In early August, Wyclef Jean announced his intentions to run for President of Haiti, his country of birth and the country he has fought for and campaigned on behalf of throughout his career. Now, a few weeks later his campaign has been rejected by the Haitian Electoral Council, citing that although Jean was born in Haiti and didn’t come to the United States until he was nine years old, he has not lived in Haiti for the last five years, which is one of the requirements to be president of the country. Having met Wyclef before this year and the whole campaign, talking to him about politics among other things, I think the country or the Provisional Electoral Council should reconsider its decision, if for no other reason then for the sake of rebuilding.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m from Brooklyn and my parents are from Haiti. I know I’m not in tune with my background and the country that holds my roots, but as a descendant I still want what’s best for the country and all the people that are still living there, including a few family members. I grew up in a Haitian household with Haitian parents who really only speak the Haitian language, Creole, in the house and with friends. My father, like all the Haiti-bred fathers I know, is very much into Haitian politics, even listening to Haitian radio stations 24/7 so he doesn’t miss a thing! So it goes without saying that I can have a thorough conversation about Haiti politics, much like I can have a conversation about Hip-Hop. Unfortunately for Haiti, there aren’t many positive highlights to be had in any such conversations. Usually when the discussion takes place at a Haitian barbershop or gathering, the words “If I were president, it wouldn’t be like this,” will be said just about every five minutes.
I’m 23 years old, and the country hasn’t been stable for any period of time, no matter how short, in my life span. A couple years ago I spent a week in the country and saw first hand that the country, though full of potential, needed as much help as it could get. So when the Earthquake ravaged the country earlier this year, I knew it had gone from bad to worse (Kind of like the feeling Hip-Hop fans gets when a Soulja Boy or Waka Flacka emerge on the scene). After the Earthquake, Haitian politicians vanished, even the current President, René Garcia Préval went MIA for a while. But like the images on CNN of hands and live bodies emerging from the rubble, Wyclef emerged as the countries voice, their aid and their number one spokesperson. Now to be denied an opportunity to help the country is the greatest possible way, is a disservice to the country, its needs and its people.
Wyclef has of course been singing songs of Haiti since the early 90’s, but it’s been more than music. He launched his nonprofit organization, Yéle Haiti in 2005. Yéle Haiti is a grassroots movement that has built global awareness for Haiti, while also helping raise funds and providing relief efforts for in emergency situations. Yéle Haiti is a one of a kind organization representing Haiti. Since its launch it has helped put 10,000 children in schools and provided food, jobs and HIV/AIDS prevention training to thousands of teens and adults. The organization’s post-earthquake emergency relief efforts have raised more than $9 million so far. Wyclef has also been the roving ambassador for Haiti since 2007, helping improve the country’s image among other things.
Let’s be clear about one thing, Wyclef is the most high profile citizen the country has. While that may not be enough to make him a good politician, it has helped them with just about everything else! The only reason the Haiti election is even a story worth international coverage right now is because of Wyclef. The only reason, the country and the world have not completely forgotten about the Earthquake in Haiti is because of Wyclef. Now I won’t go as far as to say that the billions raised in Haiti relief efforts is all because of Wyclef, but comparing funds raised in Haiti versus other disasters in recent years, it definitely makes you think.
Haiti is in a stage of rebuilding. A majority of the politicians who have been cleared to run for candidacy of the country have been around government for years and have done nothing! The leading candidates are former Prime Ministers Jacques-Edouard, 62 Alexis and Yvon Neptune, 63. Both men were forced to leave their positions, Edouard resigning after receiving a letter from a group of Senators telling him to do so, and Neptune, who was arrested by his government and forced into exile. There are 17 other candidates, including another popular Haitian singer, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly (notorious for pulling his pants down on several occasions at the West Indian Parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway). There options aren’t too extensive, so if ever you needed change, now might be a good time. Haiti needs a Barack Obama type of candidate, Wyclef Jean is that candidate.
Wyclef isn’t free of critique; he has been receiving criticism all year actually for the use of funds for his organization Yéle Haiti. Not knowing exactly what has taken place, I can’t defend him, but he has done a good job defending himself. You might also want to have someone check the books of Red Cross and other charity organizations before you crucify him for the little things. Actor, Sean Penn & former Fugee and fellow Haitian, Pras said that they wouldn’t back Wyclef in his bid to become president, but honestly I don’t think anyone in Haiti actually knows who Sean Penn is, and no one cares about what Pras thinks.
Clef has been criticized for his lack of political skills or political know how, an understandable issue, but honestly the country doesn’t need another politician, they need an advocate. You let any Haitian person tell you, no one in Haiti would know what to do with the funds from Haiti they are going to get for Haiti relief. Others don’t even believe Haiti will ever actually receive the bulk of those funds. Wyclef would be sure that those funds come to Haiti and he would get the money where it needs to be. He was made ambassador because he was deemed a great representative for the country because he could create global awareness. As president, he could do just that, only it’s at a time when the country needs it the most. Haiti has a chance to be a real voice in the world thanks to Wyclef. This may be their only chance at starting over, why give that up?