THE OWEN GEORGES LEROY REPORT
October 17, 2005
Owen Georges Leroy Another sad day for me to learn that, we Haitians, finally are doing our part in joining the rest of the world in assisting the world’s greatest African Diaspora: The people of New Orleans. We finally decided to “come and help” that Diaspora which gave humanity this famous expression that we call Jazz and, for the better or worst, we should not even try to hide the fact that our revolution helped fuel the greater “Louisiane,” “La Nouvelle-Orléans” with “human capital and resources” and we, the “Slaves” became their slaves. Our “Créoles” became their “Créoles.” Our miseries, pains and sufferings were translated into their “Blues” and became the whole world of Blues when we; decided to be FREE and Free at last. Free at last, when we decided to be independent, to “vivre libre ou mourir,” more than 200 years ago.
Today, to those “30,000 Haitians living in Louisiana” who are sending millions every month to families left behind in the motherland; let us throw some aid. Let us send some donations to them and the other victims of Hurricane Katrina. Let us brag around the world that we managed to send $36,000.00 to the U.S. government—we, the poorest nation amongst nations. It seems to me that we, Haitians, love to be called: “impoverished.” We, Haitians, we love to tell the world how poor we are when we could, instead, with a little imagination and creativity, tell them that “we built that city”, we set this continent free, our revolution created the concept that the French call “La Francophonie” and made history by setting people (Whites, Blacks, Colored, Indians and you name it), and minds free around this entire western continent and beyond. We could easily have said to the rest of the world that the Haitian Diaspora in North America has the biggest per capita income amongst the Francophone population. We could easily have added that in North America, as an ethnic group, Haitians stand out amongst black immigrants from all over the world as having the largest pool of wealth and this is how…”
Saying it is one thing, proving it is another. And to prove it, a simple visit to the ghettos or “Bateys” of the Dominican Republic, the back room kitchens of any luxurious restaurant in the Bahamas, or those of any other island in the Caribbean, or to any corporate or governmental office around North America, may help. The problem that I, Owen Georges Leroy, have with the Haitian approach toward international cooperation and exchange, is the fact that we always need the other party to provide the funds, to “show me the money,” to “bring the beef or bacon,” and are ready or first in line to pocket it. During the time that I always call “The Good Old Days of Apartheid” when I was working for the Afrikaner populated office of the South African Government in Chicago—one day—after intense negotiations, I finally managed to bring the Haitian government of President Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE to seat face to face with the
government of F.W. de Klerk of South Africa for initial talks on diplomatic relations between the two countries. Believe it or not, this wasn’t an easy task. After the Haitian delegation finally showed up more than 2 hours late, the first questions that the head of the Haitian team (the Private Secretary of President Aristide) came up with were: “How much will we get…” “What’s in it for me…” and in seconds my Afrikaner boss turned pink like a flamingo. After that historic day in Chicago, Pretoria transferred the “Haitian Dossier” to the South African Embassy in Mexico and the rest of the story is what you all know. Still I, too, did “believe in the dream.” And as part of more initiatives more personal efforts to help the government of President Aristide when he returned to Haiti from his US exile, I traveled to Haiti with a group of American business people, including a board member of one of the world’s largest automakers. After meeting the minister assigned to my project, the first question that he shouted at me was: “Owen, did you bring something for me?” “Yes Sir! Here are my people…” We sat and waited at the hotel and the driver
never came to pick us up for that scheduled 10:00 am meeting. We never received the audience we were promised in the planning stages of our trip to Haiti and to conclude we never spoke to anyone after that. Since Haiti became the “strange place” that I see on TV where brothers are killing each other “Baghdad style,” I have been asking myself if that beautiful country that I have known has past the point of no return. The point where we, Natives or Diaspora, can only be satisfied with the appellation of “Third Worlder”, “Barbaric”, “Poorest Country in the Americas” and all those second class appellations? If a country is built on the efforts and creativity of its citizenry, Haiti (Native or Diaspora), certainly should have a bright future. But if a country (Native or Diaspora), instead of taking the lead, is only doing the “catch up” after each devastating hurricane be it Hurricane, Jeanne or Hurricane Katrina, then, that country’s future is severely blank. Those who are happy because “the Haitian government and a group of businessmen from the poorest country in the Americas, on October 4, 2005, offered the United States $36,000 in aid donations for victims of Hurricane Katrina” can still stay happy but as far as I am concerned, the representatives of
the Greatest Black Civilization in modern history should have and could have done better: 2 million Haitians in the North American Diaspora could have, at least, come up with $ 2.00 each and show Washington and the rest of the world that they care. For our own sanity, and for the sanity of our own survival as a nation, culture or civilization, this is the kind of challenge that we need to stand up and face squarely; this is the kind of challenge that we need to address and to overcome. I would like to use this opportunity to present my deepest sympathy to a Haitian painter who chose to live in the best city in America (the city that I love) and who has lost the work of a lifetime. To Ulrick Jean-Pierre (firstname.lastname@example.org), I would like to say that I wish that his Haitian Community could give him a tribute similar to the one the Lincoln Center gave the city of New Orleans and its artists. Ulrich, you have given us so much. One day, my friend, one day, our people will know the value of their troubadours (spoken, plastic or digital) and will pay them the proper respect. Owen Georges Leroy (312) 593-8598 o.Leroy@comcast.net (Former journalist at: Le Nouveau Monde, Radio Nationale)
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Ulrick Jean-Pierre The artist
Ulrick Jean-Pierre was born in Roseaux, a community near the town of Jeremie, Haiti. After a brief encounter with the Haitian style of work, Ulrick decided to direct his painting toward the course of academic disciplines. He is a graduate of Le Foyer Des Arts Plastiques in Haiti. He also studied at the University of the Arts, formerly the Philadelphia College of Arts, and the Fleisher Memorial School of Arts.
A recipient of many prestigious awards, Ulrick Jean-Pierre is also the subject of numerous articles in some of the most famous newspapers and magazines. His works figure in private collections, museum, galleries and universities in Haiti, the United States, Canada, Europe and Africa. His portrait of former President Jimmy Carter hangs in the Carter Library in Atlanta. He was chosen to paint the portrait of Reverend Sarah Potter Smith for the permanent collection of the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia where he has held several exhibitions. JeanPierre's historical paintings were recently exhibited at the Meadows Museum of Arts in Shreveport, Louisiana. This show, titled Haitian Cultural Legacy, conceived by the curator/collector Dr. Jean Brierre, was awarded Best Museum Show of the Year in the State of Louisiana. Ulrick is active in various cultural and artistic organizations and is a founding member of the Haitian American Artist Association of Philadelphia. Copyright ÂŠ 2002 - Association For Haitian American Development, Inc.
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Consulate General of the Republic of Haiti in Chicago 220 South State Street | Suite 2110 Chicago, Illinois 60604 Phone: 312-922-4004 | Fax: 312-922-7122 E-mail: email@example.com http://www.haitianconsulate.org
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Mr. Daniel T. Parker, author of
“La Nouvelle-Orléans” with “human capital and resources” and we, the “Slaves” became their slaves. Our “Créoles” became their “Créoles.” Our...