Gérard Jean-Juste, Spitirual and Political Leader of Haitian Community, Dies at 62


The Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste, the Roman Catholic priest whose fierce, lifelong struggle for Haitian human rights made him a hero to his community in South Florida and beyond has died after a stroke at age 62. Jean-Juste, a controversial liberation theologist who was an unflinching supporter of ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, waged a relentless battle against unequal treatment for Haitians in the courts, the media, the streets, and occasionally, from jail. On learning of his death, Maryse Narcisse, spokeswoman for Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas Party, said it was “terrible, terrible news. A big loss for us.”

Born in to an unmarried mother in 1947, Jean-Juste left Haiti in 1965 for Canada and later the United States, where he attended Northeastern University in Boston, earning a degree in civil engineering. Ordained a priest in 1971, just before the first Haitian ”boat people” began arriving in Miami the following year, he would become their champion through his work at the Haitian Refugee Center. Having already declared the U.S. immigration policy toward Haitians “our Holocaust,” he also upset Church officials by conducting funeral services for non-Catholic Haitians who drowned at sea, picketing the Archdiocese of Miami, and calling then-Archbishop Edward McCarthy a racist. ”Haitian people had no rights in Haiti and they have no rights here,” he told The Miami Herald in 1980. In July 1980, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King handed Jean-Juste’s cause a major victory. He ruled that the Immigration and Naturalization Service had systematically discriminated against Haitian refugees by issuing sweeping deportation orders, and told INS to conduct new hearings for 5,000 refugees.

During the 1990s and until shortly before his death, Jean-Juste worked on behalf of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his movement, a path that led to difficult political and legal struggles. A determined opponent of the interim government of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue after the overthrow of Aristide’s government, he was arrested in 2005 in Port-au-Prince, charged with the abduction and murder of journalist Jacques Roche in what was widely believed to have been unfounded and politically motivated charges. It was his second incarceration under the interim government and, within weeks, Amnesty International had named him a “prisoner of conscience.” In late December, 2005, while still imprisoned, doctors confirmed that Jean-Juste was suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a treatable form of the disease that can develop into a more virulent strain of cancer. All charges against him were eventually dropped. In 2008, with the leukemia in remission, Jean-Juste returned to Haiti and was pondering a run for the presidency.

Reactions to Jean-Juste’s death underscore his commitment to the Haitian people. Miami Archdiocese spokesperson Mary Ross Agosta Wednesday night called Jean-Juste “man, a priest and the voice of the poor, both here and in Haiti. We pray his commitments in his life will bring him rewards in heaven. May he rest in peace.”

”The Haitian-American community has lost a visionary and a central figure who helped to establish the Haitian community in South Florida,” said Ira Kurzban, the Miami attorney who represented Jean-Juste’s Haitian Refugee Center. “They lost a. . .friend whose arms and heart were always open.”

Marliene Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, called Jean-Juste “an icon, someone who gave himself wholly, selflessly to others without any need to self-promote. He was the greatest champion of refugees and immigrants’ rights, and he showed that we, as a country, could do better in the way we treat people who leave their native land to come here.”

Former Aristide government Prime Minister Yvon Neptune remembered how the two of them—who had known each other since 1965—would exchange notes from adjacent jail cells after both had been arrested by the interim government of Gerard Latortue. ”He’s going to be missed a whole lot, and he’s going to be remembered in a very positive way even by some of his detractors,” Neptune said in Port-au-Prince. “Especially. . .in the 1980s, he was very instrumental in having the U.S. government consider the case of the Haitian refugees. He was very much involved in social work not only in helping the Haitians solve their legal problems but in helping them in many ways.”

See the article in the Miami Hearald at  http://www.miamiherald.com/news/miami-dade/story/1068886.html

Photo from Danny.Hammontree’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalgrace/18022204/

3 thoughts on “Gérard Jean-Juste, Spitirual and Political Leader of Haitian Community, Dies at 62

  1. HAITI WILL RISE: Please read and join us in the cause.
    We are extremely proud to announce to the caring world that Khalilah Ali has joined, Dr. Leo Casino and Fabian Dominique, “Lady from Haiti” in a crusade to bring needed resources to our families, friends and fellow human beings that have been devastated by this recent natural disaster, the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010.

