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Haiti: Honoring the Life of Father Gerard Jean Juste

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Ezili Dantò’s Note:
HLLN honors Father Gerard Jean Juste

The road is long and hard, his shadow gave us shelter, rest and comfort. But now, he’s gone. He did not deserve this end - li kite rès la pou nou menm – he’s left the rest to us.

I had thought after living through two US-sponsored Coup D’etats in Haiti, their death squads’ persecution of the Haitian populace; after hitting our heads against the wall of media lies and State Department spins on the second foreign-ouster of President Jean Bertrand Aristide; after advocating for the many still languishing in UN-occupied-Haiti jails since the 2004 Bush Haiti Regime Change, and meagerly comforting those in exile without papers, giving voice to the hurt and humiliation of the Haitian struggle, enduring the vilifications of the rich, pretentious but ignorant, the charity of the so-called “well-intentioned” and after living through decades upon decades of helplessly watching Haitians capsized on overloaded boats in shark-infested waters, asylum, equal treatment and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) still denied, I had thought, after all this, we-Haitians have surely exhausted all tears.

But the circumstances that herald the death of Father Gerard Jean Juste’s death prove there are still some tears left. From Miami, to Canada, to New York, to Haiti, the sorrow flows. And I cannot, right now, on the day after his death, put the right words together that would make sense of the senseless - the heart-wrenching persecution and coup d’etat imprisonments that led to the deterioration of his health, subsequent hospitalizations and then his death. How do we tell the world about Father Jean Juste? How do I tell of his kindness to a young Haitian-American lawyer, fourteen years ago, in Haiti, who knew nothing about the journey she was about to undertake, but which he had already mastered. How do we give meaning to his life and works? His tireless advocacy for immigration rights for 15-years in Miami before he left in 1991 to return to Haiti and to endure, with the people of Haiti, two post-Duvalier coup d'etat persecutions. Perhaps it’s just as well that I simply sank my head in my hands, let the headache pounding in my skull rage on and the tears fall. They killed him. I’m so tired for us all. I’ve not the words, except to say we shall fight from one generation to the next until Dessalines’ children and lands are free, its resources benefiting Africa’s child.

But, of course, that’s not enough. Father Jean Juste did not deserve the suffering visited upon him, especially these last five years of Haiti’s nightmare. He surely now requires that we all stay strong. For he said, before he died, that he’d left “the rest to us” – “Mwen kite rès la pou nou menm.” So, you cannot imagine how thankful I am to lift up my head and share the tribute below with you, in gratitude. Yes, our grief must wait, for he left the rest to us, as he said. And a brilliant man that we, at Ezili’s HLLN admire and are privilege to call friend, mentor and supporter, has indeed written a sound introduction and tribute, to the extent that that’s even possible at all, to honor this great soldier of peace and justice, our Gerard Jean Juste. So, what I can do is stop crying for all that we’ve lost and are losing every Haitian day under UN-occupation, endless IMF/WB debt, foreign domination, pillage and containment-in-poverty, and translate this tribute from the French original into English, not word-for-word, but with my heart.

The essay below was written on May 27, 2009, the day of his death, as a tribute to Father Jean Juste by the Haitian lawyer, scholar and our honored friend, Professor Bell Angelot, of the Haitian Center for Research and Social Science Investigations. The original French is attached; any errors of translation are solely that of the undersigned, so I urge you to refer to the original for proper sourcing.


Lavarice Gaudin and all at Father Jean Juste's Veye Yo organization in Miami, you are in our prayers. Lavarice we hurt for your personal lost of a man whose journey you shared on a daily basis. Sincere condolences also to all of Haiti’s peoples, at home and abroad, but especially the persecuted in Site Soley, whose massive demonstrations against the 2004 coup d’etat, the Latortue Boca Raton regime and President Aristide’s exile and deportation from Haiti, Father Gerard Jean Juste, led.

