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9005: Re: Jean Dominique piece: (fwd)
From: Daniel Wolff <email@example.com>
À LA RECHERCHE DE JEAN DOMINIQUE
"On those evenings when, as we sat in front of the house beneath the big
chestnut tree and round the table, we heard, from the far end of the garden
... the double peal -- timid, oval, gilded -- of the visitors' bell,
everyone would at once exclaim, 'A visitor! Who in the world can it be...?'
"And then, soon after, my grandfather would say, 'I can hear Swann's voice.'
And indeed, one could tell him only by his voice, for it was difficult to
make out his face...."
-- Swann's Way, Marcel Proust
The widow sits in her garden. Bright red bougainvillea blossoms cascade
over the brick wall that separates the garden from the street. The voices of
school children, reciting their lessons, float over, too. The widow is an
elegant woman in her fifties, with high cheekbones and long legs and the
dark, intense eyes of someone who has not slept. Her husband was murdered a
month ago. She is dressed in a black vest over a white shirt, black slacks,
black sandals: a black-and-white photograph somehow tipped in to this green,
red, and yellow garden. A guard, rifle in hand, keeps watch at her front
She is asked whether her husband was worried about his safety. "He was not.
Jean had lived tougher years.. He was not in any form of -" A car horn
blares suddenly on the street, but she continues: "When I met Jean, he had
been living in Haiti under the Duvalier regime. He had learned to hide a
number of things he felt. a number of things he thought. Even in his private
life, there were all those barriers, all those walls, all those difficulties
in reaching out."
First one hummingbird, then a second, darts through the leaves of a
breadfruit tree. She pays them no mind. Her skin is a very light brown: a
creamy color. She's wearing big hoop earrings that catch the sunlight as she
continues: "In 1980, when we went into exile together, Jean was in
Venezuela, and I had come out of jail, and I was sent to the States.... I
think that's when our relationship became deepest. Then, all the walls, you
know, fell.... There was a sense, amazingly enough, of freedom. In that
first exile. We had lost everything," she remembers. "We were living at my
brother's house in New York.... We had a lot of time ... And the sense of
freedom came, also, from the fact that we no longer had any
responsibility.... We didn't think that we would ever go back to Haiti. For
us, it was the end."
The daughter sits in the station her father ran: Radio Haiti. It is, at
once, a dusty and lively place, strewn with books and old reel-to-reel
tapes, magazines, and political posters. This morning, the station is
milling with people: it's the first day of broadcasting since her father was
killed a month ago. It is a day -- people keep saying -- of respect.
"My father," the daughter says, "wasn't there at my birth. He was in
France, where he was studying, and he met me through a letter and a
She looks like her father -- the sharp beak of his nose, the big white
smile - but she is slighter and, today, less open. Her eyes are red: a
screen of emotion between herself and the world. The child of an earlier
marriage, she is only a few years younger than the widow.
"Yes," she continues, "it's very funny. I always say that I met Jean.
Because I didn't live with him the first years of my life." Instead, she
listened to her father on the radio. "Tons of young people used to write to
him: letters to tell their problems and everything. I wrote him 'anonymously
'.... Obviously, he immediately recognized the handwriting.... It was to
say, 'I love you. I love my father, but I don't know if he loves me.'"
At this, she forces a smile. Where the widow seems fiercely alive, somehow
energized by Jean's death -- the sudden, sharp freshness of a cut flower --
the daughter is just trying to keep going.
"From ten to seventeen," she adds, "I did live with him, and it was a
difficult period. It was the dictatorship, and it was my own adolescence."
The dictator was Dr. François Duvalier: "Papa Doc." The daughter left Haiti
as Papa Doc was dying, and his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, was about to
become President for Life. "Baby Doc" continued his father's tradition of
terror and economic brutality.
"I learned to discover [my father] through his letters," says the daughter,
"because he is, at heart, timid. Very discreet, though when he writes, he
says things he would never say face-to-face."
She has grown up to be a novelist. Her first book opens with a story based
on Jean's childhood. He was born in 1930, during the nineteen-year American
occupation of Haiti, and his parents cast the U.S. Marines as the boogeyman.
