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.