Haiti on Thursday suspended the operations of British charity Oxfam pending the outcome of its investigation into allegations that its staff sexually exploited Haitians after a devastating 2010 earthquake. The country’s ministry of planning and foreign aid said Oxfam GB had made a “serious error” by failing to inform Haitian authorities of the actions by their…
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This Miami Icon Doesn’t Want Young Haitians To Lose Their Heritage In The USBy Contributor
By Leslie Ovalle
In 1977, after one year in prison for discussing his political beliefs, Jean-Claude Exulien—a secondary school history professor—decided to flee his home in Haiti.
Exulien said that there are times in history when a government cannot be criticized, but he is also quick to remind that as an intellectual and educator, it is impossible to suppress critical discussions.
Exulien fled Haiti during the rule of the dictator “Baby Doc”, or Jean-Claude Duvalier, seeking his own and his family’s safety. He said that if it hadn’t been for Haiti’s suppressive regime many Haitians, including himself, would not have fled the land they feel such patriotism for.
His office in North Miami, decorated with Haitian flags and cultural photographs, is evidence to his love of country.
“I’m a big witness, I would say, of what happened in Haiti during the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier and Jean-Claude Duvalier,” said Exulien, “Haitian intellectuals were obliged to leave the country to save their lives.”
Many Haitians fleeing the regime of the time decided to migrate to Montreal, Canada. This is something that crossed Exulien’s mind, but a summer school teaching opportunity and family here in South Florida is what pushed him to make this city his new home.
“Some friend told me one time ‘it’s not difficult for you, because you used to teach at a higher level.’ I said ‘no it’s not a problem because I love these people, they are my people’. Until today that is my job, to teach them how to write in French, Creole, and English,” explains Exulien.
Knowing Creole, French, English, and Spanish, Exulien embodies the importance of knowing multiple languages in a place as diverse as South Florida.
On his office desk lays an ocean of newspapers—which he refers to as his tools—and in this ocean you can find all four languages. He jokes, although in a serious manner, saying that nowadays if you speak only one language you are handicap.
“Sometimes there are news in El Nuevo Herald or Las Americas and you cannot find the same news in The Herald, for example, so we have to read more than one newspaper and in more than one language,” he said.On the side of his office cabinet hangs a quote by John Dewey, the liberal philosopher that reads, in all caps: “education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.”
Exulien takes education beyond the classroom, besides teaching literacy, history, and anthropology he has a radio show on 1700 AM Radio Mega every Saturday at 11am.
“This is a class, it’s not a radio show,” Exulien said.
His radio segment is 90% Creole and 10% English; where he discusses current events, ideas, and history with his listeners.
A very proud man of his country’s history, he is one of the founders of the Haitian American Historical Society—a non-profit organization seeking the recognition and accuracy of historical events pertaining to Haitians and those of Haitian descent.
In 2007, the organization erected a monument of Les Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint Domingue in Savannah, Gerogia. Les Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint Domingue was a group of Haitian free men who volunteered to fight in The Siege of Savannah on October 9th, 1779 against the British.
“Haitian people died there, in Franklin Square, for the independence of the United States,” said Exulien.
The organization is now working on erecting yet another monument, in St. Augustine, Florida, commemorating General Georges Biassou—a Haitian forefather who fought with Spanish royalists.
Exulien is also the president of the organization Haitian League for Human Rights, INC.
“We created this organization one year ago, because of the situation of [our Haitian] brothers and sisters in Santo Domingo,” said Exulien.
This article was originally published on Rise Miami News.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place.
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Haitian American Communities Have Become The New Focus Of Housing Discrimination FightsBy Contributor
By Nate Nkumbu
Housing discrimination is an issue that is being faced by many cities across the United States.
In South Florida, housing discrimination is nothing new.
In a place where real estate is such an important part of the local economy, tales of housing discrimination are prevalent within minority communities.
Morgan Williams is the Director of Enforcement & Investigations for the National Fair Housing Alliance in Washington D.C. Williams explained in an email the history that housing discrimination has had the U.S.