"Americans, Americans," the daughter has her character shout, "I will drink
my milky, so don't hurt me, American, I'll be good!" The occupation was
enough, she writes, "to accumulate his rage and to form his legacy."
Jean's voice on the radio is disembodied, as radio voices must be, but so
deliberate, so rich in concentration and the need to get exact meaning, that
it seems to have a presence. On the streets of Port-au-Prince -- or in
Brooklyn or Montreal, where his shows were rebroadcast -- people would
listen, rapt, as if conjuring the body out of the voice.
To see a videotape of Jean speaking is to watch how he made words and
intonations visceral. He screws each sentence into the air, turning one hand
as he turns a phrase, pausing to draw from his pipe as if pulling meaning
from the silence. He hunches his shoulders to drive in a point, flashes a
decorative smile. It is construction: he lays the foundation, adds a line of
support, stops to make sure his work is level and flush.
"Of course, as everybody can see, I'm mulatto," he says into the camera. He
is being interviewed for a documentary: "What you call mulatto in Haiti.
Which is a very, very complex question. It is like [being] a Jew in Europe,
maybe in the United States-either seen as the enemy or the victim, but
always as an alien: L'autre [the other].
"The mulatto are the elite, and I come from a petit bourgeois portion of
this elite. My father was an employee in a private business. I went to a
good school. My father was not wealthy, no, but I had a good education-in
French, of course. That [being educated] was one of the key elements of
Haiti's petit bourgeoisie in Haiti: the French, Catholic and well mannered.
Huh! Well mannered." A slight smile here, as if grading the surface of that
He describes walking past the Haitian Presidential Palace as a boy and
seeing a flag ceremony: "And I said, 'Father, what is that? What does that
mean to you?' He said, 'That means you are Haitian.... Never forget that.
You are Haitian. You are from this land. You are not French.'"
Jean's voice rises; he is being his father: "'You are not British! You are
not American! You are Haitian!'"
Jean's younger sister, sixty-eight years old, sits in the widow's garden,
her hands folded in her lap. Reserved but determined, she looks like she
could be an academic or an ex-nun: a circle of gray hair, bright eyes,
no-nonsense blue jeans.
"My father," she says, "was a commercial representative and was always
crossing the country to buy coffee for his employer. He was an
importer/exporter in coffee and Haitian commodities, and Jean toured the
country and Dominica a great deal with Dad.... Jean was maybe eight.
"While I played games, Jean was already arguing over the newspaper in the
morning with my great-uncle. I see them both at the end of the long room, in
rocking chairs, exchanging ideas on history, politics, the war. Dad used to
say [to Jean], 'But what could you know about it?' And Uncle Maurice would
say, 'He has very definite ideas. He should be allowed to speak.'"
Her eyes now glisten behind thick glasses: "Jean always loved to speak."
She continues with their history: "In 1955, we were separated for the first
time. Jean received a fellowship to go to the School of Horticulture at
Versailles.. Jean stayed two years in France, during which he got involved
in politics, agitated a great deal, kept company with exciting people.. It
was the time of the war in Algeria. It was the time of shock, and the
realization of the shock, of the hope of communism, of socialism, and Jean
was excited.. But he, like me -- we were never inducted into a party. We're
She looks sideways at her brother's house, where purple clematis climbs a
white trellis, and then continues: "He received some very worthwhile offers
to pursue a career in France and overseas, in the area of his education, as
an agronomist," she says, proudly. "In 1956, he turned down all these
offers, and he came back [to Haiti], because he wanted to work in his
country. Jean always had a set idea: not to leave his country except under
Jean's younger sister takes a breath, and then: "He lived in exile for .
ten years: two separate times.. But it was against his will.. I've been in
France since 1957. I left this country on September 21st -- the day of the
election of Duvalier. That day, I gave my car to my brother.. Then, the
rancor of Duvalier fell on all of us."
"I have no enemies except the enemies of the Nation."
-- President François Duvalier at his first press conference
Inaugurated on October 22, 1957, Papa Doc jailed more than a hundred
political prisoners within his first two months in office. By the following
May, he had assumed control of the military, succeeded in breaking the
largest labor unions, and declared a state of siege that included a curfew
and broad press and radio censorship. The first attempt to overthrow him
came on July 28, 1958.
