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#117: Haitians living off the island to return for Diaspora Week (fwd)


Published Sunday, July 4, 1999, in the Miami Herald 
Haitians living off the island to return for Diaspora Week

Herald Writer 

Haitian leaders looking for a way to build a partnership between their
brethren living on the island and those building lives elsewhere came to
Miami last week with an idea: Invite all the expatriates to return to
their native land for a week in August so people in Haiti can thank them
for teaching the world about who they are.They plan to call it Diaspora
Week in Haiti and it will be Aug. 16-22.``More than 2 million Haitians
are now living outside of Haiti,'' said Jean V. Geneus, minister of
Haitians Living Outside of Haiti, a ministry created in 1991 by
former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to serve as a bridge
between Haitians and their homeland. ``I visited the Haitian community
in New York and Boston, and today I'm here to hear your concerns,''
Geneus told the Haitians living in Miami.Years ago, tourism was a strong
industry in Haiti. However, after years of political crisis, few visit
the country besides Haitians living off the island.Wherever they are
living, Haitians care about their homeland, Geneus said, and he expects
they will want to come together to share their experiences at Diaspora
Week. Haitian artists, community leaders and business owners will be
invited to the event.While the idea for the event was well received,
many people in the community are concerned about their reception in
Haiti.``We have been received as strangers in our own homeland,'' said
Florvil Samedi,of the Haitian Refugee Center. ``The first question we
always have to answer is, `When are you going back?' ''Others were
concerned about security, but Geneus promised the ministry would
do its best to keep everyone safe. The date of the event bothered some
people, saying it is too soon for them to make lodging and
transportation arrangements.The general consul of Haiti, Gabriel
Augustin, promised his organization will get the word out about the
event.``We will soon publish a project document to give more details to
the community,''said Augustin. ``We also created a committee led by a
business person, Jean-Claude Cantave, to work on different aspects and
make sure the Haitian community in Miami is well represented.''