mathylde frontus haiti
District 46 Assembly Member Mathylde Frontus speaks at a prayer vigil in front of St. Jerome church on Aug. 16. Photo by Leonardo March

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, National Action Network director Rev. Al Sharpton and U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke headlined a group of more than two dozen elected officials and faith leaders to demand long-term solutions for Haiti.

Gathered on the steps of St. Jerome Roman Catholic Church, the speakers asked for economic development, robust public health infrastructure and permanent residence for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders. They also acknowledged the urgent need for financial assistance and medical supplies after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck southwestern Haiti. As of late Tuesday, the death toll stood at 1,419 lives

“We too have a dream, we have a wishlist for our country,” said Rev. Samuel Nicolas of Evangelical Crusade church in Flatbush. “We are asking today for long-term, sustainable help from the federal government, we are not asking only for short-term relief.” 

Rev. Samuel Nicolas addresses the crowd during the Aug. 16 vigil, demanding permanent solutions from the federal government. Video by Leonardo March

In highlighting the city’s service to Haitians, including efforts to direct funding to four nonprofits operating in Haiti, de Blasio promised to stand with Haitian-Americans. Leaders in the Jewish and Muslim communities who spoke also expressed their solidarity with Haiti. 

“There is no New York City without the Haitian-American community,” said de Blasio at the vigil. “Haiti is never alone, New York City is always with you.” 

Assembly Member Mathylde Frontus said the country needs international support. However, she specified that monetary donations should go to organizations on the ground like Capracare, a health services nonprofit in Les Cayes. 

“We are at our breaking point, and the Haitian people have had enough,” Frontus said. “Haiti needs international friendship.”

Dozens of passers-by joined the media attending at the foot of the steps, some voicing their desire for change in Haiti. Les Cayes native Stephania Casimir said she stumbled upon the press conference with her infant daughter on their way to the church rectory. 

“It’s just saddening that I’m not going to be able to go and help,” said Casimir, a Flatbush resident, who confirmed that her aunt and cousins in Les Cayes are safe. “The Haitian diaspora in New York, they need to come out together and find a plan to help those in need, [with] medical supplies, food, water.” 

Mohammad Razvi of the Council of Peoples Organization said the group’s 1077 Coney Island Ave. offices will soon begin accepting donations to Haiti. The Flatbush offices of Council Member Farah Louis and Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn are also accepting donations

Louis said her office is also partnering with the city health department to offer grief counseling through Evangelical Crusade church and Haitian American Caucus, but the on-site services were not yet available Aug. 16, the date they were scheduled to start

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America fellow. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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