If you’ve ever visited Little Haiti, you’ve probably seen Miami muralist Serge Toussaint’s work, which is sprinkled throughout the city. How can you tell it’s his work? His signature is a dollar sign instead of an “S” in Serge. He spends most of his time in Little Haiti, but his work can be seen in Liberty City, Little River, Allapattah, the Miami River and all the way to Fort Lauderdale.
After the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, thousands of Haitians fled to South Florida to escape the devastation in their country. Some were able to leave Haiti on tourist visas. Others came as guardians to their injured children. No matter how they came to the country, most have been living in limbo in the United States.
One of the aftereffects of the earthquake in Haiti is that local journalists have found new freedom. Many are now airing the kinds of political commentary and criticism that used to invite violence and censure– even death.
The shift comes across loud and clear on Haiti’s airwaves, where most people get their news.
Jennifer Maloney brings us the story of Haitian radio host and reporter Makenson Remy, known to listeners as “Four-by-Four” because of his rugged brand of go-anywhere reporting.
In March, 150 nations pledged more than $5 billion dollars to rebuild Haiti. Construction firms around the world, and especially in South Florida, began jockeying for those funds. Developers and planners from South Florida bid on contracts to build roads, construct housing, and remove debris. And not just developers and planners. Even Royal Caribbean, based in Miami, bid on housing contracts.
After the earthquake, nine-year-old Peterson Exais was trapped under rubble for four days. Once he was rescued, Peterson was rushed to a tent hospital in Port-au-Prince. Chad Perlyn was the first doctor available. He is a pediatric plastic surgeon at Miami Children’s Hospital.
Perlyn knew the tent hospital was not equipped to treat Peterson. So he put the boy on a list for treatment at one of the U.S. hospitals that were tending to young earthquake victims– hospitals in far-flung cities like Orlando, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.
After January’s massive earthquake, thousands of Haitians fled to the United States. More than 2,500 of them were school-aged kids who were quickly placed in classrooms across South Florida.
The new students were suddenly immersed in a foreign language, culture, and school system. It could have been a bewildering experience. But at Boyd Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes, the Haitian students who lived in South Florida before the quake took the recent arrivals under their wings.
A few days after the earthquake, the U.S. government decided that Haitians living in the United States would be eligible for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. However, there has been much confusion about who can apply, how you apply and what happens after you apply for TPS.
For example, only Haitians who were living in the United States before the earthquake are eligible for TPS. As Alicia Zuckerman discovered, some Haitians refer to TPS as “Ti Pelen Sosyal”– Kreyol for “L’il Social Trap”– because they fear that they may be deported if they apply.
When Rev. Jean-Mary Reginald learned about the massive earthquake in Haiti, he reflexively walked to his church– Notre Dame D’Haiti Catholic Church in Little Haiti– and opened the doors. People began to arrive immediately. The church, he says, “is the living room” of the Haitian-American community in South Florida.
This hymn is the one you hear under our piece, “Faith in the Aftermath.” The original segment explores how parishioners at Notre Dame D’Haiti Catholic Church here in Miami leaned on their faith and on song after their country’s massive earthquake– to heal and to release their grief.
In this episode, we look at how the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti changed life here in South Florida. We tell stories from a school that absorbed quake survivors, from a church that opened its doors to the grief-stricken, from lawyers’ offices where Haitians applied for an immigration shield, and from a hospital tent where tired doctors were uplifted by a song.
While I was reporting on the earthquake in Haiti, I was often taken aback by people singing. Walking down the street, a nun stretched her palms to the sky and seemed to be singing a question to the heavens. And on my last night in Port-au-Prince, I recorded quake survivors singing at 3 a.m., as they danced around a tent camp– no toilets, no air conditioning, little food– singing.
Hundreds of medical professionals rushed to Haiti after the quake, working in miserable conditions to save lives, practicing what some called “Civil War medicine.” Many still return to lend a hand, among them scores of Haitian-American nurses, doctors, and social workers from South Florida.
This piece reconstructs an inspiring moment amid tragedy and pain, at a makeshift hospital tent in Port-au-Prince. In it, four medical professionals from South Florida recount their experience landing in Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake, and struggling to meet a desperate need for medical help.
One describes the situation as “a war zone.” Another describes a feeling of worthlessness, given the scale of the catastrophe.