It’s been more than three months since Haiti’s devastating earthquake, claiming the lives of 250,000 people. Since then, there has been much discussion and debate about that what the future of looks like for the country whose people led the first successful slave revolt. These dialogues occur as people continue to rebuild their lives, mourn the dead, reconnect with displaced family members, and heal from the trauma.
Haymarket’s core value of “change, not charity” aligns with the philosophy that the Haitian people must be the leaders and shapers of any dialogue about the future of their beloved country. This core value reflects a rebuilding process that is directly participatory. The people’s needs must be designed, built, maintained and controlled by those who use them.
For Haymarket, this means supporting long term efforts that are radically sustainable. Radical sustainability centralizes important questions about who benefits from systems change and how long can it last? How do efforts recognize the intrinsic value of the people, utilize local knowledge from lived experiences, and integrate the interconnection between human and ecological health? How do rebuilding efforts promote and support self-determination, self-sufficiency and social transformation? This radical approach seeks to get at the root of the problem, a core practice of radical social justice work. It acknowledges the current crisis in Haiti cannot be addressed without fundamental changes to present-day political, power, and economic structures.
President Obama’s impassioned speech on “Why Haiti Matters” was highlighted in the mainstream media and printed in full text in many places. It affirms that “in the aftermath of disaster, we are reminded that life can be unimaginably cruel. That pain and loss is so often meted out without any justice or mercy. That ‘time and chance’ happen to us all. But it is also in these moments, when we are brought face to face with our own fragility, that we rediscover our common humanity. We look into the eyes of another and see ourselves.”
At the same time, any commitment to social justice implores us to consider the question of “Why Haiti Matters” in more profound and complicated ways. We must be willing and prepared to critique what’s been presented as an opportunity for the US to be saviors and to downplay its role in Haiti’s colonization and impoverishment. A radically sustainable rebuilding vision of Haiti prioritizes addressing these and other root causes of oppression. This means there are no easy answers or quick fixes and once size fit all approaches. It is long term work which is transformational, visionary, and self-reflective.
“Haiti teaches us to look more deeply,” writes Shannon Joyce Prince. “And if we benefit from the lessons Haiti has taught us, as have from the enrichment we have procured from it, from the land its revolution enabled us to acquire, from the unparalleled example of courage it has set for us, then we are responsible to Haiti. It is not for our nation to tell Haiti what it should become – Haiti has never had a poverty of vision.”
Haymarket recommends supporting grassroots, on the ground efforts for Haiti led by its people there and abroad. View some places to start and suggestions for further reading and updates on the rebuilding work.