Book Review: Farewell, Fred Voodoo

By Bryan Schaaf on Sunday, January 20, 2013.
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Amy Wilentz understands Haitian culture, history, and language as few other foreigners do.  This, combined with candor about her own biases and emotions, makes her a compelling writer about a country where nothing is black and white.  Like many of us, she seeks redemption of a sort through Haiti.  Throughout her most recent book, "Farewell, Fred Vodoo", she emphasizes that Haitian perspectives are the best ways to understand the reality of post-earthquake Haiti.  Below is a review by Hector Tobar of the LA Times.  More information about the book and upcoming readings are available on Amy Wilentz's website

Book Review: The Big Truck Went By - How the World Came to Save Haiti And Left Behind a Disaster

By Bryan Schaaf on Sunday, January 20, 2013.

Below is a review, from Reason, of Jonathan Katz's book on the shortcomings of the international community's efforts to "save" Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.  While no response to the aftermath earthquake, no matter how well-organized or well-resourced would have been sufficient, he emphasizes that the subsequent reconstruction effort was hobbled by a top-down approach that excluded governmental institution, weak as they may have been, local firms, and community groups.  To read an excerpt or purchase the book, take a look at  Amazon.   Read more »

2013 International Jazz Festival Begins

By Bryan Schaaf on Friday, January 18, 2013.
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Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis kicks off Haiti's week-long 2013 International Jazz Festival today. The festival features two dozen perfomers around the world and workshops for aspiring Haitian musicians. The full Miami Herald article follows and a schedule of performances can be found on the Festival Website.  Let us know if you were able to attend this year!  

Plans to Rebuild Catholic and Episcopalian Cathedrals Take Shape

By Bryan Schaaf on Thursday, December 20, 2012.

The Catholic and Episcopalian cathedrals were two prominent landmarks in Port-au-Prince prior to their destruction in the earthquake.  Plans are now underway for the reconstruction of each.  A Puerto Rican team has won an international design competition to rebuild the Catholic Cathedral.  The Episcopalian cathedral will be rebuilt by a Virginia-based firm. Each will be built back better, able to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes.  Learn more at the websites of the Catholic and Episcopalian Cathedrals.  Full Miami Herald article below. Read more »

Haiti to Address Broken Adoption System

By Bryan Schaaf on Sunday, December 2, 2012.

Adoption can be controversial.  In the case of Haiti, many orphanges are poorly managed and with little oversight.  Major challenges are a lack of livelihoods and access to family planning information and commodities.  Many children in orphanages are not really orphans as they have parents - albeit parents that could not afford them.  Trention Daniel notes Haiti is in the process of updating its adoption laws for the first time in 40 years.  This would being Haiti's adoption practices closer to international standards.  Read more »

Haiti, DR to Launch Ten Year $2.2 Billion Plan to Eliminate Cholera

By Bryan Schaaf on Friday, November 30, 2012.

According to Trenton Daniel and Martha Mendoza, a ten year $2.2 billion dollar plan to eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic will be released shortly.  The plan will be government-led with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the WHO/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).  It is yet to be determined who will fund the plan and to what extent although the World Bank has indicated it will contribute.  Although it will take years, eliminating cholera is neccesary both for protecting public health and promoting investment.  Read more »

Poverty Porn: Commentary on "Dangerous Grounds" (Lee Rainboth)

By Bryan Schaaf on Sunday, November 18, 2012.

Lee Rainboth recently wrote a blog about a Travel Channel series called Dangerous Grounds, an episode of which was shot in Haiti.  Due to the cultural insensitivity of the crew, the episode suggests Haitians are dangerous and unpredictable.  In reality, Carmichael is just another fly-by-night visitor who didn't take the time to understand Haitian culture.  In reality, Haitians are remarkably hospitable and go out of their way to help strangers.  That having been said, Haitian coffee is excellent and well worth seeking out.       Read more »

Zombies Walk Amongst Us

By Bryan Schaaf on Wednesday, October 31, 2012.

Today is Halloween, a day when zombies abound.  Zombies have their roots in Haiti, specifically in the pain and suffering of slavery.  Amy Wilentz reminds us zombies exist throughout the year.  As she puts it, “The zombie is devoid of consciousness and unable to critique the system that has entrapped him. He’s labor without grievance.  He works free and never goes on strike. You don’t have to feed him much.  He’s a Foxconn worker in China; a maquiladora seamstress in Guatemala; a citizen of North Korea…”  In zombies, one hears echoes of oppression, in Haiti and elsewhere around the world.  Her full article follows.   Read more »

Lessons From the Storm: What Haiti Can Teach Us

By Bryan Schaaf on Tuesday, October 30, 2012.

Given the extent of internal displacement in Port-au- Prince and environmental degradation beyond, Haiti remains vulnerable to flooding.  You can see the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in this Washington Post video clip.  There will be much reporting in the days ahead about the loss of lives, homes, and livelihoods.  Drawing on his experience living through the earthquake and reflecting upong Hurricane Sandy's impact, Jonathan Katz takes a moment to remind us of Haitian resilience and solidarity, qualities we can learn from.  Read more »

The Dominican Dream Turned Nightmare for Haitian Migrants

By Bryan Schaaf on Thursday, October 18, 2012.

Equal Times has produced a compelling report on the abuse of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.  It is concise, features remarkable photography and raises important issues such as the extent to which Dominican employers and law enforcement collude with traffickers.  Preventing and responding to abuses is necessary for developing a bilateral relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic based on mutual respect. Read more »