Veteran Pittsburgh journalist and author Erv Dyer, PhD, along with other local journalists, will travel to Haiti in October. Dyer explains the significance of his upcoming trip, in the first of a monthly series of Courier stories leading up to the departure
Why go to Haiti?
I have to begin to answer that question with another: why go to the Hill District, Homewood, or Harlem?
Because Black space matters.
Haiti, like its smaller cousins, the urban Black communities of Harlem, the Hill District, and Homewood, has long suffered from the gaze of those who look at these communities and see nothing—except the resources that can be exploited and extrapolated: people, culture and art. Or too many see it only through the lens of biased media, where centuries of long, dark narratives show Haiti as a destitute nation that offers nothing but disease, death, and deprivation.
My friend and Haitian scholar, Yven Destin, has studied how media images and coverage shape such a bleak and blighted frame about Haiti. In his work, he discovered the mainstream media often focused on Haitians as being needy boat people, HIV carriers, and uncivilized. A steady media distortion that left Haitians framed as threatening, polluted, and primitive.
I first became more intimately aware of Haiti a little over a decade ago. Leon Pamphile, a Haiti native, worked as a teacher and preacher in Pittsburgh. At the time, I worked as a local reporter and he called to see if our paper could put in a notice about local celebrations recognizing Haiti’s anniversary of independence from France.