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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Lack of cohesiveness grounded Haitian immigration activists in Miami on May Day demonstration

CSMS Magazine editorialThe May Day show of force by immigration activists was the latest of a series of mass demonstrations sweeping all major cities in the United States. From coast to coast, including America’s heartland, the muscle flexing has sent chill deep into the heart of conservative politicians in Washington who, in a latest move to deviate attention from Iraq, the Mississippi gulf coast and other social problems plaguing the nation, have jumped on the weakest layer of society—those everyone loves to hate: the immigrants.   But while 100, 000 poured into the Orange Bowl, Little Haiti, one the hottest and historic spots in the struggle for immigrant rights in South Florida remained virtually idle last Monday. Why? God only knows. Was it because our fellow Haitians have already succeeded in their quest to be legalized? Absolutely not. Just two weeks earlier, more than a thousand Haitians descended in Downtown Miami, demanding justice and more importantly the temporary status for thousand of Haitians whose status remains in virtual limbo throughout South Florida.   Haitians did demonstrate on Monday, however. They were about 500-strong massed in front of the Court House in Down Town Fort Lauderdale. That stand was totally overlooked since the media and the whole world, for that matter, had their eyes on the biggest prize of the day: The Orange Bowl.  It has been some time since the Haitian immigration movement in South Florida has been losing steam. And its leaders do not seem to have the magic formula to reverse the trend. As in all other communities, politics in the old country or the homeland weigh a lot on how the struggle for social justice is conducted. In the 1980s, the movement was strong and well coordinated not only because there were more illegal immigrants in our community—part of that is true—but because the struggle for immigrant rights within the Haitian community in South Florida was wholeheartedly linked to that of Haiti in an urgent quest to dechouke injustice, exploitation and all form of police brutality. There was one common enemy: the repressive machine of Duvalier supported by Washington, ushering a mass-migration never registered in the history of Haiti.  The focus then was not solely on “personal responsibility” as George Bush’s social conservatism is preaching. It was on education and collective accomplishments within the framework of justice for all. Those were the glory days. There were more community radio programs where press releases, public service announcements and mass-mobilization could be done. By the way, there were few social service agencies, but lot more was achieved. Today, social service agencies spring like mushrooms in the grass in the morning dew—a nonprofit business that has become very profitable to some individuals who do not seem to have anything to do with the plights of Haitian immigrants. Don’t listen to what they say, watch their actions. Action speaks louder than words. They raise their voices loud in front of the television camera when Haitians are being paraded in the 6 o’ clock news, displaying a kind of a wounded pride. But yet they are nowhere to be found when Fanm Ayisyen  or Marlene Bastien launches an appeal for massive demonstration.  Sadly, the old guards have retired, possessed by the get-rich frenzy while pursuing much more lucrative adventures, whether in Haiti or in the Diaspora. The new guards could not care less about the need to put forward a genuine front to fight off the latest challenge imposed by immigration officials. They have adopted a vulgar conformitism camouflaged under the codename of politic of integration, which is in fact nothing but politic of subordination. To top it all, their views on how Haiti should be run differ dramatically. Thus, they have little in common but a desire to make money off the ignorance of our people.  No wonder they were nowhere to be found on May Day. Don’t worry, they will find plenty of excuses to justify their absences. One of them will certainly be “ the Orange Bowl is too close to Cuban territory.” But that will expose their impotence and further open the eyes of the community. What needs to be done is a return to the status quo ante, so that Haitian immigrants will not be left alone to freeze out in the cold whenever they decide on the latest immigration reform. We need to be wise.

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