June 1, 2015
May was a great month for human rights collaboration at the BAI office in Port-au-Prince. From presentations by human rights legends to student delegation visits, there was a strong focus on examining human rights problems in Haiti, and working together towards solutions.
The series of seminars started with renowned civil rights lawyer Walter Riley, who spoke to BAI’s Young Lawyers Program about the parallel struggles for justice for blacks in the United States and Haiti. Mr. Riley is a veteran civil rights advocate who participated in sit-ins and desegregation demonstrations, defended anti-war activists and has been a vocal supporter of Haiti’s democracy.
On May 19, he spoke to the BAI about the history of racialized oppression in the United States, and his current work representing racial justice activists. Many of the young lawyers were struck by the similarities between the Black Lives Matter movement and current political struggles in Haiti.
The Young Lawyers Program was also visited by Canadian prosecutor, Jean Roch-Poulin. Mr. Poulin is a seasoned prosecutor and advocate who has visited Haiti several times with the International Senior Lawyers Project. From May 15 to May 19, Mr. Poulin gave a series of talks on professional ethics, standards of proof and a comparative analysis of the legal systems in Canada and Haiti. His seminar on how to resolve ethical dilemmas truly resonated with BAI’s young lawyers, as many gave personal accounts of the dilemmas they have faced in their work, and lamented the fact that legal ethics are not uniformly taught in Haitian law schools.
Lastly, BAI’s Managing Attorney Mario Joseph treated a group of students from Centenary College of Louisiana to a passionate talk on BAI’s Civic Engagement Program and the struggle for human rights in Haiti. Two of these students shared their reflections on the visit and their appreciation for those who are fighting for justice in Haiti, despite the odds and lack of recognition.
Centenary College junior DeiAnna Hall wrote, “People like him inspire me to become a person who looks to help, not for the sake of myself, but for those who aren’t fortunate enough. With so many corrupt things going on in this world and especially in Haiti, I find the BAI to be a blessing. So, as in the [words of] Mario Joseph, for whenever there is an attempt to stop the advancement of people and the community, “Nou la,” which means “We’re here.”
Junior Rebecca Thompson echoed these thoughts, writing, “I learned that in Haiti every project should include community building. Whether it is science, philosophy, law, or any other discipline, community is central for projects to be successful here. Mario Joseph works very hard to be close to the people he wants to help and to respect what they need and want . . . Mario Joseph helped to kick that ball down the mountain, now it is gaining momentum. I will always think of him when I reach the next mountain.”
Centenary College students with their Philosophy Professor