"That was my brother," says Jean with a great white grin. He is speaking in
a filmed interview. He waits a beat for a reaction, then goes on: "Duvalier
was one year in power. My brother was an officer in the army and was
expelled by Duvalier because he was mulâtre. He was in exile in Miami with
three or four of his colleagues.. They rent a boat -- the Molly C -- and
they sailed from Miami. They landed at Deluge [an inlet north of
Port-au-Prince]. They had weapons. [The five of them] occupied the
Dessalines barracks for one night. They phoned François Duvalier!"
Jean's eyebrows rise with obvious glee. He mimics his older brother,
Philippe's, voice: " 'We take your barracks. You can go.'
"Duvalier was scared: ... [he had] a reservation for a plane to leave
[Haiti].... [But] one of [my brother's] drivers was caught, and he told the
Macoute [Papa Doc's private army, the Tons Tons Macoutes], 'They are only
five. No more than five.' Duvalier immediately organized, and on July 29,
1958, they invaded the barracks and killed all the people . including my
brother.. That was the beginning of Duvalier."
Jean shrugs, remembers: "So, I spent six months in Gonaives, in jail."
The house that Jean grew up in is a pale, two-story stone structure not far
from the Presidential Palace. It is unoccupied now, its shutters opened only
for this occasion: the visit of Jean's older sister.
"Mama's garden!" the 84 year-old exclaims as she walks the grounds, but the
garden is nothing but weed. She sits in a chair in the sunlight and goes
back in time to describe the night Phillippe was killed: "[Jean's] daughter
was with me. And people are whispering in Port-au-Prince that another man
was killed: a white man. And others are whispering (she lowers her soft
voice), 'It is not a white man. It's Jean -- that he had been cut up into
pieces. So imagine!"
There is only her voice with which to imagine: "It was necessary for a
woman, from a Catholic association, to tell me: 'Madeline, I went to see, in
person, the bodies. And the body of the dead man who was cut up into pieces
is a white man. Your brother is just a ... mulâtre.' "
It is, in its way, a happy ending. The older sister smiles into the
sunlight, her glasses on her lap.
In a filmed interview, Jean tell how he began running Radio Haiti "under
the dictatorship of François Duvalier. It was a very, very risky business.
Radio then was not a news medium. It was entertainment: playing songs.
Haitian songs?" He seems to listen to those long-ago broadcasts for an
answer, then adds: "Not that much. French, American, Spanish: it was a very
foreign oriented medium. And I start, step by step, inch by inch, to
introduce two things. First, Creole. Because radio in this Creole-speaking
country was a French-speaking medium! I tried to introduce Creole, and I
tried to introduce information.
"When I said I 'tried,' it was really a daily try-every morning." Here,
Jean cocks his head and, through his long beaked nose, sniffs the air a few
times. "Smelling things, trying to look at power in the eyes, and to know,
before going to bed, if we would be able to go to bed!"
He smiles. There is something about this risky business that he clearly
delighted in: "I remember, in 1973, I went to a place called Saut D'eau [a
voodoo shrine centered around a triple waterfall.].. More than sixty
thousand people gathered from all over Haiti to pray, to worship, to enjoy,
and to bathe . and it was a shock! [It was] the first collective gathering
of worship, of the Haitian people, to say no to the Macoutes!" He slices
the air with his finger: " No to Duvalier! Those two hours were something
like the first broadcast of real protest coming from the bottom."
He wipes his face with a white handkerchief, leans back as if finished,
then goes on: "The women, naked, under the waterfall, were being possessed.
And telling all the things like, 'Yes! I slept with this man! Because this
man is a Macoute! He wanted to sleep with me to take my land, my property!'
Everything's going out [over the airwaves]. Everything!"
Jean ticks off on his fingers the evolution of Radio Haiti: "Creole.
Voodoo. Then news. Then the life of the people!"
A month after Jean's murder, a farmer is sitting in Radio Haiti's newsroom.
He is wearing a T-shirt with Jean's picture on it: his black skin looks even
darker against the fresh, white cloth.
