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Diaspora

The Haitian Diaspora: Educated Divided and Disorganized

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By Emmanuel Roy 

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Steven Benoit recently joined the chorus of those in Haiti who are fiercely opposed to the participation of the Haitian Diaspora in the administration of the Haitian Government. During a recent radio interview in Port-Au-Prince, he referred to the Haitian Diaspora by stating: "Nou pap kite yo soti kote yo soti pou vinn fe tankou Laurent Lamothe ak Garry Conille, payez 5 ans de taxes d'un seul coup et se faire nommer ou elire dans des fonctions politiques importantes." Translation: "We will not allow them to come here and do like Laurent Lamothe and Garry Conille did, by paying 5 years of taxes all at once and have themselves elected or appointed to important political positions." As soon as Senator Benoit uttered this statement, many in the Haitian media, especially in the United States, branded him as anti-diaspora, and a hypocrite because he is the holder of an American Green Card. Senator Benoit is a politician who maybe reflecting on the sentiments of his constituents. This statement illuminates the serious problem that the Haitian Diaspora has, a problem that could be overcome by doing, not simply talking.

The Haitian Diaspora, estimated to be between 2.7 - 4.5 million people, throughout the world residing primarily in the Dominican Republic, United States, Canada, France as well as other Caribbean nations such as Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Jamaica. According to a World Bank estimate, the Diaspora contributes nearly 2 billion US dollars a year to the Haitian economy mostly through remittance to family members living in Haiti. The Haitian government survives partly because of these remittances.

The Diaspora contributions add more to the Haitian economy than our three biggest benefactors, the United States, Canada, and France combined. Yet, the American, French and Canadian ambassadors in Haiti have more influence with the Haitian Government than any organization in the Haitian Diaspora. It is not by accident, but by design. There is not one single Haitian organization capable of representing the interests of the Haitian Diaspora in Haiti or anywhere else for that matter – and the lack of real organization is a threat to Haitians both in Haiti and outside of Haiti.

Since the earthquake of January 2010, many organizations have sprung up, and that is very endemic of the Haitian Community; whenever there is a crisis, someone comes along and asks that a new organization be formed to address the problems. Meanwhile, existing disorganized organizations continue to operate with no goals, visions, money or know-how. There are approximately six hundred Haitian Organizations mostly in the United States. They exist in name only to serve the personal and financial purpose of the person(s) who created the organization. Most of these organizations have no stated purpose or goals. Every year, they hold an event to raise money to serve the limited needs of those in charge. No one knows the identity of the members of the board of directors, and the constituents they supposedly serve.

Over the past twelve-months, I have received hundreds of emails from Dr. Pierre Pean a self-proclaimed administrator of the Haitian Diaspora, who wants to organize the Haitian Diaspora but he has no plan, vision, goal or money. Meanwhile, Dr. Bernier Lauredan, president of the Haitian League, another Diaspora organization is engaged in a fight with Judge Lionel Jean Baptiste and others for control of the defunct organization. Every one wants to be the captain and no one believes in the concept of there is strength in numbers. They spent countless hours fighting among themselves, and when they are not fighting they are bad mouthing each other and each other's ideas.

The Haitian Diaspora is a reflection of Haiti, a country divided; where personal self-interest is more important than the well being of the country as a whole. This is evident of our continued inability to elect a Haitian-American to the United States Congress. Every time a Congressional seat becomes available whether in Florida or New York, ten Haitian candidates are fighting amongst themselves as opposed to joining forces together to win the seat for the benefit of the community. This tendency of self-promotion, and self-aggrandizement is the cancer that has metastasized and is destroying the fabric of our community.

It is not inconceivable or incomprehensible to reason that those in Haiti who oppose our participation are not the problem. Their opposition should be applauded because if we cannot organize ourselves here, why would anyone believe that our contributions will be positive as opposed to contributing to more of the same problems facing Haiti? If we cannot unite, respect ourselves, and work together here why would those in Haiti believe that we could do better there?

The Haitian Diaspora is not new. Haitians have been coming to the United States, France and Canada in large numbers since the 1950's with a large exodus during the 1970's and 1980's. The personal accomplishments of members of the Haitian Diaspora's are the envy of many other groups of immigrants. From Edwidge Danticat, Marjorie Vincent, to Dany Laferriere, to Patrick Gaspard, and to all the others with Masters and PhD's enough to fill a football stadium, we have enough intellectual resources and money to turn Haiti into a very successful country. This will not happen until we learn how to work together. Not everyone needs to be in charge. All of us can contribute in our own respective way, but we need to agree to disagree and focus on what is important to the community at large.

To achieve this, we need a serious organization capable of rallying the community and marshaling the resources to affect changes in Haiti. When that happens, we will be able to financially support candidates who share our visions of an inclusive Haiti, but we cannot criticize those who believe that we should not participate in the administration of our country. We have yet to prove ourselves worthy of participation. We have not been able to work together as a united, cohesive group whose goal is for greater good of the Haitian community not some selfish personal interest.

Politics is a game of group interest and those with the resources are often able to protect their interests sometimes at the expense of others. The Haitian Diaspora as a political force is completely non-existent, and that will continue until we unify our efforts for the advancement of Haiti with one vision and one united Diaspora organization. Once we have done that, those like senator Benoit who seek to prevent our participation in the Haitian Government will do so at their own detriment and political survival.

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Photo Source: DiasporaStory

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