Letter from IASA President, Jane Desmond

Dear IASA Colleagues around the World:

All of you have no doubt been watching with distress the news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. As many of our members work not only on the U.S. but also on the "Americas" more broadly, including the Caribbean, I wanted to send a message providing some information that I hope you will find useful.

Below I list the contact information of several highly respected and reputable relief organizations who are actively working now to help earthquake victims. Many are international, and some are located in the U.S. If you wish to help by donating, you may find these links useful.

But beyond the immediate needs, this may also be a moment for us to take this crisis as a stimulus to increase our knowledge about Haiti and about U.S.-Haitian relations if, like me, this is not an area of your current scholarly focus.

As you know, the U.S. has a long history of military intervention in Haiti. To gain a further overview of this part of U.S.-Haitian history, one starting point is the Wikipedia article below. Although Wikipedia is not always fully vetted as a source, it can in this instance serve as a starting point for further explorations of scholarly sources if you wish.

A second key issue is that of Haitian immigration to the United States, and the long standing presence of people of Haitian heritage in the U.S., with large communities in New York and Florida. Currently there are approximately 400,000 Haitian-born residents in the U.S., and nearly one million of Haitian heritage residing in the U.S. President Obama has just passed a resolution making it easier for those without government sanctioned residence to stay in the U.S. due to the devastation of the earthquake. For extensive information about patterns of migration from Haiti to the U.S. and U.S. government responses including interdictments of refugees at sea, see the link below from the Migration Policy Institute.

In addition, you may wish to check the web sites of the Haitian Studies Association below for further information. If any of you working on the Caribbean, or with academic colleagues there, become aware of specific ways that we as academics can help students and scholars in Haiti to rebuild after the immediate rescue needs in the days to come, please let us know.

At times like these when the most immediate needs are for food, medicines and emergency relief teams, we may feel powerless as academics to assist in any but monetary ways. But we can at least come forward to increase our understanding of the history of the area, of U.S.-Haitian relations, of the linkages between the histories of U.S. slavery and the slave revolts in Haiti, and of contemporary U.S. foreign policy towards Haiti. Those of us in French speaking Canada, and in France, may also have specialized knowledge of Haitian creole, or of Haitian literature to share. Perhaps our long term contribution can be in the form of increased understanding of the social, economic, and political histories that have resulted in Haiti's being the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and among the most vulnerable to the infrastructure devastation attendant upon such a large-scale natural disaster.


Jane Desmond

President, IASA