Statement by Dr. Ron Daniels, President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Founder of the Haiti Support Project
The 7.0 earthquake which struck Haiti January 12th was one of the most catastrophic disasters ever experienced in the Caribbean region. Much of the Capital city of Port Au Prince is in shambles and other cities in the Southeastern region of the country have been devastated as well. This cataclysmic event comes in the wake of a series of hurricanes and tropical storms that have ravished the nation in recent years. But, as I stated in an article last summer, it also comes at a time when the “stars appeared to be aligning in favor of progress for Haiti.” A new sense of optimism and hope was beginning to spread as security and political stability improved under the Government of President Rene Gracia Preval. Haiti was abuzz about prospects for economic development and investment opportunities. The week before the earthquake hit, an article by Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald proclaimed “Haiti Experiences Hotel Boom.” The earthquake has interrupted momentum towards significant progress in Haiti.
But, “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” The Haitian people are remarkably resilient and strong. It was this strength and resiliency that enabled their forebears to become the first enslaved people in recorded history to rise up to defeat their slave masters and establish the first Black Republic in the world! Indeed, the whole world is indebted to Haiti for the shining example of the capacity of a courageous people to shatter the shackles of oppression against overwhelming odds. The Haitian Revolution was a triumph for human Rights.
The United States of America is especially indebted to Haiti. Haitian troops fought in the decisive battle of Savannah in the Revolutionary War, and the crushing defeat of the French army by the Haitian freedom fighters persuaded Napoleon that he should cut his losses by selling the huge Louisiana Territory to the U.S. for a mere $15 million. As a result of this deal with President Thomas Jefferson, the size of the American nation dramatically expanded, creating vast new opportunities for security and wealth for millions of new arrivals to this country.
America should always have treated Haiti as a “special neighbor.” However, the history of America and the world’s relationship to Haiti has been far from magnanimous. Haiti shattered the myth of “white supremacy” at the height of the propagation of racism, the holocaust of enslavement and the onslaught of European colonial conquest of the western hemisphere. Therefore, the Revolution, which established an independent nation, was an unwelcome development. Accordingly, Haiti was stigmatized, marginalized, isolated, coerced into paying reparations to France for its “loss of land and property”, and eventually invaded/occupied by the United States. During the “Cold War,” the U.S. supported the brutal dictatorship of the Duvaliers and in general has fostered policies that contributed to the “impoverishment” of Haiti.
It is through the prism of this historical context that we must view the current catastrophe in Haiti. In that vein, nothing short of a Global Marshall Plan is required to reconstruct the first Black Republic. With the U.S. government taking the lead, this horrific crisis presents the challenge and opportunity for the world to mobilize massive resources to rebuild Haiti as an expression of historical gratitude. But, this Global Marshall Plan must be devoid of the failed IMF and World Bank policies, which have crippled Haiti’s development efforts in the past. First and foremost, the Marshall Plan must address Haiti’s vision of its future based on a blueprint devised by the Haitian people.
To read the entire essay, click here.