    We are now reaching out for world support to help us and join us in producing a series of documentaries and concerts, and other resources that we are able to provide in an effort to restore Haiti in this most troubling crisis. We understand that this crisis is long term and we are determined to make a difference by supporting the healthcare workers who are donating their time and skills to the beautiful people of Haiti as well as providing all of the resources that we are able through our combined effort. Please, if you are able to help us in this effort in any possible way, we are most appreciative. Please feel free to let us know how you may also join us in this project, there is a place for everyone. Help is on the way. Please take a few moments of your valuable time to read about Doctor Myra Handy, Myra has stepped forward to offer her assistance in the plight of this catastrophic disaster in Haiti. Please consider this worthy cause and contact us, join us in bringing the people of Haiti to livable conditions.

    Doctor Myra Handy is a world renowned Podiatrist in Chicago, Illinois, who is also a Real Estate Broker and Executive Director of a non-for-profit service organization that she founded in 1996 to house the homeless and less fortunate in her community. Today, Handy House has over twenty-one (21) housing units in the South Shore Community of Chicago, Illinois. Handy House also provides mentors for aspiring teenager youths to encourage greatness in their lives. Dr. Handy continually goes above and beyond the call of her normal duties in the Chicago area and her firm commitment in bringing a Hospital and resources to the people of Haiti is a testament of her own efforts of righteousness. Dr. Handy and other likeminded people from all parts of the country and world are recognizing the efforts of Leo Casino, Mrs. Muhammad Ali, Fabian Dominique, Doctor Myra Handy and Andrew Singer, Chairman of World Class Orchestra.

    Khalilah Ali is the ex-wife of Boxing Legend and Humanitarian, Muhammad Ali. Khalilah is the mother of four of his beautiful children and great in her own right. Khalilah is the Author of books for children and throughout her life she has donated her time in the efforts of helping others. She is truly an amazing woman that sees in to the soul of a person, looking for goodness and sharing her own heart. She is passionate with a sense of humor and will bring many fortunate people in Haiti, long term security. The efforts to bring concerts, the documentary series are a few of the many ways that we intend on helping Haiti regain its right place as a prospering Country and its people the right to be healthy, fed, clothed and housed with jobs. We realize that this will be an on-going effort, we intend on staying the course and getting this task completed, let no one be forgotten or left out.

    Leo Casino is a  Grammy-nominated saxophonist and composer, filmmaker, actor, model and activist who reaches people through his music, life experiences—and soul. Leo’s Award-Winning Documentary, “Return to the Hill,” chronicled Pittsburgh’s Hill District and his journey back to it, his birthplace. Leo Casino, in addition to his Documentary chronicling his personal memoir of his journey “Return to the Hill,” presents Black-on-Black violence. Leo Casino is a very soft spoken gentleman that presents himself in a dignified and deserving manner. Leo Casino is the person that we have needed to bring people together in this effort to raise conscious awareness to this on-going catastrophe of our fellow woman, man and our most precious commodity, children. Please notify Leo of your desire to help this noble cause. We consider the smallest contribution to be a Blessing and your efforts will all be utilized for relief efforts and awareness for the struggles of the people of Haiti.

    Fabian Dominique is a WORLD CLASS SINGER and ACTRESS of Haitian parents. Fabian has worked tirelessly to help children in Haiti and the Inner City of Miami. She has recorded two albums of original music with Leo Casino and she is starring in the film, “LADY FROM HAITI.” Fabian is also an Elementary School Teacher. Her love children and the situation that the children of Haiti are in, is ever present on her mind. help relieve Fabian from this torment by allowing her to help the children of Haiti, in their struggle for survival.
    Andrew Singer is the Founder and Chairman of World Class Orchestra: “I wholeheartedly support this cause and movement for the people of Haiti. I represent 100 Professional Musicians and Artists from Miami to Palm Beach and from Latin America and Europe. This miniature League of Nations is also distressed by the calamity that has taken its toll on our fellow human beings and we offer our total support to this group in all of their efforts to bring stability to those people that are suffering in pain and in loss and to keep this reality in the public eye, lest they be forgotten.”