We at HLLN, share all your tears, your sorrows and extend our deepest condolences to you and his personal family, brothers, sisters, friends and to all, of every nationality and creed, who stood in solidarity with Haiti. We at HLLN, who helped campaign for Father Gerard Jean Juste’s release from prison twice, we who have dwell under the shadow
of this mighty Haitian soldier for peace, for inclusion and for justice know that Father Jean Juste's life and struggles touched and inspired folks worldwide. We send our condolences to Bill Quigley, the white American lawyer, one of Father Jean Juste's best friends, who kneeled in prayer with Père Jean Juste in that Church as the coup d'etat folks, brought to power by Bush Regime change, beat and spit on them both, right before the UN soldiers put Father Jean Juste in handcuffs and cast him into the prison that would destroy his health and thus eventually his life. We recall, it was Dr. Paul Farmer's sneaking into that prison to take blood samples that would eventually prove Father Jean Juste required immediate medical attention for Leukemia and thus had to be released from his second unlawful incarceration. We recall the lone Haitian woman in that Catholic Church, filled with well-dressed Christians, who prevented Jean-Juste's death that day of his second arrest on trumped-up accusations because she threw her body on top of Father Jean Juste as he was being pummeled bloody. We recall too much to mention with this pounding headache and sorrow.

But suffices to say, we recall that no Catholic priests or other spiritual leader or Christian pastor of the stature of Gerald Jean Juste in Haiti stood with the people of Haiti in their darkest of days, after Bush Regime Change 2004. Father Gerald Jean Juste risked the guns of the US Marines, UN troops, Haitian coup d’etat police, the dangers of their bullets, arrests and censure to walk with, and suffer with the disenfranchised and vilified residents in the populous neighborhoods of Haiti. He would not let the people stand and suffer alone. In the end, putting his body in harms way when he could have easily flown to Miami for sanctuary; in the end, giving his voice, his talent, his spiritual comfort to the voiceless of Haiti and protesting the US/France/Canada-orchestrated coup detat, the rich folks’ pillage and occupation of Haiti, indeed killed him. A great warrior has fallen. He’s left the rest to us.

Ezili Dantò/Marguerite Laurent
Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network ("HLLN")
May 28, 2009


Tribute to Father Gerard Jean Juste - Father of the Juste by Professor Bell Angelot, May 27, 2009 (Translated from French Original into English by Ezili Dantò/HLLN)

Père Jean Juste, Paire des gens Justes - Father Jean Juste was always coupled to what’s just


A powerful spirit has left this earth, and our mourning darkens the whole city. A griot left for eternity and the whole tribe is in tears. But though the prophet is gone, his light remains. The Haitian community of Miami has just rung the toll to announce in pain, and in a flood of tears the departure from this planet of Reverend Father Gérard Jean-Juste. Father Jean-Juste was one of the pioneers of Liberation Theology alongside Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, Leonardo Boff of Nicaragua and Oscar Romero of Salvador.

Father Jean Juste was the spoke-person of the poor, the homeless, and for all who thirst for justice. Father Jean Juste was a megaphone for the victims of exclusion, those hungry for love, those suffering from the selfishness of others and inequalities of all sorts. Father Jean Juste was the flag bearer for Haitian immigrant rights, for those without papers, for those who braved the shark-infested seas and for whom Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is still denied. Father Jean Juste was a man of justice, his very name called forth what’s just. One can well compare the struggle of Father Jean Juste to that of the biblical Moses who delivered his people from the persecution of slavery. ("Let my people go!" Moses said to the Pharaoh of his time). This cry of Moses came often of the lips of Father Jean Juste, the Prophet from Petite Place Cazeau, Haiti: “I have certainly seen the affliction of my people, I have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows.” (Exodus 3:7).

Father Jean Juste was a martyr. While distributing food to hungry children, he was arrested and tortured by the political dictators in 2005. Some months later, even in the deepest bowels of a church, The Sacred Heart Church of Turgeau, the very same church where Izmery was assassinated, drape in his priest cassock, Father Jean Juste was brutally beaten almost to unconsciousness, manhandled and humiliated, afterwards waking up in prison.

Like Jeremiah the prophet, he knew the inside of a prison. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. he preached love. Like Mahatma Gandhi he lived non-violence and overcame violence. Just as Moses never reached the Promised Land, he too, did not see the day of complete liberation for the Haitian people. The passing of Father Jean Juste bring us tears, this is a painful severance for us. Of course, the lost of Father Jean Juste brings us grief, but we believe that Father Jean Juste lives on.

Again in the years to come, we shall hear, all across Little Haiti in Miami, the echo of his voice denouncing discriminatory immigration laws. Through time, his voice shall still wholly resound on Haiti, saying no to violence, no to exile, no to arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, no to Coup D’etats. Jean Juste lives on and it is now that his butchers will tremble. For without confessing their wrongs and without altering their ways they allowed their victim to die, a man whose heart was filled only with compassion and tolerance.

Father Jean Juste left us on an assignment to meet up with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to whom he shall say that love amongst the races and race equality is still a dream; to meet up with John Fitzgerald Kennedy to whom he will say that Democracy and Peace are still the big challenges of our peoples; to meet up with Father Jean Marie Vincent, to whom he shall say that the movement to bring literacy to our people has fallen by the waste side; to meet up with (Haiti’s founding father) Jean Jacques Dessalines to tell him that our country has been sold, it’s been torn apart, its been bloodied - peyi a vann, peyi a fann, peyi a tonbe nan sann - and we’ve been divided. He is not dead/He lives on! His body succumbed to the vicissitudes: to pains that even defied science, to evil his heart and his brain could no longer bring order to, to political shocks that his conviction and his morale could no longer endure.

In the name of the larger Lavalas Movement, we bid farewell to Father Gerard Jean Juste and wish him a good journey. In the name of all the cadres, the grassroots/popular organizations, in the name of the Lavalas vision of inclusion, we say thank you Father Jean Juste. Thank you very much brother/compatriot, we shall continue to be the Sentinels – (to watch out - veye yo - look out for the enemy).

The Haitian Center For Research and Social Science Investigations, bows in great reverence, before the remains of the greatest tree (Mapou) cut down in the forest of the just. May your demonstrations of faith, lessons in courage, messages of patriotism, forever be the oil that lights our lamps to bring the light in the darkness of realms, serve us all as the chorus of hope, songs of resistances, hymn of love and friendship. For, as the (Haitian author, Jacques) Roumain said in his book, Governors of the Dew - "The fruit that rots nourishes the hope of the new tree."

Professeur Bell Angelot
Director, Haitian Center For Research
and Social Science Investigations




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Père Jean Juste, Paire des gens Justes Par Professeur Bell Angelot, mercredi 27 mai 2009

Un Vétéran s’en est allé, et le deuil a assombri toute la cité. Un griot est parti pour l’éternité et toute la tribu est en pleurs. Mais le prophète s’est éteint et la lumière ne s’arrête pas. La communauté haïtienne de Miami vient de sonner le glas pour annoncer dans la douleur, dans un déluge de larmes le départ de cette planète, du Révérend Père Gérard Jean Juste. Père Jean Juste est l’un des ténors de la théologie de libération à côté de Jean Bertrand Aristide en Haïti, de Leonardo Boff à Nicagua, d’Oscar Romero à Salvador.

Père Jean Juste est le Porte Parole des pauvres, des sans abris et de tous les assoiffés de justice, Père Jean Juste est le porte-voix des victimes de l’exclusion, de ceux qui ont faim de l’amour, des souffrants de l’égoïsme et des inégalités de toutes sortes, Père Jean Juste est le Porte drapeau des immigrants, des sans Papiers, de ceux qui ont bravé la mer et pour qui le TPS n’est pas une loi. Père Jean Juste est l’Homme des gens justes. On peut bien comparer la lutte de Père Jean Juste à celle de Moise qui s’est livré à la libération d’un peuple opprimé par l’esclavage. Ce cri de Moise est venu souvent de la bouche du Prophète de Petite Place Cazeau « J’ai vu la souffrance de mon peuple, j’ai entendu les cris que lui font pousser ses oppresseurs, car je connais ses douleurs exode 3 :7 ». Père Jean Juste est un martyr , en pleine distribution de nourriture aux enfants démunis il est arrêté et torturé par les acteurs politiques de 2005, quelques mois plus tard dans l’enceinte même de l’église du Christ du Sacré cœur de Turgeau, à cette même église où Izmery a été immolé , drapé dans sa soutane de prêtre il est battu, malmené et humilié pour se reconnaître plus tard en prison.

