KOURAJ Flag Drive & LGBTQ Organizing in Haiti

webHaiti is about resistance. We are Haitian. We will resist homophobia.” – Charlot Jeudy, KOURAJ President of the Executive Committee.

More Photos Here.


In January 2014, I had the privilege to be part of a Community Organizing Solidarity Delegation which traveled from NYC to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. On January 7th, we had an evening meeting with KOURAJ [http://kouraj.org/en/], an lgbtq identity organization based in Port-au-Prince whose mission is confronting homophobia in Haiti, on Haitian – not Western – terms.

In reply to their requests for solidarity and goods, Jessa Lingel and I are running a Rainbow Flag Drive—read below to find out why this act of solidarity matters for those of us perhaps less enchanted with rainbow flags in the US.

All flags can be dropped off at any Heels on Wheels Roadshow or Opentoe Peepshow event between April 6 – May 4, 2014, or mailed to Jessa Lingel, Microsoft Research 1 Memorial Dr. 12th Floor Cambridge, MA 02142. Because there is no mail service in Haiti, Jessa will be bringing the flags to KOURAJ organizers in Haiti in May, 2014.


This meeting was made up of our six-person, 2/3 female crew, half of whom are queer, meeting with four representatives of the organization and its structure: the President, Cultural Animation delegate, Arts & Letters delegate, and another delegate were present.

There aren’t women in leadership in this organization, as the organizers said they were not in community with women. Notably, most groups we met with in Haiti, aside from a group run by white people, and a community group run by survivors of gender-based violence, was in a meeting led by men, including this one. If this means that men run most organizations in Haiti, or that in this instance, libraries and community organizations are masculinized places, is still up to debate.

As a white person from a queer-friendly city, where there are many kinds of public and private queer spaces, I do not have an experience from which to truly draw parallels to the ways in which KOURAJ organizers described their lives. In NYC there are many races of people, and all of these have queer people with their own specific struggles. KOURAJ described how, because of the way in which gender and sexuality is created socially that people are gay privately versus publicly. To be homosexual publicly is unusual, and is socially punishable, even though it is legally permissible.

However with a queer group in Haiti another consideration is important: Kreyole, and therefore Haitian conceptions of gender, use additional terms — Masisi, Madivin, Makomer, Mix — that reflect social genders. So, it would not be totally fair or accurate to say that “four gay men” sums up the picture of the folks we met with from KOURAJ as socially homosexual.

Haiti is entirely different from the U.S. so it uses and needs different terms. KOURAJ’s Goal is to change Haitian mindset, so using terms people are familiar with is important. The President said, “There is a tendency to think being homosexual is about white people. This org being run by/for Haitian people so no one can say its imported.” For much more articulate details, see this piece of writing on M community on KOURAJ’s website: http://kouraj.org/about/mcommunity/


2009 plans to start KOURAJ as an organization were foiled by the January 2010 earthquake, so it wasn’t until the late fall of 2011 that the first meetings and events began to occur, even though organizing had begun two years earlier. For the members of KOURAJ, though, something had changed over that short time: the cultural input of faith-based aid groups was negatively affecting Haitian attitudes towards homosexuality.

Organizing, then, has been “urgent to define a strategy, to define discrimination this community was victim of.” They told us that active repression in Haiti came after the earthquake, when religious groups came in with aid…and with homophobic morals and began telling Haitian people the earthquake was caused by gay people. According to KOURAJ that’s when the street violence against gay people began. Before, homosexuality was private yet not socially policed. Since the earthquake they have tracked 47-50 incidents of anti-gay violence [no formal reporting is in place] but nothing is done about it by the government/police.

KOURAJ’s work is within a Human Rights framework and they were careful to convey that there is no legal bar to homosexuality in Haiti, but rather that discrimination is an issue that contradicts human rights agreements. Article 18 of the Haitian Constitution recognizes equality for all, and Article 19 states there must be protection for all Haitians. With these rights in law, there is no standing for discrimination or homophobia.


Two of the lead organizers are law students who both focus on Human Rights. In Haiti education is terribly inaccessible and expensive, so to be a law student indicates coming from a class background with access to financial resources. But that may be misleading to say in a Western context. Access to public speech and public identities are more [yet not unilaterally] available across classes in the US than they are in Haiti. To be of a class which affords one education is to also be of a class which affords one the ability to be be public about being homosexual. Class is still an indicator of privilege, but these organizers are using their privilege in an important way: to advance the position of all Haitian homosexuals. In Haiti it is critical that people with class privilege be the ones to do LGBTQ organizing [as in the US], precisely because folks of other classes are not nearly as able to do that work [unlike in the US]. This is not to say that folks across classes do not organize, but rather that in the current situation access to financial resources makes it way more accessible to do so.


In 2012 KOURAJ held their first public event, what we in the US might compare to a Gay Pride day.

They have monthly art and cultural events, encouraging members to relate back to Haitian culture with art. The Arts and Culture folks in the org were inspiring for me to meet as their projects reminded me of the queer community organizing I have taken part in. KOURAJ’s Cultural Animation skill-sharing events were what I would call Femme Pride Hangouts: there are hairdo and styling sessions, private dance parties, cooking lessons, and community-building talks. Homos got talent! The Cultural delegate said it’s “about sharing. About generating from within. To give fun relax and party opportunities. After a hard month, to forget frustrations together!” Also, they have begun to create a library of information, which as we learned on this trip is a major undertaking, as there are so few libraries in Haiti and getting books in French, let alone Kreyole, is really difficult.

June 29, 2013 was their second-ever Celebration Day Against Homophobia. As part of this, organizers went to several human rights orgs in Haiti. To explain human rights are “not a buffet” to choose what u want and reject rest.  However, in 2013 their event was formally protested by organizations who put together a counter-event a few weeks later in July.  Threaten with burning houses of lgbtq people. Putting out tracts. President of KOURAJ was in Montreal at that time and was verablly threatened there.  He returned july 17, and on July 18, called for an International press conference to explain the possible violence coming on the 19th from the homophobia protest, including publishing an op-ed in the paper asking to see the documentation or laws criminalizing homosexuality in Haiti – of which there are none. Due to this event, people were “persecuted on the streets or at shops. Some KOURAJ members are in hiding in the country or went to DR. And some just stay inside.”

On Nov 21, 2013 their office ransacked by 2 armed men, and the library they had amassed was destroyed. For safety they closed their doors.  Still they keep resistant and struggle. For the organizers of KOURAJ, “Victory is on the side of human rights. Haitian ppl are on side of resistance. ”


KOURAJ asked for three things: solidarity, connections to funding bodies, and pride flags for their upcoming events. Yes, KOURAJ plans to continue to have Pride events and want to get flags for this year’s event– the THIRD ever in Haiti — to make it bigger and be in six cities across Haiti.

The President of the org said  “Haiti is about resistance. We are Haitian. We will resist homophobia.” He talked a lot about seeking solidarity.  Sure makes a Pride parade seem different from what many of us in the US have experienced, huh. I gave the president of the organization a Heels on Wheels cup and told him [via translator] that we drink from the cup of resistance together.

Rainbow Flag Drive—All flags can be dropped off at any Heels on Wheels Roadshow or Opentoe Peepshow event between April 6 – May 4, 2014, or mailed to Jessa Lingel, Microsoft Research 1 Memorial Dr. 12th Floor Cambridge, MA 02142 by May 1,2014. Because there is no mail service in Haiti, Jessa will be bringing the flags to KOURAJ organizers in Haiti in May, 2014.