Sunday, September 14, 2008

Before I Go...

You didn't ask me, but before I go away on vacation, I wanted to briefly talk about something that's been gnawing at my soul.

I was sitting on the couch, enjoying the last drops of wine in my glass, when I again noticed the small painting sitting on my mantel. It's a scene of a market place in Verrettes, Central Haiti - showing women in long dresses and head wraps selling ripe melons and mangoes - all depicted in bright life-affirming colors. The perspective is up-close, personal, intimate, lush. It captures the soul of the Haitian fruit sellers perfectly.

The painting was done by Mr. W.J. Burzile - a local Brooklyn street artist who is from Haiti. I bought it from him about 8 years ago and got to know him a little. I watched him complete the painting while we were talking that day.

Mr. Burzile if from
Gonaïves - the poorest city in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Although he spoke respectfully of his birthplace there was no doubting he was happy to be in Brooklyn - a fact confirmed by his engaging and knowing smile when I asked him if he longed to go back. No matter that 7th Avenue was now his market place, his love for Haiti and it's people shouted from the small canvas he just produced.

So as I was staring at this picture on my mantle I started to get sad. Haiti, a country of 7 million people is dying.
And nobody seems to give a damn.

The country is ravaged by incurable diseases like HIV, by generations of mismanagement and mistreatment, by tortures, corruption and criminal activity of all kinds. All hope has vanished. Every man, woman and child have one thing to think about: how to escape and how to survive until escape. And still, nobody seems to give a damn.

And then a series of hurricanes hits Haiti and there is more devastation and more horror and more death. And still, nobody seems to give a damn.

And Gonaïves, the poorest city in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is under water. Hundreds have died - exactly where thousands died just 4 years ago during a similar natural disaster. And still, nobody seems to give a damn.

Haiti is a forgotten country. The United States official position toward Haiti is to be in denial of the slow death occurring there. The United States official position is to let Haitians die in the shark-infested waters of the Atlantic instead of granting them asylum. The
official position of the United States is to imprison Haitians in Miami at Krome Detention Center should they be "lucky" enough to reach these shores after they have escaped. And still, nobody seems to give damn.

While the United States and the rest of the world turn their backs on Haiti,
Haitians are starving to death. There are grossly insufficient aid efforts and no attempts at rebuilding the country.
The world seems to be saying "If the Haitian nation is dying, it should do this in silence."

And still, nobody seems to give a damn.

I'm about to leave on vacation, but before I go I'm trying to do whatever little I can. Because I give a damn about Haiti and the Haitian people - and I know you do too.

So contact
Haiti 911 and see what you can do.

Doctors Without Borders - they too need your help.

And UNICEF is once again shouldering one of the biggest efforts on the relief front. Help them out if you can.

Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean is in Gonaïves now. Donate to Jean's foundation, Yele Haiti.

Don't let Haiti and Haitians be forgotten - do something, anything.