The following article
first appeared on Pacific
note: Johnny (last name withheld for his safety), 18, is
a former youth
reporter with Radyo Timoun (Children's Radio) 90.9 FM in Port-au-Prince,
Haiti. Last week rebels looted and burned it along with the
Aristide Foundation For Democracy in which the station was
located. Johnny told his story to PNS contributor, Lyn Duff,
a freelance writer who had worked with Radyo Timoun 9 years
ago. Duff reached him in Port-au-Prince via telephone.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti – I was living in the gutter, dressing
in old clothes and begging at the airport when President Aristide
took office in 1990. One
of the first things Titid [as President Aristide was popularly known] did
when he moved into the National Palace was invite a group of children who
sleep in the streets to visit the Palace and speak out about the conditions
of the street children.
I heard on the radio the voice of Little Sony, one of the street children,
speaking from the National Palace about the rights of children and I knew
that the lives of the children in Haiti would change.
When Titid became president he told the world that we street children were
people, we had value, that we were human beings.
Many adults didn't like this message. They said we were dirty and should
be thrown out like the trash that we are. But Titid loved us and when I met
him, he kissed me and put his hand on my face and told me he loved me. And
they were not the empty words of a politician.
During the first coup in 1991 the street kids were attacked
and Lafanmi Selavi [a shelter for homeless children started
by Aristide when he was a parish
priest] was burned. Aristide came back from exile in October 1994 and
it was a new world for the children. Three years of horror were
I was just a little child at that time but with Titid I felt important.
We went to Titid and told him that we wanted to have a voice in democracy,
have a voice for children and he gave us Radyo Timoun. We were the first
children's radio station in the world, run by children and promoting the
human rights of all Haitians. We spoke on the air about the news, about
our hopes and opinions. Adults all over the country heard our voices
forced to accept that we children are people too.
In the past eight years the radio station has gone through
many changes and transitions; it was criticized and vandalized
but we knew that
there are more mountains. The radio station was moved from Lafanmi
Selavi to the Aristide Foundation for Democracy.
at the Foundation I saw gangsters and criminals in army uniforms
destroy the hopes and dreams of the Haitian people. They destroyed
burned books and killed many people. A new government run by these
people will surely only be bad not only for the children but for
all the people
I do not believe that President Aristide has abandoned us to this
misery. There is no electricity so it is hard to find news about
what is really
happening but I have heard he was forced to leave and I believe
that. He would never
leave us willingly. Last week Titid said on the radio he would die
before he would give up the struggle for democracy in Haiti.
Right now it is hard to survive and we don't know what we will
do to find food and water. There are gangs everywhere in army clothes,
attacking people and robbing those that are weaker. Everyone is fearful
for the present and for the future.
The U.S. Marines stood by and did nothing while the library at
the Aristide Foundation was burned. With my own eyes I saw the
and watch while rebels cut a woman and shot her. I yelled at them, "Do
something!" and they swung their guns around toward me and yelled, "Get
While I hid in a field the American Marines put their hats on the
bodies of dead people and posed for pictures with them. It made
me sick because
in Haiti we respect the dead. The Americans scare me; I don't believe
that they want anything good for the Haitian people because they
criminals who oppose democracy.
We are fearful of the old army because they are those who killed
the street children of Lafanmi Selavi. They killed the peasants
North who wanted
to have democracy and supported Aristide.
A new government has no hope for the children of Haiti. I am
scared, I think the criminals will try to kill me too because
I am one
of Titid's boys. But
I am not just scared for myself. I am scared for all the children
of Haiti. And today I cannot stop crying.