Eight days after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010 when hope had almost died in a world anxiously scanning the ruins of Port Au Prince through the cameras of foreign media, rescuers slowly pulled a breathing victim from the rubble of the Catholic Cathedral. Unbelievably 70-year-old Ena Zizi smiled, raised her arms and sang. Her son's reaction, "I always knew my mother would come out alive. She was too strong to die." Another two weeks pass, a few more miracles of survival capture headlines along the way, but the work of the rescue teams is over and the world is only focused on support for the survivors, the million and a half homeless, desperate for water and food that are reaching them too slowly.
Two young Haitian men run to a hospital carrying an old man they have just dug out from the ruins of the market, dehydrated, disoriented, but alive. This is Haiti. In the midst of unfathomable tragedy, unimaginable hope, undaunted courage and determination, the unconquerable spirit that, just over two hundred years ago, conquered those who had enslaved Africans imported into Haiti.
SAYING THANKS TO HAITI
For emancipation 2010, in solidarity with our Haitian brothers and sisters and in thanksgiving to them, we celebrate this courage, this infinite will to triumph over all obstacles. We owe our own emancipation to them. Their sacrifice in a grueling war of liberation that lasted for 13 years, and their victory, broke the morale of the enslavers and boosted the morale of our enslaved fore-parents in other parts of the Caribbean and the Americas.
By winning that war, which proportionately was far more devastating than the earthquake in terms of lives lost and economic ruin, the Haitians laid the foundation for our freedom.
Both the triumph and tragedy of Haiti will be incorporated into our messages and our programming as we also commemorate the 40th anniversary of another milestone in the quest for a better Caribbean, the Black Power movement of 1970. This movement, among its many achievements, broke down significant barriers of racial discrimination in our society, most visibly by opening up jobs which were previously inaccessible to people with darker skins; it gave rise to cultural revivals in African and Indian communities, restored African pride, stimulated ideas of people's participation in politics, increased national self-confidence and the will to self-reliance, and shifted our economy towards greater indigenous control.
Of direct significance to our annual festival is the fact that the Black Power movement led directly to the revival of the commemoration of emancipation in Trinidad and Tobago, after it had been largely ignored for several decades. Current challenges to Haiti's sovereignty are challenges to our own in the rest of the Caribbean. The deadly example of removing a democratically elected and popular government by force in 2004 cannot be lost on all of us. The marginalization of the Haitian state and the imposition of external controls that create a virtual protectorate in the wake of the January earthquake are very much a part of the continuing vengeful assault on Haitian dignity and sovereignty.
But it is also an assault on our own dignity and sovereignty as a regional grouping, undermining our future independence to the extent that we are not able to stand up with Haiti. To have and preserve the right to self-determination, we must be alert to the pitfalls that surround us and let our reflections on Haiti and the Black Power movement result in: Reawakening the Spirit of Liberty.