Introducing Haiti…for us, a wonderful, unique, culturally-riveting country whose people have achieved amazing things in the face of overwhelming odds.
Haitians fought and won the only ever successful national slave revolution in history. In 12 years of revolutionary warfare beginning in August 1791, they fought and defeated the armies of the three most powerful nations in the world at the time, France, Britain and Spain. And finally France again, first under the inspirational leadership of Touissaint L’Ouverture, then his leading general, Jean-Jacques Dessalines. After the decisive defeat of Napoleon’s forces at the battle of Vertières in 1803, Dessalines declared the independence of the world’s first black republic on 1st January 1804.
Despite political and economic upheaval during much of Haiti’s history, Haitians have developed a unique culture, with art and music that has become famous far beyond its borders.
News pieces invariably begin with the phrase “Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere …” before going on to report the latest tragic events.
Yet the media coverage of Haiti often focuses on crisis: natural disaster and its consequences, violence or civil disturbance, coups and political instability or poverty. News pieces invariably begin with the phrase “Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere …” before going on to report the latest tragic events.
Introducing us…Here at the Haiti Support Group we try to provide a more balanced reflection of Haiti and its people. We present the achievements as well as describing the problems and challenges of the Haitian reality.
The Haiti Support Group was launched in 1992 at a meeting at the House of Commons (British Parliament). Here is a summary of some highlights of the many events that the Haiti Support Group has organised in the UK in the first eight years of its existence.
1992 – In August, the Haiti Support Group organised the UK visit of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He addressed a rally to mark the 500th anniversary of the arrival in the Americas of Christopher Columbus – the Liverpool rally was organised by the British 500 Years of Resistance Campaign.
1993 – In April, the Mayor of Port-au-Prince, Evans Paul, visited the UK as the guest of the Haiti Support Group. He was the guest speaker at the ‘Restoring Democracy in Haiti’ conference in London.
In May, Claudette Werleigh, a member of the exiled Aristide government, was speaker at a public meeting on the crisis in Haiti held in London.
1994 – In July, the Haiti Support Group staged the first London appearance of the Haitian rasin/roots music band, Boukman Eksperyans.
In November, Bishop Willy Romulus, visited the Faith and Justice Group of St. Margaret Mary’s Church in Liverpool.
1995 – In April, at London’s October Gallery an exhibition of Haitian art and photographs of Haiti by Maggie Steber, Chantal Regnault, and others, was opened by Haiti Support Group member, the playwright, Harold Pinter.
In June, we organised a mini-Haitian film festival at a London cinema, showing “Divine Horsemen”, “The Man by the Shore”, and “Killing the Dream”.
In August, Father Jean-Yves Urfié, the founder of the Kreyol newspaper, Libète, visited London as our guest. He addressed a public meeting, and met with non-governmental organisations, Christian Aid, and the World Association for Christian Communication.
In October, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the founder of the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP), addressed meeting in London, Oxford, and Liverpool, and also met activists at the Labour Party’s annual conference in Brighton.
At a reception at the Barbican Centre, the Haiti Support Group also announced the publication of “After the Dance, the Drum is Heavy: Haiti one year after the invasion” by Charles Arthur.
1996 – In July, two leaders of the Platform to Advocate for Alternative Development (PAPDA) spent three days in London meeting politicians and giving media interviews on the question of the structural adjustment programme for Haiti.
Two exhibitions of metal sculpture and sequin flags from Haiti were put on by Haiti Support Group members in London.
1997 – In June, a leader of the popular organisation, Batay Ouvriye, spent two weeks in the UK and continental Europe.
In November, we hosted a conference in London on the future of tourism in Haiti. Participants included representatives of the non-governmental organisation, Tourism Concern, and Polly Patullo, the author of “Last Resorts: the Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean“.
1998 – In May, following significant input from the Haiti Support Group, the music promoter, Como No, staged two ‘happenings’, in London and Liverpool, in which a oungan (Vodou priest), ounsis (initiates), and drummers, from Bel Air in Port-au-Prince ‘performed’.
In July, the Inter-Agency Group on Haiti, a group of British non-governmental organisations including the Haiti Support Group, published the report “The European Union in Haiti”.
In November, Ben Dupuy, the leader of the popular organisation, the National Popular Assembly, visited the UK as our guest, and addressed meetings in London and Leicester, as well as giving media interviews.