Sunday, June 29, 2014

Worth Cooley-Prost's work on behalf of Haiti lives on in her writings and impact on others by Michelle Karshan

Worth Cooley-Prost

See below for list of important documents re Haiti written by Worth Cooley-Prost (or written in collaboration)

June 29, 2014 (on the occasion of Worth's birthday and the memorial service being held for her today in Arlington, Virginia)

By Michelle Karshan

Honor, Respect! is the traditional greeting in Haiti.  Worth Cooley-Prost, a dedicated social justice advocate, lived by these words in her work on behalf of Haiti.

Worth had the deepest honor and respect for Haitians and Haiti’s faith-based and grassroots organizations and worked alongside some of Haiti’s leading progressive clergy at the time.  

Out of love, commitment, honor and respect for the Haitian people, Worth worked tirelessly in Haiti’s pro-democracy movement using her organizing skills from her earlier years as a political activist in the peace movement, her background in human services and her lengthy career as a biomedical researcher.

Worth recently passed on but has left a legacy that continues to inspire, educate, mobilize and empower others concerned with Haiti and other similarly situated countries. Most importantly, Worth’s work was directed to her own government, the United States, calling for accountability, transparency and justice in its relationship with Haiti.

Worth’s research, revelations, and writings exposed inconsistencies, corruption, human rights abuses and atrocities committed by both the U.S. and Haitian governments, the medical community in both countries, and by International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and NGOs.   

Worth was an active and key board member of the now defunct Washington Office on Haiti (WOH), an independent, ecumenical, nonprofit organization founded in 1984 to support Haiti's grassroots movement for democracy, human rights and self-determined development through public education, information and analysis, especially on the effects of U.S. policy on the Haitian poor.

Worth had a unique ability to “connect the dots” bringing otherwise hidden and complex issues to light.  Worth also connected people and organizations together. She was a highly respected organizer, and wrote several reports and articles making sure that the Washington Office on Haiti and her research and findings were widely available. Worth also sat on the board of the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees.

Worth pioneered research on several hot issues that continue to be controversial such as rice imports, medical experimentation on Haiti’s most vulnerable, elections and electoral observers, and the complex web of U.S. democracy enhancement as it played out in Haiti.

Additionally, with Worth’s leadership, the Washington Office on Haiti played a significant role in organizing and participating as election observers in 1991 in Haiti’s first presidential elections following the ouster of Duvalier. This first democratic election swept Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency despite the international communities dislike of the liberation theology priest. See Washington Office on Haiti. 1991. Report on the Elections of December 16, 1990. Washington, D.C.

Seven months after his inauguration President Aristide was overthrown in a bloody coup carried out by Haiti’s military. Swift action and coordination by the Washington Office on Haiti helped unite thousands of people and organizations internationally in a mobilization for the restoration of democracy in Haiti – namely that President Aristide be returned to his presidency in Haiti.  And, despite aggressive disinformation regarding President Aristide’s human rights record during his short seven months in office, Worth researched, documented and demonstrated through a Washington Office on Haiti report that the facts were to the contrary.

In what is said to be the first time in history that a deposed president was restored to power, President Aristide did return to his constitutional position in Haiti in 1994 through an intervention by the United States government.  Through the coup years (1991-1994) the Washington Office on Haiti had served as the central coordinating organization with its offices in Washington DC. They provided reports and briefings to U.S. Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus, and human rights, faith-based and other organizations. Worth made dozens of trips to Haiti leading fact-finding delegations often at the most dangerous times, or to lead an election observer mission.  

Worth’s work on behalf of Haiti lives on in her writings, and the writings by others influenced by her work. The hot subjects she researched and broke down for all to understand – including reporting on the brutal dictatorship of  President-for-life Jean-Claude Duvalier -- continue to be drawn on by social justice advocates, human rights defenders, elected officials, and litigators.  (A legal battle to try Duvalier for crimes against humanity is currently being waged in Haiti’s courts.)

Worth's combination of knowledge, analysis, persistence, courage, love, spirituality, religion, generosity, inclusiveness and humor made her a true wise woman who never really dies.

Today we see Haiti once again challenged by those who seek to return it to the days of Duvalierism and have already reversed many democratic gains. But the years of experiencing democracy and the incorporation of human rights -- made possible by the Haitian people and their supporters such as the Washington Office on Haiti and Worth Cooley-Prost -- can never be fully reversed.

Here’s a song that reminds me of Worth’s enormous ability and energy to Kembe fem! Hold strong!

