Kudos to Dumas Simeus for launching this initiative to organize the Haitian Nationals in the United States. I think the conference is a fantastic idea; however, I think Dumas could really multiply the impact by laying some groundwork to get everyone on the same page. It requires several additional, but very worthwhile steps. I have couple ideas on how to achieve this objective:
First, I think there is a need for the Haitian diaspora to develop a common agenda/platform and present a unified front. I would envision organizing seven forums: four in the United States (Boston, New York, and Florida as well as a plenary to harmonize their outcomes); one in Canada (Montreal); one in Europe (Paris); one in the Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo); and one in the Bahamas. Each forum would define a twelve month domestic (home country) agenda as well as a short term (12 months) action plan to support Haiti’s political, economic and social development. The domestic agenda could define actions to mobilize and institutionalize our integration in the host country, such as immigration, integration into the political process, etc.
The best example is the Dominican diaspora in the U.S. They are extremely organized and effective in promoting their businesses, values, policies, reaching out to others, and getting their voices heard. Every year they organize a political and economic “door knock” or tour of 30 states to promote their goals and awareness of their issues (and culture). The tour usually is launched in New York and ends each year at the White House with a meeting with the President. It also includes all the high profile Dominicans (which helps with the press coverage) such as Oscar de la Renta and Sammy Sosa. Something similar can be done with Haitians in the US (with Patrick Gilles, who designed the best selling Chrysler 300, Evelyn Danticat, the writer and poet, Wyclef Jean, yourself, and others). But to do this effectively, we need to first define an agenda thru this series of forums and get everyone talking from the same set of points. Our voice will be stronger (and heard) if we’re all hitting the same themes.
Second, following the series of forums, I think you should launch the plenary in Haiti as you have defined it. It would be great to shoot for holding the event in Haiti next summer maybe to allow sufficient time to develop the agendas. One of the major goals of the plenary would be to merge the various domestic and Haiti-targeted agendas. In addition, the plenary should clearly define the diaspora expectations for political and economic reforms that those living in Haiti must address.
Third, the most important item of this initiative is the technical preparation needed for the success of that initiative. We need to be well prepared. This is a tremendous opportunity and we must do it right. We need to have a permanent staff with specific assignments and deadlines. Research should be conducted to find information to support the development of the domestic agendas, such as: statistics on Haitians living in the US, Canada, Europe; levels of remittances; number of Haitian elected officials in the US, Canada, Europe; Haitians in prominent leadership positions in the business community (CEOs and other high ranking corporate execs); developing a database of Haitian resources abroad; numbers of Haitian voters (define the voting block to put some numbers around our political significance); levels of foreign aid; develop a regional context as well (define how Haitians fare in the host countries vs others from the region); etc. We should do similar research to help set the agendas geared toward Haiti, such as democratization, institution building, campaign management, political party strengthening, rule of law initiatives, economic reforms, etc.
I hope this helps you as you crystallize your thinking on this initiative. I remain very supportive and would be delighted to help further in the development. Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss or if you have questions.