Gerard Jean Juste: A Miami Hero

Jerry Jean Juste spent time in jail in Haiti. He brought together Miami's troubled expatriate Haitian community in its most troubled hour. He hated no one -- at least publicly -- not even  When he winked at you, it was as if the skies had opened.

He died yesterday of a stroke. I'll miss him.

The city should all be wearing black, If we ever had a civic candidate for sainthood, it's Jerry.

Almost two decades ago, the guy rescued me when --as a Miami Herald reporter -- I briefly got between an angry Haitian crowd and Cuban store owners armed with automatic rifles on Northeast 79th Street. I saw him galvanize crowds as Miami pushed for the ouster of Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, who killed thousands of his countrymen and lead celebrations after US troops restored Jean Bertrand Aristide, another activist priest and Jean Juste friend. as Haiti's president in 1994.

Though he was an ordained priest, he had the guts to call Archbishop Edward McCarthy "a racist." And along with anotrher local hero, Ira Kurzban, he and the Haitian Refugee Center won a landmark victory for Haitians in the Supreme Court in 1980 when a Miami federal couret ruled the immigration service discriminated against Haitians.

Now, as Haitians are again threatened by violence in their homeland, and are pushing for Temporary Protected Status, we'd all do well to stop for a few minutes and think about the gifts of this great man to our troubled metropolis.  

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.
Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse