Sunday, October 05, 2014

Lambi Fund Reflects on the Death of Baby Doc Duvalier

Jean Claude “Bébé Doc” Duvalier died Saturday at the age of 63. His passing leaves millions of Haitians, and others as well, pondering his life and his legacy for the people of Haiti. Marie Marthe, Lambi Fund of Haiti’s Executive Director, had this poignant response to his passing:

“Is this the only way we will ever see justice in Haiti? For the women who lost their husbands among the disappeared? The street killings, the jailings without limit, silenced by men with guns? Where is our justice? Will be ever heal? Will Haiti ever be free again?” 
Former President Bill Clinton shakes hands with Baby Doc Duvalier

I am not Haitian and so, perhaps, Baby Doc’s death provoked less painful thoughts for me. I thought of my father, who passed away on May 1, 2013. His memorial service last June was, New Orleans style, a celebratory affair as tales from my father’s rather storied life were told in rapid succession by 100 or more mourners/guests. After a momentary loss of words, the following tumbled from my lips, the perfect metaphor for my father’s life. 

It was a beautiful spring afternoon, May 2, 1972. I was shucking afternoon papers along Laurel Avenue in Charlotte, NC.  The headlines boldly pronounced the sudden death of J. Edgar Hoover who’d died that morning, after the morning papers had gone to bed. Suddenly, I heard a cacophonous honking as my father’s purple Valiant careened around the corner, and I heard my father’s loud and joyous cry, “Hoover’s Dead, Hoover’s Dead.” 

Thirteen years previously, my father had been offered a history professorship with George Washington University. Before he’d taught a day, my father, who had been secretary of the Communist Party at Harvard University in the late 1940s, was dismissed from George Washington and subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. My father took the 5th Amendment, refusing to testify. He later sued George Washington and received a year’s salary. Two years later, as the Anti-Red Crusade lost its grip on the soul of American politics, my father landed a position at a small liberal arts college, Cornell, in Mt. Vernon, IA. Life went on. 

As it turned out, J. Edgar Hoover, a George Washington Law School alumnus, served on GW’s board of directors. A background check was performed routinely on all prospective employees, which is how they’d turned up evidence of my father’s past affiliation with CP-USA.  

My father was not a vengeful man, but I was raised on a steady diet of anti-Hoover/anti-FBI rhetoric. And true to his rhetoric, in reading his heavily redacted FBI file years later, there was an almost Keystone Cop quality to their behavior as they tailed my father’s political activities for the next twenty years.

Hoover was no Baby Doc. Tens, not tens of thousands, died at Hoover’s hands. Certainly Fred Hampton comes to mind. And one cannot dismiss the possibility that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by the FBI as well. But Hoover’s legacy is with us today, just as the legacy of the Duvaliers lives on in Haiti. 

So I can only imagine the emotions Haitians must be feeling in the wake of his death. Was it something akin to the joy my father felt that beautiful spring day? Or was it something more complex, more nuanced. 

Max Blanchet, current Lambi Fund Board member, and past president, put it quite succinctly: “May his pestilent soul rest forever in hell.” 

How has the death of Baby Doc affected you? Let us know. 

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Haiti, Nebraska and Alberta: Connecting the Dots

May Boeve, Executive Director of, the leading organization in the United States in the struggle to combat climate change, announced at the Environmental Grantmakers Association Fall Retreat yesterday that “The Supreme Court of Nebraska invalidated the proposed route of the XL Pipeline through Nebraska.”

Why is this important for Haiti? Haiti is the Western Hemisphere's nation most vulnerable to climate change. According to the insurance industry, through 2012, Haiti experienced the 3rd highest level of climate change induced damages of any nation in the world.

It is Canada, not Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, that has the largest oil reserves in the world, estimated at nearly 200 billion barrels.The Alberta Tar Sands contain the equivalent of the rest of the known oil reserves in the entire world. But Canada’s oil, buried deep within the sands of northern Alberta Province, require nearly as much energy to pull out of the ground as the energy that they produce. As Dr. James Hansen, the world’s leading scientist on climate change, has put it, if the tar sands of Canada are fully developed, “it’s game over for the climate.” 

The XL Pipeline would bring the large majority of oil from the tar sands of Alberta to market. The decision to build, or not to build, the pipeline will be made by President Obama sometime after the November 2014 election. The Nebraska Supreme Court’s decision throws one more obstacle in the path of the XL Pipeline.

Desolate land from deforestation in Haiti seems to mirror the desolate land of the Tar Sands

Needless to say, if it is game over for the world, it is game over for Haiti. That is why this is an important issue for everyone who cares passionately about the future of Haiti. To learn more about this issue, Wikipedia has an excellent article at: 

More than 100,000 people in the United States have signed a pledge of resistance to engage in civil disobedience should Obama approve the XL Pipeline this coming November. To learn more about the Pledge of Resistance, go to: