The Miami Herald reports that Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste has passed away. Details forthcoming.
Fr. Jean-Juste was a tireless advocate for human rights for Haitian people. I remember because my mother and I frequently participated in protest marches he lead back in the 70's.
Fr. Jean-Juste had energy and passion like I've never seen before. I can't tell you I understood everything that was going on in Haiti back then but I do remember people were dying in the ocean trying to get to the United States and they were being sent back to the island. That was more than 30 years ago. Little has changed as far as this country's disparate treatment of Haitian immigrants.
One of my most vivid memories is standing in front of the Historic Mt. Zion Church in Overtown and watching the funeral procession for little Haitian children who had drowned at sea. Rev. Winston Rudolph was the pastor of the church at the time and active in civil rights issues in the community. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was there with Fr. Jean-Juste and other dignitaries yet my heart was breaking at the sight of such small coffins. It just wasn't right. It's still not right.
I also remember Fr. Jean-Juste leading the chant "Human rights for Haitians! Human rights for Haitians!" More than thirty years later and Haitian immigrants are still being turned away? In spite of the devastation to their island we're sending them back to starvation, sickness and death.
I'm not Haitian but I am human. In the name of Jesus Christ and in memory of Fr. Jean-Juste and all of the people who lost their lives fleeing to this country for freedom and justice --- enough is enough. It's time for our government to grant temporary protective status to Haitian immigrants. A feel good trip by President Bill Clinton is not enough. It's time for this country to do the right thing. Human rights for Haitians!
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