Some of the reflections posted on memorial page relating to Worth's work on Haiti:

"...Haiti has lost a true friend. Worth was a real character: open, generous, hilarious at times." Claudette Werleigh, former Executive Director of the Washington Office on Haiti who went on to become Haiti’s first female Prime Minister, and current Secretary General of Pax Christi International. 
"Worth’s wit and wisdom and commitment were larger than life” and thanks Worth, “for all that I learned from you.” Sister Mary Lynn Healywho had served as the Executive Director at the Washington Office on Haiti.
“I will always remember how tirelessly she worked at the Washington Office on Haiti on behalf of the Haitian people and against the dictatorship in Haiti in the late 80s. Those of us who worked with her to promote democracy will never forget her dedication to the cause of democracy in Haiti, her capacity to organize, her readiness to help. May she rest in peace. Na wè lòt bò,Worth. Fè bon wout…" (We will see you on the other side. Safe journey…)  Serge Bellegarde, who works at the Organization of American States.
“ …In addition to all the amazing love and light she brought to the world, she loved Haiti and worked tirelessly for justice for the Haitian people. She taught me much. Mwen sonje ou." (I miss you)  Leigh Carter, Executive Director of Fonkoze USA, Haiti's Alternative Bank for the Poor.
I will always remember her for her wit about the absurdity of life and her passion for Haiti. Truly an incredible woman! Rest in peace.” Father Jeffrey Duaime, former pastor at church in Arlington, Virginia.
 Your determination to advocate for people marginalized by society was an inspiration for me.” John Engle, a co-founder of Beyond Borders, a faith-based organization working in Haiti, and current Co-Director of Haiti Partners.

Examples of important writings by Worth Cooley-Prost (some in collaboration with others or on behalf of the Washington Office on Haiti). This is not a complete list. Please send other titles to

  • Research Vaccine Turned Deadly to Third World Babies, by Worth Cooley-Prost, Fact Sheet, Washington Office on Haiti, 1997?,
  • The Haiti AID Scam, The Progressive, Sept. 1995 article by Worth Cooley-Prostand John Canham-Clyne
  • How the U.S. Made Haiti Sick, (U.S. Aid, Go Home!) by John Canham-Clyne and Worth Cooley-Prost, In These Times, 1996,
  • Neoliberalism in Haiti:  The Case of Rice, Sept. 1995 Haiti Info Vol 3, No. 24,
  • Haiti Shows It's Ready for Democracy by Worth Cooley-Prost, National Catholic Reporter, July 28, 1995
  • Special Issue Report re:  Rice Corporation of Haiti, October 27, 1995, Washington Office on Haiti
  • Democracy Intervention in Haiti: The USAID Democracy Enhancement Project, by Worth Cooley-Prost, Washington Office on Haiti, 1994
  • Internal Exile in Haiti: A Country Held Hostage by Its Own Army, Coalition for Civilian Observers in Haiti, Washington Office on Haiti, 1993
  • Democracy Intervention: A Who’s Who of NGOs, Washington Office on Haiti, 1992
  • Breaking with Dependency and Dictatorship: Hope for Haiti, Covert Action Information Bulletin (Washington), No. 36, by Fritz Longchamp and Worth Cooley-Prost, Spring 1991
  • Report on the Elections of December 16, 1990. Washington Office on Haiti. 1991

Worth Cooley-Prost and her writings are widely quoted in articles on Haiti, and her writings are cited in books, articles, reports, academic papers, etc. The following is a list of books that cite Cooley-Prost's writings. This is not a complete list. Please send other titles to  Books cited include:

  • (BOOK) Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies by Mimi Sheller, International Library of Sociology, ‪Routledge, ‪2003
  • (BOOK) When the Hands Are Many: Community Organization and Social Change in Rural Haiti by Jennie M. Smith, Cornell University Press, 2001
  • (BOOK)  Haitian Refugees Forced to Return: Transnationalism and State Politics, 1991 –1994,  by Götz-Dietrich Opitz, published by LIT Verlag, 1999
  • (BOOK) Silencing the Guns in Haiti: The Promise of Deliberative Democracy by Irwin P. Stotzky, University Of Chicago Press, 1999
  • (BOOK) Electoral Observation and Democratic Transitions in Latin America by Kevin J. Middlebrook, ed., chapter by Henry F. Carey, "Electoral Observation and Democratization in Haiti," San Diego: Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, Regents of the University of California, 1998
  • (BOOK) Framing Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women, by Miriam J.A. Chancy, Rutgers University Press, 1997
  • (BOOK) Contested Social Orders and International Politics by David Skidmore (Editor), Vanderbilt University Press, 1997
  • (BOOK) Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention and Hegemony by William I. Robinson, Cambridge University Press, 1996
  • (BOOK) Haiti: The Breached Citadel by Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, (Boulder: Westview, 1996
  • (BOOK) Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II by William Blum, Peter Scott and Larry Bleidner, Common Courage Press, 1995