Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese Taoist philosopher once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I learned this quote on the first day of high school in Honors English. My vision had a lot to do with the plight of people looking for quality standards of living amid adverse conditions keeping them from achieving it. My journey is of a thousand miles of hope to give of myself and to help those less fortunate, namely the people of Haiti. Lest you forget what your brothers are experiencing just across the water from where you sit, life is a continued struggle. After the massive earthquake that claimed an approximate 200,000 lives, experts say that some 2 million people are still living in squalid and less than human conditions in makeshift camps as the season of of torrential rains are rapidly approaching. The challenges we face as the world fathoms Haiti’s lamentations, there’s much work to be done. I’m convinced and the miles between us are not that far, and that Haiti will not only rebound but wear her new found success with pride! We’re not far removed from this tragedy, which brings me to the gist of this essay — we’re all in this together. We cannot ignore the turmoil, nor turn the other cheek for we are all Haitians to a certain degree. There was a scene in the movie Starman where the alien character, played by Jeff Bridges asks the character played by Karen Allen, “Do you know what I find beautiful about your species?” He pauses for a pregnant moment and tells her, “You are at your best when things are worst.” This is how I feel now, and how I also feel that others should be as we endeavor to do our individual and collective parts to help this embattled nation. Haiti is on the world’s stage with drama and drastic evidence that in order for the Phoenix to rise, desperate leadership and a well-spring of help is still needed for rebuilding efforts to justify a new beginning. A new and reinvigorated Haiti cannot be built on corrupt foundations and agendas resembling anything from past regimes, monies and goods that aren’t properly dispensed accordingly. It was all about me doing what I could to help. I did so then, as I do now for legitimacy and personal achievement. I imagined traversing all roads that would lead to an accomplished end no matter what level of circumstance it would lead to. I pictured myself walking quickly and alone along the shoulders of roads with purpose and destined value. I did not realize it that day, but my journey would begin sooner than later. The events I witnessed in the United State’s Immigration policy arena while working as a Data Transcriber in Miami, and the role I played in it, developed a passion within me that would change the course of my life forever. My connection with the plight of a nation began on October 1, 1990. The Haiti I came to know was endeared to me by the resilience of her people. I was simply happy because I had made it through rigorous training and felt that my years in the military would be a great stepping stone to continue my tenure with government service. Newly discharged from the Army one day while driving home, I noticed the notorious signs of chaos as I passed through the streets of Little Haiti, a predominately Haitian community in my hometown — Miami, Florida. I learned that the night before the Haitian military had overthrown President Jean Betrand Aristide in a coup d’etat, and dozens of people had already died in Haiti in the violence that ensued.
The horror stories penetrated every domestic newspaper across the nation and predominantly to all Haitian radio stations, newspapers, and discourse. Through my church and community organizations, I met some of the victims and the nightmare became real in nature and surreal in scope. As a clerk working cases and pulling files at Immigration I was able to meet the lawyers and community activists that heralded their causes and lambasted the U.S. government because of an unfair foreign policy dealing with Haitians attempting to enter our shores. There was total anarchy in Haiti. Brutal savages murdered and tortured their own people. They held the country hostage. Thousands of Haitians flooded the shores of South Florida to escape. Many Haitian refugees reached shore, others faced detention, several sent back to Haiti, and some did not make it at all and died at sea. I would spend the remainder of my years fighting for the Haitian refugees that survived, and the past ten years of my life traveling to Haiti to educate the children so that Haiti’s future would not resemble its past. While working at a frenetic pace at Immigration, I attended community meetings with leaders and lawyers, advocated my opinion in several journalistic efforts from the writings I submitted and spoke before the Miami-Dade school board. Through local protests and speaking before student organizations, I wrote letters to Congressional representatives and anyone else who would listen. I frequently visited Haitian refugees detained at the Krome Detention Center and held citizenship drives. I also worked with Catholic Community Services of Miami to assist Haitian refugees released from Guantanamo Bay with transition to life in America. All of this, mind you, as a conflict of interest while working for the government!
However, the nightmare continued for people left in Haiti. During this period of turmoil and atrocities, I discovered my identity. It was advocating for youth of this generation helping to bolster self-esteem. My goal was to help them gain both written and oral communicative skill so that they could have determination projecting confidence in themselves. I marveled at a people who never lost the courage to make their plight better. I saw resilience and determination from a different perspective. They never gave up. They risked their lives to fight for freedom from tyranny, and I wanted to give something back to them. For those who hoped for a better life, they bravely faced the open sea in shabby boats and overcrowded vessels knowing their chances of survival were slim. Before this era, I was able to get a first hand look at Haitian life and culture when I fell in love and married a beautiful Haitian woman. Danielle Desir was a darling and gave me further wherewithal to help her and her people. I was able to see the stigma and prejudices that the average American bestowed on them. I witnessed when asked about their background how they would simply lie and say most anything other than where they truly hailed from, to keep from being ridiculed and slandered. Throughout my subsequent years as a youth worker and mentor, it was my prerogative to teach them that they were descendants of a great people whose strength, defiance and courage have enabled their survival despite overwhelming struggles throughout history. In September 2005, I met another brilliant young lady, Haiti-born Gueter Aurelien, with ambition and drive who with the support of her parents, established a prestigious education Academy in Haiti, and one here in America. She explained to me the importance of her goals for doing so, believing that the foundation of a nation’s future is the education of its children. Later on I was instrumental in giving consultation to achieve accreditation for a new school project in Miami.
Despite the success of the school and the promising future of one my own child of Haitian descent, I discovered that the massacres of the previous decades, and now the tragic aftermath of a massive earthquake, it has left a lasting impression and has seemingly altered the minds of the people and of myself. In Haiti, there is widespread belief that life does not matter because massive human rights violations and senseless crimes have been committed without investigation or judgment…and even with a nation fighting for survival there is hope. For a nation that fought fearlessly for liberty over two hundred years ago, being the first predominantly Black nation in the Western hemisphere to gain independence, people should refrain from giving up on this nation. Haiti will rise just like the legendary Phoenix! Many Haitians living in Haiti and abroad are capable of making tremendous changes, but the fear crime and corruption takes a back seat to rebuilding a nation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Due to my consultation and immediate assistance working with Aurelien in Haiti, many children have a well-rounded education and hope for a future. Of this I’m most proudest. I’ve witnessed first and foremost how she taught her staff, families and the people she encountered that their life had purpose. Of course, I couldn’t remain silent myself!
Even if you have never met a Haitian or know little of the country or culture, remind yourself that as God’s children, “we are all Haitians.” There is a popular expression in Creole — Dieu donne, which literally means ‘God gives’. For decades, we have witnessed Haitians endure unfair prejudices, ridicule and abject discrimination of the worst kind, especially from our own U.S. government with their ridiculous ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy. And while on this subject of unfair policies, the resumption of deportations to Haiti revives a senseless and inhumane policy that needs eradication. We all know about the aforementioned prejudices where Haitians were discriminated against by double standards that didn’t allow the benefits afforded other nationals. I surmise that the deportations should be halted, at least until the new Haitian government can guarantee improvement regain stability. Notwithstanding, the Obama government should find it not robbery to consider granting deferred action and stays of removal for all Haitians based on the humanitarian crisis in that country. It’s the right thing to do. Respect not only is due, but demanded from all of us who feel that parity should not be on condition of the color of one’s skin. Our mantra should be to make Haiti apparent to the potential that has always hers since becoming the only Black nation to win independence, If the goals are to make this a winnable situation, playing a role in the recovery method should be on everyone’s mind to not forget those that need help the most. Not only is it daunting, but in my mind achievable to help staunch Haiti’s race against time. I will continually ask all able-bodied Americans, especially those that look like me to do God’s bidding and give any way you can. The silver lining is that the world has a chance to make Haiti right and turn the tables on America’s racist Immigration policy toward a positive gain for people of color looking for a new lease on life. It must be rebuilt correctly — and it can be done only if we all pull together and do all that we can to help because to sit by idly and not care, is a sure epithet to misfortune that may be yours someday.
Through careful implementation of law and the establishment of a responsible framework for international involvement, it is possible to alleviate Haiti’s perilous and bleak condition. Great achievement requires more than vision and willingness, proficiency and collaboration are the catalysts that transform dreams into reality. I am on a journey of a thousand miles, and it is time to take another step. I envision a winding unpaved road, like those found throughout Haiti. I walk steadily and I am not alone. A multitude follows me, and I must prepare to lead the way. Give hope a chance by remembering your brothers and sisters! The world is on notice and many have stood, reached out and opened their alms, but my steps have begun anew for my journey of a thousand miles! Won’t you join me?