By Alexander Britell
Earlier this year, “Haiti Journal” debuted on WPBT South Florida, a new television programme focusing on issues of Haiti and the Haitian-American community in South Florida. The show, which is jointly produced by WPBT and the Haitian-American Professionals Coalition, is headed by Farah Larrieux, a longtime and well-known host in Haiti at Telemax, Vision 2000, Radio Signal FM and Radio Planet Kreyol. Caribbean Journal talked to Larrieux about the new programme, how the show began and the process of reconstruction in Haiti.
How did the idea for the show come about?
I’ve been collaborating with WPBT on a volunteer basis, for information and contact with the Haitian community, for the past four years. It’s been 2 years since I’m a member of the Haitian-American Professionals Coalition, which is the program’s co-producer, and. Last year, I got the idea to produce a radiothon and telethon to raise money to help the victims of the earthquake. I submitted the idea to the board of HAPC. They approved it. I was thinking about WPBT as a partner on the project. So I met with Jack Kelly, the Vice-President of production and said I’d like to have them as a partner. But he explained to me that because of their license, they couldn’t help on the telethon project. This is when Jack found out that I used to be a TV host in Haiti, and Jack came up with the idea to produce a program called Haiti Journal, where we would talk about the issues in the Haitian community of South Florida and also in Haiti. He proposed me as the host, and I was very surprised. Then he submitted a proposal to the Coalition, and they agreed, and signed the contract.
What kind of response have you gotten so far?
Well, we have good feedback from the community, because it ‘s a show produced by WPBT and we know the impact of WPBT in the community of South Florida. And since we are a coalition of 14 associations, everybody is delighted to see the partnership, and also to address, in English, the issues of the Haitian Community of South Florida and of Haiti. There are so many questions and no answers, and on this show we bring guests who know about the topics. People also like the idea of showing another type of Haitian – professionals, experts, community leaders, advocates who are thinking(concerned) about their community . The show has gotten good feedback, not only from Haitians but also from non-Haitians.
Do you think there should be more English-language coverage of Haiti?
Definitely – we should definitely have more programs like that, both in the South Florida and worldwide. In my opinion, we have many shows addressing the issue of the Haitian community only in Creole. It’s good, but it’s also good to speak a language that non-Haitians can understand what’s going on, and understand the issues, so they can also have their own judgments and learn what the challenges of Haiti are and of the Haitian community of South Florida. So we should definitely have more conversations like that, so we can address more topics.
What have you heard from guests about the process of reconstruction?
The reconstruction process is very slow, for different reasons. There’s also a lack of leadership still, and we hope that the new government would be able to tackle the challenges. There was the election after the earthquake, then the drama during the elections, and it took about five months for the new president to install a new government and a new prime minister, so it took about 21 months. So right now, I think that we are on the right path, and they can start moving things faster, and we can change the situation for millions of victims. So I think the overall opinion that we have from the guests is the same: the process is very slow, and there is so much that needs to be done. So hopefully, by next year at this time, we will have better results and we will see progress.
What do you think is the perception of Haiti right now?
The first thing is, people feel like there’s no leadership, it’s like there’s no responsible Haitians capable to resolve the issues of the country, and no leaders who have the willingness to make the country the way it’s supposed to be, and to unify all the talents and resources from professionals to change that. So that’s the first thing that people think. As a nation,we have our challenges, but we also have great things. We are also unique with our culture. Our arts which are well-known on the international market. There are also many Haitians who are excelled in different areas around the world. For example, Michaelle Jean [the former Canadian Governor General]. This is something that we are lacking to show – that people don’t see.
People just see the poorest country of the hemisphere, and they don’t see that there are people in Haiti that work hard and that are very courageous.
That’s why I’m so delighted to host Haiti Journal, because we want to bring the best Haitians experts who can talk about different issues concerning the Haitian community of South Florida and in Haiti. So the viewer can be impressed and have a better understanding of our challenges. For example, you have a Haitian urban planner working on million dollars project for Broward County – if you put the same expert in Haiti, you could imagine the potential to change the infrastructure there. Why do we have to bring in non-Haitians to come into the country to build our nation? Why do we have non-Haitians designing our education curriculum? We have Haitians who are capable of tackling the problems of Haiti – if we give them the chance to do it we will see the real change. It is unfortunate that everything is politics in Haiti when the people are suffering.