Nearing the end of Planet Kreyol’s Haitian Culture Week, a Haitian deportation forum shined a somber light on the typically upbeat and festive week on Friday night. Planet Kreyol brought in Haitian attorneys Ronald Surin and Kertch Conze to speak about the plight of Haitians in the Dominican Republic.
Surin began the forum with a brief history lesson on the split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic with an emphasis on the racial divide between the two countries. He mentioned how word pronunciation would be used to separate the people of the two countries.
“Depending on how they pronounced ‘perejil’ (parsley), Dominicans would either be categorized as Haitian or Dominican,” Surin said.
The history lesson quickly moved into contemporary issues as Surin talked about a recent Dominican court ruling that set the year 1929 as the cutoff year when any children born to foreigners, even on Dominican soil, were not considered Dominican citizens. This ultimately made 200,000 people stateless, according to Surin and Amnesty International.
“The stateless citizens use whatever is lying around to make shelter, forming tent cities where the conditions are deplorable,” Surin said.
Conze strayed slightly from the historic precedent and emphasized a broader spectrum of plights, enlightening the economic, cultural and social disparities that create the rift between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
The Dominican Republic is populated by roughly 11 million people and has a gross domestic product (GDP) of $64 billion. Haiti has about the same size population, but its GDP is just $8.7 billion.
“It’s not just two different countries, it’s two different worlds,” Conze said.
Conze spoke to the attendees of “Bateys” or “places of joy,” which are modern-day equivalents to slave plantations.
“Workers work from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., with worker ages from nine to 75 years old and where the amount of work a worker puts in is not measured in pounds, but in tons,” Conze said.
Dotie Joseph, the former president of the Haitian Lawyers Association, joined the conversation near the end of the forum and further elaborated on the issues plaguing Haitians. He asked students to use the hashtag “rights4allinDR” to raise awareness.