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Caribbean News Today

HAITI | Haitians tell Trump '#Neveragain' on 214th anniversary of Haiti's independence

Featured Chair of the New York-based Haitian Roundtable, Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, Chair of the New York-based Haitian Roundtable, Rosemonde Pierre-Louis,
NEW YORK,USA, December 31, 2017 - Haitian Americans will commemorate the 214th anniversary of the world's first black republic on Monday, by taking to social media to counter the AIDS stigmatization and by highlighting their contributions in the United States.

Their protest is against the background of derogatory remarks allegedly made by United States President Donald Trump that Haitians "all have AIDS."

Chair of the New York-based Haitian Roundtable, Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, in a statement “My hashtag is #Neveragain,” called Trump's alleged comment “reprehensible” “No, we're not one of the four Hs for AIDS. One, we're not going back to that and two, never again will we be pulled into the dark, feeling like you have to hide being Haitian because of the fear of name calling especially for our young kids,”  she said 

Recently it was reported that Trump exploded with vitriolic and racist comments, in a heated White House meeting with his top policy advisors saying that all Haitians have AIDS and mocking Nigerians as never wanting to go home once that are in the US.

According to reports, Trump in the meeting, read aloud from a document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting.

The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017,the President added that more than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, which he refered to as a terrorist haven.

Concerning Haiti the New York Times quoted the President as saying – '“They 'all have AIDS”.

But Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, denied to the Times that Trump had made derogatory statements about immigrants during the meeting.

TheTimes said while the White House did not deny the overall description of the meeting, it said officials “strenuously insisted” that Trump never used the words “AIDS” or “huts” to describe people from any country.

The Miami Herald on Friday  reported that in 1990, tens of thousands of Haitians marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, causing a massive traffic jam as they demanded that the US government lift a ban on blood donations by Haitians after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said they were in a high-risk group for HIV infection.

It said the Atlanta, Georgia-based US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had “previously and unscientifically assigned Haitians to a group referred to as the 'Four Hs' — homosexuals, Haitians, hemophiliacs and heroin addicts — meaning they are at higher risk for the virus that causes AIDS.”

The Herald said the policy stigmatised Haitians, the country's image and tourism were damaged, Haitian children in the US found themselves bullied and beaten at school as fights broke out.”

For Haitian Americans preparing to commemorate Monday's 214th anniversary of the world's first black republic ,Trump's tirade “reopened a painful wound — while also igniting a determination to never go back to the days when being Haitian felt like a liability.

“So, while Haiti will commemorate its Independence Day Monday with a ceremony in Gonaives, the city where slave-turned-revolutionary hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared the country free from French rule on January 1, 1804, Haitians Americans are planning to commemorate another way,” the Herald said. “They will take to social media to counter the AIDS stigmatization by highlighting their contributions in the United States.”

“We are a people who have made very significant contributions to the United States going as far back as to our independence,” Pierre-Louis, whose group has honored 152 Haitians in the US over the past five years as part of its prized 1804 list,” told the Herald.

“In the state of New York, we're the second largest ethnicity of doctors in the state, only second to doctors of Jewish descent,” she added. “In the health field, we have made tremendous strides, not only in medicine but across professions.”

She also noted other contributions, including Haitians' role in the Louisiana purchase, in the Battle of Savannah in 1779, in the founding of Chicago and in contributions through present-day films and books, according to the Herald.

“There has been this really concerted effort to redefine the narrative about Haitians and to provide a three-dimensional perspective of who we are as a community and to help create a better understanding of us as an important constituent not only in our various cities but in the United States,” Pierre-Louis said.

Joel Dreyfuss, a member of The Haitian Roundtable's board and co-founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, the largest minority group of journalists in the US, said “the success of Haitians in America is the best antidote to the poison of the AIDS slur.”

Dreyfuss recently responded to Trump in a Washington Post op-ed titled, “ No, President Trump, we Haitians don't all have AIDS”.

Dreyfuss said, despite the White House's denial, the disparaging comment “sounds like something Trump would say because of all the other horrible things he's said about immigrants.”

“My first reaction to the Trump comments was: Haitians are doomed to be stigmatized,” Dreyfuss told the Herald. “We always have been, one way or the other — for daring to be free, for daring to abolish slavery, for supporting independence movements elsewhere — Latin America, Greece — for daring to work hard wherever we go.”

Last month, the US  government announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians will end in 2019, despite extensive lobbying by Haitians and immigrant rights advocates for the Trump administration to extend the humanitarian relief program, the Herald noted.

Under the TPS programme, nearly 60,000 Haitians have been able to legally live and work in the US since the January 12, 2010, earthquake.

  • Countries: Haiti

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