    Dr. Handy is also the mother of two teenagers, Nicholas and Jessica. Dr. Handy is very passionate about providing and sharing prosperity to everyone especially the lost and unfortunate. Her heart goes out and to the Haitian people and she is willing to do anything to help the Haitian people regain a healthy safe, and comfortable lifestyle. This crisis in Haiti MUST be stabilized immediately.  

    Dr. Myra Handy is also the great grand niece of the Great W. C. Handy, the Composer and Arranger of the Saint Louis Blues and other Blues and Gospel Classics. Dr Handy has even opened a popular sit-down restaurant in the South Shore Community of Chicago called “W. C. Handy’s Bistro” they serve appetizing southern food and great live Blues and Jazz. Dr. Myra Handy is also well known as a singer and performs the favorite songs of her patrons in very special performances on week-ends, as her schedule permits.

    Leo Casino knows that it will take a series of Documentaries and Concerts to raise awareness and funds before Haiti is whole again. Leo is gaining friends and uniting people in this cause, become part of the solution. please. Presently, we must influence minds here and in Haiti to join us in this monumental project and urge our friends and neighbors to join us in this movement for those that unable to care for themselves. We have taken this idea and created a formidable plan that we know we can accomplish with your help. Please see merit in this noble effort and join us in doing our part in being good people to other good people that have succumbed to this natural disaster.

    200,000 people are dead—at least—in the Capitol, alone; devastation in the South, in Leogane, Les Cayes, and Jacmel, the total devastation of what people have worked their lives for is wiped out. In Port Au Prince everything collapsed: 400,000 need to be relocated, there are millions homeless, untold numbers with amputated limbs, hundreds of thousands right now dying without access to water, food, shelter and medical treatment. Many more will starve, die from the lack of adequate medical treatment, turn to violence for the lack of basic survival and at some point, the unthinkable may happen, the world turns its back.
    Leo Casino and this project will donate all proceeds of the film to the construction of the Hospital, subsequent revenues from the additional documentaries will also go to support the people of Haiti in their full recovery. Leo has recorded 30 original songs for the movie; he will release a soundtrack with proceeds again going to the Hospital fund. This is a monumental effort that Leo Casino has undertaken and that is why he is now gaining the support of the world-wide community. We encourage the many friends that Leo has made throughout his life to support him as you have done and join us in this cause for the sake of the human spirit and camaraderie of our fellow man, woman and child.
    We are Blessed with over abundance and sharing just a little will keep a person from losing their life.
    “Haiti Will Rise” movement is something that you can be truly proud of and know in your heart that you became part of this movement, out of the goodness of your soul. Musicians are coming to the rescue, offering their services and willing to perform for free. We are seeking Venues with Stages, Restaurants, Community Civic Associations, Religious Groups, Students and Volunteers willing to participate. Members of the media are encouraged to contact Leo directly. Please understand, Leo is personally involved in communications with people all over the world and will be returning your responses, please leave a message by e-mail or phone and have patience as the personal touch of endearment takes time.

    Doctor Leo Casino, III, is a Neurosurgeon at Jackson Hospital in Miami and the son of Leo Casino. Jackson was the first US Hospital to send in Physicians. Doctor Casino, III, has offered his services to the victims of the earthquake, almost, since day one. Doctor Leo Casino, III, and his associates are planning to build a more stable, earthquake-resilient Hospital in Port-au-Prince and this growing group is determined to work 24/7 to accomplish this goal as well as many others interested in helping to stabilize this crisis.
    Please consider helping us through your generosity and any other possible way that you may consider.
    We would like to request any assistance that you may provide for this cause—the time is now—before another earthquake occurs. Your sponsorship is greatly appreciated. Leo Casino and the group know first hand about Haiti, the situation that the people are now in depend on people like the ones in this group. Please join us or find it in your heart to participate with likeminded people and do your part for the innocent victims of the earthquake and its resulting devastation. 

    Leo Casino #305-609-2849
    E-MAIL: casinoleo3@aol.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s