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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Raymond Alcide Joseph: Earthquakes, Oppression and Haiti


Raymond Alcide Joseph (born August 31, 1931) is a Haitian diplomat, political activist and journalist. He was the Haitian ambassador to the United States from 2005 to 2010, when he resigned to present himself as a candidate in the 2010 Presidential Election in Haiti. He is the uncle of singer and rapper Wyclef Jean.

My wife, got to work with him and meet him when she was trying to organize student activities for her students at Howard University and showcase Ethiopian and Haitian multiculturalism. Matilde Raquel Holte was a teacher first, but in her own way she was also an activist. As a "Adjunct Professor", "visiting scholar", "Researcher" and Scholar she was able to go places other activists couldn't go and bridge political gaps that otherwise would never get bridged. We met Ambassador Joseph at an event held by the Ethiopian Embassy. I believe it was before the Earthquake. We also saw him again when the Ethiopians sponsored an event to try to help Haiti after it's big earthquake in 2010. My wife was interested in civil rights, multiculturalism, religious diaspora, Jews in the diaspora, and other diaspora's such as the one of African peoples. As such we got invited and I was there as "husband of", sometimes with my Camera, sometimes just trying to absorb all the information. I think I snapped this picture using our electronic Camera. But I'm not sure, I can't find it in my archives, so this may have been snapped by someone at the embassy because the only copy I can find is a grainy print on ordinary paper. I found it while looking up something else. Haiti and Ethiopia happened to be on my mind. This reminded me how I think he's one of the heros of his country. Ambassador Joseph was therefore already on my mind, so I immediately scanned by copy. His Facebook Home page is here:

In 2010 Haiti had a disaster, remember? Probably not. I do. It was horrendous. People died, not only from the Quake, but from neglect. Haiti was already a disaster before the Earthquake, and so the people were very fragile. A lot of folks died from that quake. And the country has been neglected since the beginning.

Modern History is grounded in Ancient History. And both Haiti and Ethiopia have a proud history as independent nations. And were independent, and to the consternation of White Folks, were "black" countries, where white skin was the anomaly. My wife, with her interest in multiculturalism and syncretism found both countries remarkable. I do too. I was privileged to visit the Embassy as "husband of" something I could never do as a Federal Contractor employee supporting IT operations and new development. I got to take the pictures. Including I think this one. We heard testimony from one Ethiopian Jew who was surprised when he left Ethiopia to find out there was such a thing as white Jews. Thanks to her I also met a member of the Lemba tribe who had had the same experience from his community near the border between South Africa and Mozambique.

At the conference on Ethiopian Jews, we heard testimony from "Beta Israel" (House Israel) Jews who, on leaving Ethiopia, were shocked that any Jews could ever be white. When they got to Israel they ran into discrimination from Ashkenazi Jews who were surprised Jews could be anything but what they were used to. And Ethiopians have paid a price for their independence in other ways.

For more on the Ethiopians see this article:

Haiti: Paying a Price for Independence


For more on Haitian History (detail) read:
Bonapartism and Haiti
Further Reading:
Bonapartism and Haiti []
Declaration of Independence
Online Sources & Further reading for Haiti:

*Note, reading these histories is fascinating because they all parse the story differently. I have my own memories of actual physical books I've read and so the online accounts, in the way they contradict each other or support one another, helped me recall the histories I already knew from talking to a variety of people and reading a variety of physical books. But most are abysmally bad and gloss over details.

Actual book: Robert Heinl (1996). Written in Blood: The Story of the Haitian People, 1492-1995. Lantham, Maryland: University Press of America.
The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below By Carolyn E. Fick

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