Carline Desire’s passion: Empowering Haitian women

Carline DesireCarline DesireCarline Desire is the executive director of the Association of Haitian Women in Boston (AFAB), a non-profit organization based in Dorchester.

BHR: Tell me about the early years, what significant events in your life as a young woman inspired you to do this work?
Carline Desire: I attended Cathedral High School. My parents took second jobs to send me to a parochial school. With all the events with busing at the time, they wanted to ensure I went to a good school. That’s where I was first introduced to the Apartheid movement – through a feminist who spoke to my class. She shared about women’s rights and what’s going on around the world, specifically with Apartheid. I joined a local group that raised awareness for Africa and Apartheid.
Then I went to Boston University, where I studied international relations. I joined a group of students who were involved in Haiti called Massachusetts Haitian Student Associations (AUAM). We invited people like Mel King and Byron Rushing – [who] were always involved in raising awareness about Haiti. We organized conferences and rallies. Back in the 80’s we formed an inter-collegiate committee to raise awareness about Haiti, and we tutored high school students at English High School. It was [around] that time we had massive influx of the ‘boat people’.

A young doctor fights for quality health care in Haiti

Dr. Natasha ArcherDr. Natasha ArcherDr. Natasha Archer is a resident in the Global Healthy Equity program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is also enrolled in the Harvard Combined Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Residency training program. She works mostly in Haiti, as a volunteer with Partners In Health (PIH).

Archer first wanted to be a doctor at the tender age of 6. She remembers playing doctor in elementary school skits.

“Both my parents were laboratory technologists and it was easy for me to put on my mom or dad’s lab coat and pretend to be a doctor,” Archer explains. “I remember one skit in particular, I put skittles in a tic tac box and pretended it was medicine. Then I gave it to my friend who was pretending to be sick and she came back to life after I gave her the skittles.”

Karen Ansara strives to create holistic solutions

Karen Keating AnsaraKaren Keating AnsaraKaren Keating Ansara has become one of the leading philanthropists and activists in New England on behalf of the Haitian people. Ansara and her husband Jim created the Haiti Fund through the Boston Foundation last year and travel frequently to Haiti to assist in rebuilding efforts. She has also started an informative blog chronicling her interests in Haitian issues.

BHR: Walk us through the early part of your career.
Karen Keating Ansara: I went to Wellesley College. I was a Political Science major and essentially created an international development concentration. I went to work for Michael Ansara who was the founder of Mass Fair Share, which did political organizing to fight for economic reform on tax rates. I met my husband working there.

Life in a Whirlwind: Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry juggles official duties, motherhood

Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry with daughter MadelineRep. Linda Dorcena Forry with daughter MadelineOn July 13, 2010, state Representative Linda Dorcena Forry started the day at her office in the Massachusetts State House and gave birth to Madeline Casey Forry - her third child and first daughter - that same afternoon.

Eight days later she was back on Beacon Hill for a House vote in formal session. The days and weeks leading up to the end of a legislative session on the last day of July are crucial, as hundreds of bills get funneled through the House and Senate and onto the governor’s desk.

In the two weeks after the baby’s birth, Forry was in and out of the State House five times. During the maternity leave that followed, she held regular meetings at home with Robert Cahill, her chief of staff, to review constituent requests and catch up on legislation and community meetings. She also remained actively involved in advocating for support of the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti and services for the local Haitian community.

Forry credits her work ethic and commitment to service to her parents Annie and Andre Dorcena of Dorchester, who are Haitian immigrants. Her mother is a retired health aide for seniors and her father worked in housekeeping for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Children’s Hospital.

Our women continue to make history

Régine Michelle Jean-CharlesRégine Michelle Jean-CharlesWhen International Women’s Day was first celebrated 100 years ago, it began as a day to honor the contributions of women to the various areas of life—historic, social, economic, literary, and development. Today it should also serve as a reminder for the impediments to progress that still exist for women all over the world especially because studies in international development consistently link the advance of a nation to the education and economic progress of women.

As the global struggle for gender equality continues the day we celebrate women and honor their legacy should also be a day to sound the alarm in the name of human rights and international development both of which are significantly hampered by gender inequality.

Ertha Pascal-Trouillot: Unsung heroine of democracy

1990 meeting: President Ertha Pascal-Trouillot, left, meets with former U.S President Jimmy Carter on Saturday, Dec. 15, 1990 at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. Carter came to Haiti as an observer for the Dec. 16 national elections. AP Photo/Scott Apple1990 meeting: President Ertha Pascal-Trouillot, left, meets with former U.S President Jimmy Carter on Saturday, Dec. 15, 1990 at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. Carter came to Haiti as an observer for the Dec. 16 national elections. AP Photo/Scott Apple

It is not ironic that a country like Haiti, historically mired in strong-man culture, may have had its only moment of structured rationality and governance under the leadership of a woman.

In fact, in the years following the ouster of the Duvalier regime, one can say that the death of Haiti’s nascent democracy commenced precisely at the moment of the illegal and authoritarian arrest of Ertha Pascal-Trouillot, provisional President and Supreme Court Judge, by Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Grandmother-in-Chief? Manigat makes case in final stretch

Mirlande Manigat: Photo by Allyn GaestelMirlande Manigat: Photo by Allyn Gaestel“Don’t let anyone tell you a diploma is not important,” Professor Mirlande Hyppolite Manigat told a crowd in Carrefour. “Politics is not a joke.”

Mirlande Manigat is a serious woman, highly educated and respected. She hopes to be the next president of Haiti. If she wins she will be the first woman ever elected to that position. That would be no minor accomplishment in this oft-termed chauvinist country.

But Sabine Manigat, Mirlande’s stepdaughter, thinks Mirlande has the personal strength to do so.

“She has evolved in milieu that are often male dominated,” and she commands respect, Manigat says. “She doesn’t get angry…but she can be sharp,” Sabine noted.

Powerful men, including senators Youri Latortue and Evaliere Beauplan are helping direct the campaign. But Manigat’s cousin, Nesmy Manigat says she holds her own.

Kerry files bill to grant humanitarian parole to 35,000 Haitians

Sen. John KerrySen. John KerrySenator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced legislation today that— if enacted— will allow 35,000 Haitians who have been approved to join family members in the U.S. to come here and work legally until they become eligible for permanent residency. The HELP Act— short for "Haitian Emeregency Life Protection Act of 2011"— would temporarily expand the V nonimmigrant visa category to include Haitians whose petition for a family-sponsored immigrant visa was approved on or before Jan. 12, 2010— the date of last year's catastrophic earthquake.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Sen. Kerry said, “I’ve heard tragic stories from many Haitians in Massachusetts who haven’t seen or heard from their loved ones for months and if bureaucracy is the only thing standing in the way then we need to fix it, end of story. Our legislation creates a commonsense process to reunite families as quickly as possible.”

Revolution: A Great Intellectual Moment

It’s hard when researching Haitian history as a Black American to not focus on the seminal moment of the revolution for independence. As I searched for a link between this month’s celebration of Black History and the history of Haiti, it’s easy to focus on the point at which slaves overthrew their masters.

As someone who had dedicated his life to the importance of ideas over violence – a legacy left by the two generations before me – I became more interested in the more powerful moment.

When did the Haitian people become free? By which I mean how did the slaves, indigenous people, freed people of color and mixed race inhabitants of the island of Hispaniola dare to let their hunger for freedom overcome their fear of their oppressors?

A culminating moment of freedom we see today in the streets of Egypt and spreading like wildfire of freedom across the Arab world.


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