Have you ever wondered how many Haitians hold prestigious positions at American universities? The university in America is really the one thing that differentiates America from the rest of the world. There is a very specific reason why students from all over the world would do almost anything to come study in America, and that has to do with the openness that exists at the university level.
Anyone familiar with Haitian migration history would know that Haiti lost many of its top talents in the late 60’s and 70’s. During those times many Haitians who had already graduated from the Haitian State University System or were about to graduate high school left Haiti in huge numbers with no idea that they would never return home. As such, many of them went on to become professors at the universities, doctors, architects, writers, among other professions.
Those people never really forgot Haiti, but in my opinion they were too complacent to the conditions of Haiti. They assimilated very nicely in what they would consider their new home. Many of them actually adopted America as their only home. Now their children are coming of age, and want to be part of the process of change for Haiti.
The Haitian academicians are some of the best in their fields. They are eloquent and very intelligent. I always wonder how such a generation kept silent for so long. Many of them could have written factual accounts on Haiti’s conditions, but prefer to defer to foreign scholars. We have very few groundbreaking works on Haiti that are written by Haitians, why?
At a forum, organized by Haitian-American students at Boston University, I was privileged to be in the presence of two remarkable Haitian academicians, Dr Marc Prou and Dr. Alix Cantave, both professors at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. Professor Prou gave a presentation on the early years of Haitian history, in order to contextualize the reasons why Haiti still matters; whereas Professor Cantave gave a breath taking lecture on the challenges facing the Haitian educational system.
I came away from that forum with two new convictions of our strength as a people. First and foremost, we are a people of fairness. We did not only help others fight for their freedom, but we also made our home available for anyone, regardless of color or gender, who was being persecuted to come to Haiti, where they would be treated as equal. In essence, the Haitian revolution was about the equality of the human races. Secondly, although I knew, as a nation we put great emphasis on education, but I never fully understood the root cause of its regression. Professor Cantave, rightfully pointed out that the educational system in Haiti is unregulated, unaffordable and privatized; therefore such a system is set to fail.
There are many more Haitian academicians out there who have a lot of experience and expertise that they can offer Haiti. Today, Haiti is calling upon you. The days of fear and inaction must be placed in the barrel of rotten goods. As academicians, people with an ability of higher thinking, you must come out, and engaged in the battle to salvage the fight that our ancestors had started. You are in a unique position to influence policies because when the academia rises up, leaders must listen.
It would be very beneficial, if the Haitian academicians could come together to work as a unit on some feasible projects for Haiti. In order for that to happen, they must get out of their comfort zone as Dr. Prou and Dr. Cantave are doing, and start sharing their valuable knowledge with their less fortunate brothers and sisters in Haiti.
It is great to have become successful, especially when the odds were so much against such success, but complete success cannot be declared until we are able to fix our home. Some of us may have left Haiti voluntary, or involuntary, but Haiti should have never left us. Wherever we are today, we reach it because of who we are. That alone is reason enough to help get Haiti right.
At that same forum, Massachusetts State representative Marie St-Fleur, who is Haitian-born, was present, along with Doctor Michele David, also Haitian-born. The talent outside of Haiti is there to make a difference in Haiti, but we have to be humble in our approach towards Haiti. Many of us, outside of Haiti see helping Haiti as a favor, something that we are not obliged to do, but for people capable of higher thinking there are no rooms for such reasoning.
The Haitian academicians living overseas must make themselves known to their community. They need to widen their circle to include people who are not part of the academic life. It is not enough to only know of your people as a data point on your academic research, but the academicians must play their role in challenging the community both intellectually and socially. As academicians, your impact should not stop on a college campus. The Haitian academicians living overseas must rise up, and speak out for a better Haiti. A social movement is not only the business of those who have nothing, but also it is the concern of those capable of higher thinking.
The civil society can call for change, but it is people of higher thinking who are able to turn those ideas into reality. Let’s join them in the battle of human equality, for the life of a Haitian peasant is as valuable as the life of the President of the United States. Every human being is somebody. We must get out of our comfort, and join our brothers and sisters who are in sheer destitution.