Letter from Fonkoze USA

Dear Fonkoze Family, 

We are deeply saddened to report that on July 23, 2020, our long-time friend and supporter, Dr. Marie Marcelle B. Racine, passed away. She will be greatly missed by us all but never forgotten. Her lifelong advocacy for the underserved and disenfranchised will last forever.

“When it’s free, oh Haiti will be beautiful! … When that time comes, women will wear hibiscus in their hair.” — excerpt from a poem by Koralen (Jean-Claude Martineau).

This past week, this world lost a shining star, and I lost a dear friend and role model. Dr. Marie Marcelle B. Racine passed away after a long illness. There is so much to say about Marie, I scarcely know where to begin. I met her in the early 1990’s after I made my first, life-changing, visit to Haiti and then joined the staff of the Washington Office on Haiti. Our friendship, like so many people’s during that time, was forged in the fight for democracy in Haiti.

Scholar, teacher, activist, devoted mother, grandmother, sister, and friend, Marie lived a passionately engaged life. Marie was always “on the move.” She was a professor and Associate Dean of French and Linguistics at the University of the District of Columbia. She held a degree from the University of Lille (France), a Master’s degree in Romance Languages from Howard University and a Ph.D. in French and Linguistics from Georgetown University.

In addition to her hard work at UDC, Marie – who fled the dictatorship in Haiti with her husband and children in 1966 – dedicated herself to fighting injustice in Haiti and throughout this world. When we established Fonkoze USA in 1997, we, of course, recruited Marie for the founding Board of Directors. Fonkoze was just one of the organizations that benefited from her wise counsel and experience.

Tirelessly committed to the fight, Marie also served on the Boards of the Lambi Fund, Witness for Peace, Washington Office on Haiti, and other organizations working toward grassroots development and justice in Haiti and elsewhere. She particularly highlighted the struggles of women, writing a poignant book (along with co-author Kathy Ogle) entitled Like the Dew that Waters the Grass: Words from Haitian Women (1999, EPICA).

I will surely miss Marie. So many will. Her star will light my way and inspire me to continue the struggle of liberation and justice. I now picture Marie with hibiscus in her hair, dancing in the streets of heaven.

Written by Fonkoze USA’s founding Executive Director Leigh Carter

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