“This award means so much to me because it’s not just for me — it’s also for the people of Haiti,” says Grammy Award-winning musician and activist Wyclef Jean, who was born and raised in Haiti, where he grew up singing in his father’s church before moving to America at age 9.
The ex-Fugees member has always “fought for recognition of my country,” and was one of the first people to fly back to his homeland after the devastating earthquake Jan. 12 leveled much of the country, drawing scrutiny for his Yele Haiti org’s accounting practices in the process.
“It was like Armageddon mixed with the Apocalypse,” recalls Jean, who says he lost 15 family members and friends. “I was helping carry bodies in the street.” Ten days later, Jean spearheaded the Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief concert in New York City, and soon after joined nearly 80 performers — including such diverse collaborators as Celine Dion, Lil Wayne, Barbra Streisand, Kanye West and Pink — to record a new version of the 1985 charity hit “We Are the World,” with proceeds this time going to the Haitian relief effort.
But raising money and awareness “isn’t enough,” stresses Jean, who plans to be a part of the rebuilding. “We need action now to replace the infrastructure, get Haitians employed and renew the agriculture. It’s going to take years, and there’s no time to lose.”