Caribbean pols express solidarity with Haiti in aftermath of devastating earthquake

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Caribbean American legislators have expressed solidarity and support for Haiti in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck the French-speaking Caribbean country on Saturday.

Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants and founding co-chair of the Congressional Caribbean and Haiti Caucuses, conveyed prayers and support for Haitians, along with Congressional Haiti Caucus co-chairs, Congressmembers Andy Levin, of Maine; Val Demings, of Florida; Ayanna Pressley, of Massachusetts; and Mondaire Jones, of New York.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti, especially in the Department of Nippes and the nearby cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie, as well as any others in surrounding countries affected by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck near the town of Petit Trou de Nippes early this morning,” said the chairs of the Congressional Haiti Caucus in a statement.

“This earthquake could not have come at a worse time for the people of Haiti,” they added. “The nation is in the throes of a political crisis, the effects of the compounding COVID-19 pandemic, and is still recovering from the disastrous earthquake that hit the island’s (country’s) southern peninsula more than a decade ago.

“We remain committed to championing adequate aid to the region, supporting bilateral relations and policies that will ensure Haiti’s full economic and political recovery, and the emergence of a durable, Haitian-led democracy,” continued the chairs of the Congressional Haiti Caucus.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, said “the people of Haiti, who have already suffered so much pain and trauma in the last weeks, months and years, are once again reeling in the wake of a devastating natural disaster.

“My appreciation and respect for the Haitian people and culture runs as deep as the Diaspora’s roots here in New York City,” he told Caribbean Life. “I offer my prayers for peace and comfort to the families of those who have lost their lives, and to everyone in Les Cayes, in Jeremie, on the island (country) and throughout the Diaspora still waiting for information on their loved ones, as so many lives and livelihoods have been destroyed.

“Together, with our prayers, we must provide sustained support,” Williams added. “In the past, people and nations have rushed to Haiti’s aid in the immediate moment of crisis, when the headlines are fresh and the cameras are present, only to abandon them in the aftermath and invite future crises.

“Just five weeks ago the President of Haiti was assassinated, and while that upheaval is ongoing, the world’s attention has not been,” the Public Advocate continued. “This cycle cannot continue. We must come together today, yes, but stay together through recovery and rebuilding.”

New York State Assembly Member, Diana Richardson, the daughter of Aruban and St. Martin immigrants, said: “When a humanitarian crisis of this magnitude strikes, we, as a community must pull together and support our brothers and sisters abroad.

“My office will stay abreast of the situation and is willing to assist as it may be possible,” said Richardson, who represents the 43rd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “I know that it is difficult to be resilient for so long, but we pray for Haiti’s strength, for those who are at home and abroad during this time.”

New York City Council Member, Dr. Mathieu Eugene, the Haitian-born representative for the predominantly Caribbean 40th Council District in Brooklyn, called also for prayers for “the people of Haiti and all those affected by this horrible natural disaster.

“Haiti has been coping with multiple crises for many years that have tested the strength and will of our people, and this tragic event only adds to the challenges the country faces,” he said. “I remain thankful to all of the friends of Haiti who have provided much-needed assistance to my country on numerous occasions.

“The continuous support and goodwill towards the Haitian community have always meant a great deal to me, and it makes a tremendous difference in our collective ability to get through these terrible circumstances,” added the first Haitian to be ever elected to New York City Council. “As a native of Haiti, and a dedicated public servant in the United States, my heart goes out to my Haitian brothers and sisters living in Haiti, and those in the Diaspora whose family members are affected by this tragedy. I pray for their safety, security and well-being.

A woman stands in front of a destroyed home in the aftermath of an earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday, with the epicenter about 125 kilometers ( 78 miles) west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, the US Geological Survey said. Associated Press/Duples Plymouth

“Haiti has been through several tragedies,” Dr. Eugene continued. “We have always been resilient in the face of adversity, and we should use our solidarity and compassion to work together to overcome this horrible situation.

“In the aftermath of this earthquake, we should be committed to recovery efforts, embrace the value of hope, the blessing of God, and work together for a more prosperous and sustainable future,” he said.

New York State Assemblymember, Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, said “news coming out of Haiti evokes memories of the 2010 quake that shook Haiti and left the world aghast.

“What’s troubling is that this is only the latest tragedy in what has become a terrible trifecta: the assassination of the former President Jovenel Moïse; a worsening COVID-19 epidemic; and, now, what is possibly the most powerful earthquake in the nation’s history,” the daughter of Haitian immigrants told Caribbean Life on Sunday.

“I pray for the people of Haiti, and for the people in the United States and here in Brooklyn, who are feeling the pain of uncertainty or deep loss,” added Bichotte Hermelyn, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “I remain hopeful for brighter days ahead for our beloved country.”

New York City Council Member Farah N. Louis, another daughter of Haitian immigrants, on Sunday joined “the entire Haitian community to mourn the tragic events that have unfolded in Haiti in recent years, including the 2010 earthquake, hurricanes, a deadly cholera outbreak, and near-constant political and economic instability.

“Going forward, it is critical that we stand in solidarity with the Haitian people,” said Louis, who represents the largely Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn. “They need our prayers and support. They also need our help.

“Please understand that this is a difficult time for the Haitian community here in New York City,” added Louis, co-chair of the Women’s Caucus and vice co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus in New York City Council. “Everyone here knows someone in Haiti who is struggling. Everyone here is worried about their family and friends back home. Haitians have had to endure a cycle of trauma over the years, and it has taken a toll.”

As chair of the City Council’s Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addictions, Louis said she pledged to work with Haitian clergy leaders, legislators, activists and organizations, such as Capracare, Little Haiti BK and Haitian Studies Institute, “to ensure that our community receives grief counseling and the additional support it deserves.”

“Haiti has suffered many setbacks in its history,” she noted. “Yet, the Haitian people have always remained resolute and resilient in the face of adversity. Today is no different.

“The Haitian American community stands shoulder to shoulder in support of our Haitian brothers and sisters,” the councilwoman said. “And we remain united in our hopes for a brighter future for Haiti.”

Marleine Bastien, executive director of the Miami-based Family Action Network Movement (FANM), said: “We all woke up with terrible news of yet another crisis.

“As we continue to assess a fluid situation to develop a relief effort to support our brothers and sisters, we ask for your prayers for a country that was already crumbling under the weight of one of the worst political crises of its history,” she said.

Bastien said images of Haitians digging people out with their bare hands are reminiscent of the 2010 earthquake, which quasi destroyed Haiti’s entire infrastructure and killed over 250,000 people.”

US geologists said that Saturday’s quake was also felt as far away as 200 miles in Jamaica.

John Bellini, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado, said Saturday’s quake in Haiti is “significantly stronger” and “a lot larger in the amount of energy released” than the one that devastated the country in 2010.

That 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed a reported 300,000 people and resulted in billions of dollars in damages and destruction.

Jerry Chandler, director general of the Civil Protection Agency, said at least 304 people have been killed to date and more than 1,800 injured by Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude quake. The number now reported killed is 1,300.

US President Joe Biden said in White House statement on Saturday that he was “saddened by the devastating earthquake,” adding that it struck “in what is already a challenging time for the people of Haiti.

“We send our deepest condolences to all those who lost a loved one or saw their homes and businesses destroyed,” he said.