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.
Two months ago, THAC was invited to lead a discussion following a showing of the Al Jazeera report, “Haiti After the Quake.” The showing was hosted by Socialist Action as part of their recurring Rebel Film Series. My colleague Ajamu and I went to represent THAC.
The program is pretty interesting, and conveniently, it’s available on YouTube:
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.
‘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.
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.