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#3584: Juan Gonzalez, NY Daily News (fwd)
From: Janet Higbie <email@example.com>
New Woes Seen
As Just Reward
On the streets of Harlem, central
Brooklyn and the South Bronx,
wherever black and brown New
Yorkers gathered to marvel at the
sudden collapse of Mayor Giuliani's
personal life and political career, the
name that kept coming up was Patrick Dorismond.
"You don't mess with Haitians," one
African-American told me. "They'll put that voodoo
Dorismond was the unarmed Haitian-American guard
shot to death outside a midtown bar in March by
narcotics detectives who mistakenly took him for a
The dead man's character was then assassinated by
Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir.
Instead of apologizing to his mother and family, they
had the nerve to blame Dorismond for his own death.
He dared to lunge at the cops, Giuliani insisted.
Giuliani and Safir even dug up
Dorismond's juvenile record,
one that had been ordered
sealed by a judge, then handed
it out to the press in an effort
to paint him as some walking
They then leaked portions of a
toxicology report on
Dorismond that showed he had
small traces of marijuana in his body, as if a little pot
in your system can turn you into a wild aggressor.
These were acts of such uncommon disrespect for
the dead and for a victim's grieving family that no
Haitian in this city will ever forget them.
Little wonder that many callers this week to WLIB,
the major talk-radio station for the black community,
kept mentioning Dorismond and kept insisting that
Giuliani's sudden health and family problems are due
to what Haitians call un travail — or as we say in
Spanish, un trabajo.
Author and journalist Jill Nelson was sitting in at the
station for popular host Mark Riley on Wednesday.
That was just after Giuliani announced that his
marriage was breaking up and before the mayor's
wife had revealed that her husband's current girlfriend
was not the only girlfriend.
Nelson doggedly tried to keep the discussion off the
occult and on the political high road.
"But callers weren't having it," said Bill Lynch, the
One caller after another suggested a curse had been
put on the mayor.
Back in Dorismond's old Brooklyn neighborhood,
Haitians would only smile when asked about voodoo.
"I don't know if a work was done," said the owner of
one botanica on Flatbush Ave. "These things can be
done, all kinds of things. Giuliani stepped on too
The botanica owner, who asked that his name not be
mentioned, was once a taxi driver.
"Giuliani drove many of us out of business," he said.
"He kept after us with his police, and we couldn't
make a living."
In Haiti, of course, voodoo is not considered some
crazy cult, but a legitimate religion. Its followers have
practically subsumed themselves within the Catholic
Church, using church saints as symbols for voodoo's
loas, or spirits.
People visit Haitian serviteurs or houngans, as they
are called, to get the help of loas to bring back a
straying spouse or lover, to cure an ailing relative, to
get a better job, to win a case coming up in court or
just to hit the lottery.
In rare instances, they use the darker side of voodoo,
known as petro, to ask the spirits to send evil back to
those who have hurt or killed a person.
"To do a work, you only need the dead body itself,"
the botanica man insisted. "The clothes of the dead
man are enough."
The talk is that during the burial of Dorismond, a
travail was done on Giuliani, Safir and several of the
cops involved in the incident.
Some Haitian leaders smile knowingly at the mention
of voodoo, but others, like Lionel Legros, who
helped organize the big Haitian march from Brooklyn
to City Hall, call it a distraction that only reinforces
stereotypes about Haitians.
"Sickness can happen to anybody," Legros said of
Giuliani's newly discovered prostate cancer. "I don't
wish that on him. We wanted to end his political life,
not his physical life."
Voodoo or not, Giuliani, a mayor who once
swaggered with arrogance before all the poor and
powerless of this town, who thought himself so
invincible he paraded around with his girlfriends while
ignoring his wife, that Giuliani is now feeling more
fragile than he ever imagined.
In some quarters of this city, he gets the same kind of
sympathy that he once gave to others.