Democracy Now: Panel Discussion on the Importance of Social Media in Building Community & Resistance

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Transcript to Democracy Now Panel Discussion

Veronica Arreola

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Las Vegas, Netroots Nation, a convention where thousands of people have gathered, and “social media” is the watchword of the day. This is Chicago-based blogger Veronica Arreola. Her blog is

VERONICA ARREOLA: I got involved in blogging, late 2000, after the election. There was a lot of discussions online and LISTSERVs, and I really felt like I needed a place of my own to get my views out, opinions out, talk about what was going on in terms of the election and the election results and how long it had dragged out. So I’ve been doing that since late 2000, got onto Facebook pretty early, because I work at a university, and that’s where the students are, and that’s where I need to talk to them and get them to events, and then jumped on Twitter after some friends said I needed to get on. And I’ve really used—I’ve really found it very helpful in terms of activism, in terms of community work.


VERONICA ARREOLA: Just spreading messages, talking about events. I’m on the board of the Chicago Abortion Fund. And this past spring there was a national bowl-a-thon, and I did a lot of my fundraising through social media, through Facebook, Twitter, just asking people to please—

AMY GOODMAN: And how effective was it?

VERONICA ARREOLA: I think it was really highly effective. I think I raised more money through Facebook and Twitter than I would have just sending emails or calling people and talking to people one-on-one, because I was able to dip into a larger pool.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s your blog called?

VERONICA ARREOLA: My blog is “””>Viva la Feminista.”

AMY GOODMAN: And what has been your project this summer?

VERONICA ARREOLA: This summer, I’m asking Latinas to post about being Latina and their thoughts about feminism—good, bad, long, short, academic, or just personal stories. I’m getting mostly personal stories. And I call it “Summer of Feminista.”

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Veronica Arreola of She was speaking to me at the Netroots Nation convention.

Well, for more on the use of social media in building community, I’m joined here in Las Vegas by Aimee Allison. She’s a Bay Area radio host, producer of the daily KPFA Morning Show, and she’s also founded this innovated local media project called OaklandSeen, as in S-E-E-N, seen and heard.

Also here with us, Davey D is a hip-hop journalist and activist. He runs the popular website “Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner” at, co-host also on KPFA of HardKnock Radio.

And we’re joined by the Cheryl Contee. She is the founder of “Jack and Jill Politics.” Well, she’s actually Cheryl to us here, but she’s Jill Tubman at “Jack and Jill Politics.”

I want to welcome you all to Democracy Now!, to be with you all in Las Vegas. Aimee, talk about social media, what it means to you. I mean, you’re a longtime radio broadcaster; interesting also, you’re a veteran. But why go from radio to social media?

Aimee Allison

AIMEE ALLISON: Here’s what we’re facing in 2010: radio being an old media that accesses—it’s low-tech, and lots of people can access it, but, as we saw earlier this week, one of thirteen human beings are on Facebook. That means that social media is becoming more and more the way that people access their news and connect with other people. So, through, it was an effort to fill the local reporting gap that we found in Oakland to engage more people and to facilitate people reporting their own news and to talk to each other about issues that they’re facing the most. And what we found when we combined old technology, radio, with new technology, social networks and blogs, we have a level of engagement that supports the development of local communities, constituencies and democracy at home. It’s fantastic.

AMY GOODMAN: Cheryl Contee, you’ve been doing “Jack and Jill Politics” for how long?

CHERYL CONTEE: For three years.

AMY GOODMAN: What does “social media” mean?

CHERYL CONTEE: Social media, to me, means the opportunity to reach people in a way never before possible. When we founded “Jack and Jill Politics,” it was not long after the last—the original Netroots Nation YearlyKos. And at the time, we were talking about isn’t it a shame that more blacks aren’t blogging. Today we have a vibrant community at Jack and Jill Politics. We’ve changed the racial narrative in this country many times. And now African Americans, in many ways, are at parity. When you factor in mobile internet access, there is no digital divide, according to a Pew internet study last year. And Business Insider, just this year, says that 25 percent of those on Twitter are African American, which is twice their population percentage.

AMY GOODMAN: Davey D, talk about what you’re doing, also longtime radio broadcaster on commercial radio, then at Pacific Radio, but you also have been doing this social media thing for a long time.

DAVEY D: Well, I’ve been on the net since 1991, so I’ve been around for a minute. But at the crux of it is, it’s just about communication. And you’re looking at a variety of communities that have often been exed out of the opportunity to talk to themselves without a media middleman or to talk to their communities without having their messages distorted. So, this is a continuum. You know, when I first started, the reason why people went on the internet was for that very reason. And over the years, you’ve seen different variations of technology come along that have made it a little bit more efficient. So social media right now, in the form of Facebook or Twitter, which, you know, many of us are on, just really allows us to get around this increasing consolidation and regulation of speech between different communities. So, that’s been the attraction.

And what’s interesting is that old media doesn’t seem to get it. You know, they seem to want to have more of a situation where they talk at you, for the purposes of marketing, increasingly more for the purposes of just blanketing us with a particular political or social message, and to marginalize the voices of dissent, various angles that people have on a particular issue, and to challenge a narrative that oftentimes only serves the purposes of a particular corporation.

AMY GOODMAN: Davey D, you’ve been tweeting a lot about Oscar Grant. Tell us quicly that story and how social media has been used in his killing.

DAVEY D: Well, I think the main thing is that before the word could get out—well, let me just back up. The police had a narrative, from day one. They went and looked at his background and put that out there, and it was quickly countered by those of us who were on the internet, to say, well, let me show you the cop’s background, and let me show you what other people saw that night.

AMY GOODMAN: And this, again, is about the young man who was killed.

DAVEY D: Right, that was killed. Going up to the verdict—

AMY GOODMAN:On the subway platform.

DAVEY D: Yeah. Going up to the verdict—

AMY GOODMAN: By a police officer.

Davey D

DAVEY D: Yeah. Going up to the verdict, there was a narrative that they painted around the country, which people started to build off of, and it mainly centered around “Why don’t black people just learn how to behave?” when it was the multi-ethnic crowd that was out there, you know, protesting, speaking truth to power, and some of them rebelling, you know? And so, when you looked at the national pictures, you saw black folks. But people like me were filming, and we saw a variety of people. So, when you put it up against mainstream media versus what many of us were able to say, then you saw that there was a falsehood in what mainstream was doing, and you saw that falsehood connected with political, economic and social agendas that have nothing to do with the variety of communities that were outraged about a cop being—who got away with murder, as far as we’re concerned.

AMY GOODMAN: Aimee Allison?

AIMEE ALLISON: The protest in Oakland after Johannes Mehserle, the former BART officer, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, which many people thought was a very easy verdict after what we saw—social media spread the word and let everyone see the video, so we all saw it. And then, the verdict was surprising to many people. If you compare, though, the way that the protests were covered two weeks ago and the way they were covered a year ago, it was night and day. Social media came and changed the whole conversation about what Oaklanders think. It was a lot more diverse and nuanced and powerful. We were able to capture and share the message out beyond, not only to Oakland, but to the world, of how Oaklanders had come together in nonviolence. We were able to tell a story about how the local peace movement had taken the lead in working with the city.

But all of this happened in the context locally of a very important urban issue, which is that Oakland is struggling, as many cities are, with revenue and with dealing with deficits. And we had just had the fight with the police officers’ union and a sense of how the city was going to avoid cutting more libraries and schools, and so the whole coverage of the protest happened in a political environment where social media was able to say, “Look, we want to hold police accountable for their activities out in the street. We want to have a broader conversation about crime and public safety. And we’re not going to accept the narrative a year ago that there was just a bunch of rioting and we need more cops.” That was directly as a result of citizens themselves and bloggers, as well as other folks, telling the story and talking to each other about the impact of not only the violence that happened against Oscar Grant in the first place, but the policing and the aftermath.


DAVEY D: One thing that I think is important is that there’s a context to even revolting. And what social media allowed us to do was explain what happened the first time there were riots in the street, which was seven days of the mayor not speaking, seven days of the district attorney not speaking, seven days of people going up and asking, “what’s going on?” and then people saying, “OK, we’ll let you know what’s going on,” and having a revolt and having a political and social context to that. Even what happened after the verdict, there was a way to explain that narrative, which was counter to what the mainstream was saying.

The other thing that’s important is that mainstream has become increasingly more embedded. What they didn’t tell you in the recent verdict was the fact that many of the mainstream journalists were standing right next to the police. They were embedded with them, so they had the best angles. And I’ve never seen that before. I know that it goes on overseas in war, but to come here and say, “Hey, wait a second. You’re ABC, CBS. You’re right there next to the cops!” So what does that mean at the end of the day when the story is told? I couldn’t cover the way that I would normally, even with a press pass, because they said, “We made new press passes, and you have to have a special one, and you have to be standing next to the police.” That’s very different, and that’s very dangerous, because it’s in the context of news being censored and controlled and manipulated by corporations all over the country. And that was just a prime example of that taking place in Oakland, in this case, with the police. But corporations and police are the same thing, if you look at what BP is doing, censoring media. So I don’t see it as being very different. It’s just controlling the narrative.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting you raise this, because when we were arrested in St. Paul—my colleagues Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar and I arrested by the St. Paul police covering the Republican National Convention—we weren’t alone among journalists.

DAVEY D: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: There were more than forty journalists arrested. When I went the next morning, after I was released, to the police chief’s news conference and asked him what does he expect journalists to do and what has he instructed his police to do if they’re arresting journalists, he said we could embed, embed with a mobile field force, using that model of reporters embedding in the frontlines of troops as a way to cover American cities. Cheryl Contee, did you want to weigh in here?

Cheryl Conte

Cheryl Conte

CHERYL CONTEE: Right. And so, in this changing environment in the media, social media provides an unfiltered voice. No longer do we have an intermediary to tell us the story, as we did before, where journalists represented the community’s voice, now the community has their own voice. And during the Oscar Grant protests and rallies, you know, you got pictures live from the scene. And on our blog, we actually listed some of the Twitter reports, just to show this is what’s actually happening on the ground, just to provide a balance with the mainstream media.

AMY GOODMAN: It reminds me of the Battle of Seattle ten years ago when you had CNN saying that—repeating the police line that they weren’t using rubber bullets, but we were picking them up by the handfuls. And it was Indymedia and that really exploded on the scene then, when these pictures were being showed and you had more people hitting than Aimee?

AIMEE ALLISON: And see, I think that’s an excellent point, because through the Johannes Mehserle protests, OaklandSeen Facebook and Twitter followers grew more than 40 percent. And people started to acknowledge, “Hey, you know what? For the information on the ground and the real unfiltered stuff that’s happening, I’ve got to go to a source like OaklandSeen, because if I turn on the news, I’m really going to get the same stories, and it’s not really reflective of what I think about my own city or the—you know, kind of the details I’m looking for.” So people are starting to turn in a city like Oakland to alternative news sources, and I think that that’s fabulous, particularly in a place locally where our papers have consolidated and local coverage has suffered so much.


DAVEY D: I think one of the other important things is that when you look at a situation like the Oscar Grant scenario, none of us are really organizers. I’m not an organizer. But there was dozens of organizers there whose voices never get heard. They don’t show up on the evening news. They’re not often quoted. And there’s a context to which they speak. And so, one of the things that social media allowed us to do was really get the full narrative from their perspective, whether it was Uncle Bobby who’s Oscar’s uncle,  and why he condemned some of the coverage that was going on, or why he talked about what the police were doing. We got to hear his full thing. We got to hear why he rejected Mehserle’s apology, without just the thirty-second sound bite that was played around the nation. We got to present and let people hear  the full four-minute speech that he gave. And that becomes important.

We got to let you know what the organizers think, what were they doing and how did they all come together. That story was just as important as the trial and the verdict itself. And those stories got out to the rest of the country in a way that inspired folks, let people know that there’s a richer context to what was taking place in Oakland. And lastly, it put a spotlight on the media, because it showed how lazy they were, when all these stories were being unearthed, and you’re going, “Well, wait a second. You’re the mainstream media with millions of dollars in the budget. How come we just got this very two-dimensional narrative?”

AMY GOODMAN: Cheryl Contee, as we wrap up, tomorrow you’re going to be hosting Nancy Pelosi. She’ll be addressing the Netroots Nation convention. You’re Jill Tubman at “Jack and Jill Politics.” Why Jill Tubman?

CHERYL CONTEE: Originally, many of the black political bloggers wrote under pseudonyms, because the history of the United States shows that outspoken African Americans are often targets, one way or another. And so, I was frankly afraid to write under my full voice until I really understood the consequences of what that would be. And it allowed me to write more freely.

I came out of the closet, if you will, of the blog closet, about two years ago, and it was fantastic to really receive a lot of applause. So I’m really looking forward to sitting down with Speaker Pelosi and representing the community. It’s an interactive session, so we’ve been taking comments from the internet. People are voting with their feet. People really want to know about the Youth Promise Act, for example. They want to know about Social Security, the economy, jobs. And so, I’m really looking forward to having a chance to reflect that.

AMY GOODMAN: If people want to participate, where do they go? How do they tap in?

CHERYL CONTEE: Oh, right. So if people—you can still ask questions to me. You can use the hash tag nn10pelosi on Twitter. You can go to the Netroots Nation Facebook. Or you can go to “””>Jack and Jill Politics,” and you’ll see there’s a blog post stuck to the top right now, and leave a comment.

AMY GOODMAN: And where do people go to find OaklandSeen, Aimee Allison?

AIMEE ALLISON: OaklandSeen, And we have a Facebook group and a Twitter group. So we not only report and encourage people to blog and contribute media, but we’re talking to each other, which is amazing.


DAVEY D: You can reach me at or mrdaveyd, D-A-V-E-Y-D, on Twitter.

AMY GOODMAN: Thanks very much for being with us here at the Netroots Nation, Davey D, Cheryl Contee aka Jill Tubman, and Aimee Allison.

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Democracy Now: “Bush Was Responsible for Destroying Haitian Democracy”–Randall Robinson

“Bush Was Responsible for Destroying Haitian Democracy”–Randall Robinson on Obama Tapping Bush to Co-Chair US Relief Efforts


you can listen to the interview by clicking HERE:

We speak with TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson, author of An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. On President Obama tapping former President Bill Clinton and former President George W Bush to co-chair US relief efforts in Haiti, Robinson says, “Bush was responsible for destroying Haitian democracy…Clinton has largely sponsored a program of economic development that supports the idea of sweatshops… but that is not what we should focus on now. We should focus on saving lives.” [includes rush transcript]

Guest: Randall Robinson, visiting law professor at Pennsylvania State University. His most recent book is An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. He is the founder and past president of TransAfrica.

AMY GOODMAN: We have now with us on the line Ali Lutz, who is the Haiti program coordinator for the group Partners in Health that has clinics throughout Haiti.

Ali, talk about the situation of aid.

ALI LUTZ: Good morning, Amy. Thank you.

The situation in Haiti is obviously extremely dire. And we are trying to get supplies and medical personnel into Port-au-Prince and to the clinics that Partners in Health helps run throughout the country to support the response, because obviously our colleagues in Haiti, our doctors, nurses, surgeons, they’re dealing with their own families during this tragedy and doing the best that they can also to help the victims.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Ali, in your contacts to get aid in, who, as far as you can tell right now, is in charge in Haiti? I know the US military now is in charge of the airport. But who do go to to try to get permission to bring your materials in?

AMY GOODMAN: Ali, are you there?

JUAN GONZALEZ: I think we’ve lost her there.

AMY GOODMAN: The problems with Skype here. Well, we’ll go back to Ali Lutz after this conversation.

But just before the program, I spoke with Randall Robinson. He’s the founder and past president of TransAfrica. He’s currently a visiting law professor at Pennsylvania State University, though he goes home to Saint Kitts tomorrow, where he lives. His most recent book is An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. I began by just asking for his thoughts about the crisis right now in Haiti.

    RANDALL ROBINSON: It’s important, in trying to find ways to help, to be generous and to give, and to give generously. I would like to commend President Obama for his strong and fast response of a commitment of $100 million. Operations are already underway. I think the world is being incredibly generous, as I understand the pace of things to be at this point, the pace of giving. But, of course, as many lives as can possibly be salvaged need to be salvaged as quickly as possible, and I have every reason to believe that the administration and others are doing the very best that they can. As a private citizen, it’s my responsibility, and our general responsibility, to support every effort that’s being made to save lives in Haiti.

AMY GOODMAN: Word is now President Préval has said they’ve just burned—buried 7,000 bodies in a mass grave, but the most important thing right now is the search equipment, to go in and to save people who are just hanging on, perhaps who have been crushed, who are hidden in the rubble. And yet, that has yet to come. Some word is there’s a lot of aid at the airport not able to get through, and then other aid just hasn’t come.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, that’s not surprising. It’s hard for things to function when virtually all of the infrastructure has been destroyed. The Haitian government is unable to function, I would imagine, because it’s under the same burden that all Haitians are under. The President’s home has been destroyed. It’s hard to get from point A to point B, because the roads are blocked, petrol is not available. Heavy equipment is not yet available.

But in the spirit of konbit, the Haitian Creole word for “collaboration and cooperation,” Haitians are doing everything they can. They are resilient, industrious, courageous people. They’re doing everything they can to save the lives of their fellows, and they’re doing it, thus far, with very little, because it’s taking a while for that kind of assistance to materialize.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama has tapped President Clinton and former President George W. Bush to coordinate the aid relief to Haiti. I was wondering your thoughts on that.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, Amy, I’m, of course, troubled by that. I don’t think this is the time—neither the time nor the place to discuss those things that have troubled me for a long time in the history of American policy towards Haiti. Now the focus must be upon the rescue efforts that are underway to save lives.

But I hope that this experience, this disaster, causes American media to take a keener look at Haiti, at the Haitian people, at their wonderful creativity, at their art, at their culture, and what they’ve had to bear. It has been described to the American people as a problem of their own making. Well, that’s simply not the case. Haiti has been, of course, put upon by outside powers for its whole post-slavery history, from 1804 up until the present.

Of course, President Bush was responsible for destroying Haitian democracy in 2004, when he and American forces abducted President Aristide and his wife, taking them off to Africa, and they are now in South Africa. President Clinton has largely sponsored a program of economic development that supports the idea of sweatshops. Haitians in Haiti today make 38 cents an hour. They don’t make a high enough wage to pay for their lunch and transportation to and from work. But this is the kind of economic program that President Clinton has supported. I think that is sad, that these two should be joined in this kind of effort. It sends, I think, the wrong kind of signal. But that is not what we should focus on now. We should focus on saving lives.

But in the last analysis, I hope that American media will not just continue to—the refrain of Haiti being the poorest country in the western hemisphere, but will come to ask the question, why? What distinguishes Haiti from the rest of the Caribbean? Why are the other countries, like the country in which I live, Saint Kitts, middle-income and successful countries, and Haiti is mired in economic despair? What happened? And who’s had a hand in it? If Haiti has been under a series of serial dictatorship, who armed the dictators? There are other hands in Haiti’s problem. Of course Haiti is responsible for some of its own failures, but probably not principally responsible. We need to know that. We need to be told the whole story of these wonderful, resilient, courageous and industrious people. And we have not been told that. I would hope that this would be an opportunity for doing so.

AMY GOODMAN: In talking about President Bush, while most people may not know the role the US played in the ouster of President Aristide February 29th, 2004, probably what would come to mind when there’s any discussion of relief efforts is Katrina.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Yes. The problem of what happened in February 2004 continues. We had democracy in Haiti, and that democracy was blighted by the Bush administration. And now President Aristide’s party is prohibited from participating in the electoral process. His party is the largest party in Haiti. And why should we be so afraid to let his party participate? If Haitian people don’t want them, they won’t vote for them. That is the very essence of democracy, that people get a chance to stand for election, and the electorate gets a chance to make a decision. But we have obstructed that process in Haiti. We have done that under the Clinton administration, under the Bush administration, and that continues under the Obama administration. And that is indeed unfortunate. I am imploring American media to examine this in whole part, in ways that media have failed to do so up until now.

AMY GOODMAN: This history, the two crises, the natural catastrophe that is the earthquake, that the Red Cross is now saying they believe perhaps up to 50,000 people have died—and we’re not talking about, you know, just what has happened in the past, but what is currently happening. Who was just quoted? Lieutenant General Russel Honoré, the retired general who took charge of relief efforts in New Orleans, said that aid should have arrived, that said the US military should have arrived in earthquake-devastated Haiti twenty-four hours earlier. Of course, as we know, people trapped under rubble, every minute counts.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, I’m not in a position to comment on that. I simply can’t make an assessment of how fast or how slowly they arrived or how soon they should have arrived. And so, I will withhold comment on that.

AMY GOODMAN: Does it make you nervous to hear about US soldiers on Haitian soil? If you can share a little more of the history of the United States and Haiti—or do you think this isn’t the time to talk, for example, about 1915 to 1934, the first US Marine occupation, and then—

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, I should think it would—I should think, Amy, it would make Haitians nervous under these circumstances. Of course, I’m sure that they are, understandably, quite happy to see assistance from any quarter.

But it was in 1915 that Woodrow Wilson, of course, with a force of American Marines, invaded and occupied Haiti until 1934. They seized land, redistributed it to American corporations, took control of the country, ran the country, collected customs duties for that period of time, and ran the country as if it were an American possession.

But this has marked the relationship since Toussaint L’Ouverture and an army of ex-slaves overthrew French rule in 1804. The French exacted, of course, reparations from the new free black republic of Haiti, bankrupting the country. The Vatican didn’t recognize Haiti until the 1860s. The Western nations of the world, responding to a call for isolation and embargo from Thomas Jefferson, imposed sanctions on Haiti that lasted until the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States, of course followed in the twentieth century by President Wilson’s occupation and then by the dictatorial blight of Duvaliers, Papa and son, and all of the other military generals that, of course, were armed by the United States.

And so, Haiti’s plight up until this point has been, in some significant way, attributable to bad and painful American, French and Western policy that some believe is caused or described, motivated by Toussaint L’Ouverture’s victory over Napoleon. The French have never forgiven the Haitian people for this.

AMY GOODMAN: Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said he’s ready to return to help rebuild his country in the wake of the devastating earthquake. Why can’t he just return?

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, the—I’m not sure what the stated American policy is, but of course the Bush administration policy was to forbid his return. But any obstruction of his return by any power would constitute a violation of international law, a violation of the UN Charter, a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a violation of any number of major UN human rights conventions. You cannot restrict people either from leaving their country—citizens, either from leaving their country or returning to their country. He has every right to return home, should he want to. And one would hope that no administration, the American administration nor any other, would stand in the way of his passage home.

AMY GOODMAN: A few nights ago, Naomi Klein was in New York, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, and she quoted a Heritage Foundation press release that came out very soon after the earthquake, talking about this being an opportunity. That is the question, whether it is an opportunity, she said, of the corporate vultures hovering over Haiti, waiting to descend and restructure Haiti, or an opportunity for progressive Haitians to rebuild their own country, to rebuild Haiti. What are your thoughts about this?

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, it’s an opportunity, I think, for the American people to, at long last, learn the full truth about Haiti and about our relationship with Haiti. They’ve known—they’ve been caused to know very little about it. And I think progress—a new beginning starts with the truth. That is a truth that has been suppressed for all of these many years. The American people know almost nothing about what happened in 2004, about the abduction of President Aristide, about the destruction of Haiti’s democracy as a result of the efforts of both the United States and the French government. We need to know that.

And in the last analysis, Haitians have at their disposal a vigorous, creative, industrious and successful community in the United States, in France, in Canada. The Haitian diaspora is very much engaged with Haiti. They need to be given an opportunity to help Haiti rebuild itself.

We need to go away from what we’ve been doing in support, a sort of an unconditional support, for wealthy Haitians that are running sweatshops in the country, that pay people appallingly low wages. That is not the way to any bright future for Haiti. And that is the—of course, the idea that former President Clinton has been advancing for Haiti. I think it is sad. It can’t work. It won’t work. It will brew a further resentment of the United States.

And I think that the only way we can move ahead constructively with Haiti is to begin by telling the full story of our relationship with Haiti since 1804, what happened in the nineteenth century and what has happened in the twentieth century, so that Americans will understand at long last that Haiti’s misery is largely not of its own making. They will learn of a Haitian people who are quite different from those who have been described to them. And I think it is at that point we can make the beginning that we need to make and that is rooted in a policy that is constructive and sensitive and caring and productive for the United States, as well as for the Haitian people.AMY GOODMAN: Randall Robinson, founder and past president of TransAfrica. He fasted almost until death years ago under the Clinton administration to try to get President Clinton to close Guantanamo. In that case, it was to close Guantanamo so that Haitian refugees who were trying to escape the coup in Haiti were able to come into the United States. Randall Robinson’s latest book is called An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President.

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