Jan. 12 will be the five-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti when hundreds of thousands perished or were injured. This milestone anniversary is not going unnoticed in New York.
To commemorate and look toward positive change for the island nation still recovering, a full day of “We Remember Haiti” presentations and workshops will take place on Jan. 12 at 1199SEIU, 310 West 43rd St.
“Getting Started With Our Movement: Organizations Businesses and the Individual” leads off the day’s all-free events in the Art Gallery at 10:00 a.m.
The welcome evening reception from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. in the auditorium will open with jazz ensemble Buyu Amboise Quartet.
Interspersed with the evening presentations about relief, investing, women’s empowerment and a tourism video, musicians Sherlee Sky and Marc Mathelier will perform. Modern dancer Maxine Montilus is also on the program.
In the Art Gallery during the late morning, there will be a brainstorming session followed by a “Haiti Uncovered” book signing with Nadege Fleurimond, followed by an investment in Haiti seminar.
At 3:30 p.m., former Haitian ambassador to the U.S. and former publisher of Brooklyn-based Haiti Observateur Ray Joseph will sign his just-published book “For Whom The Dogs Spy.”
The non-fiction book covers from 1957, when dictator Papa Doc Duvalier came to power to the present, up to the October 2014 death of Baby Doc in Haiti. (The two were collectively in power for 30 years.)
Joseph introduced some of the contents at a preview book signing at the Brooklyn Public Library, this past weekend.
Joseph was ambassador in Washington when the earthquake occurred and he spoke about how he facilitated activities from the U.S. end during the first couple days when communication was so compromised and the president was incommunicado.
He decided to write the book after a meeting with President Preval months later in August 2010 when Joseph felt that Preval clearly misunderstood his background as an anti-dictator dissident. (Joseph registered to run as president during the 2010 election cycle but was deemed ineligible.) The book took two years to write.
Where does the book’s title–also, the title of chapter four–come from? Duvalier, the father, had convinced the population that animals especially dogs were spying for him and that he even had the ability to change into a dog. Joseph had studied social anthropology and knew you couldn’t immediately change people’s beliefs.
After a friend in the government warned him that “it was best to leave the country” in 1961, Joseph returned to the U.S.
He began fundraising, and in 1965 started the daily dissident radio broadcast Radio VonVon on WRUL, a Mormon station. “We exposed what was going on in the country, in the palace and the army. By example, it looked as if the dogs were spying for us,” he said. In 1968, he was condemned to death in absentia and his citizenship revoked.
The last four chapters are devoted to the current Martelly government. Chapter 18 is titled: Turning Back the Clock and Chapter 22 reads: No Election, No Democracy.
At this point and his 83 years, Joseph says he is not interested in a political life and that this is not the point of this book.
“My passion is reforestation,” he says pointing to the organization “A Dollar A Tree for Haiti, Inc.” that he started. He’s about to embark on a project in the southern area of Camp Perrin. “My son shared with me a Greek proverb,” Joseph says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit.”
1199SEIU spearheaded this full day of free workshops, presentations and performances. Over 70 Haitian cultural, professional and Diaspora organizations, and dignitaries and elected officials are part of the coalition that organized this event.
At 5:53 p.m.–the exact time of the earthquake, there will be a candle light vigil.
(Full schedule: www.eventbrite.com/e/we-remember-haiti-tickets-15028194735)