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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
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 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 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 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.

VOA Blogs