In Memory of Jean Erick Joassaint
March 22, 1947 – May 20, 2016
Jean Erick Joassaint became involved in Haiti’s political community and anti-corruption effort in the late 60s while he was a student at the l’École Normale Supérieure.. He began to rise in popularity in Port-Au-Prince – drawing crowds and becoming a fixture on Jean Dominique’s Radio Haiti-Inter (formerly Radio Haiti). With the increased attention on his activism by local authorities, he was first arrested in Jérémie shortly after delivering a speech on the importance of universal education in Haiti. He was freed thanks to the intervention of the local Catholic Church.
Released on the condition that he would comply with government orders to stop all political activity – Jean Erick Joassaint defied this agreement and promptly resumed his anti-corruption activities again. Shortly afterwards, he was arrested once more and incarcerated at the feared ‘Fort Dimanche’ – a facility referred to as the ‘Dungeon of Death’. Jean Erick’s internment at Fort Dimanche caused many, including his then-fiance Marie Donie Joseph, to believe he was dead. Deprived of sleep, food, and subjected to beatings – Jean Erick never lost hope in justice prevailing. After several weeks with no outside communication he was released – bruised, starved, exhausted, but undeterred.
He was always a tenacious leader and believed that what is right will always prevail, she he continued to advocate for the importance of education and political transparency. Now his work caught the attention of President Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier himself and after several warnings to stop his activities (he did not) he was held for five months at the notorious ‘Casserne Dessalines’ or ‘The Gulag of Haiti’ according to former colleague Jean Dominique.. There he endured violent interrogations, starvation, sleep deprivation. Once telling his daughter that Casserine Dessaline was the worst of all three of his internments – he never elaborated. The extent of the torture he endured will remain buried with him.
Amazed he still lived, his third release prompted his exile to the United States in the late 70s – where he continued his efforts to advocate for education and democracy in Haiti by writing for the Haitian expat newspaper “Haiti Observateur”. From the late 1970s to early 2000s he authored many articles criticizing government corruption in Haiti. During this time he authored four books: L’Ecole en Haiti (1978), Justin Lhérisson: Golimin et les Autres (1986), L’Haïti que j’aime (1992), and Jean-Bertrand Aristide: Le Pouvoir du Ressentiment (2004).
However politics was not Jean Erick’s only passion – after his family, education was one of his greatest loves. He completed his Masters Degree in French Literature and was a post-doctoral candidate in French Philosophy and Literature at the University of Maryland. Continuing his pursuit of education, Jean Erick went on to teach French and Latin for over thirty years at Oakwood Friends School and Berkshire School as the Head of the Foreign Language Department. In 2008 and 2009 he published two French Vocabulary books for high school students.
With decades of education under his belt, Jean Erick retired from teaching life in 2013. He spent his short period of retirement devoted to charity and his family.
Jean Erick survived political imprisonment, torture, immigration, and other obstacles to live a rich life that he never took for granted. Despite the many passions my father had – his greatest love was his family; especially his wife Marie Donie and their children Daniel Erick and Emmanuelle “Manou” Josephe. He is survived by them as well as his sister Jocelyne Joassaint and four brothers Pierre-Marie, Louis Saint-Ange , Jean-Raymond, Jean-Francois Joassaint and their respective families. Jean Erick also leaves behind his grieving in-laws whom he loved and respected as his own.
Services at Collins Funeral Home, 500 University Boulevard West, Silver Spring, MD on Saturday, May 28, 2016 beginning at 9:00 a.m.
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