I rode my bike down to the Haitian embassy at Madison Avenue and 39th Street tonight to catch a prayer vigil held by Reverend Al Sharpton for the victims and survivors of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that rocked Haiti late Tuesday afternoon.
In attendance were Sharpton, Reverend Jesse Jackson, New York Governor David Paterson, US Senator Kristen Gillibrand and a slew of New York City politicians.
They all spoke of the devastation and pledged aid in the form of money, political will and prayer.
Senator Gillibrand was there as well as Harold Ford, Jr. who has been ruffling Democratic Party feathers lately as he has been scoping out a bid for the US Senate seat in 2010 election. As I was leaving, I watched a daring reporter get chewed out by Sharpton for trying to get a comment on Ford’s potential bid. “I don’t want to talk about politics right now, I’m here for Haiti,” the Reverend barked before hopping into a large black SUV.
I’ll just say I’m glad I have long arms. It was a zoo.
The crowd was small and dense, probably between 50 and 75 people. Only a handful were not media or politically-affiliated
The few Haitian-Americans and other pedestrian supporters out for the vigil had to crane their necks to hear what was going on in the massive media crowd. I felt bad for them, they clearly weren’t the focus of the event. However, Sharpton did lead the crowd in a rousing sing-a-long of “Amen, Haiti” before the crowd dispersed into the night.
The most notable moment of the evening was when Sharpton announced that he was going to travel to Haiti to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day there. Since then, he has said he is going to be there by Friday. Quite a powerful decision not to spend a holiday that he is so powerfully linked to anywhere in the US.
A couple more of my paparazzo shots:
NY State Assemblyman Anthony Weiner gives his phone number out to a Haitian-American. While I was in the media huddle, some guy on the sidewalk kept muttering “whiner” to himself until the NYPD told him to move along.
I borrowed my roommate’s bounce flash and by the end of the evening it was being quite sluggish. I had probably 20 seconds of face-time with Jesse Jackson but the flash was dead, so this was the only usable shot I have. LESSON LEARNED: Bring extra batteries.
When I got home, I did my part and donated $10 of my money (Graduate PLUS federal loans) to the American Red Cross International Relief Fund. You should too. There are plenty of ways for you to help, here is a great resource that lists six simple ways to help out.