South Florida's Haitian Hip-Hop Community Reacts to Hurricane Matthew

Early Tuesday morning, Hurricane Matthew hit the island of Hispaniola and battered Haiti. According to citizens on the island, the Category 4 hurricane wreaked havoc after winds tore off rooftops and the rivers overflowed and flooded the streets. As of 11 a.m., the eye of the storm passed through Haiti and raged on in the Caribbean Ocean as it set its eye on Cuba.

Although the worst of the storm has passed, the struggle for the citizens of Haiti is just beginning. Violent wind and rain had already pounded the island nation before it made landfall and contributed to the uncontrollable flooding. Forecasters have also advised citizens that severe flash floods, and even mudslides, are immanent.

While the storm isn’t expected to hit South Florida directly until later tomorrow, citizens in Broward, Dade, and Monroe Counties are preparing for the worst of Matthew. Nonetheless, Haitian rappers hailing from Dade and Broward’s strong Haitian communities are expressing sincere concern for their homeland.

“Being from Miami and being impacted by Hurricane Andrew and Katrina while living in Broward, I know how it feels personally,” said Def Jam artist and proud Haitian American Lajan Slim. “I definitely have a lot of friends, family, and fans over there in the islands as well, so they’re in my prayers truly." 

At the time of this writing, the New York Times reports that early government estimates confirm five people dead, ten severely injured, and one person missing, though those numbers are expected to rise as the country regroups.

By Tuesday night, at least 14,530 people have been evacuated and over 2,200 homes had been flooded or destroyed, according to Interior Minister François Anick Joseph. Although news of the aftermath is still developing as we speak, Freebandz/Epic Records rapper Zoey Dollaz makes a valid point about the latest series of unfortunate events to unfold on his native soil.

“I’ve checked in on my people,” Zoey Dollaz says. “It’s kind of messed up down there, but it’s unfortunate that it always happens to us. It’s always some kind of disaster, like, ‘Here we go again.’ But, hey, you know, we’re strong people, so they’re going to get it together and we’re going to make sure they get it together with the help of people who have great hearts.” 
Haiti has experienced a wide range of natural disasters in the last half-century, from horrific hurricanes and earthquakes to viral outbreaks like the cholera epidemic that continues to infect thousands of citizens. Within the last decade alone, six hurricanes, two tropical storms, and two devastating earthquakes have struck the island. Matthew is the first Category 4 hurricane to hit Haiti since 1964, when Hurricane Cleo thrashed and ripped through the same location.

As the catastrophic storm moves on, officials in Haiti are still busy trying to assess the damage and provide aid to citizens that were left homeless. While Lajan Slim would like to participate in a benefit concert to raise funds for victims, Zoey Dollaz has a suggestion to help his people in the long run.

“I feel like we should focus on teaching the people how to prepare themselves for hurricanes and things like that, because this always happens, you know? It always happens. Put shutters on their windows or find a facility that’s safe. We need to find a way to get something built for them to where — if there’s a hurricane — everyone can go and just stay there for the meantime, and then go back to where they need to go.”

Until these ideas come to fruition, all musicians, celebrities, and people from around the world can help Haiti now with donations to organizations like the Salvation Army, Save the Children, UNICEF, Red Cross, World Vision, and the Mercy Corps, just to name a few.

Lex Pierre-Louis, founder of Lex Promotions & Marketing Group, is known for his various annual charity events and toy drives for the children of Haiti. In light of the horrific storm, Maybach Music Group's head lifestyle marketing coordinator is switching into hurricane relief mode.

"The game plan is to travel back to Haiti in the next two or three days," he says. "We have some of our departments that we're working with who are traveling back within the next few days. The first mission is medical." 

Pierre-Louis and his team have partnered up with the North Miami-based Haitian American Nurses Association to form the Haitian American Hurricane Matthew Relief Effort. The group's initial goal in the days immediately following the storm is to gather together medical supplies and equipment in order to assist the ailing victims on the island.

Sandy Dorsainvil, coordinator of the Haitian American Hurricane Matthew Relief Effort, says her team is making swift strides to tend to the victims' needs. 

"The idea is to pool all of our resources and ideas together," Dorsainvil explains. "We were able to get up to 26 organizations together to pull their manpower, their networks, and their resources together to make one big impact after the hurricane hit." 

According to Dorsainvil, six doctors and three nurses from the Haitian American Nurses Association have already been cleared to fly out to the island today as first responders to start aiding victims. While they conduct an overall assessment of what else is needed on the island, South Florida residents can help by donating necessary medical supplies like pain relievers, baby formula, clothes, and antibiotics, which can be dropped off at 3333 NW 168th St. in Miami Gardens.

The eye of the hurricane is expected to make landfall in South Florida by Thursday night. As we prepare for the storm, Haiti’s devastation is sure to get worse in the days following Matthew’s impact. Sustained relief is a must.

But the people of Haiti have already begun to pick up the debris and do what they need to do for themselves to survive. Hopefully, we won’t have to endure similar hardships here in South Florida. 

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tony M. Centeno
Contact: Tony M. Centeno