By Wyclef Jean
This weekend is the fifth anniversary of the devastation that Katrina wrought in New Orleans. As a member of the Creole community, I feel a deep connection to New Orleans and the Gulf region, and want to send out my prayers to those who are still working to rebuild there. The destruction that Katrina caused really struck home for me–so many brothers and sisters lost, and so many lives shattered.
I see a corollary to the vast destruction of the earthquake that Port-au-Prince suffered just seven months ago: Like the people of the Gulf Coast, my countrymen in Haiti have been forced to witness more despair than anyone should have to bear. And in New Orleans, as it is in Haiti, so much of the loss was suffered by those who had little to begin with.
New Orleans is still in the process of reviving its communities, and this fifth anniversary has been planned to focus on people coming together to rebuild where it’s still needed. I’m so inspired by the scores of people–and companies–who have stepped in, and are still stepping in, to show their support for those who continue to struggle to get their lives back to “normal.”
I recently read of a Washington, D.C.-based publishing company, United Communications Group, that had led a relief effort five years ago for Katrina victims; at a cost of just $80,000, this corporation and its employees were able to assist hundreds of people. Many more companies are timing rebuilding campaigns to the anniversary this week: Among them, Marriott will work with Habitat for Humanity to build a home and a playground. Barnes & Noble’s founder, Leonard Riggio, funded a nonprofit, Project Home Again, that will be putting up houses in still damaged neighborhoods in New Orleans. And Sears has partnered with Rebuilding Together on its Fifty for Five event, which will aim to put 50 families back into homes in one week (an effort I had planned to join until it became clear that the current challenges of my campaign for Haiti’s president will not allow it.).
There is probably more rebuilding in this one week in New Orleans than there has been in Haiti in the seven months since the earthquake struck. The corporate sponsors helping to redevelop New Orleans reinforces my thought that Haiti must be re-opened for business–and soon.
God bless the New Orleans natives who are still fighting to rebuild their neighborhoods, and their lives, and I ask all of them to say a prayer, in turn, for the Haitians who are still fighting to survive in my homeland.
Filed under: Haiti Earthquake Hurricane Katrina Wyclef Jean
Filed under: Larry King Live Wyclef Jean
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Wyclef Jean Exclusive!
The hip-hop artist announces his
plan to run for president of Haiti!
In his first TV interview about his
decision, how he’d turn around the struggling
country and what he thinks he can offer.
Actor and activist Sean Penn, Dr. Sanjay
Gupta and Anderson Cooper weigh in!
Do you think Wyclef Jean would make a good president for the people of Haiti?
"It is unfortunate that Sean Penn is unaware of Wyclef's magnificent commitment to the people of Haiti and his independence. His campaign has nothing to do with corporate or special interests and everything to do with his calling and belief he can lead and make a difference. Some of Mr. Penn's comments seemed so out of sorts that those close to Wyclef worried about Mr. Penn, who has also done important, life-saving, inspirational work for the people of Haiti. This is a time to think productively about solutions and long-term strategies to rebuild, not to insult anyone who dares to care. Haiti needs everyone to collaborate for a 21st century safe, productive nation.."
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Don't miss Wyclef Jean on Larry King Live Tonight at 9 p.m ET !
(CNN) - Six years ago, hip hop icon Wyclef Jean released a soulful tune called "President," in which he fantasized about what it would be like to lead a country.
That fantasy may come closer to reality when the Haitian-American recording artist announces exclusively on CNN's "Larry King Live" that he intends to run for president of Haiti.
Jean, who had been an outspoken proponent for Haiti through his Yele Foundation, told CNN Tuesday that plans to make the major announcement on King's show Thursday night.
Born in Haiti, Jean shot to fame in the mid-1990s as a member of The Fugees, a U.S.-based hip-hop and reggae group. He performs now as a solo artist.
He was one of the first celebrities to offer aid after the devastating earthquake there in January.
He told CNN late last month that he has filled out the necessary paperwork to make a run at the country's highest office.
In February, Jean said he has tried to promote Haitian issues in his work.
"I've always promoted Haiti in my music, since my first album with the Fugees where we talked about what Haitians are going through and about human rights for people around the world," Jean said. "This is how we came in the game, we never thought we were going to be music stars because the topics we talked about were not very popular in mainstream music."
Filed under: Politics Wyclef Jean
Editor's note: Wyclef Jean will appear on Larry King Live tonight,
the six-month anniversary of the massive Haiti earthquake.
In the six months since an earthquake devastated my homeland of Haiti, on Jan. 12, I have been working with my wife, Claudinette, and with Yéle Haiti, the organization I co-founded more than five years ago, to try to put right some of the terrible conditions that now exist there. Every time I go back, I hope things will be better—and they are, but just a little bit, never enough. We have to keep hoping, for Haiti’s sake, that the world won’t forget how much help is still needed.
We’ve found that for the people in Haiti, who have so little, the smallest things bring them joy. In the care packages we distribute, for instance, the refugee women in tent camps are so happy to have the windup flashlights. Such a minor thing to us, but I’m sure you’ve read stories about the assaults the women in Haiti are suffering, the rapes and kidnappings. Some of the women in the camps we’re working with have told us those flashlights make them feel safer; they don’t have to walk in the dark anymore. So the flashlights actually make their faces light up, too!
Of course, we know there’s a lot more to be done to ensure the safety of all the women and children there—provide houses with doors that lock, help shape better economic conditions so that desperate people don’t feel the need to resort to crime and violence—but for now, the simple windup flashlight that fits in one hand gives these women some hope.
Think of this: In the heat wave that’s hitting the U.S. East Coast this month, temperatures are reaching more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It regularly gets that hot in the summer in Haiti, where 1.2 million people are still displaced, still living in tent camps, without enough food or water, or barely any shelter from the sun—and certainly no air-conditioning. Considering the awful conditions in which they live, maybe it’s not so hard to understand why the people are so joyous to accept things that most of us take for granted: care packages with basic items such as clothing, first-aid materials, shoes, canned foods. And water.
Yéle delivers up to 36,000 gallons of filtered water a day to the people in tent camps, with a fleet of 14 tanker trucks. With each day of operation, we’ve been able to help about 7,200 families enjoy the “simple pleasures” of cooking some food, or washing up. And we’ve distributed drinking water, too, first in bottles, and soon in individual 10-ounce pouches—they’re smaller, more portable that way. So again, sometimes it’s the little things that can mean the most.
We want to give the Haitians more, though. We want them to not have to be happy with a small flashlight when really what they need is a house that keeps them safe. We want them to not have to be grateful that they have any water at all when what they really need is better living conditions with a safe water source conveniently located nearby. That’s why Yéle is building temporary housing for the tent camp residents and why we’re including a school, latrines, showers and a water source on each site.
We want the people of Haiti to be able to dream big, not to have to settle for the least they can get by on. Their joy and gratitude are the fuel that’s kept us going in our efforts to bring them some relief in the six months since the earthquake hit, and it makes us want to fight for them, to make sure the world knows they deserve better than to have to live in these dire conditions brought about by circumstances beyond their control. If we would all help, all our small efforts could add up to very great changes. So let’s appreciate the little things, like the Haitians do, but let’s aim for making bigger improvements for these great people.
Filed under: Haiti Earthquake LKL Web Exclusive Wyclef Jean
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