While we were gone, I thought of 10 facts that should be clarified about Wyclef but I will save that. Instead, I will give you the Top Ten Criticisms I have read, heard or seen for why Wyclef should NOT be the President of Haiti. I am still excited about his candidacy but here goes:
1."Wyclef couldn't keep The Fugees together." Lauryn's mad at him. Pras isn't even endorsing him and if he couldn't keep his own band united, what makes him think he can unite the country enough to take it into the 21st century? For me, this is the funniest and probably the most irrelevant criticism. If Wyclef ran the predatory music industry, then I might be able to concur but since he doesn't, I can't.
2. "Wycelf did a bad job with the books for his charity foundation, Yele Haiti, so he shouldn't be in charge of Haiti". This past January, months after the earthquake hit Haiti and after Wyclef was on television fundraising for Yele Haiti, The Smoking Gun published an article claiming impropriety and illegal activity. Clef hadn't filed taxes for 3 years (turns out, if you've not made money during the first 3 years of your non-profit organization, you did not have to file taxes. They have since changed the rules. Darn you, Wyclef!). Still, it wasn't illegal. Further, TSG alleged that Clef's tax return showed payments to himself for a charity show he did (it was lazy book keeping) and later on, TSG accused him of paying off a mistress who was also an executive in the organization. None of these accusations have been proven, to this day and the media became suddenly silent. You know what that means, when they accuse you on the front page and then print the retraction in a tiny box on the backpage. Just shameful. In any event, there are still doubts out there and many of Wyclef's critics are saying just to be in this situation, to do a sloppy job with one's own charity demonstrates one's inability to run a country---and certainly the budget. I agree with the latter but not the former but let me stay focused here. The mistress question leads me to:
3. "Wyclef is a Lothario who has demonstrated bad judgment and bad character." I certainly can't deny this. We all know the story of Lauryn & Wyclef by now and if you haven't heard, then listen to the song, "X Factor" off of the album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. For the record, I still love Lauryn and I blame Wyclef for this. But as Warren Buffet says, "every saint has a past and every sinner has a future." Besides, let me know if a hungry Haitian gives a damn about Wyclef's infidelities if his belly's full. That's how we felt about Bill Clinton and our economy, right? Right. Let's stop being so hypocritical here. But I digress...
4. "Wyclef supported the coup with his Uncle Raymond" (currently the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti---or is that the reverse?), who also supported it, against democratically elected Jean Bertrand Aristide, still presently in exile in South Africa. Now, I don't exactly know what "supported" means in this case but perhaps you should listen to this interview Wyclef gave with Davey D in 2004 and let him explain how he felt about Aristide.
5. "Wyclef supports Bill Clinton." Ooookay, so did/does the majority of African America and for far less than bringing business and tourism (which translated into millions of dollars) to a country we own. Hell, we like Bill Clinton for playing the saxophone and eating McDonald's and had the nerve to call him the first Black President. Now that we have Barack Obama, aren't you ashamed of yourself for thinking so low of us? Tsk. First Lady Michelle Obama replaced McDonald's with the first, organic Whitehouse garden and Barack doesn't sing, dance or play an instrument. Thank God!
But back to Bill. Supposedly, Bill Clinton wants to turn Haiti into a neocolonial business venture for himself and the U.S., paying $1 - $2 per hour for Haitians to work in factories and to engage in tourism. It's all relative. If $1 - $2 an hour is the equivalent of minimal wage in the U.S. and it can provide food, clothing and shelter, it might not be so bad, especially to get the country up and running and remain "open for business" as Wyclef said.
This is an ongoing debate. On the one hand, brilliant Civil Rights Historian and friend to Bill Clinton, Taylor Branch offers this analysis he presented in 1994. And on the other hand, this is a scathing criticism of Bill Clinton's legacy in Haiti.
I know we all want to revel in ideological perfection but, my people, we are dealing with people who are destitute but still prideful, illiterate but still trying. If the Haitian people are okay with this general set up, then please let them shape their lives as they see fit. If they are NOT okay, then let us raise our voices and assist in the best manner we can. Until then, it would be great to hear from some economists about the best path with which Haiti should take.
6. Sean Penn is upset with Wyclef because, as he said on Larry King Live (hosted by Wolf Blitzer that evening), he has not seen Wyclef around much, he was appalled by the "vulgar" display of large vehicles rolling (undoubtedly Hip Hop style) through Haiti, he wants to know where $400,000 of aid that allegedly came through Yele Haiti's hands have gone and stressed that Haiti doesn't need a social revolution built upon the cult of personality.
