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I received word this week that Beyonce, Denzel Washington, Alicia Keys and other black celebrities are participating in the “Help for Haiti” telethon, set to occur on January 22.  I thought it quite admirable that Knowles, Washington and other celebs are willing to be first in line to help the Haitian people.  The death and devastation occurring in Haiti is unimaginable, and one cannot help but wonder how Haiti so quickly became a hell on earth.

The problem is that Haiti was a hell on earth long before the earthquake ever hit:  Over 65% of its citizens are unemployed, half are illiterate, and 12% of their babies don’t even live past the age of one.  The rates of poverty and disease are made worse by the fact that the government has only $1 billion dollars per year to spend on its entire population.  In comparison, Bill Gates earns a billion dollars about once every three months.

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Haiti doesn’t need our sympathy, it needs our long-term support.  They don’t need charity, they need a path to prosperity.  As we raise hundreds of millions of dollars to help the Haitian people, perhaps this is the time to make some long-term investments in the nation that might pay off for the children of Haiti.  The country could use investments in infrastructure, roads, electricity and education, for this is the only way that Haiti is going to find a path toward financial independence.

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I want to hear this chant coming from celebrities like Beyonce Knowles, Denzel Washington and others who’ve been so generous during this time of crisis.  When they speak to Wyclef, they should help him find the necessary experts to come together with a long-term plan for Haitian economic prosperity.  We’ve got to seize the moment and turn the current Haitian nightmare into a dream for Haiti’s future.  The time to move is NOW.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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