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

US, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

update Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess 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.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs