Revolution #193, February 21, 2010
After the Earthquake
Taking Revolution to the NY Haitian Community
We received the following correspondence from a reader/distributor of Revolution in New York:
We confront an enormous internationalist responsibility: New York City has the largest Haitian community in the United States. Many people here are deeply affected by events in Haiti, frantic to learn which of their friends and relatives have died, frantic to get aid and support to those who need it.
We have been making special efforts to get Revolution out in the Haitian community—getting out the paper's exposure of the whole history of U.S. domination in Haiti and the crimes being carried out by the United States against the Haitian people right now in the wake of the earthquake.
Initially we went out with a flyer of the Statement, "The Haitian People Need Emergency Assistance—NOT Suppression and Further Domination," issued by the editors of Revolution. We quickly got out 1,500 copies and sparked tremendous discussion and debate. Among some there was a pitting of fighting to gather needed food, medicine and other donations to send to Haiti against the need to examine the larger political questions. This Statement opened doors for people to do both. It became a point of reference, debate and discussion as activists gathered to organize how to respond to this, culminating in a demonstration at the U.S. Mission to the UN and a march to Grand Central Station.
Then Revolution newspaper posted a powerful and eye-catching centerfold: "The U.S. in Haiti: A Century of Domination," and we tried to figure out how to get it in the hands of many. A plan was developed and after consulting with Revolution newspaper we printed up a special, four-page, emergency broadsheet, with a graphic-rich version of the Statement on the front and the centerfold of the history of U.S. domination in Haiti (Revolution #190, January 31, 2009) on pages two and three and an ad and information about Revolution on the back. We printed 5,000 copies.
Some people eagerly donated for the printing of this, and many more donated generously when we took it out on the streets. In three days, virtually all the copies got out, the largest portion being in the Haitian/Caribbean community, and donations were gathered in the course of mass distribution. We collected not only enough to pay for the printing but another $528 for further expanding the reach and coverage of Revolution around this crisis. Many who donated responded to the call for them to take quantities, often 3-10 copies, to get out to others.
Initially, when we were approaching people, a number would turn their heads saying "I have already given" at their church, community group, etc. Some indicated they had been "warned" about hustlers getting money from people and it never reaching Haiti. But even more, over that first week, when we had gone out with the Statement, certain terms had been set in the media, etc. that individual donations was the main way people should respond. We attempted to break through this on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we took a different approach, often saying from the beginning: "Tens of thousands of people did not have to die from this earthquake, if the richest country in the world—the U.S.—had promptly sent food, rescue and medical teams. And people are still dying unnecessarily because much of the aid faces U.S. government interference in getting to the people. This is not only a tragedy of enormous proportions, it is a towering crime against the Haitian people!"
When this sort of approach was used from the beginning, people opened up, grabbing the broadsheets and often donating $1, $5, and sometimes $10 or $20 for the broadsheet and Revolution newspaper's coverage of the crisis in Haiti. There were a few people who still expressed gratitude for what they think the U.S. is doing in Haiti, but overwhelmingly, there was impatience and some real and growing anger over the time it took to get aid to people—over the U.S. actually obstructing aid coming in and over U.S. priorities. "Security"—as one person put it, "What do they mean 'security'? How can they be thinking about that now??!!" Different examples were brought up by people: "The U.S. stopped France from bringing in aid, they stopped Doctors without Borders." Expanding on a point in the Statement, a number of people brought up how they had heard that other countries, hardly as wealthy as the U.S., were getting aid and medical teams in far sooner than the U.S., and were then being hindered by the United States who had taken over the airport in Port-au-Prince.
On Sunday, we reached people as they came out of church services. Many we spoke to talked of loved ones who have died in the last week or that they still do not know the fate of their relatives. Some, too upset to talk much, warmly received the broadsheet and donated for it, some taking extras. And it was striking how strongly Spanish-speakers we encountered felt about what happened, wanting to express their support for the Haitian people and their anger at the U.S. role in Haiti.
Both in the Haitian/Caribbean community and in Harlem, comparisons to how the U.S. government treated the people of New Orleans and what is happening now in Haiti struck a very strong chord in people. And just like in New Orleans, in the media, the victims are being painted as criminals and looters. We pointed out that the towering crime here was that tens of thousands have died unnecessarily, because of the actions and inaction of the U.S. government and that is the "crime" here. And we would open the centerfold on "The U.S. in Haiti: A Century of Domination" and say, you want to talk about looting, the U.S. has been looting and dogging the people of Haiti for over 100 years. Many, especially Haitians, indicated that they were familiar with some of this, but there was widespread appreciation that it had been pulled together now in this bold form, confirming what they feel and know, to put out more broadly.
Increasingly, we got better at contrasting the horrors of what the U.S. is doing now in Haiti to how a revolutionary society would handle this completely differently. And this really was something that people wanted to dig into, often getting cards on the Bob Avakian Revolution on-line talk. We need to develop this point more as we go out further—digging into the substance of how a new revolutionary society will be different, drawing on the "Imagine" section of the Revolution Talk. And also talking more about the kind of re-envisioned socialism and communism that Bob Avakian is talking about—including the need to have our feet firmly planted in internationalism and how a revolution in the U.S. would quickly put an end to the kind of domination the U.S. carries out in Haiti and much of the rest of the world.
New York also has the largest Dominican community in the U.S. And there has been a tremendous outpouring of solidarity and support for the Haitian people, both in the Dominican Republic and in the Dominican community, with many churches and community groups involved. Several regular readers of Revolution played a major role in gathering food aid and were in the Dominican Republic and then Haiti, "escorting" it across the border from the Dominican Republic to insure that it got to progressive groupings in Haiti.
Meanwhile, there was a small but important gathering of radical forces in the Dominican community in Washington Heights, with invited speakers from the Haitian community. There was powerful exposure, both by speakers and people from the audience, of U.S. imperialism's crimes in Haiti, and plans were made for joint actions built in both the Dominican and Haitian communities against the actions of the U.S. and other powers for further domination and occupation of Haiti.
As the program was about to end, a young Dominican who was videotaping the event, interrupted to make a powerful denunciation of U.S. imperialism's crimes against the Haitian people, heavily drawing on information in the Revolution centerfold on 100 years of the U.S. in Haiti—which he had bought and read before the event began.
Circulating before and after program, many copies of the newspaper got out, along with palm cards on Bob Avakian's Revolution online talk. We also got out five Spanish and one English copy of the RCP's Manifesto, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage and a number of other people told us they would check it out at revcom.us.
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