Highlights of the Pilgrimage
October 14-18, 2015, a diverse group of African American and Haitian American professionals, e.g., educators, lawyers, engineers, health administrators, entrepreneurs, journalists, social/political activists and young emerging leaders journeyed to Haiti for an extraordinary Pilgrimage to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Founding of the Haiti Support Project (HSP). The highlight of the Pilgrimage was the tour of the magnificent Citadel and the Sans Souci Palace near the town of Milot — where HSP established the Model City Initiative in partnership with the Local Development Committee of Milot and Destination Haiti Foundation. The goal of the Model City Initiative is to transform Milot into a destination, a Mecca for cultural-historica l tourism as the foundation for people-based social and economic development. The Delegation was warmly received by a large contingent of school children who had received school supplies and scholarships from HSP. Leaders of the Delegation were impressed with the continued improvements of the Citadel and the discipline and décor of the horse teams, guides and vendors who play an integral role in making the tour experience safe and memorable. The Delegation also had an opportunity to enjoy time at the beach at the Comier Plage Hotel.
Another highlight was the visit to Hinche in the Central Plateau where the Delegation was received in Papay by Chavannes Jean Baptiste and the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) at the organization’s Education and Training Center. It was Chavannes who extended an invitation to Dr. Ron Daniels to bring and African American Delegation to Haiti in 1995. That visit resulted in the founding of the Haiti Support Project. MPP is the largest peasant organization in Haiti. Thousands of peasants receive training in various innovative methods of agro-ecology, economics and management at the Training Center. The Delegation was able to see first-hand some of these methods and techniques during a tour of the compound. Dr. Ron Daniels thanked Chavannes Jean Baptiste for his initial invitation and the constructive relationship HSP and MPP have maintained for the past twenty years.
In Port Au Prince, the tour the Museum of the Heroes was like a sacred experience. Participants absorbed information from the exhibits on the heroic, bloody and triumphant struggle of the enslaved freedom fighters who defeated the Spanish, British and ultimately the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte of France to establish the world’s first Black Republic! The exhibits also catalogued Haiti’s long history of occupation and interventions by the U.S. government, which interrupted and complicated the quest for democracy and development. On the lighter side, the Delegation experienced the incredible wealth of Haitian arts and crafts at the historic Iron Market – where they did their part to boost the local economy by bartering and buying a large quantity of goods!
The Pilgrimage concluded with a Reception with friends of HSP at the Hotel Karibe. A number of Friends/Guests expressed appreciation for HSP’s steadfast support for the democracy and development in Haiti. In his remarks, Dr. Daniels noted that the Institute of the Black World 21st Century has convened a National African American Reparations Commission in the U.S. that has joined with the CARICOM Reparations Commission in emphatically raising the experience of Haiti as the most egregious case for Reparatory Justice.