'Farewell, Fred Voodoo': A Journalist's Career in Haiti

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Jean-Claude Duvalier,  the former Haitian leader known as 'Baby Doc', makes his way back into the Hotel Karibe after being questioned by Haitian authorities at a downtown courthouse January 18, 2011 Jean-Claude Duvalier, the former Haitian leader known as 'Baby Doc', makes his way back into the Hotel Karibe after being questioned by Haitian authorities at a downtown courthouse January 18, 2011 (Allison Shelley/Getty)

Journalist and author Amy Wilentz first traveled to Haiti in 1986, as the regime of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier began to crumble and fall. She witnessed a revolution. "I saw the end of dictatorship," she explains. "You felt it was liberation, and it was like the French Revolution, and it was terribly exciting, and I was hooked."

Today, more than 25 years later, Wilentz reflects on the unique nation that has made her career in her new book, "Farewell, Fred Voodoo." Fred Voodoo, Wilentz explains, "was the reporters' joking name…for the Haitian man (or woman) on the street." 

Her recent book is, in part, a response to the media's coverage of Haiti as Fred Voodoo in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake. Wilentz writes that as she watched news about the earthquake from her Los Angeles home, "I kept thinking of Fred Voodoo; that's how the television reporters were talking as they stood in their khakis and their work boots amid the rubble… You didn't need to say Fred's name in order to summon the sentiment, which is a kind of condescension filled with pity."

She continues: "The objectification of the Haitians' victimization — that's one aspect of the Fred Voodoo syndrome. How beautiful the Haitians look in their misery; they always do. You can count on them."

Wilentz discusses the complicated aid structures in Haiti before and after the earthquake, how Haiti's unique history continues to influence the country's economic and political systems, and her own complex relationship with the country.

Guests:

Amy Wilentz

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

Comments [1]

Brokenreef from Haiti & Davie, Fl

Ms Wilentz displays unusual empathy for Hayti and the surviving citizens and residents. Haiti is at once a "celebrity", and a political "whipping-boy". The "dictatorship" has not as yet ended when the Chief Executive of Haiti must atone to the daily instruction issued by DOS-Washington. Not so unlike January 12th, 2010,when many a celebrity, and nouveau political hack decided that "now" is the time to focus upon Haiti and Haitians in spite of the ongoing political trauma there since the first ostracism of HAYTI from the "WHITE" world during the ensuing decades to 1804. Haiti was then an embarrassment to the established caucasian powers of Europe and North America, and perhaps remains so in spite of providing the lengthy situation that has employed tens of thousands of NGO's for decades. Haiti might be described as the convenience of exploitation, but even today,somehow remains the stalwart Nation steming from the leadership of a very brillant Toussaint Louverture. Had Louverture and his colleagues survived the initial Independence, today we would be regarding Hispanola in an entirely different light.

Jan. 08 2013 01:04 PM

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