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Conference on Haiti remembers those recovering from earthquake

by chris wasson

the selma times-journal

SELMA — Those celebrating the passage of the Voting Rights Act nearly 45 years ago have paused to remember those recovering from a massive earthquake in Haiti.

Part of the 45th Bridge Cross Jubilee on Saturday included a conference on the recovery in Haiti. Dr. Ron Daniels, founder of the Haiti Support Project, led the conference.

An estimated 230,000 people died during the earthquake Jan. 12, and nearly half of the residents of the Haitian capital city Port-au-Prince lost their homes. Many people live under makeshift shelters of plastic and tarpaulin.

“My mission has not been to organize Haiti,” Daniels said. “Because Haiti can organize themselves. I have come to organize African-Americans and African-Caribbeans.

Daniels talked about the resiliency of the Haitian people. He drew on Haitian history to demonstrate his point, saying Haitians were the first enslaved people to rise up against their masters and establish the first black republic in the world.

Daniels challenged people at the conference, especially African-Americans to respond to the crisis with tax deductible contributions to the Haiti Relief Fund.

Daniels has traveled to Haiti since 1995. He said he has developed a relationship with the island government.

Additionally, filmmaker Eddie Harris for Free Speech TV spoke about his recent stint in Haiti to film a documentary about the earthquake destruction.

“The video that we have and show doesn’t convey the smell,” he said. “People forget that in those collapsed buildings they see are other people.”

Harris and Herb Boyd, an activist and journalist, journeyed to Haiti together. Harris showed a clip of the documentary in which huge numbers of people living in tents flashed across the screen.

“We plan on going back in about 30 days,” Harris aid. “The rainy season is about to start and that will create a whole other level of problems.”

Torrential rains already have struck the island nation, but the true rainy season is not due to start until next month. It will last through to the summer.

Those who work in Haiti with the recovery say the rains will increase the risk of disease outbreaks. Already, the focus in Haiti has become building latrines, installing portable toilets and hand-washing stations.

Haitian officials have said they hope to have at least 18,000 latrines in place by the beginning of the rainy season — about one for every 50 people without a home.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.