Ten years later, the mission remains the same

Bill ForryBill ForryThe idea to spin off a specific English language newspaper in the Boston Haitian community was one that I had long cultivated as the editor of the Dorchester Reporter, which my parents founded in 1983. The Haitian paper was loosely modeled on the Boston Irish Reporter, which was launched in 1990 with a similar mission for the Irish-American community.

The Boston Haitian community, I felt, was poised to blossom over the next decade and it deserved a dedicated publication to chronicle its rise and a forum to discuss the complicated policy issues that were sure to develop along the way.

The project sprang from the hearty and robust root system of the Reporter Newspapers — owned by Ed and Mary Forry— who provided the platform, the means and the encouragement to launch the BHR in May 2001. Sadly, we lost my mother, Mary, in 2004— but as president of the Reporter Newpapers, she played a key role in “green-lighting” this Haitian project. Reporter publisher Ed Forry has been the paper’s chief sponsor and advocate since its conception, the person most responsible for its survival to date. Without his sage advice, counsel and support for this project, the Boston Haitian Reporter would never have been printed in the first place.

William J. Dorcena, my wife’s brother, made important contributions in the paper’s first two years, helping me to launch the newspaper on the business side before his departure in 2003. We are fortunate that the Reporter had a young, energetic sales manager — Jack ‘Jacques’ Conboy— who ably and patiently stepped up to manage each edition’s advertising — which is the primary means by which a newspaper like ours is financed. Other team members on the sales side over the years have included my sister, Maureen Forry, Kenya Germain Baudouin and Richardson Innocent, whose devotion to the paper from our first days has given me invaluable support in difficult times.

Consistency is the key ingredient that has kept our modest news organization in operation from one edition to the next. There have been many hands that added heft and depth to the Reporter’s pages, but only a handful have truly “gone the distance” from the first edition of the Boston Haitian Reporter ten years ago right through to today.

Foremost among those talents has been Steve Desrosiers, my old friend and classmate from Boston College whose skill as a guitarist and musician is rivaled only by his passion for Haitian culture, history and storytelling. Steve has interviewed scores of fascinating people — from presidents to peasants —on our behalf over the last decade. Each one, no matter their title or lack thereof, has received a treatment worthy of the noble ancestors that Steve so lovingly remembers throughout all of his work. His consistent devotion to the Haitian people has been an inspiration to me as we’ve charted our way— one edition at a time— through this journey.

My dear friend since grade school, Marie ‘Ruth’ Auguste has been another constant throughout. Ruth’s Recipes might in fact be one of our more popular features. That’s due in large part to the way Ruth brings her cooking and style ideas to life in her words. She, too, authentically loves the Haitian people and culture to a degree that is palpable in each and every one of her columns. I am indebted to Ruth and her extended family for her many contributions to the Reporter and our family.

Early on, contributors like Charlot Lucien, Wilner Auguste, Dr. Flore Zephir, Caleb Desrosiers and Emmanuel Vedrine eagerly signed on to assist by lending their deep insights in Haitian and American art, language, politics and history to our pages. So too did one of the great writers of our time— Edwidge Danticat— who not only made herself available through interviews, but contributed original articles to the Reporter in our early years— an incredible boost to our team and our readers. Dr. Paul Farmer and his team at Partners in Health similarly embraced our concept and have been generous in sharing information and ideas. Brian Concannon, Jr. — another Boston College High School alum who long ago fell in love with Haiti— has been an anchor of our op-ed page for much of our history, providing insightful, expert analysis of some of the most complex issues facing Haiti and the diaspora. His efforts, both here and abroad, to improve the “rule of law” is the biggest missing link to true progress in Haiti and we’ve been privileged to carry his message through our pages.

More recently, voices like Yolette Ibokette have added immeasurably to our monthly package of news and opinion. Yolette’s insights into public education, in particular, have been of great service to our readers. Patrick Sylvain, my Haitian language teacher and advisor, has produced a series of columns that — for my money— are among the most interesting and important articles that we have published in our first decade. Each column is better than the next and the breadth and depth of his knowledge of everything about Haiti is simply breathtaking.

Manolia Charlotin, our news editor and business manager, has in the course of the last year brought a new burst of energy, talent and sources to our efforts. Her vision for the Boston Haitian Reporter’s next ten years gives me great confidence that project that began humbly ten years ago this month will grow stronger and more relevant in the months and years to come. She is a living, breathing example of why we started this paper in the first place.

From the start, this experiment in community newspapering has been a labor of love.

Like all media outlets — at least ones that hope to survive beyond their first edition— it is a business venture as well. But, we had no illusions about making mounds of money in this endeavor and in that respect, we have never been disappointed. In truth, there have been times — as with any small business— when it has seemed that our project may have run its course.

But this community has always provided an anecdote for our doubts. I have been heartened over the years on many occasions by readers young and old who have given me words of encouragement and urged us to keep this a going concern. Today, we renew that commitment to “chronicle the Haitian-American experience” with vigor, solid journalism and accountability. There is no better way to do that, in our opinion, than by honoring five members of our Greater Boston community who inspire us with their examples of good citizenship, scholarship and perseverance.

-Bill Forry
May 2011