Ros-Lehtinen Statement on Anniversary of Haiti Earthquake

From the House Foreign Affairs Committee

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, submitted the following statement for the Congressional Record marking the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake which struck Haiti on January 12, 2010:

“January 12, 2010, Haiti was devastated by the most powerful earthquake to strike that nation in over 200 years.  The wave of destruction to follow was unprecedented.  In just 35 seconds, one-third of the country had been directly impacted by the worst natural disaster to ever hit the Western Hemisphere.

“Today, one year later, we mark the somber anniversary of this tragedy and honor those who lost their lives that day.  Remarkably, in the midst of such devastation, the people of Haiti have forged on.

“And yesterday, I was honored to have the opportunity to travel to Haiti and visit with some of these men and women as they work tirelessly to rebuild their lives, their communities and their nation.  I was struck by their enduring resilience and inspired by their perseverance.

“Sustainable recovery in Haiti will depend on strong leadership by the Government of Haiti, a concrete effort to stop corruption, the implementation of accountability and transparency measures, as well as the involvement of the people of Haiti in the design and ownership of their future.  It will also be important going forward that there be a transition away from dependency on traditional U.S. government assistance and instead a renewed focus on innovative public-private partnerships and grassroots, civil society efforts.

“To ensure that U.S. foreign assistance to Haiti remains transparent and effective, I also plan on introducing legislation to that end this Congress, calling for increased and sustained oversight over U.S. funding to Haiti.

“Finally, though the official OAS report has not yet been released, it appears that certain changes will need to be made to ensure that the true will of the Haitian people in electing their future representatives is honored and respected.  The Haitian people deserve a leader who believes in effective, good governance and the rule of law. And it is only in adherence to these principles that Haiti’s recovery may be successful.”

Michelle Obama lands in Haiti for unannounced visit

This is the first pool report from Haiti regarding the First Lady’s visit today.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Tuesday, landing at 10:40 am, On yesterday Haitians acknowledged the three-month anniversary of the Jan. 12th, 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated the capital.

The Obama administration released this statement about the visit, which was kept hush until the landing:

“First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are visiting Haiti to underscore to the Haitian people and the Haitian government the enduring U.S. commitment to help Haiti recover and rebuild, especially as we enter the rainy and hurricane seasons, and to thank the women and men across the whole of the U.S. government for their extraordinary efforts in Haiti during the past three months.  They will also reach out to the UN and international relief communities in recognition of the truly global effort underway to help Haiti.”

Jacqueline Charles Caribbean Correspondent Miami Herald

USAID Responds Immediately to Haiti Earthquake

From the Dallas South News Wire (State Department)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to the earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is dispatching a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and has activated its partners, the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team and the Los Angeles County Search and Rescue Team.  The USAR teams will be composed of up to 72 personnel, 6 search and rescue canines and up to 48 tons of rescue equipment.

The USAR team will be accompanied by USAID disaster experts who will assist with assessments of the situation.

“This is a tragic situation and we will work alongside the Haitian government to provide immediate assistance in the rescue effort,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “On behalf of the American people, I wish to convey our sympathy, thoughts and prayers to the people of Haiti who have been affected by this devastating earthquake.”

USAID will continue to provide additional support as needed.

For more information about USAID’s emergency humanitarian assistance programs, please visit: www.usaid.gov/our_work/humanitarian_assistance/disaster_assistance/.

The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years.

More from Gambia, Part 5 of 6

By Nazim Ansari

Peace and Blessings friends and family,

4/15/09Banjul, The Gambia

Today was a day of fun, fun, fun.  We had lessons in drumming, dancing, Wolof language, and we visited the fishing market, and shopping market.  Our tour guide, Molong, took us to an area to learn the drumming, dancing and Wolof from some of the locals in The Gambia.  It was a blast!!! 

The drumming was exciting, and the dancing was downright hilarious, my mother got out and danced!!  Next, we stopped at a tie-dye shop to learn how the tie-dye and local prints are created.  The artist use all natural colors from flowers and plants to make the printed shirts, dresses, tablecloths, etc.

From there we toured the local fishing market and saw all the different types of fish the locals catch. There were shark fish, ugly fish, and all kinds of fish.  They use long fish boats and catch all the fish with a line, they are really skilled at their craft.  From there we went to the local marketplace to shop, it was a little exhausting, but extremely fun!

Our tour guide told us from the beginning, whatever price they quote you, take 1/3rd of it and bargain at that price…he was absolutely correct.  There were hundreds of small shop owners lined up in rows after rows all aggressively persuading you to come into their shop.   The local Gambian shop owners are not rude, but they are very aggressive because a large portion of their economy comes from tourism, so if they don’t sell, they have money.

I enjoyed the negotiations and bargaining and meeting so many people, there was so much to buy I just couldn’t get everything I wanted, from handmade jewelry, wooden sculptures, drums, and paintings to shirts, leathers bags, purses, and sandals.

The bargaining was fun, but make no mistake about it, the people in the country don’t have much income opportunities outside of small tourist shops, so I saw a lot of poverty traveling through Banjul, but from what I’ve learned The President has made a lot of progress over the last 10 years developing The Gambia, so its a growing country.

Our day ended with dinner at a restaurant right on the beach, it was a perfect day and the food was great, I have seen some of the most beautiful beaches and sunsets while in Africa.  Tomorrow we head out to visit the village of Kunta Kenteh, so please stay tuned for this.

Attached are pictures of;

1. Nazim dancing, they didn’t know I knew how to do the African tootsie roll.

2. Fishing market where all the local fishers dock to catch their fish, see the boats in the water.

3. Marketplace where shopping occurs.

4. Some have no choice but to sell their products on the side of the road.

5.  Sunset in Africa…beautiful.

Peace and Blessings,

-Nazim

Dallas South Family Member makes it to Gambia

BY NAZIM ANSARI
April 13 – Riding to Banjul, Gambia
This morning we left Banjul and rode a long way to The Gambia, which is a neighboring country to Senegal. We will be here for a few days before we depart back to Senegal.

The trip was a good experience because we made many stops and it ended up taking us 10 hours to get there by charter bus. We were able to stop along the way to visit some of the small remote villages in the countryside. Our group stopped in one village and the areas is called Bandulu where the people live in “huts” (that’s the best way I can describe their living quarters).
But the major misperception is that Africa and Africans are savage, ignorant people. Even in the most remote villages the people speak at least three languages, Wolof -the native language of Senegal- French, and English. Also, they live a rural life as their customs call for, have electricity and running water, know what cars, cellphones, etc are, but they choose a life that is normal to them and their tradition.

Their communal lifestyle is amazing, everyone works to help each other in the village. The values are much more prioritized, (God, family, and community) and they are very happy and peaceful. Hmm, would you trade in the stress of job, mortgage, car note, pollution for the peaceful life enjoying the beauty of nature, fresh air, well water, growing your own food, and a peaceful community life? Well probably not completely .
I learned a lot about priorities from them which will help make my life more peaceful, and there are a lot of things we should absolutely adopt. The children really value education, a pen is the best gift you can give them, they love it. Notebooks or books of any kind is like hitting the lottery, and education is treasured.

There is a true respect for elders, who set the tone for the village. The council of elders, resolve all the issues that arise. As we got to the border to cross into The Gambia, the area was packed with people and a lot of children, because Monday was a holiday.
I met several young brothers, who upon hearing my name asked if I was in the Nation of Islam. They had heard The Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan speak when he visited Gambia and loved it and love him, needless to say I was very excited. I spoke with one young man for a while we waited, and I have been reading a few books on the trip, one of them is Closing The Gap, so I gave him a copy of this book and he was very appreciative.

