Diaspora

Haitian students disagree with the media portrayal of their home in a time of unrest – Maroon

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Jacqueline Galli, Worldview Assistant
Zoë Stambaugh
International business and theatre arts junior Kalimay Stewart said she hoped to visit her home country of Haiti over the summer, but in the wake of gang violence, an earthquake, and the assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, a rise in crime prevented her from seeing those she loved still in the country.
“I was really sad because it’s home. It did kind of take a toll on me because I felt helpless,” Stewart said.
Stewart’s inability to return home in part due to the United States’ travel advisory to go to Haiti, proves that the gang violence there has been devastating for its people, she said. Advocates like co-founder of Haitianola, an organization that helped educate the New Orleans community about the country of Haiti, Lori Martineau, said that the violence has dangerously affected the view of Haiti and the way it is portrayed in the media.
Martineau said a main problem with the portrayal of Haiti in the media is that it is steeped in White supremacy. But groups like Haitianola are attempting to rally around the problem and defeat the stereotypes, she said.
“I’ve begun to think it’s against international law to write an article about Haiti that doesn’t say ‘poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,’” she said.
Haitianola was an organization that worked to amplify the connections between Haiti and New Orleans through artistic and cultural exchanges, as well as educational programming from 2018 to 2021. While the organization disbanded during the pandemic, their website still serves as an archive of their work to offer educational resources, according to Martineau.
Georgetown Professor Georges Fauriol said the current surge in gang violence in Haiti is not new. Fauriol is a Think Tank Haiti Steering Group member, a collaboration of scholars in Haiti, the U.S., and Canada that work together to analyze issues that are facing Haiti, propose policies to address these problems, and foster opportunity for national Haitian progress, he said.
Fauriol said that Haiti’s violence in previous years was localized and predictable. Now, gang violence has become larger, more brutal, and politically meddlesome, he said. The political crisis in Haiti has limited its government’s ability to function, which has primed the country for the spread of gang influence, Fauriol said.
Gang control over Haiti has seen an increased impact on the country and its people in the past several months, a problem Martineau said is due in part to negative media coverage.
White supremacy has real consequences in Haiti, she said. The media and the United States, along with other countries within the United Nations, have influenced Haiti’s politics for decades, Martineau said, who added that Haiti is in need of a “truly representative election” to give the power back to its people.
Fauriol said the United States participates in illicit gang activity within Haiti, as the drugs in the country are meant for U.S. markets, and guns that end up in Haiti often come from the U.S.
International business junior Ann Leyla Surena said that despite the recent surge in gang violence in Haiti, she still hopes to one day live in her home country safely.
“I miss it. I miss everything about it. Yeah, we’ve dealt with a lot of messed up situations that we can’t control, but without a doubt I’m proud to be Haitian,” she said.
Surena and Stewart said since they haven’t been back to Haiti in some time, they have missed the food, beaches, music, and culture of their home country.
“All those little towns and provinces have such character. You drive to each province and you feel like you are in a whole different environment,” Surena said.
This is the side of Haiti, Surena said, that is rarely shown.
“When you search for Haiti online, all you see is trash. It’s a negative connotation you are putting on a beautiful country that has fought since its birth,” she said.
Linda Reno, Haitianola co-founder with Martineau, said Haiti is so much more than its political problems.
While Surena said she is saddened by recent events in her country, she said seeing how everyone back home is handling it is a sign of how strong Haitian people are.
“They are able to survive a lot of stuff, things that if it were to happen here, I don’t think half of the population would be able to handle it the same way that Haitians have,” Surena said.
Jacqueline Galli is excited to be taking on her first position at The Maroon as assistant editor for worldview. As a junior mass communication major she…
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