Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Help for Haiti

The outpouring of love and support for Haiti has been unparalleled. Between the celebrity telethons and the steady influx of civic and religious organizations, I find myself reassured by our response to such a devastating event. However, like any large scale relief effort there have been a few notable misfires:

The first was the attempted removal of 33 Haitian children from the country by a group of missionaries from Idaho’s Central Valley Baptist Church. The group was led by a woman named Laura Silsby (subtle yellow arrow) whose credentials and experience would seem to make an ideal candidate to lead a relief effort in a devastated third-world country:

  •           Her online “personal shopping” business, is floundering and she is currently being sued by 14 separate employees for unpaid wages. Nine of the employees have won their judgments already and the other five are still pending. The state of Idaho has already gone so far as to place liens against her business’s bank accounts.
  • ·         She piled up nine traffic violations over the past several years including four citations for failing to register or insure her car.
  • ·         She defaulted on her mortgage last July, yet still uses that address to register her charity New Life Children's Refuge, which has received thousands of dollars in funding from church members but yielded no tangible assets.
All ten members of the group have now formally been charged with child abduction and criminal conspiracy for their role in a January 29th attempt to take 33 Haitian children (22 of which have at least one living parent) to a non-existent orphanage in the Dominican Republic. Their plan was to temporarily house the children in a beach resort hotel while they found them homes in the United States or built an orphanage. The group (which includes a couple of teenagers) is being held by the Haitian government until their trial.

Let me make it perfectly clear that I do not believe this group was involved in human trafficking or even consciously exploiting an international tragedy, but this was one of the worst executed ideas since the upcoming A-Team remake. At what point did the collective consciousness of this group decide that their best plan of action was to place thirty-three undocumented children in a Dominican Motel 6 until their fiscally-challenged leader built an orphanage with the funds she did not have? If headlines was what they wanted it would have been much more efficient to ignite the Haitian flag and take turns urinating on it outside a Wendy’s.

Not only is this group responsible for ensuring two American teenagers will spend weeks in a Haitian prison, they have damaged the reputation of all other religious missionaries (including other Southern Baptists) who truly wish to bring comfort and aid to a country that has been through so much. When CNN reported that John Travolta had flown in several Scientology ministers to practice “touch therapy” on wounded citizens, I thought “at least we can’t do anything more counterproductive than this.”  I wasn’t even close…..

The second, and perhaps equally as nauseating, response was to remake We Are The World and donate the proceeds of the single to relief efforts. The original, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, has generated over $60 million for humanitarian causes in Africa over the past 25 years and continues to be a popular single. It featured performances by Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Kenny Rogers among others.

When Quincy Jones decided to issue a remake this year the only question was, “Who represents the pinnacle of musical talent and innovation in the current era?” It would seem that Quincy and I would disagree on the answer to that question. Here is a partial roster of his musical all-stars:

·         Justin Bieber
·         Miley Cyrus
·         Fergie
·         Vince Vaughan
·         Nicole Richie
·         Kevin & Joe Jonas
·         Tito Joe Jackson
·         Fonzworth Bentley
·         Bizzy Bone

All in all there were over 90 celebrities who lent their voices to the effort which plans to raise money by charging $1.29 per download for the song. The concept was so bad that Jay-Z refused to participate calling the original “untouchable.”

While I applaud the sentiment, perhaps the next time Quincy picks up his Blackberry and calls his famous associates to raise money he could spare use all the agony of a song and just have them write a check.

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