Also, I saw several young girls selling cashews, which grow plentiful in the Senegal/Gambia region, and a few of the girls had pink marks on their faces which looked like their skin had been burned. We asked them what happen, and were told that they young girls are trying to bleach their skin. I was very disappointed to see and hear this, because our minds are still trapped in this destructive thinking, even for our young people in Africa.

We finally made it to our hotel, and it’s late, the Ocean Bay Hotel in Banjul, Gambia is also built directly next to the ocean, but it’s dark and I can’t see anything, only hear the water. We have a full week planned, school visit, museum, another slave dungeon in this area, market, etc…so I will try to update you all later this week.
Attached pictures are;
1. Entering into the home of the Chief of the Bandulu village.
2. Inside the bedroom, notice the bedroom suite.
3. Another “hut” home for another family in the village.
4. Mom carrying little baby on back.
5. Bro. Rente, who I gave my book to.
6. Gambian little girls, notice the one on the left, she has a pink burn mark on her forehead where she is starting to bleach her skin.

Nazim visits Goree Island and “The Point of No Return”

Today, my former roommate Nazim Ansari tells of his visit to Goree Island, the last place that many Africans were housed before being shipped off into slavery. Nazim’s words and pictures are moving as he walks us through the process that was used to transform humans into chattel.

BY NAZIM ANSARI
April 12 – Dakar Senegal

Today we visited Goree Island and it was the most somber and serious experience I probably will have on the trip. If you have time please Google this island to read some of the history.

It’s right off the coast of Dakar, Senegal just a 15 minute ferry ride. This was one of the main docking station’s during the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Once slaves were captured from surrounding areas, they were sent here for up to 90 days before they were shipped out.
The original slave dungeon we walked through is over 400 year old, and is the main point to visit. When I first walked into the 2 story slave dungeon, which is built directly against the water so the ships were able to pull up to it, there were rooms to the left and right where the Black slaves were separated by age, sex, and size and assigned a number. After this process, their original names were gone forever.

The first room I saw was for men, who were packed 50 to each room. The men were naked and chained together, and the room was so small only 20 of us (mostly children) could fit in without feeling totally cramped. The male slaves were taken out only once per day to relieve themselves. Because they were standing in their own feces, nude, chained and cramped together, there was lots disease spread amongst them.

With concrete walls and floors it got very cold at night and because of the ocean breeze and very humid during the day. The next room was for the infants 12 yrs and under. They wanted more children because they were easier to “feed” and easier to train to accept slavery.

The next room I saw was for women 12 and up. The women, as young as 12, on any given night could be pulled from the cell/dungeon, hosed down naked in the middle of the compound and taken to another room to be raped by the white slave owners. The other cells/holes were for the “rebellious” slaves, those that wouldn’t accept captivity and were kept in a 3ft hole to break them.
The final point, literally, was the door, known as The Point of No Return. Once our ancestors went through this door, they were shipped off and there was no coming back. Death was the only way out. The slaves that tried to escape or who were sick, were thrown into the ocean and eaten by sharks.
It is true that sharks swarmed near the coast and changed their swim patterns because of the amount of bodies thrown into the water. The same ocean where I saw young children swimming and playing today with no sharks attacks recorded.

They made other Black Africans guard the compound to stop the other slaves from escaping…can you imagine?!?! In this dungeon, I learned and witnessed the beginnings of the worse treatment a people in the history of humanity. I’m filled with so many emotions from rage to complete disbelief.
The slave trade lasted for 300 years, yet the effects of both captive and captor are still felt today. Once again, my eyes were pointed inward on how long will I carry a mindset that is the result of slavery and more importantly, how much am I willing to sacrifice to help my brothers and sisters in America rid themselves of this mindset. I pray my words and this trip aren’t just empty and I come back with a renewed spirit to get busy in my life.

