By DANIEL KITTREDGE Faith leaders, elected officials and others joined members of the local Haitian community in Cranston City Hall's Council Chambers on Monday evening to decry the recent assassination of Haiti's president and implore the international
Faith leaders, elected officials and others joined members of the local Haitian community in Cranston City Hall’s Council Chambers on Monday evening to decry the recent assassination of Haiti’s president and implore the international community to support the island nation.
“It is a moral call to show that we, as Haitian Americans in the diaspora, will condemn this barbaric act on the institution of the presidency and all the violence in Haiti,” Ward 2 Councilwoman Aniece Germain, who fled violence in Haiti in 2009, told those in attendance.
She also asked the participants to “renew our faith in the people of Haiti and tell them to not lose hope.”
“We’re here to show solidarity, to tell the Haitian people, we have to overcome, we shall overcome,” she said.
The councilwoman’s husband, Dr. Norly Germain, director of Hope and Change for Haiti – a Cranston-based nonprofit group that advocates for the rights of women and immigrants, raises awareness in Rhode Island and provides community development assistance in Haiti – condemned the “horrific attack” on July 7 that left Haitian President Jovenel Moïse dead and the country’s first lady seriously injured. The killing took place in the president’s private compound, and an investigation has since pointed to a highly organized attack with connections to multiple suspects from outside Haiti.
Moïse, Norly Germain acknowledged, was “very controversial and was not liked by so many.” The late president took office in 2017 as a political newcomer who pledged to foster national unity, but critics accused him of authoritarian leanings and actions.
“While some would say Haiti has a culture of political instability and widespread violence,” Norly Germain added, “nothing ever justifies a barbaric act like the assassination of a president who was democratically elected.”
He also called on the international community to support a “real and serious investigation” into the assassination.
“All of the families who’ve lost loved ones to gang violence and political games deserve justice in that country,” he said.
Providence Ward 3 City Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune, who was born in Port-au-Prince and came to Rhode Island at age 3, spoke Monday about Haiti’s unique place in global history.
“We cannot have a conversation about the Americas without Haiti being a part of that narrative,” she said, calling for greater education about the Haitian Revolution of the early 1800s and its significance.
LaFortune and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner both cited 2004 coup that ousted Jean-Bertrand Aristide, another democratically elected Haitian president forced from office.
“The most precious civic right that any of us possess is the right to choose our own leaders,” Magaziner said, recalling his visit to Haiti as a college student around the time of the coup. “The right to vote on who will lead us, who will represent us, and the right of the will of the people to be honored. The people of Haiti lost that right last week … This has happened again and again, and it cannot happen any more.”
State Rep. Brandon Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) also spoke of the importance of international – and particularly American – support for democracy in Haiti.
“All of these things should give us great concern as Americans, because these things do not happen by accident. These conditions do not get created by accident,” he said. “They happen because of the interests of those who see economic opportunity in exploiting poor people. So if we as Americans care about democracy, if we care about justice, if we care about human rights, then we need to care about Haiti.”
Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos briefly addressed the audience Monday. She and some of the other participants had come directly from the State House marking Colombian Independence Day.
“It’s important for us to respect democracy and to make sure that Haiti continues to be a democratic nation,” Matos said, offering the support of her office and the state’s administration.
Other speakers included Dr. Kappy Bois, the owner of Royal Health & Wellness Chiropractic Clinic who came to Rhode Island from Haiti in 1997, and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.
Carine Paul sang the Haitian national anthem, as well as “Amazing Grace” and “We Shall Overcome” at the conclusion of the gathering. The event also featured poetry and prayers from several faith leaders.