Harlem To Haiti – You Are Not Alone

By HarlemGuy

Credit: Damon Winter / New York Times

What’s happened in Haiti is worse than we can ever know.  That is clear by the evolving footage on all media outlets including CNN (the Haiti EarthQuake Home Page) and the New York Times (must see picture gallery). For instance last night’s 60 Minutes episode provided a sobering glimpse of the state of health care delivery and aid distribution in a historically troubled nation that has been decimated by this latest calamity.   The screams of pain which I had not been hearing in previous media brought me to tears.

The coverage makes it clear perhaps for the first time for many Americans and others that Haiti is more than a mere collection of facts and figures about poverty, illiteracy, corruption, etc.  It is a real place.  A real country.  One that millions call home.  With an incredible history as well summarized by Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek fame on his show GPS this weekend.  For instance Haiti is the first and only nation in the world founded by Slaves having successfully revolted against their French slave masters and defeating Napoleon – it’s been referred to as the Vietnam War of its time.   The fight for freedom and its aftermath is well worth noting today Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Most importantly the coverage makes it clear that Haitians are resilient, strong and loving.    Being of Haitian decent I am now more proud than ever of my heritage.  There is not one day when I don’t think of my father who passed away some years back and his manner.   No matter what was thrown at him (and much was) he was always posed, serene, introspective. Almost majestic.  That vision has often given me strength in hard times.  Though none so daunting as what he faced.  Or the Haitian survivors now face.  And from which we know from Katrina will take years to “recover”, to the extent that is possible in calamities of epic proportions.

Many New Yorkers and now many worldwide know that Haitians have found homes in the Burroughs.  Brooklyn is often cited.  But what many don’t appreciate is Haiti’s connect to Harlem.

When I first moved to Harlem I initially confused the diversity of skin tone, accents, dress, etc as African.  But not until I really stopped to look, listen and interact with the community did I come to realize that Harlem is full of Haitians who live, own businesses, and shop here.  I have found this to be particular true along 116th between 7th and 8th Avenues.   Many of these people may have family and friends in Haiti and our thoughts go out to them.

So if you live in Harlem please take a moment if you have not yet done so to learn more about the people who live and work in it.  Let them know you care.  If they are a merchant spend some money.  Let them know you care on a personal level.  Doing so is part and parcel of the spirit that is Harlem.  A large diverse community of people who care for one another, and their collective futures.

If you know of a business in Harlem that is owned and operated in Harlem, please let us and our readers know so that we can let them know that we are here for them.  That they are not alone.

The following Michael Jackson Classic You Are Not Alone came to me as I wrapped up this post.   Click here to hear on iTunes.

8 thoughts on “Harlem To Haiti – You Are Not Alone”

  1. Dear readers. Thank you so much for the wonderful responses. We have a social responsibility to be focused on our community in general, and particularly in times of need.

  2. Follow-up

    Today’s Wall Street Journal answers where the US military ship hospitals are: basically on their way. Still.


    Seven (7) Haitians were treated Saturday on the USS Vinson, a ship with 52 midical personnel. Cmdr. Alfred Shwayhat, the senior medical officer who is an endocrinologist, said he had a plan to “treat 1,000 Haitians if necessary,” when interviewed aboard the ship on Saturday. But he had received no orders to do so. “If the captain authorizes it, I will take anyone,” he said. The Vinson’s facility, he said, “exceeds anything in the civilian sector, bar none.”

    The USNS Bataan and USS Comfort are scheduled to arrive with medical help Thirsday and Sunday/Monday, about 9-13 days after the quake.

    Guantanamo Naval Base is 150 miles from Port-au-Prince Haiti.

    Yesterday, Doctors without Borders treated 500 Haitians at one hospital in 24 hours.

  3. Good column.

    Yes, the much maligned people of Haiti are part of the fabric of New York, and the US. Had it not been for Napolean’s decisive defeat in Haiti, it’s likely France would have colonized North America west of the Mississippi, instead of selling it to Thomas Jefferson. I’m not sure if that worked out for the best, but there it is.

    But there are several million people in desperate need of immediate assistance, and I worry there is too much triangulating in Washington about how to turn this crisis into “opportunity.” Blackwater instead of freshwater.

    We should be concerned that the goodwill of the American people towards Haiti is not turned by our own govenment into a Katrina debacle of colossal proportions.

    While aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson has taken days to deliver 2,200 troops without any relief supplies, Iceland, Cuba, China and other nations have delivered tons of supplies and emergency teams on the ground. Fast. From thousands of miles.

    Our government is still dithering about whether it would be more “dangerous” to deliver EMERGENCY SUPPLIES to millions of stricken Haitians, or wait until they enforce more military security. The natives might fight over the water.

    On this idiocy, we should listen not to US media, which has begun the demonization of Haitians by depicting them as lawless “looters” but to someone who knows, Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who coordinated military operations on the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:

    “The next morning after the earthquake, as a military man of 37 years service, I assumed . . . there would be airplanes delivering aid, not troops, but aid,” said retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who coordinated military operations after disaster struck the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005. “What we saw instead was discussion about, ‘Well we’ve got to send an assessment team in to see what the needs are.’ And anytime I hear that, my head turns red.”
    In the first two days after Tuesday evening’s quake, “we saw national media in, but we didn’t see Air Force airplanes taking in food and water,” Honore said. Nor were military doctors on the ground treating the injured, he said.

    In the meantime, I’ll send ten bucks to Doctors Without Borders, who have a fully operable inflatable hospital shipped from France, waiting in the Dominican Republic, for the US military to give them permission to deploy. Godspeed. But where are the US military hospitals?

    Let’s hope in a month, a year, we keep our eyes on Haiti, in a way we never did for our own citizens in New Orleans.

    At Social Explorer, you can see the Haitian population in the US, or zoom in to see New York, here: http://www.socialexplorer.com/pub/blog/
    (scroll down to Haiti map and click on it).

  4. Very eloquent. It is inspiring to see all the people uniting to help this poor in resources but rich in pride country.

  5. I agree. Good suggestions in there about opening our eyes and noticing all the people whose services we use everyday right here in our own neighborhood. Like my favorite shop on 116th Street where I’ve already gotten 3 backpacks and my shoemaker – also on 116th just to name a few.

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