The longest-suffering nation in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti, my beloved country, was struck by a powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake a few weeks ago. Days later, they were deluged by the tropical depression Grace.
Thankfully, there were no deaths in my family, but they are currently sleeping in the open. The official sources have reported that hundreds were killed. However, I don't think anyone will ever determine the exact number. Based upon information received from friends and family in Les Cayes, where I’m from, the death toll could be more than 3,000 — and this is no exaggeration. They stated that other cities such as Jeremie, Nippes, Point Abacou and surrounding areas are completely devastated.
In 2016, the same region suffered the devastation of Hurricane Matthew, and it left the country more vulnerable to this event. In 2010, the earthquake that struck Port-Au-Prince took more than 300,00 lives and left millions injured and homeless. In addition, the nation has been suffering from political instability following last month’s assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the precarious survival of Haiti’s first lady.
As this tragedy unfolds, I can't stop thinking of the beauty of my Haitian people and my country, specifically Les Cayes, which is the greenest area of the country. I also can’t stop thinking of how our culture of Lakou and Kombit has been on display with the way Haitians are stepping up to help each other.
I suggest those of you who love Haiti and want to contribute and support the earthquake victims to find a local charitable organization that has been investing in long-term solutions in Haiti or ask a Haitian friend who they have been supporting in Haiti and how they have been doing it.
It is imperative for those who are watching this event to remember the history of Haiti. As a Haitian, I don’t think I can stress enough that Haiti was the first free independent Black nation in the Western Hemisphere. When the Haitians fought the superpowers for their independence, they created a constitution that gave rights universally to everybody in a system that only granted rights to a few.
After Haiti abolished slavery, it was punished by all the major world powers, specifically France. Haiti had to borrow money from France to pay France for its independence, a total of $21 billion. During that time, the United States refused to recognize its independence and invaded and occupied the country.
When other countries were getting help from the entire industrialized world to help them develop, Haiti had a total embargo from the international world. For decades, the country has endured so much turmoil, tragedies, dictatorships, military coups, corruptions, etc., and these factors have made it impossible to build a Haitian-led and supported state that can cope with the moment like we are currently experiencing.
Toussaint Louverture and Jean Jacques Dessalines crucified their blood to make Haiti the first and only successful republic ruled by Black people. Whether it is recognized or not, Haitians are the descendants of powerful people. Frederick Douglass said that Haiti’s revolution struck a blow for the freedom of every Black man in the world.
Haitian people are resilient, intelligent and unselfish, and just as our saying says, “dèyè mòn, gen mòn,” “beyond the mountains, there are more mountains.” I believe that Haitians will climb those mountains, as always.