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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid