Intellectuals urge black community to 'fight the fight of Haitians'
OPA-LOCKA · A group of the nation's black intellectuals meeting at a Baptist church here urged African-Americans not to just stand by while Haitians are brutalized and killed on the streets of their country.
Several members of the star-studded panel joined U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, in calling on blacks to lobby elected officials and President George W. Bush to liberalize current immigration policy to allow Haitian refugees to come to the United States.
"No one begged us to go to Iraq," said Jackson Lee. "The Haitians are asking for relief. They are family."
Jackson Lee's comments were made at the State of the Black Union: Strengthening the Black Family symposium organized by Tavis Smiley, the PBS television and National Public Radio talk-show host. He gathered 23 of the best minds to discuss how the troubled black family could be strengthened.
But the morning panel, which lasted three hours, often brought up Haiti and criticized President Bush and U.S. immigration policy for permitting democracy-seeking Cubans to migrate to the United States but turning away Haitians in search of a safe haven.
"It's hypocritical for U.S. Marines on boats to stop Haitians fleeing killing fields," said Cornel West of Princeton University.
U.S. military personnel, who are helping build a democracy in Iraq should also go to Haiti, "where a democracy is about to fall," Jackson Lee said. "We want peace in Haiti."
Black America's leading radio host, Tom Joyner, pointed out the irony that Haiti is celebrating 200 years of independence from France, and once again is struggling to maintain democracy.
Joyner and Smiley said they will travel to Haiti today to interview President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Smiley said the interview will air Monday.
"The struggle is accelerating," Jackson Lee said. "The issues of inequities are not just within [U.S. borders]. African-Americans have to fight the fight of Haitians. It could be you tomorrow."
Copyright © 2004