News / USA

Desperate for News, Haitian-Americans Turn to Grassroots Media

Readers and listeners turn to community newspapers and radio for a crucial link to loved ones

Multimedia

Audio

In an unassuming storefront locale amid hairstylists, ethnic bakeries and little churches, Radio Soleil d'Haiti is a community radio station which has broadcasted from the heart of Brooklyn's teeming Haitian-American community for 16 years. Normally, Radio Soleil broadcasts news of interest to the Haitian-American community with a strong emphasis on music and other cultural programming, primarily in Creole French.

Radio Soleil has been broadcasting around the clock, offering news and information to New York's Haitian American community
Radio Soleil has been broadcasting around the clock, offering news and information to New York's Haitian American community

But these are not normal times. Moments after the earthquake struck in Haiti on January 12, Radio Soleil became a community center as well as a vital communications link to the homeland through its hookup with Signal FM, the Haitian mega-station that was miraculously undamaged by the quake.

Vital link

Haitian-American Mona Louis came to Radio Soleil for information about traveling to Haiti to rescue her ailing mother from the island nation
Haitian-American Mona Louis came to Radio Soleil for information about traveling to Haiti to rescue her ailing mother from the island nation

"The phone has been ringing non-stop since then," says station manager Ricot DuPuy. "The communication system has broken down entirely in Haiti, [so our community members ask us] 'Can you get through?' 'Can you help us?' Radio Soleil then broadcasts the names of the loved ones they are looking for, hoping that somehow they will find a way to tell [family members abroad] 'I am still alive.''' DuPuy says many relatives, both living and dead, have been located in this way and the station continues to act as a clearinghouse for listeners and walk-ins from the community.

Rev. Dr. Robert Doltenus broadcasts word of spiritual encouragement to Radio Soleil's many Christian listeners
Rev. Dr. Robert Doltenus broadcasts word of spiritual encouragement to Radio Soleil's many Christian listeners

Meanwhile, Radio Soleil also broadcasts other information, such as where Haiti-bound donations of food, clothing and medicine can be dropped off throughout the city. There have been interviews with U.S. immigration officials clarifying President Obama's order offering temporary protected status to Haitian nationals who were in the United States prior to January 12. Talks by clergy offer spiritual guidance and comfort.

Mainstream news organizations, such as CNN and Fox News, turn to Radio Soleil as a public face of the Haitian-American community. The New York Times called the station "the heartbeat of the Haitian community." DuPuy is gratified his small-scale station has been useful in getting the word out about the urgency of the crisis.  "There is no way this country could recover from this without the total dedication and support of the rest of the world," he says.

Keeping them honest

Haiti Observateur editor and publisher Leo Joseph takes his journalistic role as government gadfly seriously
Haiti Observateur editor and publisher Leo Joseph takes his journalistic role as government gadfly seriously

Radio Soleil is not alone. Radio Panou also serves the Haitian-American community along with at least four well-respected newspapers. "The Haitians at home need to know that they are not forgotten," says Leo Joseph, editor and publisher of the Haiti Observateur weekly newspaper. "And the United States government has said that they are not going to forget them." Joseph's  newspaper runs stories about people organizing in churches, schools, and commercial institutions such as banks.

Joseph continues to take his journalistic role as gadfly seriously. The January 20 Haiti Observateur banner headline read, "US Marines Install Themselves in the [Presidential] Palace". It's an ambiguous message in a land that has been forcefully occupied more than once by American troops.

A painting in the Haiti Observateur offices depicts the role its editors and reporters feel the newspaper an others like it should play in the community
A painting in the Haiti Observateur offices depicts the role its editors and reporters feel the newspaper an others like it should play in the community

Joseph acknowledges the United States says it's there to help. "But we don't know what this help consists of because the government of Haiti does not operate in total transparency." Joseph says there is no way to know what deal Haiti's government signed with the United States. "They could have signed anything."

Joseph likens the Haitian American community to a ship, and its media to a port. "Every ship needs a port," he says. "Whatever is happening in the community, we mirror it and people depend on us for that. Good news, bad news, we are here."

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid