PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan started a five-day trip to Haiti on Sunday, arriving just ahead of fellow Chicagoan Oprah Winfrey as they make separate trips to the poor Caribbean country.
Farrakhan told reporters at the airport that he will be exploring ways his organization can help Haiti rebuild from the devastating 2010 earthquake.
He said he intends to “listen, learn and share,” and is particularly interested in learning more about Voodoo, the religion widely practiced in the country.
“I have longed throughout my life to set my foot in the sacred soil of Haiti,” Farrakhan said.
Haitian Foreign Minister Laurent Lamorthe greeted Farrakhan at the airport, and the Nation of Islam leader was expected to meet later in the week with President Michel Martelly.
Authorities hustled the journalists out of the airport after the news conference so they could not cover Winfrey’s arrival.
Winfrey was expected to visit a settlement camp for displaced people run by Hollywood actor Sean Penn and his aid group J/P HRO on Monday. She was also expected to meet with fashion designer Donna Karan, who has celebrated the work of Haiti’s artisans through her Urban Zen Foundation since the quake.
Martelly has said he would meet with Winfrey on Monday. He said he hopes she will serve as a goodwill ambassador for Haiti and help bring aid to the country.