Harry Numa: 1961-2014

By: Kim Ives – Haiti Liberte
Harry Numa, 52,
a long-time leader of the National Popular Assembly (APN) and later the
National Popular Party (PPN), died in the early morning hours of Aug. 25 in a
tragic car accident in the southwestern Haitian city of Jérémie. His funeral
was held and he was buried in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 30.
            Born in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 31,
1961, he spent his early years under the dictatorships of François and
Jean-Claude Duvalier. “On Rue Sans Fil where he grew up, Harry revealed himself
to be a true leader among the youth both through the positions he took and by
his serious attitude,” wrote his wife, Lucienne Houanche Irby, in a funeral
tribute. “For those who knew him, Harry didn’t joke often. He took everything
seriously. Caught up in the socio-political situation of the country, he saw
himself as a defender of the weakest and most marginalized.”       In 1980, Harry traveled to New York, where
he went to Rockland Community College and worked various jobs. But in 1987,
after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, he returned to Haiti like many
young people to take part in the burgeoning democracy movement and the newly
formed National Popular Assembly (APN), a nationwide popular organization which
played a key role in contributing to the political rise of Father Jean-Bertrand
Aristide in the turbulent post-Duvalier period. Harry also played an important
role in the leading leftist weekly of the day, Haïti Progrès.
            During the coup d’état of 1991 to
1994, Harry largely stayed in Haiti where he set up a clandestine printing
press to put out anti-coup flyers and a special version of Haïti Progrès, which for several months in 1994 was unable to enter
Haiti from New York, where it was printed, due to an international embargo
which stopped airline flights.
            Harry also helped organize a
short-wave radio network for communications within Haiti and with New York and
Miami, as well as keeping track of, hiding, and caring for APN militants, many
of whom were on the run from, shot at, and beaten up by soldiers and
paramilitaries of the military regime.
            Harry helped plan and execute one memorable resistance operation in
1993 with his long-time comrade, Georges Honorat, and other APN militants,
which involved the felling of trees with chainsaws along the Bourdon road to
Pétionville to impede the Haitian army’s troop carriers.
            Along with other APN militants,
Harry met with the celebrated North American intellectual Noam Chomsky, who
traveled to Haiti in 1993 during the coup, to be filmed and interviewed by
Crowing Rooster Arts. Harry engaged in a long animated discussion with Chomsky
about how to resist the coup, portions which are captured in the feature
documentary Rezistans, directed by
Katharine Kean.
            “Are the Haitian people ready to
carry out those actions [of resistance] given the cost they will suffer,”
Chomsky asks Harry in one scene.
            “We, the Haitian people, have no
choice,” Harry replied. “We have to fight, we have to mobilize, we have to
organize ourselves to finish with this situation [of the coup]. So that’s the
kind of work we are doing right now.”
            In 1999, the APN formed itself as a
full-fledged political party, the PPN, of which Harry was one of the principal
leaders. The party did not field candidates in the 2000 elections but organized
several historic marches of thousands of its militants against the U.S.
military assault on Iraq in March 2003 and against the unfolding coup d’état
against President Aristide from 2001 to 2004.
            In 2004, faced with a number of
personal problems, Harry stepped down from leadership of the PPN and Haïti Progrès, although he kept close
contact with his former comrades and often offered them his penetrating
analysis and ready advice.
            He moved back to New York, where he
met is wife, Lucienne, moved to North Valley Stream, and made a living driving
taxi cabs and later as a building contractor.
            But his passion was Haitian politics
and every Monday or Tuesday he would call Haïti
’s director Berthony Dupont to offer his analysis of the
“conjuncture,” as Haitians call the political situation.
            “Harry’s insights were always
invaluable in analyzing complex situations,” Dupont said. “He knew the players,
he understood political theory and dynamics, and he had a deep faith in the
power of the Haitian people when organized.”
            Harry was shaken by the fatal
shooting on Mar. 23, 2013 of his long-time comrade, Georges Honorat, with whom
he had strongly argued not to take a job working for Prime Minister Laurent
Lamothe’s office. Only a week before his killing by two still unknown gunmen on
a motorcycle, Honorat had told Harry that his advice had been right. “My place
is not there,” Georges had said, according to Harry.
            Before the Cuban Ambassador to the
UN Pedro J. Nunez Mosquera came to address a community meeting at Haïti Liberté on May 29, 2010, Harry
single-handedly threw himself into repairing and remodeling the newspaper’s
meeting room to accommodate the overflow crowd that turned out. He also helped
organize the meeting with the Cuban ambassador and always came with his wife to
support Haïti Liberté at its
fundraising events.
            The fatal accident was a freak
tragedy. Harry was visiting Jérémie for its annual Saint Louis Festival. Leaving
the nightclub Pipirit at about 4 a.m., Harry backed up his white jeep to make
way for a passing vehicle. Unfamiliar with the road in the dark, he backed his
car over a bank so it fell into a rain-swollen river. Although he may have hit
his head, it appears that he may have managed to break the windshield and
escape from the submerged vehicle but drowned in the strong and deep currents.
His body was not recovered until about seven hours later.
            Many comrades from Haiti and
progressive parties in the U.S. who had a chance to work with him will miss
Harry Numa. We at Haïti Liberté will
particularly feel the void, missing his sharp insight and deeply principled
            A memorial evening commemorating the
life of Harry Numa will be held at Haïti
on Sep. 20 at 6 p.m.. Former friends and comrades are expected to
attend from as far away as Canada and Florida. Haïti Liberté extends its condolences to his wife, Lucienne, his
children, Kenneth and Sandra Irby, and his brothers, cousins, and many other
family members.
            Harry, for your life of personal
sacrifice and unflagging dedication to the cause of the Haitian people’s
liberation from oppression and exploitation, we salute you!
            Harry Numa !presente!