Hope after Duvalier's Ouster

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Hope after Duvalier's Ouster - THE BAYTOWN THE PAY TOWN SUN S—*ty. AjrrU »,...
THE BAYTOWN THE PAY TOWN SUN S—*ty. AjrrU », 1W* Duvalier's ouster sparks new spirit in Little Haiti MIAMI (AP) — The sion nn ti... M~... n __, ... _ . . MIAMI (AP) - The sign on the front of the Haitian Refugee Center says "An nou dechennen Ayiti and the sound from inside seems as strange as the words The words, in Creole, mean Freedom time in Haiti " The sound in any language, is that of laughter, and it seems out of place because the center is usually one of the most melancholy places in one of the poorest sections of one of Florida's richest cities. But lately the sidewalks outside the center, on N.E. 54th Street, the main drag in Miami's 200-block section called Little Haiti, have taken on a festiveness that belies the wretched poverty and desperation of most of its people. In fact, throughout Miami Haitian flags have blossomed on blue work shirts and cotton blouses and flutter from taxicab antennae. Suddenly the city's taxi drivers and yardmen and maids are, of all things talkative. ' "I haven't seen anything quite like it," said the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, who runs the center."Our people are naturally reserved, timid. Some don't even like to admit they're Hai- tian. Now they are even calling In to radio talk shows, I've been trying for years to generate Haitian pride. It's ironic that the one who did it was Baby Doc." Or, more accurately, Baby Doc's ouster. The news, back in February, that Jean-Claude Duvalier had fled Haiti, touched off a round of spontaneous revelry in Little Haiti. Hundreds streamed into the streets, some still dressed in their pajamas, to sing and hug and clap. While their behavior was understandable, many thought it uncharacteristic. "For most of them, nothing has changed in their lives," said Father Jean-Juste, or as the Haitians call him, "Pe Gerard." "Still," he said, "if a person has a little self-esteem It makes hardship a little less hard, bitterness a little less bitter. Now, perhaps, the United States will begin to feel the impact of the Haitians and their lot will improve. I can't overstate how important to them is this new-found pride." Rev. Jean-Juste had been hoping that Duvalier's ouster might also inspire a back-to-Haiti movement, especially among those, held in the Krome Avenue' Detention Center. But the prospect of returning to a homeland of uncertain politics, where the annual per capita Income Is less than $300, apparently did not stir any such mass exodus, so the priest himself has returned — temporarily, he says — to serve as sort of a Pied Piper. "We now have 65 Haitians left at Krome from a population six weeks ago of about 100," said Perry Rivkind, Miami's Immigration and Naturalization Service director. "Every few days one will call and say he wants to go back. I guess most of the rest have decided to fight it through in the courts, try to get admitted as political refugees." That, of course is their prerogative, but if recent experience is a guide their chances are slim. "Their only sin is that they want a better life," Rivkind said. "Unfortunately, that does not meet the requirement for political asylum." An estimated 400,000 Haitians now live In the United States Most of them arrived In the onslaught of rickety boats that began In late 1972. About 70,000 live in New York City. Boston and other major elite* also have large Haitian populations. But no other city has such an Identifiable area of Haitian culture — and Haitian poverty — as Miami's Little Haiti, home to about half of Florida's 60,000 Haitians. There, among their own shops and cafes and churches, the city's least wealthy, least educated and least welcome can share their common tongue,, which few of them can read or write, and their common misery. The adult unemployment rate in Little Haiti is 27 percent, compared with 6.6 percent for Dade County and 11.5 percent for Dade's other blacks. The average weekly income for heads of famiiies is less than $200 and for 35 percent of the adult wage-earners less than" $100. The average rent in Little Haiti is the MJM for all of Dade County, about «7t> a month, yet /ewer than half the homes have more than one bedroom and even fewer have an air conditioner. Often u many as 10 people live in one nous*. If these conditions can be expected to generate crime as readily as they produce rats and roaches, Little Haiti is the exception. The area represents one-fifth of Miami's population yet produces less than one-tenth of its crime, the lowest rate of any of Miami's ethnic groups, and most of that, say police, is non-violent — domestic spats, loud radios petty theft. "Criminals are not welcome among us," said one resident, Maurice Lucie, shopping at one of Little Haiti's dozen markets where, according to a xiga, h* could buy goat, hog, duck, rabbits, pork heads, oxtails and chicken legs. "People who do crimes," he said, "are better ott to leave." Antonio Henry, a city policeman who often patrols Little Haiti, says that in 80 to 90 percent of the cases involving serious crime the Haitians are the victims, not the aggressors. "We have had to counsel our people to walk in groups in certain areas, even our children, or they will be robbed," Rev. Jean- Juslesaid. The deepest resentment the Haitians have encountered over the past decade, he said, has been from Miami's poor blacks who have viewed the poor Haitians as competitors for low- level jobs The battle began in another galaxy Its about to end in the Browns backvurd .m.)

Clipped from
  1. The Baytown Sun,
  2. 06 Apr 1986, Sun,
  3. Page 15

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  • Hope after Duvalier's Ouster

    zperez5 – 28 Feb 2013

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