"I am a farmer from the Artibonite [Valley]," he begins, "who farms rice,
who always lived in the Artibonite. My parents were farmers, and ever since
I was very young, I've been farming. And to this day, that is how I earn a
"I can't say that I remember the exact date, but I can remember listening
to [Jean].. In those days, radio stations used to function on AM bands.. I
was a child."
Few gestures accompany his words, few smiles or changes in expression. He
is doing a job, which is to reach back into the past. His words are like
roots, freshly dug, with the dirt still on: "I bought a small radio ...
[and] I would hide it in the field over night. I didn't take it home
because, in those days, if you carried a radio you could be questioned.
'Where did you get it? Why do you have it?'"
For a moment, his face goes stern to mimic the Macoute who questioned him.
Then, he settles back into his story, his piece of work.
"It was the first news," says the widow, pride flashing in her dark eyes:
"real news -- covering real stories, having reporters in the streets, and,
also, reporters covering the news in Creole. When you do investigative
reporting in the States, it's a pretty safe thing, most of the time. When
you do it in Haiti, you take your life in your hands!
"It took a while for us to be able to use, take advantage of, a little
window of opportunity that was opened with the arrival of . Jimmy Carter's
administration [in 1977]. With all [Carter's] talk of human rights, we
started talking about a number of events taking place in Latin America at
the time. And, ahhh! it was amazing how Haitians started following the story
of Samosa in Nicaragua; it was that fascination with international news.
There were Creole phrases used to talk about [foreign] dictators -- which
people in the street used to talk about our own government. I felt at the
time, for the first time, that I was starting to be a professional
Jean had once given an interview about this same, mid-70's time period, and
his voice on tape seems to echo hers: "People decipher the foreign news and
digest it in their own culture -- and they start responding.. They went to
the station to give us information.. The people started living the news! ..
We discovered . the fight of the Haitian people against Macoutism. You call
The widow, alive in her garden, can't hear his voice, but answers it: "That
's what Jean called being a militant journalist: not just covering events
but being able to go beyond events and seeing the impact . on people, on
their lives, and putting things in perspective."
"So, that's what it was," Jean's daughter says: "our daily life at Radio
Haiti: . [Jean had] his morning show, Face L'Opinion, and then, finding
breaks during the day, we would talk to each other. We would obviously talk
about the political situation . but he used to speak to me as well about
what he was reading. Toward the end, he was reading Proust.. I always found
Proust a bit hard. And Jean, he used to tell me, 'But you don't understand.
The daughter is speaking as her father -- with his raised eyebrows, his
abrupt hand gestures, his lifting voice: " 'You should reread Proust! You
read him wrong. You read him at a time when you couldn't read him.'"
She listens to her own voice repeating her father's advice, and she
considers: "It's true that I read Proust when I was nineteen." A pause, a
smile, and then: "So, perhaps I'll reread Proust."
"November 28, 1980."
The widow, in her elegance and in the kept beauty of her garden, announces
the date as if to engrave it on some collective memory.
"The military police were coming to Radio Haiti with the Macoutes," she
recalls, "and they destroyed the station. They first started arresting
people.. Jean was not at the station at that time; they were looking for
Jean.. They started destroying every single piece of equipment that was in
that station.. [Over the air] everyone, all of Haiti, could hear only a very
strange sound: toc, toc, toc. That you hear when a record is stuck."
She smiles. It was, she knows, a moment when Radio Haiti conveyed to the
whole nation the sound of being silenced.
"All of Radio Haiti," she continues, "was taken to Casernes Dessalines
[state prison]. That's where the military men were questioning political
prisoners.. I heard them torturing Richard Brisson: . he was in charge of
programming at Radio Haiti.. They started torturing, also, another one of
our journalists, Robert Filo.
