Montreal – From April 3rd 2000 until May 8th 2021, can we say that the quality of life of the Haitian people living in Haiti has improved?
Can we say that from April 3rd 2000 until May 8th 2021, there have been many corrupt goverments all over the world in that period, some were stopped and some still exist?
Can we say that from April 3rd 2000 until May 8th 2021, justice was served for the murders of Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Loussaint,, who was one of Jean Dominique bodyguard?
The answer is pretty simple and it has two letters: it’s no!
It has been more than 21 years of corruption, murders, kidnapping, and lack of poor quality of life for the innocent Haitians. It is still happening, even after one of the greatest Haitian activists, a journalist and agronomist, was shot dead in front of his radio station.
This is not what the Haitian people wanted to see in 2021 and definitely not what Jean Leopold Dominique would have liked to see if he was still alive.
But can change finally come to the first black country that got independence in 1804?
The Agronomist and The Journalist
Before Jean Dominique was a well-known journalist, did you know he was an agronomist? Indeed, he studied agriculture at the Haitian Agricultural School (HAS) in Damien. After his studies in HAS, he enrolled at the Institut National Agronomique (INA) in Paris during the 50s to pursue his studies further.
Following his time in Paris, he returned to his homeland and worked as an Agronomist in the Artibonite Valley. Actually, most of my family is from that very area.
Jean Dominique was eager to help farmers increase their harvest and he wanted to share his knowledge with fellow agronomists and farmers.
He might have grown up in an very affluent, well-educated, and light-skinned family in Haiti, but that didn’t stop him from having a deep love for the countryside and a profound respect for the men and the women living outside of the city. He was truly a people’s person without any prejudice.
While fighting the good fight when he was working alongside agronomist Edner Vil, who was killed during the Duvalier regime because Vil was fighting for the rights of the peasants and the famers.
Dominique was arrested because a few weeks before his arrest, his brother made an attempt to overthrow the Duvalier’s regime. He was in jail for 6 months..
When he was release from prison, Dominique couldn’t work as an agronomist anymore because of his affiliation with Vil and his brother to overthrow the Duvalier’s regime. This is when he switched careers and became a journalist.
The Renaissance man
When Dominique couldn’t work as an agronomist, he became a program host and cultural commentator at Radio Haiti. Radio Haiti was the first independent radio station in the country. It was the place to be if you wanted to hear an interview with an academic, a writer, or an artist. During that time, Dominique had founded a film club. Actually, it was the first film club in Haiti. We can see and feel that he was a man that loved his land, his culture, and having conversations with his interviewees.
In 1972, he purchased the station hosting Radio Haiti and he renamed it Radio Haiti-Inter. It was the start of new era in the Haitian media world. Radio Haiti-Inter was the first radio station in Haiti to broadcast political analyses, conduct interviews, and share investigative coverage in Haitian Creole. So all the Haitians could have access to what was truly going on around them in their mother’s tongue.
Let’s remember that during those days and even beyond, you could only listen to the radio shows in French. So, a radio station reporting news and including radio shows in Creole was something pretty big. And, let’s not forget, it was during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier.
The team of Radio Haiti-Inter started to report more and more about what was truly going on. This challenged the regime of Duvalier 2.0.
When a man loves a woman
When we talk about Jean Dominique, we must also include Michèle Montas. This woman is incredible and a true warrior. A Columbia University Graduate from the school of journalism, a former spokesperson under UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and the codirector of Radio Haiti-Inter; she is the ultimate definition of a supernova!
Her love for her husband and the passion they shared to speak the truth and denounced injustice and impunity were undeniable.
One of the best gifts Michèle gave us was the ability to listen to hundreds of audio files of interviews, editorials, and coverage by Jean Dominique in his lifetime. These files were instilled in the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library of the Duke University.
The archivist, Laura Rose Wagner, worked really hard to solve the technical problems of making the old and often damaged tapes intelligible. We can now revisit previous broadcasts, shows, and historical interviews with Jean Dominique. https://dukeperformances.duke.edu/the-drum-never-stops-beating-music-as-resistance-on-radio-haiti-inter/
All of this is because of Michèle Montas. She never gave up on Jean, despite the many scary times they had. There were several attacks on Radio-Haiti Inter in the 80s and 90s. The couple had to live in exile New York City when they were forced to flee the Haiti for their lives.
Michèle never gave up on Jean and Jean never gave up on Michèle until the end.
On March 5th 1986, at the Toussaint Louverture Airport, nearly 60 000 people greeted Jean and Michèle. At first sight, you would have thought he was the biggest rock star of the planet! Michael Jackson was arriving to Haiti. Jean Dominique really was the Michael Jackson of Haitian journalism.
