What Haitians Want from Americans (and What They Don't Want)

We asked Haitians in civil society organizations, on the
streets, in buses, "What do you want from the U.S.? What help can Americans give Haiti?" Here are some
of their answers.

Roseanne Auguste, community health worker with the Association
for the Promotion of Integrated Family Health:

We asked Haitians in civil society organizations, on the
streets, in buses, "What do you want from the U.S.? What help can Americans give Haiti?" Here are some
of their answers.

Roseanne Auguste, community health worker with the Association
for the Promotion of Integrated Family Health:

The U.S. people don't know us enough. The
first thing that Haitians need from the American people is for them to
know our history better. They just see us as boat people. Especially
Black Americans, we need them to know the other parts of our history,
like that we defeated Napoleon. This would let them know that we're the
same people.

By contrast, Haitians know what they like in the U.S. They don't
agree with American policies, but they have no problem with the American
people. Rap music, Haitians appreciate it a lot: Tupac, Akon,
Wyclef - even though he's originally from Haiti. The Haitian
people feel strongly about Michael Jordan, a Black man who beat up on the other
players. On the back of taptaps [painted buses]
you see Michael Jackson, the Obamas. It doesn't matter that Obama is a
machine of the establishment; the fact that he's a Black American, they
identify with him.

There have to be more exchanges between grassroots
organizations in the U.S. and Haiti. If the
American people knew more about Haitians, if they had a chance to meet
more often people-to-people, they'd see we have lots to share. We could
build another world together.

Marie Berthine Bonheur, community organizer:

Do the U.S. soldiers come to bulldoze? No way.
We have a people who are traumatized. Is that a situation that you
respond to with arms and batons? We're not at war with anyone. They
would do better to come help us get rid of this crumbled cement
everywhere. We need equipment to help us demolish these building. Help
us have schools and hospitals. We need engineers who can help us
rebuild, and psychologists and doctors.

We don't need soldiers. They just increase our suffering, our
pain, our worries.

Adelaire Bernave Prioche, geologist and teacher:

This country has a problem with skilled people, like all Third World countries. Once
people get trained, they go to other countries.

This country needs youth to be trained in all domains. First,
the Americans could help with this, for example with geologists. We lost
so many teachers, we need people to teach. Second, we need massive
investment to create employment to let people stay in Haiti.

Christophe Denis, law student:

The way the U.S. is distributing aid... a line of
people waiting for rice and then across the street, a line of street
merchants who can't sell their food. Are they sacrificing a class of
people in the framework of aid?

Instead of supporting international trade to come in and crush
us, reinforce our capacity for production and reinforce our
self-sufficiency. The international commerce is just helping a small
percentage. All that's produced in Haiti, it has to be
strengthened.

Jesila Casseus, street vendor:

We want partnerships, people putting their hands with ours in
the cassava pot to reconstruct our country. We don't want orders. We won't accept
another slavery. We don't want dominion over us, we don't want to be
turned into a protectorate.

Partnerships, okay. But NGOs are coming and sucking the
country. They're taking our money and sending it back to where they came
from. They're taking our riches and making us poorer.

Judith Simeon, organizer with peasant
organization
s and grassroots women's groups:

The American policy towards Haiti: none of the
Haitian people want it. It's no good. The peasant economy was
destroyed with the killing of Creole pigs [in the early 1980s, when
USAID and other international agencies killed the entire pig
population, allegedly in response to an outbreak of African Swine Fever].
That was the biggest crime of the American government. After that, the
free market, neoliberalism - without thinking about the consequences -
has crushed peasant agriculture and the rest of the economy even more.
As for the rice that's coming in as international aid, what happens to
the people in [the rice-growing area of] the Artibonite? Their
production is destroyed.

If you're helping someone, you have to respect that person
first. I can't tell you how it felt to watch the American soldiers
distributing aid by throwing rice and water on the ground and having
people run after it, like we saw on TV. That's not how you respect
someone.

I can't suggest what else the US people should
do. If you don't respect the dignity of a people, you can't help them.
All this racist sentiment and action, we don't need that.

Chavannes Jean-Baptiste,director of
the Peasant Movement of Papay:

When we speak of American imperialists, we make a distinction
between government and people. We believe that a lot of people are
conscious of what has happened to Haiti and don't want
the imperialist project of the American government. There are a lot of
things that we can do together. There are people here thinking
seriously about alternative development in Haiti. There are many
ways that progressive American people can help with that.

We need people in the US to tell the
American government that what they are giving is not what we need. Why
do we need 20,000 U.S. soldiers? We don't. In Clinton's plan, there
are free trade zones. We don't want that. We don't need them sending in
American firms to reconstruct Port-au-Prince, either, which
will just lead to its returning as the center of everything in
the country. Rural areas could start producing construction materials
that we need to rebuild. We need fruit plantations, we need irrigation
systems, we need local agriculture industry.

American progressives could lead delegations to come see the
country, so that when they return, they could help us reject the
imperialist plan. Go out to the countryside, see that people have hope
that they can change their lives. In the chain of solidarity, instead of
sending food, send organic seeds, send tools, help with the management
of water. A group in the U.S. can work with a group in Haiti and help it
build a cistern, dig a well,
reforest, build silos to create seed banks of local seeds. Support
groups that are reconstructing rural Haiti, that are
creating work in the mountains. Help us establish rural universities.
Help people who have left [earthquake-hit areas and gone to the country]
be able to sustain themselves.

We need American people to say, "we stand with
the popular project for the rebuilding of Haiti." We need it to
be permanent, for Americans to continue to accompany the Haitian people,
because the reconstruction of a Haiti is something
that will take years.

This is the time to thank many groups for showing how much they
are with the Haitian people, for doing all they can, for collecting
medical supplies. There's been an extraordinary demonstration of
solidarity.

Rony Joseph, policeman:

We need help reconstructing: roads, infrastructure, schools.
We need a country that is modern. If you look at the world, you see
globalization happening. Everyone has things that Haiti doesn't have.

You know, foreign countries are helping us a lot today, but I
think they have an interest in it, too. When we have a problem in Haiti, the U.S. and Canada get very
concerned and start helping. Otherwise we might end up on their
doorstep.