"I was jailed with four other women in a cell in the Cassernes Dessalines
for about three days. Then we were transferred to the National
Penitentiary.. Four days later, we were escorted to the airport with the
clothes we had on and, from the airport, sent to what we found out later was
Miami.. I borrowed twenty-five cents to call my brother in New York. And
that's how I got into exile in New York.. Two days later, I was in touch
with Jean. [He had received refuge at] the Venezuelan Embassy [in
"My dear compatriots. In recent days I have looked in vain for any sign
that would suggest a way out of this nightmare of blood. Desiring to enter
history with my head held high and a tranquil and clear conscience, I have
decided tonight to pass the destiny of the country over to the Armed
-- Baby Doc, February 6, 1986, just before ending three decades of Duvalier
rule by flying to France
"Ohh, change is a fight," says Jean, sighing. "You must understand that for
the Haitian people, at least (I don't know for the French; I don't know for
everywhere, anywhere, but for us), change must be the result of a long
fight." It isn't clear to whom he is talking. He was being interviewed for a
documentary, but he seems to be arguing with someone somewhere out in the
blank space before him. "In Haiti," he declares, "there is what I call the
guts-feeling of the fight. It's a guts-feeling, because the poor people of
Haiti never read those sophisticated books about revolution. But they know
strategy.. Remember in 1985 when, in November, the poor people of Gonaives
started going in the street -- for the first time in twenty-five years of
Duvalierism, of Macoutism? [They were] shouting, 'Down with Jean-Claude!'
They were waving the star-spangled banner."
He is amazed at this. His eyes pop in surprise, like those of a little
boy -- the little boy who grew up with the U.S. Marines occupying his
country. "When Jean-Claude Duvalier fell on February the seventh, 1986 --,"
he continues, pausing between each syllable as if to taste it, and then
shaking his head in wonder: "I don't know how, I don't know why, but after
six years, the Haitian people remembered. The day Jean-Claude left the
country, the people went in front of Radio Haiti (what we made of Radio
Haiti) and asked for our return! Less than one month after that, I went back
to Port-au-Prince. It was very wonderful there for me, because more than
sixty thousand people went to greet us and to go along with us to the
[radio] station.... Twenty cents by twenty cents, we collected sixty
thousand dollars. And I was able to repair the station from scratch and
The rice farmer describes why and how he traveled to the Port-au-Prince
airport the day Jean returned from exile: "There is a saying, 'Farmers
shouldn't waste time in the city.' Going to the city was something everyone
feared ... [But] this time was the opportunity for me to see the face. Not
to talk to him or anything; just to see the face. I had three dollars in my
pocket, the equivalent of fifteen gourdes. I paid seven gourdes to get
there, and I needed seven gourdes to go back, so I was left with one extra
He explains his finances deliberately, methodically, the way a man will
count out the few worn bills in his pocket: "From the balcony of the
airport, everyone saw [Jean] when he got off the plane. I felt I, too,
played a part in welcoming him. I saw him; I walked near the car, followed
the car to the [radio] station." The way the farmer tells it, this was the
closing of a circle: finally seeing the man whose voice had reached him from
a hidden transistor radio.
"Up and down was the way of life. More down than up," says Jean, recalling
the years after his return. "But there was up," he says: "Days like March
29, 1987, when 1.2 million Haitian, poor Haitian people, illiterate, went
freely to the polls to approve a piece of paper called the Constitution. It
was one of the most wonderful days of my life!
"The second was December 16th, 1990, when more than two million people went
freely to select a new president: President Aristide.... December 16 is our
day," he continues. "Nobody gave us that day.... There was no given; there
was no God-given; there was no star-spangled given. It was our day! I was in
Cité-Soleil [the poorest section of Port-au-Prince], and there were those
long lines of Haitians -- poor, desperate Haitians -- illiterate, dirty
Haitians -- under the sun. It was two o'clock p.m. I went down and asked ...
'What are you doing here?'"
Jean makes an inquiring face at an imaginary voter from years before. He
has an imaginary microphone in his hand. He is back in history, asking:
"'What are you doing here? You have a small white paper in your hand. Who
gave you the money to steal?'"
Jean assumes the voice of the invisible voter: "'Nobody.'
"'What are you doing in line without any soldier to kick your ass, to make
you stay in line?'
" 'We are expecting --' " the invisible voter begins to answer.
Jean is getting to it now -- to the core question -- and he leans towards
the invisible Haitian.
"'What does that mean for you? To vote?'
"'Today is the end of the season where we were ghosts.'" This is what the
invisible answers, and Jean smiles. " 'We were ghosts. Now -- today -- we
become human beings. Human beings.'"
