Under Tents: Taking Action for Haiti’s Homeless

by: Kevin Edmonds
Originally posted July 6, 2012 on NACLA

On July 2, Haitian grassroots organizations and their international allies launched a housing rights campaign called ‘Under Tents’ in response to the failure the Haitian government to “address Haiti’s epidemic of homelessness.” According to Haiti Liberté, the campaign will press for congressional and parliamentary action in the U.S., Canada, and Europe to support the construction of housing for displaced Haitians. Central to the campaign is an online petition addressed to President Martelly, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other senior Haitian and American officials to take action to combat Haiti’s severe housing crisis.

Reading recent headlines however, it would be easy—albeit mistaken—to think that progress was being made on the housing front. On July 26, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) reported that the number of displaced Haitians living in the camps had dropped below 400,000 from a high of nearly 1.5 million in the immediate aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake. What the IOM didn’t tell the public was where the displaced people had gone, and why so many had left the camps.
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Haiti’s earthquake victims step up demands for housing

By Roger Annis & Kim Ives, July 4, 2012

The following article was published on the Haiti blog of Rabble.ca. It also appears in the July 4 issue of Haiti Liberté newsweekly.

The plight of some 400,000 Haitians still living under tarps and tents since the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake has surged into the streets and headlines in recent weeks, highlighting one of Haiti’s most explosive and intractable issues. A new grassroots campaign, an international petition, several new reports, and street demonstrations are underscoring the problem’s urgency.

On May 31, dozens of protesters mobilized by the Forces for Reflection and Action on Housing Matters (FRAKKA) demonstrated in front of the office of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to denounce the broken promises of Haitian government officials to provide housing for earthquake victims. “We in FRAKKA have noted the growing speed of forced expulsions against the displaced people camps,” said Rénel Sanon, FRAKKA’s Secretary General.

For almost one year now, the government of President Michel Martelly has trumpeted a program entitled ‘16/6’ under which about 30,000 residents of six large camps would be resettled to their original but repaired 16 neighborhoods, all of which were badly damaged by the quake. The program has been heavily supported by foreign governments, including Canada. To encourage people to leave camps, residents were told they will receive a one-year rental subsidy of $500 per family.

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Review of Leah Gordon’s photo exhibition

‘The photographic representation, Haiti’s external perception, is the crucible of racial anxiety’, Leah Gordon tells me. Her black and white photographs of the pre-Lenten Mardi Gras Kanaval in Jacmel, Haiti intervene in this cultural milieu, but act less as ethnographic documents and more as performed ethnography, as Myron M Beasley, Professor of African-American Studies at Bates College has categorised them. Existing between portraiture and reportage, the photographs tap into the cultural memory and history that the characters captured re-enact, through the uncanny, the grotesque, the hyperbole celebrated and exorcised through this folk ritual. ‘I was very impressed by the fact that the production of culture is still in the hands of the subaltern class in Haiti, which makes a co-existence with the production of history’. Through the confident gaze of the camera- a 50 year old Roleiicord twin lens reflex- this history becomes an Artaudian spectacle, one in which identity is displaced, tapping into an otherness that is dominant and reflexive.

a-n Magazine‘s review of Leah Gordon’s exhibit: “Leah Gordon: Kanaval – Vodou, Politics And Revolution On The Streets Of Haiti”

Details about the show

Al Jazeera on MINUSTAH

I was looking around on YouTube for some new videos to highlight on THAC’s new WordPress blog, and I stumbled upon this video by Al Jazeera about MINUSTAH:

I confess that I’m usually fond of Al Jazeera’s coverage. In the days after the earthquake, they were one of the few news agencies to really hone in on the relationship between the last decade of destabilization and Haiti’s lack of readiness or capacity to respond to the disaster. But this video left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied.

Continue reading Al Jazeera on MINUSTAH

Brian Concannon talks about social justice work

I just discovered this video of the IJDH’s Brian Concannon talking about refining his social justice work and the work he does in Haiti. It’s a pretty interesting talk.

I particularly like his “four take-aways” for working in social justice/human rights work:

  1. Plan and prepare your career path, but be prepared to take advantage of unexpected opportunities
  2. It is possible to have a fulfilling and rewarding career, but be flexible about what that means
  3. Be confident in your role, but never be certain that what you’re doing is the right thing to do
  4. Fill your toolbox. Develop a variety of skills that could include fundraising, networking, etc.