Pras Michel: Sweet Micky for President, for a new Haiti

By V. Dori Alexandre*

image

Pras Michel (L) and Michel Martelly (R) (Gomer Thomas)

Pras Michel, better known as a member of the Fugees, has come out of the shadows in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that shook his country, and life, upside down. His new documentary “Sweet Micky for Prezidan” is not just about the provocative entertainer Michel Martelly’s journey for Haiti’s highest post, but also a golden opportunity for Pras Michel to share the rich history of a country that was once called The Pearl of the Caribbean.

Haiti Now: Tell us a little about your documentary** and the upcoming college tour?

Pras Michel: The documentary is based on the election; it’s about Haiti, the history of Haiti, the resilience of Haitians, and our impact on the globe. It gives a little perspective to those who have only heard about the corruption, violence and the Haiti earthquake. The name of the documentary is “Sweet Micky for Prezidan,” because Michel Martelly is my good friend who I proposed last year to run for president. It’s not really about him, but when we go through the campaign process, you get a chance to see Haiti.

HN: When did the idea for the documentary and the college tour emerge?

PM: I think after we went to register for the election, on August 6th. The first trip Martelly took was to Montreal. And I thought: we need to document this. I didn’t really know what it was going to be, but I just felt like we needed to document the process and organically mold it into what we have right now. The college tour is one way to bring awareness to the documentary. That is where the students are and they are the most active.

HN: What is the main message you want people to get from your documentary?

PM: The main message is to give people a different perspective of Haiti, of the culture and the dynamics of Haiti. Instead of the usual “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” Okay, but do you know we were the first black Republic? Did you know we did not get recognized by the States until 1862 because they didn’t want our revolt to inspire the slaves in America? There are a lot of things people just do not know. You cannot do a documentary of this capacity without sharing historical facts.

HN: How has your life changed since the January 2010 earthquake and the Presidential campaign?

The way my life changed is simply by being more active. Now it’s my life’s goal to do everything that I can to help Haiti because every Haitian, Haitian-American, and Diaspora can play a role. The best way for me is obviously through my expertise, which is entertainment. If I were a politician, I’d try to help through policies. If I were a doctor, I’d try to help through medicine. If I were an engineer, I’d try to help through construction. I’m in the entertainment industry, a filmmaker and actor so my way to help is with its image. But everyone’s gotta play a role.

HN: You are an entertainer, and so his Michel Martelly. Did this play any role in your support for Martelly to run for President?

PM: It was really about the fact that I think the country really needed a change from the status quo. And I felt like he really loved his people, he understood the basic functions of society, infrastructure, health, jobs, the economy, and education. I think when you look at the election process, progress has already been made in the fact that this was one of the first democratic elections that didn’t have any violence, didn’t have anyone die. Despite the fact that Aristide came the day before the election, people thought that was going to disrupt everything but the Haitian people were smarter than that. They were like “we’re not going to embarrass the person we want to come in.”

HN: Did President Obama’s campaign about change influence you or President Martelly?

PM: Of course. When you look at historical moments, there are times that open opportunity. Had the earthquake not happen, Martelly would not be President of Haiti. Had George Bush not existed, President Obama would not be President of America. Definitely, Martelly was inspired by President Obama; but the impact he’s going to have, we’re not going to see it for like 50 years later. A change doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going be better, but it’s giving you an opportunity to get away from a situation. We know that had we stayed with the status quo, nothing would change. At least Michel Martelly breaks that cycle.

HN: “Sweet Micky” ran and he won. How would you rate his first 100 days in office?

PM: (Laughs) Wow. You know, I would say this: I can’t rate it right now. And I will tell you why. I love Martelly and I back him up 100% but ultimately, I’m for the people. Unless you are blind, you can see what is going on in the country. He’s having a lot of negotiation issues because his party is in the minority. So because of that, you cannot judge. It’s unfair to him and to his administration to judge his first 100 days. He does not even have a government and you have to remember, he’s a newcomer.

HN: In your opinion, is Martelly, as a newcomer who the people are counting on, making good on his campaign promises?

Of course, the people are counting on him. He’s not going to be what was in power the last 10 years. That we know. There are people already going to Haiti opening businesses, we couldn’t do that before. The change may not be grand scale but it will inspire the next leaders to emerge and think “if Michel can do it, I can do it. And I got a better plan than he does.” Michel has already allowed the Diaspora to vote. That’s change right there. And we’ve got great Haitians all over the country that are in high positions. The COO of Nintendo is Haitian. The new president of Chrysler is Haitian. And that’s just in America. I’m not even going to talk about France and Canada. We need those kinds of people to come down to the country to help. And that’s the direction I believe he’s gonna go.

HN: What is your next step? What do you plan to do for Haiti?

PM: All I can do for Haiti is be active and try to plan opportunities. That’s my role. One of the main things I feel like I can do for Haiti is the documentary. Because you have to understand something: perception is reality. And in people’s mind right now, Haiti is not a safe place to go. It’s Armageddon. But when u see the documentary, you see how beautiful my people are, you see how we range from dark skin to light skin to Indian to Arab… Everything. What does a Haitian look like? Haitians come in all shapes, sizes, colors. The world does not see us like that.

HN: How did you feel when you found out about the Haiti Holocaust project? And were you aware of the connection between holocaust survivors and Haiti?

PM: I didn’t know, and I was shocked when I heard about the Holocaust Project, about the Jews that went looking for a place of refuge and how Haiti welcomed them. I didn’t know that! These are things people need to know. Did you know after WWII Haiti gave Israel the last vote to be recognized as a State? People need to know these things. And not just people, but also the generations of Haitians that are in America who do not understand how rich their culture is.

HN: Tell us about your plans to visit Israel.

PM: We are raising awareness. Israel is one of the first countries to come down to Haiti after the earthquake so I think they will be very receptive to the documentary. Like I said, my job is to try to close the gap. I hope to start a dialogue, a bilateral relationship with Haiti and Israel, from an artistic point of view. I’m not going as a delegate or a government official. It’s more like a citizen of the world, a citizen of America, a citizen of Haiti. I’m trying to use my influence and my resources to help Haiti.

HN: Any last words?

PM: I want to make it clear that my only objective is to help the Haitian people. Yes, Michel is a friend of mine; I’ve known him for 17 years. But I’m about the people. I am going to do everything that I can to help Michel be successful. I believe that if he fails, I fail, and the Haitian people fail. I need him and want him to be successful just like every Haitian person should, whether or not they believe in his philosophy. He’s our leader and we need to support him the best way that we can.

* V. Dori Alexandre was born in Boston, MA and raised in Haiti until the age of 14. A former Congressional Aide, Dori is passionate about advocacy in Haiti and international development. 

** If anyone is interested in finding out more information about the documentary and college tour, please email HaitiNow1@gmail.com

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. M. Horton  |  September 3, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Good job on the interview. I would love to see this documentary when it comes out

    Reply

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