in what some are calling one of the world's most catastrophic disasters, the island of haiti suffered a major earthquake tuesday. the number of deaths are estimated at 100,000. over 40,000 bodies are buried. relief, repair & recovery will undoubtedly take years. international relief organizations are mobilizing a response to the 7.0 earthquake that rocked port-au-prince, destroying the national palace, many government ministries, major hotels & private residencies in the 250 year-old capital city.
the world is watching. god is omnipresent. recent memories of the tsunami, katrina & 9/11 have resurfaced in my psyche. my deepest condolences go to the families, friends & loved ones of haiti, both here & abroad. the full dimensions of the earthquake are unknown. folks on the blogosphere continue to share their varied perspectives. one thing is certain: the men, women & children of haiti are wounded & they need to heal.
most communications with haiti were cut-off, leaving much of the on-ground reporting to haitians & foreigners armed with internet connections & mobile phones. the sad news trickled out in twitter feeds & cell phone pictures from eyewitnesses. they showed collapsed roofs, slabs of concrete & bodies in the streets. what witnesses reported but mercifully did not record were the screams of the desperate & the trapped & the occasional cheers when survivors were pulled from the rubble.
my primary sources of information are cnn, keith olberman & ny1. their non-stop, round-the-clock coverage has been, at times, difficult to watch. cnn showed disturbing footage of haitian men & women - still alive, unable to pry themselves free of rubble, as citizens can be seen in the foreground walking by, looking for lost ones, traumatized by the unfolding tragedy. mothers were seen trying to cover the eyes of their children. in fact, when one of the journalists walked inside of a classroom of teachers & students who miraculously survived, then showed footage of a building destroyed with teachers & students inside, i felt their loss.
raymond joseph, haitian ambassador to the us, said on cnn's situation room with wolf blitzer, "this is a catastrophe of major proportions...the place is really bad now."haiti was still trying to recover from the devastation of a series of back-to-back hurricanes that flooded the northern town of gonaives & the central plain that has been haiti's breadbasket.
haiti is the poorest & second most densely populated country in the western hemisphere. also, haiti has struggled with political turmoil, including the ouster of president jean-bertand aristide in 1991, his restoration by us president clinton in 1994, his re-election in 2001 & his hasty departure, again, shrouded in mystery: he claims he was kidnapped by the us military & forced into exile in south africa. a united nations peacekeeping force under brazilian command has been in haiti since his ouster & remains after the election of current president rene preval.
the obama administration has offered $100 million in relief aid. obama said of the haitian people, "you will not be forsaken...we need an international effort." while many americans are willing to help, folks are encouraged to make cash donations & other supplies to respectable capacity-building organizations genuinely invested in the independence, self-determination & self-reliance of the haitian people. unfortunately, high levels of corruption & scandal peak when folks are most vulnerable; often, the people who need the most help never get it.
obama, in an unlikely yet not unique move, has enlisted former presidents george w bush & bill clinton to serve the haitian people. clinton was named special envoy to haiti. their responsibilities are unclear as of this writing. perhaps bush can somehow redeem himself? the recent us policy toward haitian immigrants is pretty ugly...
haitian refugees interdicted by the us coast guard are not screened to see if they may have valid claims to refugee status. only those who take the initiative to clearly proclaim their fear of return to haiti will be allowed to make an asylum claim. only three of more than 1,000 haitians intercepted since february 1 have been screened as a result of their protestations; these 3 were returned to haiti without a full asylum hearing. haitians who reach the us without being interdicted are put into fast-track removal procedures, during which they are subject to mandatory detention & are not eligible for release on bond.
this package of measures is only applied to haitian people!
i feel compassion for the people of haiti & their loved ones. people on the island are desperately frightened, homeless & hungry. the lack of water, food & medical supplies augments a deteriorating infra-structure for which such aid is forthcoming from countries around the world. time is of the essence. some natives utilize homeopathic remedies to tend to the biological wounds of their loved ones. some folks are being buried on top of each other. some are simply too shocked to act.
haitian-born samuel dalembert, the 7'1 center for the nba's philadelphia 76ers has generously pledged $100,000, while at the same time admits, "i feel helpless." grammy award winning musician/rapper wyclef jean has offered his organization, yele, as a resource for financial contributions. the 2009 world series champion new york yankees have pledged $500,000. the city of new york is launching a $1 payroll donation for all city employees. amidst the darkness & despair folks' selfless service challenges my cynicism towards our government & my wavering faith in humanity.
thank god the obama administration will help. we should help. we are all god's children. each one, teach one is more than just an african proverb. but where did the $100 million come from? amazing how we can assist others abroad & neglect our basic needs at home. i intend to make a cash donation. not sure how much or when, but, i will, sooner than lata. am i my brother's keeper? no doubt.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.