Hundreds of protesters marched from downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, to the U.S. Embassy on Friday to demand the Trump administration stop supporting President Jovenel Moise, who is named in the latest corruption report issued by Haiti’s Superior Court of Account and Administrative Disputes.
Protests were also held in the northern city of Cap-Haitien.
“America is a country of institutions, America is a country of laws, so Americans should understand that Haiti is facing a crisis — they should stop giving us handouts and teach us instead, accompany us and help us organize so we can lift ourselves out of this situation,” one protester told VOA’s Creole Service.
The march came as two senior U.S. State Department officials visited the country.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Cynthia Kierscht arrived Thursday to meet with government officials and business leaders.
Haiti has been roiled by protests, initially sparked by a fuel price hike, for more than a year. Outrage grew after an anti-corruption report accused the current and former presidents and members of their governments of misusing oil revenue earned under the PetroCaribe accord that Haiti signed with Venezuela in 2006.
Since then, protests have turned into larger anti-government and anti-corruption movements sweeping the country’s major cities. Protesters, opposition leaders and anti-corruption activists say they have no faith in Moise’s ability to fix the country’s woes.
Although protests waned in November, they returned this week and are now targeting the United States and France. Protesters reject calls for a national dialogue and insist the only conversation they are willing to have is about Moise’s departure. They vow to keep protesting in front of the U.S. Embassy until their demands are met.
Puerto Rico earthquakes imperil island’s indigenous heritage
Tremors and aftershocks are still rocking Puerto Rico, weeks after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake toppled buildings, killed at least one person and injured another eight on Jan. 7. Families have begun leaving the island because it won’t stop shaking.
For many on the island, the devastation is a reminder of September 2017 when Hurricane Maria killed 3,000 people and as many as 200,000 Puerto Ricans were forced to hastily relocate to the mainland United States.
These major disasters have ravaged the island’s cultural heritage, too. Numerous historic landmarks – including a 2,000-year-old archaeological site containing priceless evidence of the island’s earliest dwellers, the Taino people – have been destroyed.
As a historian of colonial Latin America born in Puerto Rico, I recognize that between the 15th-century Spanish colonization and the 1898 U.S. annexation of the island, the Taino’s story has been all but erased from the historic record.
When Christopher Columbus arrived in the late 1400s, the island – then called Boriquen – was home to some 110,000 Tainos, an Arawak-speaking people with ancestral connections to northern South America.
Although their societies did not attain the splendor or sophistication of Mexico’s better-known Maya or Aztec empires, the Tainos reached a comparatively high level of social, cultural, economic and political development.
A sedentary people, they lived in palm-thatched huts in villages called “yucayeques,” surrounded by gardens that produced their staple diet. The Tainos traded the surpluses from farming, fishing, hunting and gathering, as well as pottery and other artisan goods, with neighboring Caribbean islands.
The Tainos – who faced the same natural calamities as Puerto Rico’s modern residents, including hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis – made sense of inexplicable events through their cosmological vision of the world.
In his 1984 book on the mythology of hurricanes, the pioneer Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz writes that the indigenous inhabitants generally attributed the ground-shattering vibrations of earthquakes to subterranean deities and to malignant spirits that lurked above the surface of the earth, agitating the land, sea, wind and sky.
For the Tainos, an invisible animating force called Guabancex was responsible for the mega storms that hit the island most years. They called these events “juracan” – the origin of the English word “hurricane.”
To appease nature’s fury, they performed ritual ceremonies, including the “dance of the hurricane.”
The storm of colonization
The Tainos were among the first victims of the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the first “storm” to endanger this ancient civilization, as the indigenous advocate Christina M. Gonzales puts it. Their numbers were decimated by European diseases, warfare, enslavement and intermarriage.
But the Tainos did not go “extinct.” Their bloodline, along with European and African ancestry, forms the core of Puerto Rico’s multicultural heritage. Research is nascent, but genetic testing shows that many modern Puerto Ricans have some indigenous lineage.
The Taino legacy lives on, too, in the names of places like Caguas and of birds like the Inriri, or woodpecker. Percussion instruments like maracas and the güiro, a serrated gourd – both used today in salsa and merengue music – have indigenous roots.
One casualty of the recent earthquakes was Punta Ventana – “Window Point” – a natural stone arch that protruded into the sea off the southern coast. More than a tourist attraction, Punta Ventana was situated on the ancient homeland of Agüeybana I, the 15th-century Taino chief.
Natural disasters aren’t the only threat to Puerto Rican heritage.
Climate change is also wreaking havoc on “Atabey” – the Taino Mother Earth – as is seaside development and sand mining. In 2007, the relics of an entire Taino indigenous village almost ended up under water due to a dam project near the city of Ponce.
Many indigenous ruins lie along the shore, where ancient settlements thrived. A relatively new wave of researchers are only beginning to explore these endangered places, rediscovering the ancient relics, statues, stone engravings and paintings created and used by the Taino people.
[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]
Author: Jorge L. Chinea – Professor of History and Director, Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies, Wayne State University
Five NC Courage players set to start Olympic qualifying tonight against Haiti
The North Carolina Courage are well represented as the USWNT faces off against Haiti tonight in their first match of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. New head coach Vlatko Andonovski called up all four Courage players who won the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France last summer – Abby Dahlkemper, Jessica McDonald, Samantha Mewis, and Crystal Dunn – and also elevated forward Lynn Williams to the tight 20-player roster. The fact that Williams made the roster at the expense of four former World Cup winners is a huge deal for her and signifies that Andonovski is bringing his NWSL coaching experience to the table when making Senior National Team decisions. For Courage fans across the country, tonight is an opportunity to see our players in action for the first time since October, when they won a dominant 4-0 victory over the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL Championship.
There are a lot of questions that could be answered during this match and tournament. Most importantly, Andonovski’s roster still has Dunn listed as a defender. It’ll be interesting to see if she has played her way into a position that she doesn’t prefer or if the new coach will let her run with the forwards. Outside back is a brutally shallow position for the USWNT, so she might just be stuck there through the Olympics. I’m also watching to see how much play Williams and McDonald get. The Olympic roster gets cut down to just 18 players, and you have to think that the overabundance of forwards is going to be the main place that those two extra players will be culled from. Additionally, Alex Morgan is going to try to be back to play in the Olympics after the birth of her first child. I doubt that she will be on the squad come May, but these athletes are not normal people and if she wants a spot in the deciding camp she’s going to get it. That leaves the two Courage strikers fighting for spots that might not even be available when the plane takes off for Japan. It still amazes me that McDonald fought her way onto the USWNT after so many years of being overlooked, and Williams can finally breathe more easily after Jill Ellis walked away from the team. The last two cuts from this team are going to be brutal.
A brutal first tournament for the new head coach
Since the tournament first started in 2004, the United States has never failed to win outright. The competition in CONCACAF has never been much of a challenge for the best team in the world, but the tournament itself is set up to be a dangerous gauntlet. Two groups of four teams face off in a traditional group stage round robin competition where the top two teams head to the semifinal round. The United States is matched up against Haiti, Panama, and Costa Rica in Group A, and it should be a breeze to sweep the group. Group B is comprised of Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. Just making the tournament is a huge achievement for St. Kitts, but realistically the two seminalists will come from the other three options.
The only game that will matter for the USA is the semifinal match, and that’s where things get a bit scary. Just two teams qualify for the Olympics from CONCACAF, so the semifinal matches become de facto play-in matches. Both teams that make the championship game will already be in the Olympics, and there won’t even be a 3rd-place match because both of those teams will have already been eliminated. Playing against Jamaica or Mexico would be a pretty easy path for the USA, and the most likely scenario is that one of those two teams will be the runners up in Group B. The biggest threat to the defending World Cup champion missing the Olympics would be if Canada falters and ends up coming second in the group.
If you’d made such a prediction two years ago it would have been rightly laughed down as absurd. After climbing all the way to 4th in the world following their impressive performance at the 2015 World Cup, Canada saw a slow decline in performance from 2016-2018 before the bottom completely fell out after manager John Herdman left his post in 2018 to coach the men’s team. The tenure of replacement manager Kenneth Heiner-Møller has been rocky to say the least, and Canada plunged to 8th in the most recent rankings. Then, in a closed-door practice match for this tournament, the team drew with Haiti 1-1. Canada has been mostly silent about the performance, but Haiti couldn’t help but talk it up.
In the tweet, you can see a bad turnover from Canada in the middle third, a few quick passes from the Haitian midfield, and then a complete disaster on defense before the Haitian attacker slots the ball home. If Canada loses to either Mexico or Jamaica, they could be fighting for their life in a knock-out game against the USWNT in the semifinals. That’s still a game that the United States should win, but it would be less of a guarantee than they might otherwise have.
How to Watch
After waiting until the last minute, FOX finally bought a bundle of rights for various tournaments over the next three years. The game against Haiti will kick off at 8:30 p.m. ET from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, TX. The game will be broadcast on FS2, as will the first match of the afternoon where Panama will face off against Costa Rica.
The USWNT will play against Panama on January 31st on FOX Soccer Plus, and again on February 3rd on FS1 against Costa Rica. The semifinal match will be on February 7th and the final on February 9th.
In Zombi Child, White Tears Dampen Haitian History
What does and doesn’t constitute cultural appropriation? Tracking down your classmate’s mambo aunt and begging her, in between offering her wads of money, to cast a voodoo spell on your pretty boy ex? French filmmaker Bertrand Bonello’s latest picture, Zombi Child, is half historical account, half racial reckoning—entirely ambitious, and equally as ambiguous.
Bonello is white, just like Fanny (Louise Labeque), his bratty, lovesick protagonist, a student at the Légion d’honneur boarding school, which Napoleon established for the purposes of educating the daughters of men awarded the, well, the Légion d’honneur, and where entry remains a hereditary right. To her, voodoo is a means to an end, that end being that Pablo (Sayyid El Alami), her beau, has his soul bound to hers. To Katy (Katiana Milfort), a Haitian voodoo priestess, and to Mélissa (Wislanda Louimat), Katy’s niece and Fanny’s literary sorority sister, it’s a spiritual discipline, an aesthetic and a way of life, rich with beauty but carefully marked by caution signs to keep practitioners from making decisions they’ll regret.
Zombi Child treats voodoo as a character in its own right, a living organism to be revered and not screwed around with. Naturally, Fanny’s first instinct upon hearing of Mélissa’s ancestry and her connection to voodoo is to try and screw around with it, as if voodoo is a class of magic in D&D rather than a set of syncretic religions practiced in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Louisiana and Brazil. Mélissa tries educating Fanny and her friends on what voodoo means to her as the granddaughter of Clairvius Narcisse, on whose life Zombi Child is based: In 1962, Narcisse (played here by Mackenson Bijou), died, was buried, then returned to life as a zombie, meaning he was actually mickeyed with a melange that made him seem dead, buried alive, then dug up by plantation owners who forced him to harvest sugar cane as their stupefied thrall.
That’s a hell of a heritage, enough to give Mélissa occasional vivid nightmares and make her feel ever as the outsider. Bonello allows Zombi Child to gradually swell as he cuts back and forth from Narcisse’s ordeal to Fanny’s “ordeal”: The film opens up like a grim umbrella of dread over time, Bonello’s deliberate pacing affording Narcisse, Fanny, Mélissa and eventually Katy time to breathe in each scene. They all have their baggage, some more than others, illustrated in Fanny’s efforts to convince Katy that her suffering can only be assuaged with voodoo. Leave it to the rich white girl to compare her pain to the pain of every soul lost in the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Bonello doesn’t abandon Fanny to his audience’s contempt. She’s selfishly motivated, but everyone is young once and understands the pain of a first breakup. All the same, Zombi Child highlights the ways whiteness tends to stripmine other cultures for personal gain, ignoring historical bases for cultural mores and traditions and instead only seeing commodities for advantaging itself. What makes the movie such a welcome surprise is Bonello’s creativity: Digging back nearly 60 years to trace an arc of trauma inherited through French colonialism takes as much chutzpah as imagination, the latter seen here mostly in the form of atmospheric horror homage.
Zombi Child isn’t a horror movie. It does, however, take notes from horror grammar, notably in the synth-heavy score (composed by Bonello), and its finale, which whether by design or not recalls the chaotic rhythm of the exorcism sequence in Na Hong-jin’s The Wailing, a crosscut of overlapping rituals each linking France and Haiti in the present with Haiti in 1962. The audacity of Bonello’s filmmaking is enough to inspire madness, but the heart that drives Zombi Child forward beats in the pursuit of cultural justice. The film wrestles with identity, and with whiteness especially, and with France’s reputation as an icon of revolution alongside its unflattering reputation as a colonial power guilty of inhuman atrocities. The conclusions Bonello draws are inevitably vague, but the most important message is obvious: That’s cultural appropriation.
Director: Bertrand Bonello
Writer: Bertrand Bonello
Starring: Louise Labeque, Wislanda Louimat, Mackenson Bijou, Katiana Milfort
Release Date: January 24, 2020
Bostonian culture journalist Andy Crump covers the movies, beer, music, and being a dad for way too many outlets, perhaps even yours. He has contributed to Paste since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected work at his personal blog. He’s composed of roughly 65% craft beer.
Vladimir Leon seeks state Senate 38 seat
Vladimir Leon, a two-time candidate for Rockland County executive, has announced a Democratic bid for the 38th State Senate District seat.
Leon would face a primary; so far, Clarkstown Town Clerk Justin Sweet, Nyack Village Trustee Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, and Ossining Village Zoning Board of Appeals member Tony Martinez have said they will pursue the Democratic ticket for the seat, which represents the towns of Clarkstown, Orangetown, and Ramapo in Rockland County and Ossining in Westchester. No Republican has officially announced.
The state Senate seat is currently held by Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City. Carlucci has announced a run to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, whose 17th District includes Rockland County and part of Westchester. Carlucci faces a crowded June 23 primary.
Leon, a Chestnut Ridge resident, owns a bakery in Ramapo and is the founder of the nonprofit Haitian American Network Business Foundation. The 44-year-old immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti in 1998. Leon has an associate’s degree from Rockland Community College, a bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University, and a master’s in sustainability management from Columbia University, according to his website.
Leon, in announcing his candidacy, cited state legislation that creates unfunded mandates that burden local governments. Added government costs drive up local taxes, and rents, Leon said, pushing people to leave New York. As an entrepreneur, Leon said, he can focus on ways to make the state more friendly for small business.
Leon also pointed to the importance of an accurate 2020 U.S. Census count to ensure people in the 38th Senate District, including seniors and people with disabilities, are given their fair share of government resources.
Citing the 38th District’s rapidly changing demographics, Leon said he will focus on initiatives that encourage inclusion and better inter-community relations. “We have to learn to live together to succeed in this modern life,” Leon said in a press statement. “I am for community connection through social forums with all members of different communities for safety and environmental development which will help our district socio-economic progress.”
The salary for a part-time New York legislator is due to increase to $120,000 in 2020.
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Bethel Alum Starts Nonprofit to Lift Up Those in Need
As Shane O’Rourke ’14 stood in a coffeeshop line to buy a $5 coffee, he remembered how that same amount of money changed a boy’s life in Haiti.
O’Rourke had just returned to Bethel University from a trip to a remote Haitian village over interim. There, he met a boy who was unable to attend school—where he received free meals—because he couldn’t afford shoes. O’Rourke bought the boy a pair of shoes for $5. “That $5 pair of shoes gave him an education and proper nutrition for an entire school year, which blew my mind,” O’Rourke says.
The experience—and the impact of the price of a coffee—planted an idea. The idea germinated through four more trips to Haiti and through prayer and deliberation until O’Rourke formed the nonprofit Lift Up in September 2018. A year later, Lift Up hosted a one-year anniversary celebration. O’Rourke and his team highlighted how Lift Up had funded 17 projects across the world to improve the quality of life for people and communities. “We focus on the tangible: You can see, feel, touch it,” O’Rourke says. Lift Up’s impact has now reached over 29,000 people and raised more than $190,000.
Lift Up started with O’Rourke sharing his aspirations and a story—the story of how a $5 pair of shoes helped a boy in Haiti—with friends and fellow church members at River Valley Church. “I talked to everyone, and a few people bought in,” he says. O’Rourke’s first big break came when a man approached him at church and offered for his company to build Lift Up’s website and manage its branding for free. In fact, www.weliftup.org would go on to win the 2019 W3 award for best nonprofit website alongside winners like Google, Crayola, AT&T, and The Spruce.
On the project side, Lift Up quickly gained traction, but O’Rourke faced early challenges to make Lift Up’s tagline a reality: “We believe every dollar makes a difference, so we give every single one away.” O’Rourke committed to giving 100% of donations to projects—Lift Up even covers transaction fees, while a bank donates wire transfer fees. Eventually, O’Rourke formed the Covering Operational Recurring Expenses (CORE) fund to sustain Lift Up. He became its first monthly giver, and he again challenged others to give, too. Six others joined him. O’Rourke then integrated Lift Up into his work as an insurance agent at his father’s Hopkins, Minnesota, agency by pledging to give half of his commission away to Lift Up. The nonprofit is now forming corporate sponsorships, and O’Rourke is working to partner with a real estate agency.
Today, a team of 12 volunteers runs Lift Up and selects projects that are tangible, meet a significant need, and are sustainable. One project bought equipment for special needs children at Heshima Children’s Center in Nairobi, Kenya; another built a water filtration system through Peace Gospel for a community in Yangon, Myanmar; another provided essential school supplies, coats, food, and hygiene items to Prior Lake, Minnesota, students through Reaching Our Communities Kids (ROCK); another brought clean water to 50 homes—and 300 people—in San Isidro, Honduras, through GoodJustice.
Whenever possible, Lift Up hires local workers and buys local products for projects to boost the local economy through a project. “We want to not only give a project, we want to stimulate the local economy at the same time,” O’Rourke says. When Lift Up helped Project Partner Sunshine Kids Club—a group that spreads the Gospel through education—build a $25,000 school in Iquitos, Peru, they hired local workers for six months to build the project. Corporate sponsor Highmark Builders helped fund the project and sent 14 builders to start the school and help train the local builders.
O’Rourke continues putting in long hours to balance his insurance work and Lift Up—as well as time with his wife, Gabi, and their young son, Brecken. But he traces his work ethic to his time playing for the Bethel basketball team during a semester when he also volunteered at church as a youth leader and small group leader, and took 21 credits. He also says majoring in missional ministries at Bethel taught him to live “a life of mission.” He recalls a professor explaining that living a life of mission doesn’t mean you must be directly in the mission field. You can live a life of mission “as you are going.” It helped O’Rourke realize he doesn’t have to wait for a mission trip to be “on mission.”
“It’s as I’m going,” he says. “We can lift people up in our back yard. We can lift people up in Zimbabwe, and it’s as we’re going. I just think there’s so much to that and the impact of what you can do with people in front of you.”
Temple alumnus’ brand ‘shows the beauty of Haiti’ on Shark Tank – The Temple News
On Jan. 12, Stéphane Jean-Baptiste and Yve-Car Momperousse appeared on Shark Tank, exactly 10 years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti in 2010.
The three million lives that were threatened in the 2010 earthquake was one of the things on their mind as they pitched their brand.
Jean-Baptiste, a 2006 communications alumnus, and Momperousse went on ABC’s Shark Tank, a show that gives beginning entrepreneurs the chance to earn investors, last month to pitch their beauty brand Kreyol Essence.
The brand’s inspiration comes from Haiti, as it employs female workers in the country and sources products for its shampoos, oils and pomades from it. Their products include Haitian black castor oil, Kreyol Essence’s signature ingredient.
The brand was not offered investment from any of the Sharks, but announced that their products will be sold at Ulta Beauty, a beauty chain store, across the United States in April, in addition to their products being sold at Whole Foods Market and on Kreyol Essence’s website.
While on the show, Jean-Baptiste and Momperousse felt a responsibility to authentically represent their Haitian-American community, they said.
“What better way to show the beauty of Haiti,” Jean-Baptise said. “We can change people’s perspectives of what they think about Haiti by focusing on the natural and amazing botanical ingredients we have coming out of the country.”
The idea for Kreyol Essence started in 2010, a few months before the earthquake, when Momperousse’s hair started falling out after it was burned from a straightening treatment in a hair salon. The Haitian castor oil she used as a child in Haiti was unavailable on American markets, so she and her partner Jean-Baptiste decided to fill the gap by creating their own products.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, however, they initially wanted to put their business idea on hold and focus on providing relief to victims. They worked with other Philadelphia residents to raise $100,000 for the Haiti Earthquake Relief and Rebuilding Fund.
But the two learned Haitian castor oil had the potential for social impact if they worked with local farmers and women, and could create jobs and alleviate poverty.
“We went back to what we know in our Haitian community, which is the Haitian castor oil,” Jean-Baptiste said.
Kreyol Essence uses quality ingredients and has a name and design packaging that helps “tell the story of Haiti,” he added.
“I’m about buying natural and ethically made products and as a physician, I am very mindful about how products and things can affect us,” said Josya-Goya Charles Laurent, a physician and customer. “I’ve used other natural products but the difference is that is they are personable, they are very much in tune with their customers.”
Soroya Pognan, patient safety analyst and Kreyol Essence customer said they like supporting the business because they can trace the products back to Haitian workers.
“I know that somewhere a woman’s life is being made better when I buy it, not only do I enjoy and Stephane and Yve-Car enjoy benefits, but so does that person,” Pognan said.
The hardest part of their business process has been raising funds because as entrepreneurs of color they don’t have access to capital and connections, Jean-Baptiste said.
In 2017, credit approval for small Black-owned businesses was 19 percent lower than white-owned firms, and of those approved, only 40 percent of minority-owned businesses received full funding, compared to 68 percent of white-owned firms, according to the Washington Post.
“We found ourselves really having to turn every stone, knock on every door and make our case from buyers all the way down to investors where they don’t necessarily understand our demographic or our business model or what we’re really trying to do here,” Jean-Baptiste said.
Going forward, Jean-Baptiste said he and Momperousse hope to build their team and continue to maintain their vision of a beauty brand that serves Haiti by always focusing on going back to the consumer and improving their experience.
“For me, its a best-kept secret, a lot of us grew up with [Haitian castor oil],” Laurent said. “When I saw it displayed on the shelf at Whole Foods, it brought a tear to my eye, to see the beauty of Haiti being shown in this way.”
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