SF State Student Group Welcomes Haitian Activist
November 9, 2004 9:04 PM
Photographs of distraught children, gun-toting soldiers and dead bodies were displayed on the walls. The pictures, printed from the Internet, were intended to give those in attendance a sense of what is going in Haiti.
Members of Latin American Empowerment, an informal organization of SF State students, welcomed Pier Labossiere, co-founder of the Haitian Action Committee to campus on Tuesday.
Before his arrival, at just a few minutes past 2 p.m., it was clear the small conference room on the terrace level of Jack Adams Hall was going to be standing room only.
Before he began his introduction of Labossiere, Latin American Empowerment Member Camilo Torres asked those in attendance how they heard of the event and why they decided to come.
A curly-haired young man sitting in the front row directly facing Torres said his father was born in Haiti and the country was something he’d always wanted to know more about.
The young woman sitting next to him said that she’d visited the Dominican Republic recently and was told not to go to Haiti.
Others said they saw fliers posted on campus and thought it would be interesting. Another young man said, from his seat on the floor, he was interested to find out what happened to Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, as he has seen little or no coverage in mainstream media.
News reports printed in the New York Times and other media outlets stated Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president, resigned under immense pressure from the U.S. government.
Labossiere said Aristide didn’t voluntarily leave the presidency and his country on a U.S.-chartered plane but that he was held at gunpoint, forced to board the plane and kidnapped.
Labossiere supports the Lavalas movement, Aristide’s political party, primarily made up of Haiti’s poor majority. He presented a film by Oakland-based filmmaker, Kevin Pine entitled “We will bend but we shall Not Break.” This short film, a work in progress, focuses on the Lavalas movement.
Labossiere offered a brief history of Haiti including French colonization, enslavement, slave revolt and the Thomas Jefferson instituted U.S. boycott of Haiti.
Labossiere criticized the media, in particular large papers like the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle for reporting, what he calls, blatant lies.
“It is not an accident. They have created a campaign of mass misinformation,” Labossiere said.
Labossiere said when journalists and celebrities travel to Haiti they are shielded from the poor and only interact with the rich who oppose the Lavalas movement.
Just before Labossiere concluded the discussion, Camilo Torres passed around a hat and asked that students give whatever change they had to Labossiere to be donated to the Haitian Action Network. Several students dug in their pocket and contributed.
Latin American Empowerment is not an official club or organization recognized by the university, it is a group of students who meet once a week to discuss social and political issues and exchange information in keeping with their “each one, teach one” philosophy.
“We are trying to raise consciousness,” says member Camilo Torres. When asked his position in Latin American Empowerment, Torres says that there is no hierarchy and it isn’t a “club” in the traditional sense.
“We’re just Latin American Empowerment… people.”
Torres said over the course of the semester, with each meeting and subsequent discussion, he has watched people’s intellect grow.
Before walking Labossiere out of Cesar Chavez, Torres counted the bills and coins that filled his cap and handed Labossiere almost 60 dollars.
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