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A l’instar du Prophète Jérémie il a connu la prison, comme Martin Lutter King il a prêché l’amour, comme Mahatma Gandhi il a vécu la non violence et il a vaincu la violence. Comme Moise n’a pas vu la terre promise, lui non plus il n’a pas vu le jour de la libération intégrale du peuple haïtien. Le départ de père Jean Juste nous coûte des larmes, la séparation de Père Jean Juste nous donne des douleurs, la disparition de père Jean Juste nous procure des pleurs certes, mais nous croyons que père Jean Juste n’est pas mort. Pendant des années encore on aura entendu dans toute Little Haiti ses cris dénonçant la discrimination des lois de l’immigration, pendant des années sa voix retentira sur Haïti toute entière pour dire non à la violence, non à l’exil, non à l’arrestation arbitraire, non au coup d’Etat. Jean Juste n’est pas mort et c’est maintenant que ses bourreaux vont trembler, car sans se confesser et sans se convertir ils laissent partir leur victime, l’homme dont le cœur est toujours plein de clémence et de tolérance.

Père Jean Juste est parti en mission pour rencontrer Martin Lutter King à qui il dira que l’amour et l’égalité des races est encore un rêve, à John Fritz Gerald Kennedy qu’il dira que la démocratie et la Paix sont encore des grands défis pour les peuples , à Jn Marie Vincent ,que alfabetizasyon an tonbe nan betiz, à Dessalines que peyi a vann, peyi a fann ,peyi a rann , peyi a tonbe nan sann, et l’union ne fait plus la force. Il n’est pas mort ! Son corps a succombé aux vicissitudes et aux douleurs qui ont défié la science, à des maux que son cœur et son cerveau ne pouvaient plus commander, à des chocs politiques que sa conviction et son moral ne pouvaient plus dompter.

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Au nom de la grande cohorte Lavalassienne nous souhaitons bon voyage à père Jean Juste, au Revoir à père Jean Juste. Au nom des cadres , des organisations de base , au nom de la philosophie lavalassienne Nou di mèsi Pè jean Juste , mèsi anpil konpatriyòt, nap kontinye veye yo . Le centre Haïtien de Recherches et d’investigations en sciences Sociales salue avec révérence les dépouilles de ce grand Mapou qui est tombé dans la forêt des justes. Que ses manifestations de foi, ses leçons de courage, ses messages de Patriotisme servent encore d’huile à nos lampes pour apporter la lumière dans le royaume des ténèbres, servent à nous tous des refrains d’espoir, des chants de résistances, des cantiques d’amour et d’amitié car comme disait Roumain dans Gouverneurs de la Rosée « Le fruit qui pourrit nourrit l’espoir de l’arbre nouveau »

Professeur Bell Angelot
Directeur du Centre Haïtien
De Recherches et d’Investigations
En Sciences Sociales



Recommended HLLN Link:
Father Gerard Jean-Juste, famous Haitian priest, tireless Haiti activist and former prisoner of conscience under Bush 2004 regime change, dies

Audio Recording from Flashpoint with intro by Kevin Pina - This is a clip of Dennis Bernstein interviewing a wounded and handcuffed Father Jean Juste in the process of first arrest after 2004 Bush Regime change in Haiti on Oct 13 2004

The Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste, Champion of Haitian Rights in U.S. , Dies at 62
| New York Times, May 29, 2009

Priest Devoted Life To Haitian Refugees By Patricia Sullivan, Washington Post, May 29, 2009

HLLN Pays Homage to Father Gerard Jean Juste

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Human Rights Lawyer, Èzili Dantò is dedicated to correcting the media lies and colonial narratives about Haiti. An award winning playwright, a performance poet, author and lawyer, Èzili Dantò is founder of the Haitian (more...)

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