JOHNSON CITY - The Haitian government estimates that 300,000 of the country's children live as slaves. One former child slave will share his personal account at East Tennessee State University on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. in the D.P. Culp University Center's Martha Street Culp Auditorium.
"Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle-Class American" is the eye-opening, true story of Jean-Robert Cadet's life as a child slave both in Haiti and the United States, his escape, and his journey to become a college professor.
Since the 1998 publication of his autobiography of the same title, Cadet has shared his story widely. He spoke before UNICEF and the United Nations in New York; traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to participate in a U.N. Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery; and testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last October on behalf of Haiti's slave children.
In addition, Cadet returned to Haiti twice in April 2000, once with a reporter from The Cincinnati Post to write a series of articles on Haiti's slave children, and a second time with CNN to produce "Nobody's Children," a documentary broadcast worldwide to call attention to child slavery.
Restavec, which is currently being used by many American universities as a text for courses in Caribbean history, social justice, anthropology and African-American history, has been translated into Haitian Creole to be used by non-government agencies as a sensitizing tool in Haiti and into French for marketing in all French-speaking countries. A Spanish version of the book will soon be published in Costa Rica.
"The child slaves of Haiti are called restavecs, a French word which means 'ones who stay with,'" explains author Jim Luken in "Haitian Children in Bondage," an article about Cadet in the July issue of the St. Anthony Messenger, a Catholic publication. "The children 'stay with' rich and middle-class families, but not by choice. Their 'stay' is no visit. They cannot leave.
"Extremely poor parents in rural Haiti often find themselves forced to 'give' one or several of their children into the care of the wealthy or the middle class. They do so in the belief (more a hope) that their child will be educated by the family he or she stays with, and that somehow the child will lead a better life away from the grinding poverty that affects 90 percent of Haitian society. According to Cadet, these parents' hopes and longings for their children are very seldom realized."
In his free public lecture, Cadet will discuss not only his experiences as a child slave, but also his work to establish the Restavec Foundation and to educate others about slavery in the modern world. He founded the Cincinnati-based Restavec Foundation "to accomplish three goals," according to the St. Anthony Messenger. "First, Cadet hopes to find homes and schools for freed restavecs and streetchildren. Second, he intends to work toward convincing Haitians that the restavec system must end. Lastly, he intends to assist rural families with food and education for their children, so that they do not need to 'give away their children.'"
Cadet's lecture is sponsored by ETSU's University Productions, Women's Resource Center, Alpha Xi Delta Sorority, Center for Student Life and Leadership, and office of multicultural affairs.
For more information or for special assistance or seating for persons with disabilities, contact the Center for Student Life and Leadership at (423) 439-5675.