There's a chance Haiti might join the African Union. Do you know why?

Haiti has always charted bold new paths in its fight for independence.

From the slave rebellion that made it its own nation — the first nation formed by slaves — to its economic struggles and fight to rebuild, the Haitian identity has been unyielding in its quest for freedom and stability.


Image by Todd Huffman/Flickr.

But political freedom and economic stability have been hard to sustain.

Immediately after kicking its French colonizers to the curb, Haiti's independence was undermined. It was required to pay a large indemnity to France or risk not being recognized by many other countries as its own nation, an action that would leave the country in a constant state of debt to France. Haiti, in search of legitimacy and security, paid the fine.

Playing by the rules didn't protect Haiti from being a pawn in the West's political ambitions.

In 1915, 330 U.S. Marines landed at Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Their arrival marked the beginning of a U.S. occupation that lasted almost 19 years. The U.S. took over the Haitian government, changed its laws, and fought a long and bloody battle in an attempt to get the Haitians to yield to its rule and protect its interests. As the United States Office of the Historian summarizes it:

"As a potential naval base for the United States, Haiti's stability concerned U.S. diplomatic and defense officials who feared that Haitian instability might result in foreign rule of Haiti. ... In 1914, the Wilson administration sent U.S. Marines into Haiti. They removed $500,000 from the Haitian National Bank in December of 1914 ... thus giving the United States control of the bank. ... President Wilson sent the U.S. Marines to Haiti to prevent anarchy. In actuality, the act protected U.S. assets in the area and prevented a possible German invasion."

The occupation ultimately failed, but the damage was already done. Again, Haiti had suffered the effects of another nation's ambitions and was left even more unstable and disparaged than before. Still, the people remained focused on their freedom.

In some regards, Haiti's history is not that different from many African nations, which have also had a long and sordid history with Western powers.

Image by Julien Harneis/Flickr.

From occupations and invasions to the division of the continent, African nations have suffered as a result of Western interests.

First, there was the "Scramble for Africa." Historian Saul David describes the mad dash for control of the African continent: "As late as the 1870s, only 10% of the continent was under direct European control ... by 1900, Europeans ruled more than 90% of the African continent."

Then, there was the partitioning of Africa during the Berlin Conference, which David explains "began the process of carving up Africa, paying no attention to local culture or ethnic groups, and leaving people from the same tribe on separate sides of European-imposed borders."

Both events were at the whim of Western powers that approached people in African countries as things to own. After centuries of suffering, those nations have taken action to unify and heal from the still-evident effects of colonial rule.

In an attempt to reclaim the African continent's resources, culture, and economic power, the African Union was founded in 2001.

The controversial and much maligned dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, led the creation of the African Union. Yes, that Gaddafi — the deposed Libyan leader who was killed on Oct. 20, 2011. While the good and the bad of his rule have been widely discussed and debated, he had a vision of a unified Africa, which would include "Caribbean islands with African populations," as stated in his 2009 speech in Tripoli.

Now, five years after his death, that vision could become a reality.

Image by Arsen.Shnurkov/Wikimedia Commons.

Haiti has expressed a bold desire to join the African Union, wading into uncharted waters in another attempt to take control.

After years of turmoil and destruction, Haiti sees its path to rebuilding — with the support and protection of empathetic African nations.

"To know where you're going, you need to know where you're from," the Haitian ambassador Jacques Junior Baril said in a recent interview with SABC Digital news. And the close cultural connection and mutual respect between the AU and Haiti is clearly evident. In 2010, former African Union chairman, Jean Ping said, "We have attachment and links to that country. The first black republic that carried high the flame of liberation and freedom for black people."

But the African Union isn't sold on the idea.

While there is potential for the formation of a "sixth region" of global delegates who will represent the African diaspora, Haiti may not be admitted into the African Union, instead remaining an observing member.

The Haitian ambassador stated, "It's not something we decided, it's a place that we earned after we fought for our independence 212 years ago. We paved the way for every other African nation to be free today, so historically speaking Haiti should have been in the AU already." While Haiti has made its intentions clear, ultimately, it's not for Haiti to decide.

Regardless of its status in the African Union, Haiti will continue to shatter boundaries, working toward the integrity and national sovereignty that they have long fought for.

Image via Chad Sparkes/Flickr.

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
True

Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Jennifer Lawrence

After being a Hollywood staple, Jennifer Lawrence vanished from the public eye following the release of "X-Men Dark Phoenix" in 2019.

Sure, the pandemic had something to do with that … in addition to the usual way our society treats Hollywood "it" girls, once it grows accustomed to the flavor. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence opens up about some other reasons she chose to step away for a time.

Lawrence went from being a highly sought-after Oscar-winning actress to starring in less-than-successful films like "Passengers," "Mother!" and "Red Sparrow." The films were not only poorly received among critics, but commercially as well.

"I was not pumping out the quality that I should have," she told VF. "I just think everybody had gotten sick of me. I'd gotten sick of me. It had just gotten to a point where I couldn't do anything right. If I walked a red carpet, it was, 'Why didn't she run?'"

So then, why do it? As any workaholic would know, it's about so much more than money.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
True

Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

Looking for some good gift ideas that wont break the bank? We've got you covered with these five suggestions available at our very own Upworthy Market! You can feel good about your purchases, too. That's because every item you buy from the Upworthy Market directly supports the artisans who crafted it.


Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Vanessa Garcia from Pexels

A professor's message to students has gone viral.

If you know any teachers, you probably know how utterly exhausted they all are, from preschools all the way up through college. Pandemic schooling has been rough, to say the least, and teachers have borne the brunt of the impact it's had on students.

Most teachers I've known have bent over backwards to help students succeed during this time, taking kids' mental and emotional health into consideration and extending the flexibility and grace we all could use. But teachers have their own mental and emotional needs, too, and at some point, something's gotta give.

A college student posted screenshots of a professor's message on Twitter with the comment "someone PLEASE check on my professor." It's simply incredible.

The message reads:

Keep Reading Show less