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.

“The militarism shows that there is something else coming behind this,” posed Allah, “and we have to check what is planned for Haiti’s natural resources. Look at how they have these people suddenly rushing to adopt our children in Haiti, while making it difficult for Black families to do the same. If you’ve seen ‘Avatar’ or ‘The Book of Eli,’ you have seen what they have planned for Haiti.

“You cannot be the cause and the savior. Rich, white, wealthy corporations are simultaneously the problem and attempting to be the solution. Never take white supremacy out of the equation. It is there in the rescue, the relief, the planning and the execution.”

Allah, a City Council candidate for Trenton, New Jersey’s North Ward, concluded, “As our cultural innovator Dr. Maulana Karenga always stresses, this is the time for us to look to cultural self-determination and solidarity. Our people, especially the youth who are used to viewing Africans and Caribbeans in a certain light, should now use this as a teaching moment to reconnect with our brothers and sisters in Haiti.”

Beckles is close to Brooklyn’s Little Haiti. The East Flatbush resident and activist stresses the importance of using this moment as a unifying tool, where people from all over the African Diaspora can benefit from seeking the open and honest dialogue of solidarity.

Beckles is one of the organizers of a “Haiti We Love You” drive, along with the West Indian American Day Carnival Association. Coordinating Brooklyn’s Caribbean-American community response to the disaster in Haiti, the collective is organizing a march and rally that will take place on Saturday, January 30.

Beckles noted that the Haiti We Love You rally will provide updates and connect people to local initiatives that are happening in the community.

“Collectively, we want to show our support. We are saying, ‘Haiti, we love you. Haiti will rise again.’ We are not trying to stay in a sorry mode. And we want to keep our eyes open and be vigilant. We cannot allow them to do what they did in New Orleans with toxic trailers and putting us in tent cities.”

For further information, visit or call (718) 467-1797.

Meanwhile, while the tristate, like the nation, kicks its collective relief efforts into gear, medical supplies, emergency aid, and water are either still in the air or sitting on the tarmac, leading to major suffering by those hardest hit, observers report. Medics are having to resort to obtaining saws locally because they say they do not have the necessary equipment, and they must operate in order to save lives.

As he helps coordinate relief efforts in Brooklyn, December 12th activist Omowale Clay told the AmNews, “Above all else and through this entire crisis, the sanctity of Haitian sovereignty, built on the revolutionary history and legacy, must be defended at all costs. Haiti’s immediate inability to respond adequately to this crisis is directly tied to the history of destabilization and colonization by the Untied States and France. We must be aware of the Trojan Horse interference.”

The December 12th Movement is calling on donations for Haiti to be sent to the CODE Foundation. For more information, call (718) 398-1766.

Chief Chika Onyeani, founder of the Celebrate Africa Foundation, told the AmNews, “This is a time for action. It is a time for Africans throughout the world to respond to this tragedy as the world has always responded to disasters in Africa. Under the leadership of the Celebrate Africa Foundation, Africans can respond generously to the people of Haiti. Arrangements have been made for Africans to contribute products needed to help the people of Haiti. You can donate canned goods [non-perishable products], bottled water, tents and shoes.

“While Celebrate Africa Foundation is not accepting any funds for the Haitian relief, they did donate $1,000 to Haitian disaster relief. We urgently call on all Africans to act immediately.” For more information, call (212) 222-7444.

“First, question everything! I find the Haitian issue will uncover everyone’s agenda,” declared Edward Harris, filmmaker and documentarian. “The U.S. will militarize their help, for example. TV news clips will show soldiers with guns more than soldiers with supplies. Why aren’t they at sites digging out survivors? What’s in their hands? The African-American effort will reveal just how in little power and movement we have internationally without sanction. The aid coming into Haiti, if it were for purely humanitarian reasons, they would have been there before the disaster.”

Harris questioned: “Who are the major property owners? What are the plans to rebuild? By the way, New Orleans is still messed up. CNN is running more and more shots of victims…is it to desensitize? Where are the churches? Why would Governor Rendell bring 53 orphans to Philadelphia, when he hasn’t taken care of the Black children in his state since he was elected…i.e., North Philly?

“Our response to the CNN’s historic view must be dynamic and scathing. The Black press”

Rudolph Muhammad said, “There are 44 members of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps in Haiti working at the general hospital in Port-au-Prince. There are 30 members waiting to go on Saturday. We are prepared to send volunteers every week until the job is done. We have Haitian members that are a part of the Vulcan Society [Black firefighters], NYPD, FDNY, Corrections Department, MTA, Sanitation, Board of Education, Yele Haiti [Wyclef Jean], etc.”

Muhammad urged the general community to bring first aid, emergency supplies, and dried and canned food to the Bedford Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps, 727 Greene Avenue (at Marcus Garvey), Brooklyn.

Health activist Asantewaa Harris declared, “Attention ‘healers’: BSVAC has been active on this for eight days. Donate your healing skills: reiki, massage and tonics and natural holistic health. They need our love and care.” For more information, log on to or call (212) 650-5008

For more information about how to donate or assist, contact, or or call the Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees at (718) 735-4660. To donate money or hardware, go to or visit www.orthoworld