many different Haitian organizations that are coordinating with them so that they can get it to the particular groups that give to the people on the ground. All relief efforts are going to start on Friday so we are reaching out to everybody that we can get in touch with to come out to the rally, to show their support and organize how we can move forward. We have been in touch with the Haitian Mission and Haitian Consulate here but they’re having problems just communicating on the island because some of the telephone towers and cell phone towers out there have been destroyed due to the earthquake. It's very hard to get clear information out of there.
What kind of feedback are you getting from Haitian Americans and the Caribbean community with regard to this tragedy?
Well, you know Haiti has been through a bunch of different natural disasters in the last few years. In 2008, four hurricanes hit Haiti one after another and they still haven't recovered from that.
I was part of a delegation that went to Haiti in September on an international commission of inquiry of their MINUSTAH, which are the UN occupational forces down there that took control over after the ousting of President Aristide. We heard testimonies from people of the abuses that were taking place against the Haitian people by MINUSTAH.
Amadi, describe for me what you saw there and how you imagine this tragedy may have taken a toll on the Haitian people.
We were really shocked that after two years there has been minimal recuperation from those hurricanes. People were literally living on landfills. The deforestation is unbelievable. The reason why the hurricanes were so devastating is because of the lack of trees and things that would block it, so when the flood comes in, it just floods the whole island. The poverty is overwhelming. Port-au-Prince is very densely populated because the people from the outskirts are trying to find a way to survive. They all end up gathering in cities. There’s no electricity, no running water. They’re living in shantytowns and shacks. I would say that 90 percent of the people are living in abject poverty.
I could not imagine how they can withstand this earthquake. I mean, it’s the worst thing that could happen to a nation that is the epitome of black independence and struggle. As we look back at the history of Haiti, we know that from the very beginning, they have always come under this tremendous exploitation and oppression to the point where they are the only nation that had to pay reparations to the loser in a war. They beat Napoleon in 1804 and they had to pay reparations up until 1950 or so.
Haiti is also known for its widespread corruption. What are Haitian Americans trying to do to help avoid any kind of mishandling of international aid for the earthquake victims?
When you say corruption, it’s very interesting because the puppet governments have been put in place by Western interests so that they can continue to exploit and oppress Haiti, so they can get cheap labor. So it's not that Haiti is independently corrupt. It's that they are corrupted by imperialist forces.
What we are trying to do is get direct contact with people there and maintain a line where we can know when the people get it, so that they can be in touch with us and let us know that they got it, so that we can maintain accountability all the way through. And sometimes you do that outside of government instruments. But we can’t separate Haiti from the international forces that they are influenced by.
Page 1 of 1