It appears as though Sean Penn has some real concern for Haiti, so I won't clown him for talking about the "vulgar" display of vehicles but he should understand that the people dream of precisely what they see on television and in ads from the country Penn represents---America, not Haiti. Media culture is America's greatest export and Sean Penn has been quite the beneficiary of the film industry, so I feel it's something called "you reap what you sow". If it's vulgar, it's vulgar because it's what our own hands have wrought and we sell American pipe dreams all across the world, so much so that everyone thinks Americans are rich. Obviously, since most of us are literate, we have running water, public housing and clothes on our backs, we ARE richer than the rest of the world but the gaudy display of spoils is misrepresentative and certainly not Wyclef's fault. I won't pin that on him for the people wanting to see such a display themselves.
I also found Sean Penn's unwillingness to address the class disparity and signifying involved in that "vulgar" display to be rather interesting. In any event, Wyclef responded to Sean Penn, stating:
It is unfortunate that Sean Penn is unaware of Wyclef's magnificent commitment to the people of Haiti and his independence. His campaign has nothing to do with corporate or special interests and everything to do with his calling and belief he can lead and make a difference. Some of Mr. Penn's comments seemed so out of sorts that those close to Wyclef worried about Mr. Penn, who has also done important, life-saving, inspirational work for the people of Haiti. This is a time to think productively about solutions and long-term strategies to rebuild, not to insult anyone who dares to care. Haiti needs everyone to collaborate for a 21st century safe, productive nation..That actually sounds like an answer from Wyclef's PR team but I'll take it!
7. Many Haitian Americans aren't satisfied with the idea of Wyclef as President of Haiti. I'm getting a lot of pushback from Haitian Americans about Wyclef running and it's understandable. Many Haitian Americans also have dreams for a better Haiti, came to the U.S. for better opportunities and with staunch intentions to assist their beloved homeland. I get that. I also get that there is a great level of debate regarding what ex-pats are doing throughout the Diaspora, how much they are or are not sharing and why the brain drain remains consistent in Haiti. So, I don't know. I enjoy hearing from Haitian Americans, though and I intend to keep an even closer eye on Haitians who will be voting. It's important to see, hear and feel what the people want whose lives will be most affected by the election.
8. "Wyclef is just a rapper who thinks he's in a Hip Hop video. He's an opportunist of the worst sort." This is probably the weakest argument against Wyclef. As a rich Haitian man who "made it" in America, Wyclef could do absolutely nothing, spout platitudes and continue to travel around the world making music and earning more millions. We should keep in mind that before Hip Hop became a curse word, we had (and still have) some great artists in the genre. Wyclef is one of them. Before Hip Hop was dumbed down by corporate media, Wyclef was reppin' for Haiti and policitizing his music, like most of the Old School. And before Hip Hop became synonymous with apathy, sloth, hedonism and narcissism, Wyclef, Pras and Lauryn emerged on the scene as a group called "The Fugees". You cannot make that up or recreate history. Their music was presented upon an historically collective platter, so eat that up if you can. Besides, he's not the only entertainer who has taken political office, get off his back.
9. "Wyclef is not educated enough." According to this article, Wyclef graduated from a Newark, NJ school with his high school diploma. Since he has not gone to college or earned any professional degrees, he is not qualified to be the President. I disagree with this assessment but I have heard it frequently. I find it elitist and inaccurate. Wyclef is not running to be the Secretary of Education for Haiti. As President, he can hire excellent staff and appoint persons to his cabinet whom are supremely educated and can pointedly map out an excellent plan to increase the literacy rate and prepare Haitians for the 21st Century. Why does he have to be a rocket scientist just to articulate the needs of the people? He doesn't. Let's move on to another criticism:
10. "Wyclef doesn't have enough experience". This pointed criticism is probably the most valid anyone can offer to Wyclef. Because, in truth, he doesn't have enough experience to just jump up and be the President. And if he does not intend to have an extraordinarily strong cabinet with persons who will support and challenge him when necessary, then he will be doing the country he claims to love, an incredible disservice.
There are 19 other persons who believe they can do a better job than Wyclef, including his own Uncle Raymond!!
I still believe in Wyclef. But I thought you should know there are at least 10 reasons why at least a cadre of other people are NOT excited about Wyclef's candidacy and potential win to become the President of Haiti. We must remember, however, to let the Haitians speak for the Haitians. Fas a Fas!