The Tampa Bay for Haiti Coalition hosts Haiti Memorial

02/22/10 Alexis Chamberlain
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On Friday in Tampa, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Raymond Joseph, acknowledged exiled former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Artistide’s desire to assist Haiti and return to the country with medical supplies and other emergency equipment.

Joseph made the comment after the City of Tampa hosted the first U.S. memorial to pay its respects to those lost in last month’s earthquake.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a Ph.D. Right now, we’re looking for M.D.s. So if he has some expertise in medicine, how he can help us—well I suppose he can return. But, something else. You know, the constitution of Haiti says no one, no Haitian, should be kept out of his country for political reasons. The same constitution also says all Haitians are responsible for the law, for their actions. So he should reflect before he decides to come back.

Haiti’s largest political party, Lavalas, has been banned from participating in the elections that have been delayed by the disaster. While Joseph did not say the party should automatically be included in the election, he suggested it was up to Lavalas.

If Lavalas party enters into the electoral process the way it should, it should participate.

As Haiti’s official national mourning period came to an end, various churches and nonprofit organizations came together under the Tampa Bay for Haiti Coalition for a volunteer-based memorial Friday night. The event was hosted at the new Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in Downtown Tampa and included participation from various Haitian community leaders as well as Caribbean organizations.

Mayor Pam Iorio hosted the event.

When the terrible earthquake struck, we all reached out to comfort, and to communicate, and to see what could be done. And it was clear to me from the very beginning that the entire community of Tampa held out their hearts and started to give. They started to give whatever they could. To the Haitian community: May this memorial service tonight give you some small amount of peace that your loved one is remembered, memorialized, and never forgotten.

Among those in attendance were Haitian Consul General Laurent Prosper; Ray Bucanan of Stop Hunger Now; and Linda Carbone, the CEO of the[American Red Cross Tampa Chapter] (

Ambassador Raymond Joseph took some time to speak at the event.

We’ve had a delegation from Congress; we are all very [unintelligible] about the rebirth of Haiti, about the reconstruction. Because for the first time, we are not going to do it alone. For the whole world, somehow, the whole world, is focused on Haiti. And for you Haitians, Haitian friends, Haitian citizens, all of you, I’m calling on you tonight to resolve to work again.

The service—which attracted about 300 people—was mostly made up of Creole musical performances and motivating speeches about Haiti’s rehabilitation. Victims of the earthquake—who are currently being treated at various hospitals throughout Tampa—filled up the first two rows of the event in order to heal and regain a sense of normalcy, according to a coalition statement.

Attendees were also asked to participate in writing messages to the victims of the earthquake, attaching their messages to flowers and incorporating them into a sculpture made by artist Juan Colón.

You know, the strength of faith, of the Haitians, it’s very touching and an honor for me to be here, [unintelligible].

For more information on Haiti’s disaster relief and to learn how to help Haitian victims, visit

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