The following article
first appeared on Pacific
Editor’s 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.
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 over.
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, to
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 and were
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 behind mountains
there are more mountains. The radio station was moved from Lafanmi Selavi
to the Aristide Foundation for Democracy.
Yesterday at the Foundation I saw gangsters and criminals in army uniforms
destroy the hopes and dreams of the Haitian people. They destroyed the building,
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, looting and burning,
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 American Marines stand
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 support the 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 in the 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.