On Tuesday, October 4 2016, Hurricane Matthew, the strongest hurricane to hit the region in more than ten years, smashed into Haiti with 145 mile per hour winds and torrential rain.
Now, in the aftermath of the storm, the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis has been hard to take in.
More than 1,000 people are dead. Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed. More than 1 million people are in need of food, water, medical treatment, shelter or some other form of humanitarian assistance.
Africans in Haiti, still reeling from the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island and took the lives of more than 220,000 people, are now bracing themselves to deal with a surge in cholera, a waterborne disease the people of Haiti have most recently been battling since 2010 when UN troops brought it to the island following the January earthquake.
The tragic scenes of this most recent crisis in Haiti that have been brought to our television screens, newspapers and computers are eerily reminiscent of the devastation Africans in the US experienced up close during and after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
In both Haiti and New Orleans, Africans lived in communities with poor infrastructure, leaving them unnecessarily vulnerable to storms and other natural disasters.
In New Orleans, the levees which should have held back waters from Lake Pontchartrain “collapsed because they were junk” according to an article in the Washington Post, creating the conditions for the literal drowning of the majority African city.
Despite Haiti’s wealth of human and natural resources, its infrastructure is poor by any standard. Even prior to last week’s hurricane, many people lacked access to clean water, electricity, and medical facilities. Only about one third have access to improved sanitation and many people live in slums with poorly constructed homes and roofs made of corrugated metal.
In both New Orleans and Haiti, the despair and helplessness of African people were on full display for the world to see, invoking pity and charity as a solution to the crises.
Organizations like the American Red Cross, which brought in half a billion dollars in resources from the Haiti earthquake alone have been shown to be the worst kind of opportunists. In 2015 an NPR and ProPublica expose brought to the fore the fact that the organization built only six permanent homes in Haiti with those resources.
The sad reality is that no matter where we find ourselves as African people, we are much more vulnerable to natural disasters than almost any other people. This is so because no matter where we have been forcibly dispersed, no matter the nationality of the president, governor or mayor, we are a colonially dominated people.
There is no government of our own working in our interests, making sure that our mineral, human and other resources are used to protect and defend us from our enemies or from a hurricane.
There is no government making sure that we produce nurses, doctors and medical facilities for our people. There is no government making sure that our engineers build strong bridges and buildings that can withstand what we know nature can sometimes throw our way or that we have sufficient and good sanitation and transportation systems and electrical grid.
Neither charity, pity nor prayer will change the material conditions that have been imposed on our people. Only by consolidating the dispersed African Nation in our struggle for self-determination and self-government will we ensure our collective safety as a people whether in Haiti, New Orleans, in the Continent of Africa or any other place African people are located.
This is the mission that has been set out by the African People’s Socialist Party which leads the Uhuru Movement. This is the goal that must be struggled for and won.
As a part of the strategy to win our people into organization and unity with this mission, the All African People’s Development & Empowerment Project (AAPDEP) has an important mandate.
Established in 2007 in St. Petersburg, FL, AAPDEP promotes the understanding that Africans, no matter where we are located are one people who must contribute our energy, skills and resources toward overturning the conditions that have been imposed on us.
One of the most important features of AAPDEP that distinguish ours from other approaches is that we challenge African people to take responsibility for changing our material conditions and for building our collective future. We reject the concept of charity as a solution for our people. Although charity is the most popular and accepted way of dealing with the objective conditions in Africa and African communities around the world, it often demoralizes Africans, the recipients as well as other Africans who witness it. Furthermore, charity does nothing to transform the dismal reality of African people, and instead often works as a cover for the imperialist-imposed root cause of the symptom the charity attempts to address.
AAPDEP branches and membership exist in several US cities including Houston, Texas, Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA and Huntsville, AL where our headquarters is located. In Africa itself, AAPDEP has one of our largest branches in Sierra Leone, West Africa and is actively seeking to organize branches everywhere African people are.
We have built African led maternity centers, trained hundreds of community health workers, built community rainwater harvesting systems, established community gardens and farms and built African Internationalist educational programs for both children and adults.
In 2014, AAPDEP established Project Black Ankh (PBA) as a response to the recent Ebola crisis in West Africa. Our forces in Sierra Leone provided food, water, medicines and counseling support to more than 40 survivors of Ebola and their families.
From the beginning, the vision for PBA has always been for it to become the African Nation’s emergency response organization. It would be OUR Red Cross. No more would Africans have to sit idly by watching as our people perish from one imperialist-imposed crisis after another.
No more would Africans have to join in the half-hearted efforts of others to save our people from flood waters, health care epidemics or other humanitarian crises. African people could be sure that our hard earned money would go where it was needed and not into the accounts and retirement funds of others living at our expense and off our misery.
In an effort to develop the economic infrastructure of AAPDEP which would provide the foundation for PBA and other important programs, we built Zenzele Consignment a clothing resale store which opened its doors in August of this year.
In September of 2016, with the store opening behind us, AAPDEP began working to consolidate the leadership and initial plans for establishing Project Black Ankh as a permanent program of the AAPDEP Health Care Commission.
As Hurricane Matthew loomed, and then later left its path of destruction in Haiti, AAPDEP leadership felt the painful criticism of our people’s lack of National Response, as we have assumed for ourselves the responsibility of organizing our people for that purpose.
There is much to do. We are not where our people need us to be with the establishment of Project Black Ankh. Africans, however, are stepping up to contribute their skills and resources toward this effort.
An overall plan for mobilizing, training and deploying medical and other personnel through PBA is being consolidated along with the plan for African community-led funding.
AAPDEP plans to officially launch Project Black Ankh at our 2017 conference.
For now, we are calling on Africans in public health, African nurses, doctors and others who have experience in international emergency response or related skills to join AAPDEP at DevelopmentForAfrica.org and help us to forward our work to build Project Black Ankh.
We can and must have the ability to respond to African suffering anywhere in the world. While African Nationhood is the ultimate solution, the Black Ankh will be an important tool in the hands of the African masses, allowing us to step out of the helplessness that we experience today as we watch our people suffer needlessly, hoping that others will intervene on our behalf.
We must plan and work to make Project Black Ankh a powerful reality because as our beloved Marcus Garvey reminds us,“Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people. Action, self-reliance, the vision of self and the future have been the only means by which the oppressed have seen and realized the light of their own freedom.”
Join AAPDEP Today!
Build Project Black Ankh!