Pride & Protests – One Haitian’s View
In March, Pastor Samuel was in California for Mariners Church’s annual Global Outreach Convene gathering. His visit afforded us the opportunity to ask him about the current political situation in Haiti, and what we heard was fascinating. Listening to his take on current events, and his reasons for believing that education is the only solution, left me hopeful that we’re seeing the start of something new … a population that is beginning to believe they can affect change.
Our conversation took place in the form of an interview for a future documentary. The following are Pastor Sam’s thoughts, in his own words.
Interviewer: What is the pride of Haiti?
Sam: Our pride is, we are the first black country that showed the world independence. Like, we are the first black free, independent country. We don’t want anyone else to put us back into slavery. We will fight for that. We will die for that. But we will stay free. No matter if it’s the government, the justice system…we will fight to stay free. It’s one of our rights.
Interviewer: Tell me more about fighting for that pride in the context of the current protests.
Sam: We’ve been having corruption for a long time. I can’t remember when one of our leaders was not corrupted. They use us, they use our resources to get money for themselves. The people of Haiti are very tolerant, they tolerate their leaders, until they get to a point that enough is enough. If you have a group of people that is really desperate, and they can see that the people they put in power have more money than what they can ever use, and the two next generations of them can use, and you [the people] are the one that put them in power and you cannot even eat, your kids cannot eat, you cannot pay for your kids to go to school, then, for them, it’s like, “I’m not living, and you want to live? I’m going to stop you from living in peace. Or you want to eat that food that’s supposed to be mine? I’m not going to let you. I’m going to create a lot of trouble so you cannot eat it in peace.”
I see people that want to work. But there is not a system that creates work for them. I see people that want their kids to be educated…not living the life that they [parents] have…but there’s nothing that’s put in place for the kids to go to school. I see people seeking every day work to do, but cannot find a place to work. When you get a nation to the point that [they] see nobody is working for them, to make their life a little bit better, then they will do anything to destroy their peace. That’s what’s going on in Haiti. People start to understand that, they could have been living better. There was help that came (after the earthquake in 2010). There are resources in the country. If we managed them well, if the government did its job, if the system wasn’t against them, things could be better. They start to understand that. But the system, the government, don’t have the will to make it better. They’re just looking to get more and more [for themselves] every day.
Interviewer: Do the people of Haiti feel they’ve been taken advantage of since the earthquake?
Sam: Yes, yes we do. We know that because reports have said that a lot of money was supposed to go to the population but either the government or some other institutions keep it for themselves, so it’s not something we make up. It was in the news, on the radio, on the television and everywhere, so we know about it.
Interviewer: What role does education play in these current protests?
Sam: At certain times, like decades before now, we didn’t have What’s App, we didn’t have the social media, there’s a lot of things we didn’t know. A lot of corruption that’s going on in the system that we didn’t know about because we didn’t have that knowledge, we didn’t have that information because they [the people in control] were hiding it. But now, with social media, the students, [they’re beginning to demand change. In fact, it was a group of students who precipitated the protests when they demanded answers to where the missing Petro Caribbe money went.] It was like one of the first times the students tried to get something as big as getting all the population to stand against the corruption.
Interviewer: Why does the situation seem so hopeless?
Sam: We’ve been fighting for so long. It seems that the giant is too big, we cannot put it down. We need another force, another strong force, to give us a little push, so we can take it from there. Because it seems that the system owns everything, and we are so weak, that we cannot fight the system. And they love that, the fact that we are weak and cannot fight. And that’s why the population, they destroy…because that’s the only thing they can do.
Interviewer: What do the kids at the Glory Glory Center think about the protests? Do they know what’s going on? What do they think and feel about it?
Sam: Everybody in Haiti knows about the corrupted system we have in Haiti. Even the kids. They know. It’s spoken been spoken in school and inside of the family. It’s not something that’s not spoken about. Everyone knows. And the kids in the Glory Glory Center know they are fortunate to be in that place and to have the support of Mariners Church and other Christians helping them to get a good education and to be able eat, but they see how other kids around them are living. They hear people complain about the system. And that’s exactly what we want. We want them to know that this is not the right way of leading. It can be better. We want them to grow up with that knowledge and be willing to do something about it…to want it to be better, to speak about it, to believe it can happen, and to be part of it.
Interviewer: What is your hope for the future.
Sam: We want more people, more kids, to be educated so they can fight against the corruption. Because I believe, if you want to destroy a county, you have to destroy its education system. But if you want to build a county, you have to build its education system.
We are educating our children to be the next leaders who will influence the system of Haiti, to change it, to see it in a different way, and to understand that how we are living now is not the right way. We can do better.