"When a people chooses to fight, not because others tell them to or bring
them to it but because they have chosen to fight, it is very likely that
this people will resist and arrive - no matter what - at the crossroads of
-- Jean-Bertrand Aristide,
in a radio interview with Jean Dominique
"We were about to hit some hard times," says the rice farmer. In his slow,
methodical way, he has continued his story up to the September, 1991
military coup that forced President Aristide into exile just seven months
after he'd taken office. "When the coup was announced, we took to the
street. It was with the same little radio, we took to the street .
protesting. We thought we could reverse the coup. We protested the first day
and the second day. But, now" (and it is not now, it is then, but the rice
farmer's expression argues otherwise) "we began to hear of assassinations."
Jean is being filmed during his second exile in New York City. As he
describes the 1991 attack on his radio station that coincided with Aristide'
s expulsion, he puts a lighter to his pipe, puffs, puffs again, then sets it
"You must realize," he says, "that Port-au-Prince suffers from sporadic
blackout. So, this Monday morning, we were running our own power plant.. [It
was] not that powerful to support central air-conditioning. The lights, the
equipment, yes; but not the central air-conditioning. so," and he pauses,
"the doors of the studios were wide open. At seven-thirty, two trucks of the
army stop in front of the station, and [the soldiers] started shooting.
Automatic shooting." Because the studio doors were open, he explains, still
careful with each word, "my listeners could listen to the shooting of the
radio station by the soldiers!"
His eyebrows go up; he spreads his hands wide. There is that wicked,
delighted smile. "Okay? It was in the open.
"On Tuesday, on Wednesday, we repair the station.. On Thursday, I had the
privilege of having, over the phone, President Aristide, who was in
Washington, D.C.. I had a one-hour interview with the president. And I start
broadcasting this interview at Radio Haiti on Friday morning. It was
delirious to Port-au-Prince, to all Port-au-Prince.! We received a lot of
phone calls, a lot of threats. And we kept," Jean circles a finger as if
stirring a pot, "telling the news about the situation, about the coup, who
was in the coup . and giving excerpts from the interview by the president.
"At two p.m. on Friday . we receive a phone call from a friend [warning
us]. We closed the gates, and I ordered my people to clear the place.
[Soldiers began] shooting at the station. [The next] afternoon, I was at my
home with my wife. [The soldiers] were on the street shooting at us in the
house. It was the first time in six years that they had shot at me. They
spent maybe ten minutes shooting. And I said, 'No.' I decided to leave. I
rapidly packed, and we left. I spent," Jean shrugs, "fifteen days in
hiding.. They were at the station, shooting. Dah, dah, dah." His shoulders
hunch; his fists clench. "Shooting. Dah, dah, dah. Two or three times, they
went at my place shooting. But I was not home.. On the thirty-first of
December , just on New Year's Eve, we took a plane and we flew to
"The military coup was not only to topple a president," Jean adds. "There
have been a lot of military coups in Haiti; there have never been four
thousand people killed." His voice wants to underline those words in the
air, on the air, so they can never be erased: "It was not only to topple a
president. No. It was something carefully planned to break the backbone of
the Haitian people. To kill democracy. So, it is the reason why they tried
to kill the radios. Because democracy in Haiti is rooted on radio
broadcasting. It is not Aristide; it is democracy. It is the poor people of
Haiti trying to free themselves. Understand?"
"It took us about five months to get everything together," says the widow,
describing their final return to Haiti in 1994. "We didn't have a home to
live in. You know, we were more or less going from one place to the next. We
didn't have our house yet."
