Combating the 'Tarzan effect' in Haiti

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 5:32 p.m.

Combating the 'Tarzan effect' in Haiti


Amsterdam News Editor

"We are looking for the purity of motivation," said Hazel Beckles, a Brooklyn-based activist. "While we are not condemning the good work that is happening in Haiti, we want a true depiction of what is happening at this junction in human history, one which is inclusive of everyone."

Beckles echoes the opinion of those that there is a "Tarzan strategy" in effect--a stringent, selective protocol in place denying certain people access to assist in desperately needed Haiti relief.

The mainstream media shows footage day in, day out of white medics, members of the military and reporters on the ground. Relief workers who are Haitians and Black folks from the African Diaspora in general, not so much.

Beckles told the AmNews: "What the media is promoting is the absence of the presence of Black or Haitian people helping themselves. We want to challenge that notion because we know better. We are working with several local organizations who have had an ongoing history with limited resources, working to uplift and maintain the integrity of the Haitian communities. Right there in Haiti, for example, there are Black-run and -owned orphanages that you never hear about."

"The problem maker and problem solver co-exist in Port-au-Prince, causing deaths by the thousands. The Tarzan effect is leading to this opportunistic disaster capitalism," said Divine Allah, the National Youth Minister of the New Black Panther Party. "Why aren't they highlighting what Cuba is doing with their futuristic mobile medical facility? Why aren't they highlighting what Africa is doing with the Senegalese offering the Haitians land?

"Why are they just talking about what the white philanthropists and missionary types are doing, while not highlighting the work and abilities of those of us who are eager to get there with a variety of life-saving skills? Why are they allowing red tape to keep us from saving lives?"

In the interest of Black folks helping Black folks on a continuum, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corp. landed on the ground in Haiti last weekend with 44 members and joined up with others, making a collective of 117 doctors, nurses, health care workers and paramedics.

Another 30 are going down there on Saturday, said Rudolph Muhammad of the BSVAC. "They traveled with the Scientology volunteer ministers," he told the AmNews. "Immediately they got on the ground; they opened up the general hospital in Port-au-Prince; they took it over and cleaned it out, and immediately people started going to get treated there. They delivered two babies and performed a number of operations, and just helped the residents."

On Wednesday at 6:03 a.m., a 6.0 magnitude quake hit Haiti about 35 miles northwest of the capital of Port-au-Prince. Fear of a repeat of the January 12 7.0 earthquake gripped the islanders, but preliminary reports do not detail massive casualties or building collapses.

Last week's quake is estimated to have killed 200,000 people and injured 250,000 more. A second earthquake hit Haiti today, shaking buildings and sending frightened people running into the streets. The U.S. military's control of the airport and the incredible bottleneck of traffic is having planes being turned around. Doctors Without Borders, for example, have said that one of their planes was denied landing five times. There are widespread complaints that despite the huge international aid effort and massive U.S. military presence, thousands upon thousands of people still do not have the basics--medical help and sustenance.