On January 1, 1804, Haiti broke ties with France to establish the first independently black-led nation of the post-colonial world, becoming the only surviving nation state formed from a successful slave revolt. Well, that all depends on how you define surviving and successful. For the vast majority of Haitians still living in Haiti, the "success" of New Year's Day, 1804 has done very little to aid their survival in 2009.
Without getting bogged down into great detail about the history of the Republic of Haiti (It's not that I don't know the history or don't care to share it with you. That is not the main thrust of this article. Plus, Haiti's history is well-documented elsewhere by far greater writers with far more credibility than I have to speak on the matter), I will describe it one of revolt, betrayal, and oppression. While the natives of the Haiti, which occupies the Western third of the island Hispañola (The Dominican Republic occupies the Eastern two-thirds), were able to get rid of French rule, they never did rid themselves of slavery. Not for a second. Instead of the establishment and development of true liberty or democracy, what transpired was a cannibalistic caste system of bondage.
Instead of working together to develop a government and society that would be mutually beneficial to all inhabitants of the new republic, the wealthier Haitians (who were mostly the house slaves of the French and/or the offspring of French nobles (mulattos)) chose to devour the poorer Haitians by picking up the whips left by the French and continuing the oppression. That is why even to this day 1% of Haiti's population owns 98% of the wealth. The only times that the rule of this oppressive oligarchy has been somewhat restrained has been during the rise and tenure of an equally oppressive and dominating force such as dictator François Duvalier, better known internationally as "Papa Doc." It is from this context of this despicable environment of inhumanity, this Petrie dish of cruelty that the insidious Restavek system was allowed to grow and fester.
"Restavek" is Creole for "one who remains with" and is an accepted system of child slavery that terrorizes over 300,000 Haitians youths today. The idea behind the Restavek system is that impoverished families from rural areas of the country would leave their children to stay with families in the urban areas where opportunities for education and jobs are more plenteous than in the country. The host families in the city would provide a home, job, and education to the Restaveks in hopes of a better life not readily available to them in the rural areas. In reality, most of the host families in the city are slightly less impoverished than their rural counterparts, and they seize the opportunity to take in Restaveks as a means of exploiting the desperation and hopelessness of the Restaveks and their families. As Dr. Sanjay Gupta reveals in a recent report for CNN, many Restaveks are subjugated, and abused verbally, emotionally, physically, and sexually.
The dark reality of what is going on today, 2009, in Haiti has me heartbroken. Having been born in Haiti and grown up in a home where both my parents were faithful and discussing and sharing with me the history of heritage, I had heard many stories about the awful conditions plaguing the land of my birth. However, it wasn't until I watched Dr. Gupta's report and saw "Dena" that the severity of the atrocities were actualized in my mind. Now, the term Restavek, was no longer just a word or some distant concept of cruelty but it had a name and a face, approximately 300,000 names and faces. I could no longer be silent. I am compelled to take up the fight and cause of Jean-Robert Cadet, who himself is a former Restavek and is also profiled in Dr. Gupta's piece, by bringing as much exposure to the situation as I can and asking for your help.
It is completely in the sovereign will of God that immediately after watching Dr. Gupta's report I came upon Psalm 82 in my Bible reading. I was struck by the weight of verse three and four: "3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
One way you all can follow this biblical mandate is to further educate yourself on the plight of the Restaveks and expose it to the rest of the world. Whether or not you subscribe to the Christian faith, in the interest of humanity and decency, take up a voice for the voiceless Restaveks. Contact members of Congress; contact Amnesty International; spread the word all over that child slavery and oppression still exists today in Haiti; use your voices, your ink, your blogs and social networks to expose and eliminate these crimes against humanity. Furthermore, if some of you are so led, get in contact with Jean-Robert Cadet and donate resources to his foundation to help liberate and educate these Restaveks.
Edmund Burke is attributed to having once said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." In the summer of 2003, The Black Eyed Peas released the hit single "Where Is the Love?" in which they tackle various social and political inequities they observed in the world. In his verse on the track, band member Allan Pineda Lindo (better known as apl.de.ap), ponders:
"Whatever happened to the values of humanity?
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality?
Instead of spreading love, we're spreading animosity.
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity.
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feeling under;
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feeling down.
It's no wonder why sometimes I'm feeling under;
I gotta keep my faith alive, until love is found."
Let us join together to give hope to the Restaveks that in their faith they might find and experience a tangible expression of love. Let us all unite together to do the necessary good things to ensure the conquest over this manifestation of evil.