Their house rises, white and cool, behind her. Her words are the only clue
that it has not always been like this. "Actually," she remembers, "we got
back to living at the radio station for a while.. Activists from the coup
were still around. They were still in the judicial system, they were still
in the administration, they were still all over the place.. We are a
commercial radio station. We depend on advertisement. Who controlled the
advertisement.? The people who were responsible for the coup.! And [the
Haitian people] were starting to be disappointed by the fact that it took so
long for things -- not even to change -- to get back to the way they were
The rice farmer is describing a speech he made in 1995. René Préval had
been elected president after Aristide, and the rice farmer had stood up at a
public meeting to describe the situation in his valley to the new president:
"'President, personally I don't believe in this type of democracy. I truly
believe in a revolution. I believe that only a revolution can put this
country on the right track. We haven't done anything since 1991. They have
stolen the government from us. They have sent us a government very
disguised. We must have a revolution in this country in order to save this
The farmer's face is dark with recalled emotion: "I felt very charged at
the time. The first person who stood . was Jean.. He left the spot where he
was and came to stand next to me.. Jean put his hand on me and said, 'I need
The farmer, his face worked into a single point of concentration, is coming
to his conclusion now: "I must tell you: for me, my interaction with Jean
Dominique was like attending school.. My journey with Jean Dominique from
'96 up until this day [he is speaking a month after Jean's death] has
allowed me not to be" -- he takes a breath -- "not to be afraid. Not to be
scared of any man, regardless of his strength. No matter what his degree or
knowledge or his doctorate level in political studies. As long as we are
talking about this little country, or the issues surrounding this little
country, I am not afraid to face anyone for any type of debate."
The newsroom at Radio Haiti is full of people looking at nothing: not at
each other, not at the posters on the walls. They are, instead, listening to
Jean's voice come over Radio Haiti for the first time since he was killed.
It is a voice from the past. Later in the day, President Préval will sit at
the desk from which Jean used to run the station. Behind him, there will be
a photographic collage of victims who met their death under the Duvaliers'
regime. He will recall the beginnings of both his political career and his
long friendship with Jean: "I remember the first organization I set up.. I
thought a base to rally around would be the struggle to make sure that
people wouldn't forget what happened. Because the dictatorship didn't allow
us to speak to one another, and I wanted for all those relatives of
victims . to dare to speak. It's the first project that [Jean and I] shared
But that would be later in the day. Now, with Jean's voice on the radio,
President Préval rises and walks to the window. He leans out into the warm
air and looks down the hill at the ramshackle ups-and-downs of
Port-au-Prince. He keeps his back to the people in the room, the better to
hear the voice behind him and to hide his emotion. He lights a cigarette and
"At 6:15 a.m. on Apr. 3 , a gunman entered the courtyard of Radio
Haiti Inter and shot to death pioneering radio journalist Jean Dominique,
69, as well as the station's caretaker, Jean-Claude Louissaint. Dominique,
who was just arriving by car to prepare for his hugely popular 7:00 a.m.
daily news roundup, was struck by one bullet in the head and two in the
neck. He was loaded with Louissaint into an ambulance, but both men were
pronounced dead on arrival at the nearby Haitian Community Hospital in
-- Haiti Progres, April 5-11, 2000
"Concerning any change in our policy at Radio Haiti," says the widow, all
business, eyes dry, looking straight into the future, "we don't expect to
have any. The one big change is Jean's absence. You know it's difficult to
She drops the phrase as if it were commonplace, as if it were one of the
bougainvillea blooms cascading from the tree behind her.
"It's essential that the dream continues. [What matters is] the radio
station, our skills as journalists, our ability to go places and talk to
people --to get all those tools to the service of the people who most need
it. And I think that has not changed, that will not change. You know, we
made that promise to Jean. We made that promise to ourselves."
And then she returns to the dropped phrase, as if lifting it off the green
grass to look at it more closely: "Earlier, I said that Jean brought fire to
the newsroom. Jean brought fire to our relationship, also. I think there was
a Promethean quality to Jean. He stole that fire from the gods, and maybe
that's what he was punished for. That fire . was a moving force for a lot of
Haitians. I realized this when he died. When he died, everyone was saying,
'The void, the void.' That big hole. Because that energy was no longer
there, that fire was gone."
Out of empty space, bodiless, the voice of Jean rises. It doesn't happen
mystically. No, it is as commonplace as the radio. His voice is on tape and,
now, is being transmitted over space and time. He says, fiercely, "You
cannot kill the truth! You cannot kill justice! You cannot kill what we are
fighting for! Participation of the citizens through the community business:
you cannot kill that."
Then another voice, the interviewer's, says with a laugh, "You can knock
the shit out of it, but you can't kill it."
That sets Jean laughing, too. From the sound of his laughter, you can almost
see his white teeth, his head cocked back. And then he says, again, "You
cannot kill it."
-- Daniel Wolff