In that piece our focus was on getting the entire Lauryn Hill story out in the open as the section that deals with the Fugees break up is the most talked about chapter of his new book “Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story” thus far.
In this installment I talk to Wyclef about his would be presidential campaign in Haiti, how that dream fell apart and what’s next up on his plate.
“That circumstance is probably one of the toughest times in my life because this is actually I place that I come from,” said Jean of being denied the right to run for president. “A place where I was raised, a place that helped build my character. To basically go from that to the reality of them saying ‘You basically can keep singing and keep dancing, keep producing the records and making peoples hips shake around. But when it comes to this policy and legislation we don’t want you dealing with that. It was probably one of the top three challenges in my life. But what really helped get me through was realizing that the suffering you go through has to be based on those that came before you. When I look at the story of Martin, when I look at the story of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks…then I have to ask myself. ‘What is it that you’re really going through that you can’t handle?’ Because nobody’s coming into your house burning crosses, dragging your Dad out of the house, and getting a noose and throwing it over a tree limb. This is what made me keep my head up and work through the entire process.”
When Wyclef Jean initially announced his candidacy to become president of Haiti it seemed like the entire nation cheered in unison. Jean has been a long time activist and ambassador who has always showed demonstrated concern and love for the people of Haiti and their ongoing plight. Though he garnered mass support from his would be constituents Wyclef’s campaign was considered null and void by the Haitian parliment.
“I call it ‘The Law that was created for Wyclef Jean not to run’, that’s what they should call the law,” said Jean of the law that politicians cited to kill his campaign. “It’s really a law that doesn’t exist. At the time, I was an ambassador at large in Haiti with a 5 year passport in hand. So, how are you going to tell a diplomat with an ambassador’s passport that he has to reside in the country for 5 years at a time when niether the president nor any of the members of parliment could say they resided in the country for 5 years? In my second book I explain how they tried to J. Edgar Hoover me, and I get into the political side of all of that.”
Dirty politics appears to be par for the the course in any election. Often times the policies of a political opponent simply aren’t enough for a would-be president to run against fair and square. People feel obligated to throw dirt in the game. But Clef told me his campaign didn’t even get that far.
“I didn’t even get a chance to unfold my policies. The threat was, once I landed on the ground, I had 12 million people behind me. The entire country. At the same time it’s ‘Who is this guy? Isn’t he a musician from the group called Fugees? Refugees? I refugee from
Guantanamo Bay, which is next to Cuba, which is next to Venezuela? What are his policies? We know he’s a friend of ours but is this a guy we can hand a country over to? We’ve just had an earthquake where 250,000 people died. Now we have a lot of corporate interests coming into the country, kind of like how we did in Iraq and other places. Is this our guy? Is this our man?’ I guess I didn’t match the ‘is he our man’ test.”
And what of any further political ventures?
“I plan to help my country for as long as I’m breathing, but I do not foresee the idea of running for president again right now,” said Jean. “Basically, I’m back in the states focusing on a new company I have with my brother called ‘All Hands on Deck.’ But what I will do about Haiti before I stop breathing, is to see if maybe I can put up an entire school down there. The right way.”
In past interviews with celebrities of Haitian descent I have been told some politicians and past presidents of the Carribbean nation have not been very accommodating to business growth. Clef tells me that the man he back for president is trying to swiftly turn that perception around.
“My president, Michel Martelly, says that Haiti is open for business and they’re open to people who want to come down and visit and open to people who want to come down and start businesses. They’re working on that legislation right now. You can set up shop 90 days to 120 days (tax free). This is something that did not exist before. Currently, the new government that is in place right now is pro business, which is a great thing.”
“One of the things that would help is the U.S. has a mandate that states ‘Go to Haiti at your own risk’.” said Jean. “So, it’s still considered one of the most dangerous spots in the world. I think them raising that mandate would definitely go a long way towards helping back tourism.”
It was an absolute pleasure speaking with Jean regarding his book “Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story” and fans of Clef’s can look forward to more music and other literary works as well. His book is on newstands now.