Originally: Participants Return as Ambassadors of Hope for Haiti


October 10, 2006

Press Release

Pilgrimage to Citadel-Haiti Is Spectacular Success
Participants Return as Ambassadors of Hope for Haiti

For Immediate Release

New York  ?  Just back from leading a  five-day pilgrimage to the Citadel in Haiti, October 5-9,  to launch the Model City Initiative in the town of Milot, Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and founder of the Haiti Support Project,  jubilantly declared the visit ?a spectacular success.?  The pilgrimage marked the beginning of a concerted effort by HSP to transform the lovely town of Milot, which is strategically located at the foot of the Citadel, into a mecca for cultural-historical tourism and economic development for the area. The Citadel, which is considered the ?eighth wonder of the world,? is the magnificent mountaintop fortress built by King Henri Christophe to defend the new Black Republic from further invasions by France and other outside powers after independence was declared in 1804.

More than fifty heads of organizations, opinion leaders and socially-conscious individuals comprised the delegation for the pilgrimage including George Curry, executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association; Omarosa Stallworth, who achieved national acclaim as a contestant on Donald Trump?s popular television series The Apprentice; Joe Leonard, executive director of the Black Leadership Forum; Errol Maitland,  Community Affairs Department and producer of Wake-Up Call, WBAI/Pacifica broadcasting network; Joseph Beasley, southern regional coordinator of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson?s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; Serge Parisien, National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians; Dr. Gilbert Parks, chairman emeritus, National Medical Association; and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, vice-chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, who served as co-leader of the delegation.

On October 5, after a well-attended press conference at Toussaint L?Ouverture International Airport convened by Jean V. Geneus, minister for Haitians living abroad, the delegation departed for Cap-Haitien for  a  reception hosted by Patrick Delatour, minister of tourism. On the second day, the delegation received a rousing welcome in Milot where hundreds of people including schoolchildren lined the streets to greet the group. A festive parade complete with marching bands proceeded to the gateway of the Sans Souci Palace where the participants were  officially welcomed by the mayor, the delegate to the National Chamber of Deputies from the region and the Local Development Committee of Milot.  After the welcome ceremony the delegation began its historic journey up the mountain to the Citadel for a tour of one of the most incredible monuments to human engineering and construction the world has ever seen. It was an awe-inspiring  journey.

The visit to Milot culminated  with the unveiling of the architectural renderings for a multi-purpose community-empowerment and visitors’ center which will include a school for elementary children, vocational education program, computer center, credit union for  micro-lending, tourism and investment bureau, visitor-information center and administrative offices for the local-development committee and the Haiti Support Project. Dr. Daniels indicated that HSP is committed to raise $100,000 to build the center which will serve as a visible symbol and vital catalyst for social and economic development in Milot. HSP anticipates that the private sector and the government will also contribute funds to this project.  Before leaving Milot, the mayor, the delegate from the region,  and the Local Development Committee urged HSP to make the pilgrimage to the Citadel an annual event, an occasion that will give the community something to look forward to from year to year. 

Prior to departing overland for Port-au-Prince, the delegation was treated to a tour of Lakou Jissou, where the traditional African religion of Vodou is practiced; a tour of Cap-Haitien and a visit to the  beach at Cormier Plage. HSP also convened a working session with local officials and interested parties in the delegation to brainstorm about ways and means of promoting and implementing the Model City Initiative, particularly the priorities of supporting the municipal/public schools, mobilizing humanitarian assistance and business/economic-development investment.

After a rough-and-tumble ride to Port-au-Prince by way of St. Marc,  Gonaives and the beachfront resort of Club Indigo, the delegation was joined by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee and graciously received by Janet Sanderson, U.S. ambassador to Haiti,  at the official residence. On the final day, the delegation was received by President Rene Garcia Preval and Prime Minister Edouard Alexis. The president presented special gifts to each of the participants and pledged his full support for the Model City Initiative and work of HSP in promoting cultural-historical tourism, humanitarian assistance and economic development.

At the concluding press conference, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee commended President Preval for his efforts to reach across the political spectrum to forge maximum unity around an agenda of progress for Haiti including placing a high priority on measure to reduce crime, violence and insecurity. She pledged the support of the Congressional Black Caucus in pressing for the passage of the HOPE Act which would spur economic growth and job generation in the manufacturing sector.

Dr. Daniels noted that many of the participants had described the pilgrimage as a ?life-changing experience.? Clearly in an exuberant mood,  he proclaimed,  ?I am genuinely pleased that the participants on this extraordinary pilgrimage are returning to the United States with a commitment to be ambassadors of hope for Haiti. Their charge is to spread the word, that every person of African descent should visit the Citadel at least once in a lifetime.? Dr. Daniels also announced that Patrick Delatour, minister of tourism, has accepted an invitation to be the special guest and keynote speaker for HSP?s annual Haitian Independence Month celebration, January 6, 2007 in New York.

For further information or to arrange interviews contact: Dr. Ron Daniels, 718-429-1415.