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Small Minnesota Haitian community is in shock, seeking donations for earthquake victims

Jimmy Philibert runs a barber shop in Minneapolis, where he says members of the small local Haitian community occasionally gather.

Since Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti, he and other family members are using the barbershop — Ready II Kut, 3465 Minnehaha Ave. S. — as a base to help those affected by the disaster.

“It took some time for it to register, but now my brother and cousin and my fiancee are putting together a food drive and a clothing drive, so we can send supplies to Haiti,” Philibert said.

They’ve checked with relatives still living in Haiti and found most are safe, although an uncle who runs a shoe repair shop in a suburb near Port-au-Prince has not been heard from yet.

“He’s always on the move, and we don’t know where he is or if he’s OK,” Philibert said.

In addition to the food and clothing drive, Philibert said his brother, Harry, a rapper with the local group More Than Lights, is planning a benefit concert next week at the Nomad World Pub, 501 Ceder Ave. S., Minneapolis.

“We’ve been making phone calls and going online to plan ways we can help,” he said. “People are very worried.

The Census Bureau estimates there about 400 people of Haitian descent live in Minnesota. Philibert said that sounds right; he personally knows about 100, he said, mostly relatives and extended family.

He was 13 when his family came to the United States in 1985, “looking for a better life — the land of milk and honey.”

He’s lived in Minnesota since 1993, coming here because a cousin said it’s a good place to live.

Other than his barbershop, there’s no commercial spot where Haitians congregate, he said. Many stay in touch through family gatherings and outings or parties with relatives and friends.

In Rochester, school superintendent Romain Dallemand is a native of Haiti, and is worried about relatives and his native country, reports the Rochester Post-Bulletin.

Dallemand left Port-au-Prince when he was 15 and hasn’t been back in 10 years. He remembers hanging out near Haiti’s National Palace, an impressive building boasting French Renaissance architecture. The palace is now in ruins.

The Fargo Forum reports that about 150 Haitians live in the Fargo-Moorhead area, many having moved there in the late 1990s after an uprising in Haiti.

Many worship at the Tri-City Haitian Ministries Church of God, which shares space with the Golden Ridge Lutheran Church in north Fargo. They prayed for friends, relatives and countrymen at a prayer services there Wednesday night, singing hymns in French and Creole.

In Minneapolis, Philibert said he’s anxious to return to Haiti to help with the reconstruction.

“I am happy I’m living here, but watching the people suffer is eating me up,” he said. “I know it’s not logical to just get up and leave, which I want to do. They need doctors and nurses now, and I’m not one of those. But as soon as the reconstruction starts, I’ll be able to do things to help.”

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