While Jean-Claude Duvalier left Haiti in his own exile, Dominique came back home where he belonged. Thousands of people welcomed him back, chanting his name, and Radio Haiti-Inter was back on the air.
During that period, Dominique was an early supporter of the Lavalas movement that stan for Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide became the new president of the republic, but the military under Raoul Cédras overthrew the government of Aristide in 1991. For the second time, Radio Haiti-Inter was under attack and had to close. Dominique and Montas left Haiti and went into exile for a second time.
During his time in New York, Dominique developed a friendship with the acclaimed-cinemast Jonathan Demme. They started to work on one of the most poignant documentaries I have seen in my lifetime: The Agronomist.
Dominique returned to Haiti in 1995, but the situation in Haiti had n ot improved at all. Dominique concentrated his editorials and his investigative reporting on state corruption and criminal negligence. When you tackle those issues, unfortunately, they come with death threats and a number of new enemies, depending on which government was in power during the time.
Will a change come?
On April 3rd 2000, the unthinkable happened.
Jean Dominique and Jean- Claude Loussaint were shot multiple times and died from their injuries.
Do you remembered one of the questions started this article with; about if justice was served for the murders of Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Loussaint?
Even 21 years later, it is still a mystery. The perpetuators of those hateful crimes are running free without a care in the world. They have not had to face the consequences of their actions. I wonder if they have any remorse.
It doesn’t make sense that 21 years later, the same old story is still happening in Haiti. farmers, journalists, activists, sons, daughters, priests, you name-it are being kidnapped, or even killed for what?
Some of them want a better future for themselves and their families. They want to be educated and attend their classes without any fear of being killed. They want to go to work and put food on the table for their loved ones without any fear of being killed. They want to share their ideologies without the fear of being killed. They want to live without the fear of being killed.
My parents and thousands of other Haitians migrated to Canada to leave the Duvalier’s regime in the 70s. A lot of the Haitian diaspora were intellectuals like the late George Anglade and his wife Mireille Neptune. George Anglade was a very respectful researcher in Quebec and Mireille was an author, an economist, and fearless warrior for Haitian women’s rights.
Their love for Haiti was well-known. Like my parents and many displaced Haitians, Haiti would always be their home.
In their daughter’s autobiography (please, check this out. I will put the link at the end of this essay) Dominique Anglade told the story of her parents’ reaction when they learned that Jean-Claude Duvalier was leaving Haiti in 1986. Her parents were in shock at first. In a Haitian style by the way. That mean screaming, like in my case as if I saw a mouse, and then dancing like you were celebrating joyful news.
Like Jean Dominique, her parents decided to go back home for a while with their two young kids and they probably thought that this time, we will stay in Haiti and a positive change will come.
For our parents’ generation and even ours, seeing that a change has not come in the 21st century is a pure tragedy.
George, Mireille, Jean, and Loussaint would be heartbroken to see the atrocity and the misery that the Haitians are facing in 2021.
We are witnessing this misery and to go back to the assassination of Jean Dominique, can we expect the United Nations Human Rights Council, Committee to Protect Journalists, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and others foundations to keep fighting the good fight for Jean Dominique’s family and legacy?
I truly hope so.
In 1988, during my first and sadly my last trip to Haiti, my aunt told us to put on my bathing suit because we were going to the Artibonite River. I was so excited and truly, I was bouncing around like a typical 5 years old with stars in her eyes. As we walked toward the river, my aunt explained to me the history of this river. I promised her that I would cherish this beautiful day for the rest of my life.
A few days after Jean Dominique’s funeral on April 8th 2000, his ashes were poured into the Artibonite.
The aches of The Agronomist ‘’could continue to nourish each grain of rice the river reached – Charles Suffrard of KOZEPEP‘’.
They have the right to have their ideology.
They have the right to know the truth.
I will end this post with those words from Jean Dominique: ‘‘the only weapon I have is my microphone and my unshakable faith as a militant for change, veritable change’’.
21 years later, the grain has flourished as rice and the farmers, the peasants, the activists, the children, the parents, the academics, and the journalists have the right to have a decent life without the fear of being killed.
Jean didn’t wait for a change to come.
He was a part of the change.
21 years later, when they thought they had destroyed Radio Haiti, they know they haven’t because Jean Dominique’s Legacy is still very strong and his fighting spirit has inspired journalists from all around the world to keep fighting the good fight.
The unforgettable fire of Radio Haiti won’t stop. Not ever!
Dominique Anglade autobiography (in French) https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/ce-québec-qui-mhabite/9782764814734-item.html?ikwsec=Books&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=0d1cb1884cc764f79b1f50857ffa5c97
The Agronomist: https://www.amazon.com/Agronomist-Jean-Dominique/dp/B08176ZYGX