Saturday morning, driving down to Champaign-Urbana to visit my younger son Luke (Dads’ Weekend at the U of I), when the radio signal on Scott Simon’s NPR show started to fade (interviews this week with Wes Anderson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), I took out this CD and slid it into the dashboard player—something Luke gave me, a couple years ago, for Christmas.
Wyclef Jean, Carnival II: Memoirs of an Immigrant (2007)
“Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)” (with Akon and Lil Wayne)
“Any Other Day” (with Norah Jones)
“Fast Car” (with Paul Simon)
A native of Haiti, WJ established a foundation to provide aid to the people of that country, which can be found here.
Haiti is my native country, one I know as the first black nation to gain independence in 1804. Most other people seem to know Haiti only by the statistics about how bad things are there. The majority of its 8 million residents live on less than $1 per day. Unemployment is close to 80 percent, and more than half the population is under 21 years old. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
I have been spending a lot of time talking with people in my native country to try and understand what is behind these statistics and the past escalation of violence, all of which brings tears to my eyes. I have had conversations with gang leaders, met with the police officers and sat down with the leaders of the militias and the army. I have talked with Haitians from all walks of life, all colors of skin, all backgrounds and beliefs. From all these people I hear only one thing in my head and feel only one thing in my heart–that there is only one Haiti. Every Haitian loves their country like a mother loves her child.
I see old women with large bags of rice on their heads and men on street corners selling sugarcane and mangos, all just trying to survive with a strong sense of pride. Walking past a church in my village, I hear the congregation singing an appeal to God to hear their cries and grant deliverance to Haiti. Through experiences like this, I sense where my mother and my father got their strength. Now the whole country needs to reach deep into the spirit and strength that is part of our heritage.
The objective of [my foundation] Yéle Haiti is to restore pride and a reason to hope, and for the whole country to regain the deep spirit and force that is part of our heritage.—Wyclef Jean