PHOTOS

1. View from ferry of Goree.
2. Young soldiers who ride on the ferry to and from Goree Island.
3. Monument donated to represent the end of slavery.
4. Entrance into the Slave Quarters. Two stories, slaves were kept in the lower level and the overseers were upstairs where there were fireplaces in each bedroom/room, large dining area with table.
5. Inside the Slave Dungeon for men.
6. This is where the infants 12 and under were enslaved.
7. Inside the hole where “rebellious” slaves were kept.
8. View of hallway to Point of No Return.
9. Standing in the door of the Point of No Return.

Nazim Ansari details his first day in Dakar Senegal

Continuation of my former college roommate Nazim Ansari’s 10 day trip to Africa.
By Nazim Ansari
April 11; Dakar, Senegal

It was all worth it. The “rudeness” I faced in Casablanca, flight delays, hurdles that I personally had to overcome to make this trip were all worth today’s experience.
To see Africa and its people and just seeing Senegal has been great for me. It is an absolutely beautiful city in both location and scenery. Dakar,Senegal is the farthest point West in Africa right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and it’s the closest point west to the US.
The water and beaches are beautiful and I had no idea my hotel was right on the water because we checked in after midnight. When I woke up to a view of the water I was amazed.

We had another long full day, touring Senegal from the city to the countryside. Riding through town (especially in the market place) it was so dense it makes NYC look like Wasilla, Alaska. Not that it has more people, but the shops cars and people are packed in and they sell/trade everything.
I didn’t see any traditional grocery stores though I’m sure there are a few. I also learned that it is rude not to negotiate with the people who are selling things. They purposely give a high price, because it’s their culture not to go for just the money, but they are looking for the interaction and opportunity to communicate with you. If you just take the first price it’s somewhat of an insult because they view it as “rich American” who thinks he’s better and can take it at any price. So they are master negotiator, and I had to learn that quick and hard…but very fun.

Just to look, see, and communicate with people, who have so little material wise but so much faith, dignity, strength, character and kind hearts, makes me reflect on my character. The Senegalese people are so happy to see us (Blacks from America) and they are constantly saying welcome home once they find out you are from US.
They are extremely conscious of our history and what happened to us and to them. After touring the city and shops we went out to remote villages passing through miles and miles of houses and shops. It was like a neighborhood, but all in one long row.

We made it to the Pink Lake that is actually pink due to the the amount of salt, bacteria, and fish. It has so much salt that it is similar to the Dead Sea. You can almost float in it. We also visited several remote and small villages, where the people truly live a rural life (no plumbing but they do have electricity). The values are strong and The Chief of the Village took us around to show us their school, etc.
They live truly like a community, and instead of biological binds, they are bound by community, for births, deaths, marriages, food, shelter, etc. They look out for the village and not the family. I really respected the government’s involvement with the poor and homeless.

The government purchases 2nd items from Europe and setup a traveling market where the poor can sell those items free of charge to earn a living. In other words, if the people want to work, the government is willing to help to make their conditions better.

So many pictures to chose from, here are a few;
1. In front of Presidential Palace (White house) with Guard
2. Market place jam packed
3. Local bus with men hanging off back. The man in red on the back is the “conductor” who communicates with driver at all times, letting him know what’s happening behind him because the buses are normally crowded.
4. Senegalese sand artists creating beautiful sand paintings out of the seven different sands of Senegal..before picture
5. Young lady carrying the water on her head.
6. Children from village interacting/teaching hand games to children from US

A Trip to the Motherland, Member of Dallas South Family’s journey to Africa

My former college roommate and line brother is doing something that many of us hope to do one day: he’s touring Africa. Nazim went on the trip to accompany his nephew who is traveling with his school.

He volunteered to share his experiences with the Dallas South Family, and for that I am grateful. I hope you enjoy Nazim’s first hand account and pictures as much as I did. He promises that there will be more to come.

By Nazim Ansari

From the beginning I was very excited about making this jouney to “The Motherland,” and haven’t felt this way since I travelled to the Million Man March in college. I know I will see and learn a great deal, I already have, but I want to come back home with a greater appreciation for everything and everyone I have in my life.

Nazim Ansari

Like most, I get bogged down with the day-to-day tasks of work, bills, responbilities, sometimes complaining, but often just existing and not just living. That can lead to an ungrateful mindset, because I may not take time to appreciate all that I have.

I also hope to walk away with a greater sense of humility and more love. This trip is filled with tours of cities, museums, schools, sites, etc, but I will also see the rough the conditions for my African brothers and sisters. So my desire is to drink everything in, and chronicle all that I see, hear, learn, in order to come out more focused on the mission of saving our people.

Nazim and nephew

Day 1 – 4/9-4/10 Flight from NYC to Casablanca, Moracco.


We arrived in Moracco around seven in the morning (1am CST) and immediately went on a day tour which lasted almost 12hrs. We had a chance to tour the city, and learn quite a bit of history from our excellent tour guide, Hamid.

Casablanca is an old city, where archeologists have unvoceverd sites dating back 100,000 years and plant/sea life 2 million years old. The Original people migrated from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and settled there. Through wars and migration, they are now in the mountains of Moracco, and are called the Berbers. They make carpets and rugs by hand in many beautiful colors.

Today the population in the city is mostly Arab people, and Moracco is 50% Arab and 50% Berber though you never see the Berber’s. Our tour guide’s mother was Berber and father Arab. We toured the city and saw The Great Mosque (3rd largest next to Mosque’s in Mecca and Medina), King’s Palace, Governor’s Palace, ate and did a little shopping.



We also saw the “slums,” as they are called where local fisherman live for free. Casablanca is a modern city, but we also saw poverty there, as little girls were on the street trying to sell gum to tourists (exactly like I witnessed in Mexico).

I was troubled when we ran into some very rude people working at the airport. In certain areas they are not accustomed to seeing Black Americans, and some of them treat our African brothers harshly. They tried it with us… but keep in mind I am on tour with New Yorkers. That ain’t happening. But for the most part, its a beautiful city, with nice people, mostly Arab.

Day 2 4/10

We departed Moracco later that night, because our trip is 1 day in Moracco; 4 days in Dakar, Senegal; 4 days in Bajul, Gambia; and 1 final day back in Moracco to fly out. We arrived at night here in Dakar, Senegal and as soon as I stepped off the plane I knew I was in the Africa I wanted to see.

The air was hot and humid and the people are dark and beautiful. All the hustle men at the airport were trying to sell everything. Riding through the city we saw all the late night clubs open, and Black folks were everywhere. We checked into a very nice hotel, Le Meriden and well…. I am about to get some rest. I will try to update everyone in a few days..


I have included some pics of arriving in Africa, McDonald’s in Moracco, the slums, a few of The Great Mosque, the Atlantic Ocean which the mosque is actually built on water, the Kings Palace, and me and the tour guide Hamid.

Peace and Blessings,
-Nazim

Obamas take London by storm, IMF and N. Korean on agenda

The Obama’s are the talk of Great Britain, as the POTUS and FLOTUS met with Queen Elizabeth II and then Meet the Browns at 10 Downing Street. The President gifted an Ipod to the Queen, loaded with footage from her 2007 visit to the United States. This morning on CNN, the said the Queen is pretty tech savvy and sports the same Blackberry as President Obama.

Tabloids and newspapers are scrutinizing every fashion choice made by Michelle Obama, and are debating who touched who first: whether the Queen placed her hand around Michelle Obama before placed her arm around “her majesty.”  It’s given the Brits lots to talk about today.

As regards to the actual proceedings at the G 20 Summit, much of the talks have centered around economic troubles around the world, though President Obama and South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak both made stern warnings against an impending North Korean missile launch their government claims is a peaceful research effort to put a communications satellite into orbit.

Also out of London, the G20 is set to triple the resources of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to $750 Billion.  These funds will be used to help developing economies.

Photographs: John Stillwell/WPA Pool/Getty Images. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

Sources: The Washington Post, The Guardian, Toronto Star, Wall Street Journal