According to Williams, in the 1930’s, a phenomenon known as redlining became a common practice in areas where minority people lived.
Redlining was a federal housing policy that explicit denying housing services to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic makeups of those areas.
Williams said that the practice is still in effect today with banks often at the front.
“Today, some lenders structure their loan products, restrict broker services, site branch locations, and/or target their marketing on the bases of race, national origin, sex, familial status, disability, or other protected class,” Williams told RISE NEWS.
“In restricting lending services in a discriminatory manner—whether limits services in communities of color or that isolated prospective female borrowers on parental leave—the more subtle contemporary redlining practices have the same practical effect of limited credit access on a geographic basis.”
One such case that Williams talked about is Providence v. Santander Bank.
According to the Providence Journal, the city’s lawsuit alleged that Santander Bank had reduced lending in minority neighborhoods over a multiyear period while expanding its business dealings in “predominantly white neighborhoods.”
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Santander Bank bought Sovereign Bank in 2009 and as a result occupied a large share of the overall mortgage market in the city, meaning that people had few options outside of Santander.
This case saw the city of Providence settle with Santander Bank for $1.3 million in grants for lower income houses in return for dropping the housing discrimination case.
In South Florida, there are organizations that fight housing discrimination.
Each one has different experience with the issue.
Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence or HOPE is an organization that operates in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Daniel Howe, an expert for HOPE said that that the most common cases that HOPE deals with are REO house.
REO houses are bank owned houses that are maintained and kept during foreclosure or unsuccessful sales.
Howe said that the REOs in richer, more white communities are maintained and well kept better that their Latin American or African American community, leaving areas of Miami looking dilapidated in stark contrast to the richer areas only a few blocks or miles away.
Another organization up in Palm Beach County has a different take on the housing discrimination in South Florida.
Vince Larkins is the CEO of Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches.
His organization recently took the city of Boca Raton to court accusing the city of discrimination towards families with children.
During an interview, Larkins said that housing discrimination cases are prevalent in the Haitian Community.
“The level of discrimination towards Haitians is disproportionate to the number of cases we get at the the office,” Larkins said in an interview with RISE NEWS.
This assessment is followed by Marleine Bastien, executive director of Fanm Ayisyen nan Miyami, a organization based in Miami that helps Haitian families.
Bastien said in an email that the Haitian community often gets short shrift when it comes to housing.
“Most affordable housing seems to go to more politically connected and empowered immigrant groups like Cuban-Americans,” Bastien said.
“Those Haitian families that finally gotten through after long waiting periods often find themselves uprooted from their neighborhoods to Homestead, Florida City ….far away from their milieu ambient, extended families and friends.”
Just recently, Bastien’s organization fought to officially define the border for Little Haiti, an area that is the center of Haitian-American cultural and economic life in the city of Miami.
Last week, the city of Miami commission voted to make official the borders of Little Haiti.
Bastien said that there are plans for improvements across the area.
“Now we’re on a plan to revitalize the area and [create] a community land trust, to recoup spaces and land in the district/area and redevelop them for affordable housing,” Bastien said. “The second part of the plan is beautification and a CRA to bring resources to Little Haiti that strengthen businesses and spur growth.”
Florida is home to nearly two thirds of the Haitian American population. According to the 2009 census, Haitians Americans numbered at 830,000 people.
This community while growing in clout, is also at the heart of housing discrimination fights around the country.
Larkin pointed towards one case in particular with a Haitian family trying to buy a condominium. The family was flat out rejected by the condo’s owners, saying that they had a policy of “not allowing any colored people inside the community.”
“In the end, we were able to get the family into the house and won a settlement, but that family reached out to us first and were able to get their case heard,” Larkin said.
For Bastien, the work in Miami is not completely over.
She said that affordable housing isn’t much of reality anymore because the prices prohibited large sections of the population.
“It has been very difficult for folks to have access due to very limited resources,” Bastien said.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.
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