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African-American Coalition Launches Humanitarian Assistance Campaign for Haiti - 2004-03-23


A coalition of African-American churches, artists, social organizations and lawmakers has launched a new fund-raising campaign for humanitarian aid for Haiti. Members of the coalition met with reporters Tuesday in New York.

The Haiti Support Project has not set a monetary goal for its month-long campaign. But organizers say they hope donors will be generous.

As part of its appeal, the New York-based group, which has been involved in humanitarian assistance for Haiti since 1995, is broadcasting public service announcements, voiced by well-known African-Americans, about the plight of Haiti's people to help raise funds. The announcements will be heard on about 200 radio stations.

One of the speakers at Tuesday's news conference in New York was the Reverend Justus Reeves, director of the Progressive National Baptist Convention's mission for Haiti, which runs dozens of schools, churches, orphanages, and clinics in the destitute Caribbean nation.

He was in Haiti during the height of the rebellion that led to the resignation and exile of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Reverend Reeves said the latest turmoil has exacerbated the suffering of Haiti's people.

"We are here today to ask you to help us to help the Haitian people," he said. "We have over 400 pastors that are currently working together trying to identify individuals all over Haiti [in need]. One of our schools, we have to rebuild. So there are a lot of opportunities right now to make a difference to help people who are down."

The organizers of the humanitarian project say they do not want to choose sides in Haiti's political crisis because Haitians in New York are divided in their views.

According to the most recent census, there are about 119,000 Haitians in New York in 2000, but some experts estimate that the figure is closer to 300,000.

The founder of the Haiti Support Project, Ron Daniels, says the coalition of African-American groups aims to express its solidarity with the Haitian community, which has established its own separate fund-raising drives.

"This is an effort to illustrate that African-Americans, Caribbean-Americans, other black people are willing to reach out and touch our Haitian brothers and sisters," he said. "One of the reasons I organized the Haiti Support Project is to build the relations between Haitian Americans and African-Americans, to build those bridges."

Mr. Daniels is also promoting a trip to Haiti with more than 1,000 African-Americans in August to commemorate the Caribbean nation's bicentennial.

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