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Wyclef Jean's New Single is Call to Action on Haiti

Singer-activist's new song recalls January Haiti quake and the continuing bleak situation after six months

Wyclef Jean in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake
Wyclef Jean in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake


Faiza Elmasry

It's been six months since a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people, leaving one million homeless and shattering the nation's already fractured economy. 

Grammy Award-winning musician Wyclef Jean is using the six-month mark to release a new song called, "The Day After." The song is a call to action, as the humanitarian and economic conditions in Haiti worsen.

"I don't think he intended to write the song. The song sort of wrote itself," says Sam Jean, the musician's brother, who is also spokesperson for Yele Haiti, the non-profit group Wyclef Jean founded five years ago.

Wyclef Jean is pushing for rubble removal, saying nothing can be rebuilt until that happens.
Wyclef Jean is pushing for rubble removal, saying nothing can be rebuilt until that happens.

Sam Jean says his brother and members of his charitable organization flew to Port Au Prince just hours after the January earthquake to offer help. That, he adds, was the inspiration for the song, "The Day After."

"It details his experiences dealing with finding loved ones who had been killed, the rubble that hasn't been cleaned, the destruction," says Sam Jean. "To see the streets littered with dead bodies, orphans running around the streets...and he talks about holding his friend's daughter who lost his life in the earthquake. All of that contributed to essentially this song writing itself."

"The Day After" is the first track from Wyclef Jean's upcoming album, "The Haitian Experience."  

"It's going to talk about being a Haitian in America, all of Wyclef's experiences being Haitian, and (the experience of) Haitian people in the world."

More importantly, Sam Jean says, his brother wants his music to draw the world's attention to the situation on the ground in Haiti.

Water distribution in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake
Water distribution in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake

"Things are bad. They've gotten worse. He's asking for the Interim Haitian Recovery Commission to release $150 million of pledged fund to deal with some of the security concerns in Haiti. He's also asking them to release another $150 million to deal with rubble removal," he says. "Construction can't really happen, rebuilding can't really happen until Port Au Prince at least is cleared of debris and rubble."

Also, the international community has pledged millions of dollars in aid and Wyclef Jean would like the UN, the Interim Haitian Recovery Commission, and former presidents Bush and Clinton to commit to collecting these funds that have been earmarked for Haiti.

While Sam Jean spoke with the Voice of America from California, his brother was in Port Au Prince, where he continues to oversee the implementation of Yele Haiti's emergency relief programs.  

"In that regard, we've created Yele Corps, which is about 1,000 people a day given jobs by Yele Haiti. They go around the community, specifically now in Port Au Prince, and the area they live in. They aid with rubble removal and whatever the authorities need. They also distribute aid."

In the long run, he says, Yele Haiti is focused on building a more stable, thriving future for the country.

"What we'd like to address are the long term goals of rebuilding the country's infrastructure by creating jobs, reinstituting the educational system, providing vocational training to people and also having a sustainable community."

That's what Wyclef Jean hopes to achieve through his work on ground and, of course, through his music.

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