When watching the news people are often faced with various images of pain, disaster, and misery happening around the world. But rarely does one expect to turn on the television to see chaos associated with their own homeland, or with their own family.
While I was busy catering an event in the middle of beautiful midtown Manhattan on Tuesday evening, January 12, we were all hit with the news that Haiti had collapsed. Because of an earthquake that hit at 7.0 on the Richter scale, Haiti was on the ground. How could this be? We had all gathered to celebrate. It was an event planned by a group of professionals (both Haitian and non-Haitian) with the specific plan to go to Haiti and build and highlight the positive aspects of what Haiti has to offer. Its goal was to bring out the richness of Haiti in terms of structure, art, and wonder.
Haiti was and still remains the first independent black nation in the western world. It is the only country that had a successful slave rebellion that ultimately led to freedom.
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Haiti’s independence not only served to free Haiti, it also helped the U.S. in attaining its goal of Manifest Destiny. Due to the slave uprisings in Saint Domingue (modern day Haiti), Napoleon had no choice but to abandon his plans for Louisiana, which was of no use to him without the control of Haiti as well, which was very centrally located to the Louisiana Territory. Thus, with the slaves success against the French, Napoleon was forced to abandon his plans in the U.S. territories.
Haitian troops were pivotal in assisting the U.S. in the American Revolution. About 750 Haitian freemen fought alongside colonial troops against the British in the siege of Savannah on Oct. 9, 1779.
Haiti, upon having declared its independence in 1804, was instrumental in helping the South American countries in their fights for freedom. Simon Bolivar needed the assistance of a free/independent nation in the Caribbean, and Haiti served well because of its strategic location. Thus, countries such as Venezuela, and Colombia owe their independence partly to Haiti.
Haiti is a country rich with various people. Bill Clinton had this to say in his memoir: “I’ve always been fascinated by the way different cultures try to make sense of life, nature and the virtually universal belief that there is a nonphysical spirit force at work in the world that existed before humanity and will be here when we all are long gone.” And upon his visit in 1974 he fell in love with the spirit and the beauty of the Haitian people.
As I watch crumbling of buildings and the bodies of what is now estimated to be close to 50,000 dead laying on the ground from the earthquake, I can not help but wonder. How do we bring Haiti back to those days of glory? Though the last 200 plus years of independence have been full of turmoil and government unrest, how do we make light of this tragedy that has taken on our nation? How do we get past the pain and sadness? They say time heals all wounds. I have no doubt that healing will happen. Haitians are resilient in more ways than one. Through military coups, and various other natural disasters, we have endured and lived. Just the healing this time will have to occur both at home and the diaspora.