MIAMI – Former President Bill Clinton is slated to speak Sunday at an international Haitian conference expected to draw hundreds from around the world to South Florida.
Clinton, newly-minted United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti, is scheduled to speak Aug. 9 at the 4-day conference being held at the Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, the event’s organizers said. They hope his appearance will draw attention to the second annual International Haitian Diaspora Unity Congress, where the beleaguered nation’s problems and proposed solutions are to be discussed.
Most importantly, organizers hope the reputation of Clinton – fresh off his highly publicized trip to North Korea, where he helped secure the freedom of two American journalists held captive since March – will bring funds to support Haiti.
“Right now is a good time for Haiti,” said Dr. Rudolph Moise, chairman of the event. “There’s a lot of good things happening, and some investors are just waiting to jump into Haiti. Clinton, by himself, can raise so much money for Haiti, to really help move things forward. If he finds it important enough to show up, you know that this is serious.”
About 500 participants from different continents are expected to attend the $150 to $250 per-person event, organizers said. Discussions and workshops about a range of Haiti-related topics are planned— from job creation to improving human rights, cultural survival to guiding youngsters in the Diaspora, and dual citizenship to unequal treatment of migrants.
Besides Haitian-Americans from across the United States, a contingent of Haitian government ministers, including Prime Minister Michèle D. Pierre-Louis, have confirmed their attendance, organizer
Dr. Bernier Lauredan said. Several Haitians representing grassroots-minded organizations that support the country’s poor, rural farmers will also attend.
Also listed on the tentative agenda are participants hailing from the African Republic of Congo, France, Canada and various Caribbean and Latin American countries.
“This is really going to be like a large family reunion,” Dr. Lauredan, of New Jersey, said, echoing the theme of the conference.
A significant number of participants are of Florida’s prominent Haitian elite. Florida State Rep. Yolly Roberson, community activists, former Florida Secretary of Health Dr. Rony Francois, Father Reginald Jean-Mary of Little Haiti’s Notre Dame D’Haiti Catholic Church, the state’s first Haitian-American Judge Fred Séraphin, and area university professors are among those expected to participate.
Phillip Brutus, a candidate for U.S. Congress and former Florida state representative, said he’s looking forward to the discussions on following up with any resolutions adopted. Without measures to carry out resolutions, the conference will be “the same old, same old,” he said.
“We need a conference that means something, that engages people,” Brutus said. “Participants need to get down there [in Haiti], and get to work. Talk is cheap.”
Dr. Moise said the Unity Congress’ organizers recognize that many community members are jaded about these conferences, given that past meetings about Haiti have not proven productive. That’s why they will insist that groups recommend solutions, he said.
He is banking on South Florida’s Haitians and supporters of Haiti to have a large role in what happens after the conference.
“With Florida being so close to Haiti, it’s so much easier to do business with Haiti,” Moise said. “We have the leadership here, a lot of people doing good jobs here we can actually use to carry out the different facets of the Congress.”
For Marleine Bastien, executive director of community service organization FANM/Haitian Women of Miami, the conference is an opportunity for non-Haitians in South Florida to lend their voices as well.
“All of us should have an interest in seeing Haiti thrive,” she said. “A thriving Haiti means a stronger Haitian economy, where people are able to work. [Then], they won’t have to put their lives at risk to come to the U.S.”
Photo: Bill Clinton