Looking at the images of earthquake –ravaged Haiti, one would think that the country had been the victim of the detonation of an atomic bomb.Casualties are over 100,000 – a number comparable to the losses suffered during the Haitian Revolution against slavery of 1791- 1804 when one third of the population lost their lives- 150,000 souls in a population of 500,000. Back then, there were no networks of international journalists running to document the catastrophe; no international aid organizations rushing to comfort the wounded; and no Diaspora gearing to offer financial and moral support.
Haiti built itself from the ravages of war single-handedly. Until one terrible day in 1842, when in the blink of an eye, an earthquake ripped apart all that had been constructed. Unknowingly, nature played into the hands of Haiti’s enemies, which at that time included slave-owners who lobbied the U.S. Congress to enforce an economic embargo against the island; the French government, which imposed an imdemnity of 150 million dollars on the country; and enemies from within Haiti, who took advantage of the disarray to break away from the nation and create a separate Dominican Republic.
The earthquake of 1842 killed 5,000 people in Cape Haitian alone, and left the Sans Souci Palace and the Cathedral in ruins. Of all the great edifices that had been built prior to the earthquake, only the Citadelle fortress remained standing in defiance of nature’s will.The losses were immeasurable, but Haiti transformed the dust into new edifices.
Today, despite the ravages of this most recent apocalyptic earthquake, rest assured Haiti will once again rebuild. That is what it has always done. Our challenge today is to harness the solidarity and generosity of the international community and of the Haitian Diaspora to build an even better Haiti. Before this earthquake, the Haitian Diaspora collectively sent roughly 5 million dollars a day to support their loved ones in Haiti.We can redouble our efforts. We can meet this new challenge. Those who came before us shattered the chains of slavery to build a nation.Surely, lifted by the solidarity of the world, we can break free from the chains of poverty to build a future. Haiti will survive.
"Haiti, we can feel your halo. Hope it doesn't fade away"
W.E.B. DuBois was one of the founders of the NAACP. His father, Alfred DuBois, was born in Haiti.