We have many loving memories of Joan Huguenard’s always active, questioning, engaging, and progressive spirit. Here is one we would like to share.
During the summer of 2005, Joan accompanied our son, Seth Donnelly, to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Seth was leading a small human rights delegation to investigate abuses reportedly committed by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Haiti. Just a year before, in January 2004, United States Special Operations forces had kidnaped democratically-elected President Aristide and his family, flying them out of Haiti into exile in Central Africa.
In the aftermath of this coup, widespread repression was launched against Aristide’s political party, Lavalas. The United Nations sent a Peacekeeping Force to “keep the peace” and to stabilize the situation. It soon became apparent to many that the UN Peacekeeping Force was simply providing a cover for the human rights abuses being committed against Aristide’s supporters by local police in Port-au-Prince neighborhoods such as Cite Soleil, Bel-Air, and others.
Joan volunteered to join Seth’s Haiti Action delegation for this mission. They arrived in Port-au-Prince just a day before the United Nations Peacekeeping forces surrounded and invaded the impoverished neighborhood of Cite Soleil on the pretext of removing “gang members.” More than two dozen unarmed residents were killed. Seth’s delegation arrived in Cite Soleil a few hours after the operation had ended to document with video recordings the death and destruction that rained down on this neighborhood by the UN Peacekeeping troops.
When it came time to leave Haiti a few days later, Seth was concerned that the videos he had recorded might be seized by security at the Port-au-Prince airport. Joan enthusiastically embraced this risky challenge, offering to take the video tapes and hide them in her knitting bag. After all, she boldly asserted, “Who would question a sweet, little old grandmother carrying her knitting bag?”
So, thanks to Joan’s pluck and courage, the tapes made it through security and back to the United States. A few days later, Seth was interviewed in New York by Amy Goodman on her “Democracy Now” show and the video documentation was shown.
John & Sara Donnelly
578 7th St West
Sonoma, CA 95476