Friday, April 20, 2007

15 Days

After 15 days, Henry Petithomme ended his hunger strike. Last Sunday, he was visited by Congressman Kendrick Meek, who promised Henry to deliver his message to Congress and George Bush. On Monday, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen made a personal visit, and she also made a promise to Henry to work towards a day when Haitians are treated as refugees, in the same way Cubans are treated today. Nearly every local news channel and newspaper covered the story, and helped get Henry's message out, and Haitian-American leader Marlene Bastien helped everyone understand the terms refugee and temporary protective status. My friend, Lou, who works with the United Church of Christ in Pittsburgh, sent out a press release to over 100 media outlets in Western Pennsylvania, and to all United Churches of Christ nationwide. My friend, Erik, in New York, contacted some friends at the U.N., one of which is currently stationed in Haiti. Trisha sent a note of encouragement to Henry from England, and Olga and Lisa stood on the street in Little Haiti and invited passersby in to hear Haitian speakers and poets. Rodrigo, Brandie and Jason myspaced and e-mailed everyone they know, and visited Henry to give support to a man they'd never met before. A lot of co-workers of mine and Henry's ventured into a small church in Little Haiti for the first time, not knowing much about Haitians, or our policies regarding them, but wanting to let Henry know that they support him - even if they don't completely understand what he's peacefully fighting for.

Immigration is, I'll admit, a diffcult issue, with a lot of hard questions to be asked of ourselves and our country - and I don't pretend to have all the answers. But, what I do know is that my friend Henry is made of unbelievably strong character and a beautiful heart. His sense of commitment and responsibility is deeply inspiring and this country is a better place with people like him.

Visiting Henry every day, and getting to know his friends and family has been a great experience for both me and Tony. And I saw, once again, as Tony was moved to join Henry for 24 hours in a show of support, what an intelligent, compassionate and all-around great guy I've got. Under Henry's leadership we were all invited to help build the bridges necessary to make our community and our country great - and I don't think we'll ever be quite the same again.



2 comments:

Frankie said...

VegasGustan said...

Nice. Here is hoping things change for the better. I would love for Noah to grow up in a better USA then you or I did. Not that America is bad, but there is always room for improvement. Oh, pictures of Noah are up at www.myspace.com/iamezra