Wyclef Jean says if he were President of Haiti, the eradication of slavery would be one of his top priorities. But the rapper’s bid for presidency was recently denied by Haitian officials. Jean blamed the current Haitian President René Préval for ousting him from the ballot—but vowed to continue to work toward the betterment of his beloved homeland.
However, Jean’s political adventures took an awkward turn at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) yesterday: President Préval tried to bury the hatchet, by calling Jean on stage, and announcing he will make the rapper a goodwill ambassador. Reports say Jean seemed “stunned” by the action.
In an article on the Huffington Post, Jean said he was attending CGI to observe the special sessions on rebuilding Haiti, and said he hoped that the issue of “child slavery and kidnappings” would be addressed in the forums.
But it was Jean’s public feud with the president of Haiti—not slavery—that made headlines today.
Jean’s CGI appearance happened just days after he announced he would step down from running from president of Haiti, after being deemed ineligible for the ballot. Jean publicly blasted the Haitian officials who barred his presidential bid—even calling sitting president René Préval “Satan” in a song released to Haitian radio.
But in a publicity garnering move, President Préval offered Jean an olive branch during a CGI seminar on Haitian disaster relief. In front of a live audience, Préval called the rapper on stage and said, “[Wyclef] has made the plight of Haiti visible through the world even before the earthquake. He carries his country in his heart. And that is why I have made him a goodwill ambassador.”
According to the Miami Herald, Jean looked “stunned,” and did not respond. Several news reports made note of this awkward moment.
In a statement released through his blog earlier this week, Jean had said, “Though my run for the presidency was cut short, in this way, I feel it was not in vain.” He added, “Some battles are best fought off the field.” To help Haiti, Jean said, he will concentrate on music, rather than politics.
It seems that Wyclef Jean is still learning the ropes when it comes to political diplomacy. At least with music, he is on familiar ground.
To this end, Jean will release an album next February titled If I Were President, The Haitian Experience. And today, he is taking part in the inaugural episode of a Wall Street Journal video series called “Conversations.” Filmed before a live audience at New York’s Lincoln Center, Jean will be interviewed by WSJ writer Lee Hawkins about creativity and activism. He is following the interview with a live performance.
Will slavery be a topic of discussion? We’ll keep you posted.