Haitian community leaders and elected officials came together Tuesday to denounce the discriminatory on-air remarks made on Friday, Dec. 17, against Haitian women by Hot 97’s Morning Show Personality Cipha Sounds (Luis Diaz).
Activists and community leaders said that Sounds’ comments, made during the Cipha Sounds and Rosenberg Morning Show, were crude and vulgar--a painful reminder of the period when Haitians were unscientifically designated in 1983 by the Center for Disease Control as an AIDS high-risk group.
Haitians were listed by the CDC as one of the 4H’s (Haitians, Hemophiliacs, Homosexuals and Heroin addicts) and the CDC banned 4H’s from donating blood. This designation caused severe social stigma for Haitians in New York and around the world.
On April 20, 1990 when the CDC’s ban was up for review, the Haitian community led one of the largest marches in New York City’s history across the Brooklyn Bridge into Lower Manhattan.
Sounds’ statement was made after one of the most difficult and devastating years for the Haitian community, where over 200,000 people died in the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Currently the country is also grappling with a widespread Cholera epidemic. Community leaders and elected officials have said Sounds’ subsequent apology for his remarks was patently inadequate.
Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer denounced Sounds’ comments as “highly offensive and totally unacceptable,” adding: “It is appalling in this day and age that someone thinks they can malign an entire community with such an ignorant and hurtful comment. That it was made by a radio personality--who presumably knows better and has a responsibility to respect the people who listen to his show--is even more disgraceful. Hot 97 now has an obligation to show New Yorkers that there is no place, and certainly no excuse, for such degrading commentary on its airwaves.”
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio
“As Mr. Diaz has himself has acknowledged, his remarks were ‘stupid and tasteless.’ They denigrated Haitian women, and made light of an HIV epidemic that is growing across the five boroughs. Mr. Diaz’s public apology was a first step, but now it’s incumbent upon Hot 97 to take disciplinary action and show that it takes its broadcasting responsibility seriously.”
New York State Senate Democratic Conference Leader John L. Sampson
“I deplore and condemn the offensive remarks carried on Hot 97 degrading the Haitian community. Communities of color have been on the receiving end of prejudice too often and we should know better. We need to eradicate stereotypes, not perpetuate them. Those who have the privilege of broadcasting on the public airwaves must use their position responsibly and refrain from comments that divide and degrade our society,”
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz
“In Brooklyn—the Haitian and Caribbean Capital of the USA and a borough where women are our only ‘majority’—Brooklynites of every race and creed are flabbergasted by the insensitive and uninformed remarks made by Cipha Sounds. His degrading comments are not only disrespectful to our vibrant Haitian community and all of the great contributions they have made to Brooklyn and our city, but further perpetuate myths about HIV/AIDS. That’s why I believe HOT 97—which has a social responsibility to its listeners—should work with Haitian American and HIV/AIDS community groups to use this incident as a learning tool. Let’s get out the real facts about HIV/AIDS and the risks of transmission, especially among the younger listeners of stations such as HOT 97, so that we can keep New Yorkers safe and work to eradicate HIV/AIDS once and for all.”
Council Member Mathieu Eugene
"I believe the comments made by Hot 97 radio host Cipha Sounds were incredibly insulting and denigrating to both Haitian women and the Haitian community," said Councilmember Mathieu Eugene. "Regardless of their intention, these comments were insensitive, careless and disrespectful, especially at a time when Haiti is struggling to recover from the devastation caused by the January 12th earthquake and the current epidemic of cholera. We cannot tolerate such hurtful comments, which spread a negative stereotype associated with the Haitian community. I strongly denounce the comments made by the radio host, and I believe we should come together to stand up against this form of discrimination."
NYS Senator Eric Adams "I am appalled at the offensive and divisive remarks made by Hot 97 Morning Show Host 'Cipha Sounds' (Luis Diaz). Radio is a powerful and far-reaching medium, and this type of ignorant speech is unacceptable. New York is home to a large Haitian community; they are part of the fabric of our society and deserve more respect."
Assemblyman Karim Camara “The comment made by DJ Cipha Sounds, whether made in jest or not indicates that we have a long way to go in the effort to educate the public about HIV and AIDS. The comment perpetuates gross ethnic stereotypes and racism that cannot be tolerated. It is also deeply insensitive to a great nation that has already endured recent tragedies"
Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Co-Chair, New York City Council Black Latino and Asian Caucus and Chair Health Committee New York City Council “UsuallyHot 97 prides itself in being a radio station that provides a public forum addressing issues plaguing our respective communities. However, DJ Sipha Sound's ill-informed reference to Haitian women threatens to dismantle efforts made by everyone to educate minority communities about existing health disparities. Hot 97 must amend this utter lack of respect to all Haitians and women by terminating the deejay from his post- effective immediately!"
New York City Council Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie:
"I want to join my colleagues in government and all New Yorkers of goodwill who found the comments issued on Hot 97 radio about Haitian women to be outrageous, racist and ignorant. Unfortunately, there has been a pattern of "shock" behavior at this radio station and communities of color have been the recipients every time. I stood with my Council colleagues in the past to denounce the anti-Asian "Tsunami Song" aired in 2005 and the anti-Caribbean remarks made by former Hot 97 personality Miss Jones in 2006. Such behavior is driven by a corporate culture that continues to demonstrate that it will engage negative stereotypes in order to achieve ratings. It is my hope that Hot 97 listeners will soon tune out this radio station."
Council Member Inez E. Dickens, Assistant Deputy Majority Leader: “When I learned of the comment made by Cipha Sounds of Hot 97, I was appalled. The fact that a person of color would so blatantly and ignorantly demean black women is incomprehensible. I say 'black women" because his comment disrespects all black women. More importantly, the Haitian people have endured great adversity and this irresponsible comment only increases their pain. Cipha's comment also creates division between black and Latino people and we must be united. I understand that Hot 97's Peter Rosenburgh/Cipha Sounds program format is about making derogatory remarks disguised as jokes against all ethnic groups, sparing no one. However I, along with many in my district in Harlem and Upper Manhattan, will continue to work towards the day when we as a people, regardless of race, color, creed or sexual orientation or gender preference, will embrace our common humanity and give all people the respect that they deserve.”
Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat
“I am outraged, though not surprised, that Hot 97 once again has come under fire for the terribly bigoted commentary of its DJs and Producers. DJ Cipha Sound’s recent apology rings as hollow as those from his colleagues before in response to their hateful and unfunny rhetoric. The ultimate protest of this on air behavior is to walk away. I encourage the New York listening public to change the dial on this dialogue and listen to another station.”
Council Member Robert Jackson “Cipha Sounds’ statement regarding Haitian women and HIV is highly ignorant and irresponsible. Hot 97 FM should take immediate action in releasing him from his employment, to demonstrate its intolerance for any prejudiced behavior against any group. There is simply no room for this type of behavior in our public discourse.”
Council Member Letitia James
The 35th Council District has a large Haitian constituency, and the negative comments said by Cipha Sounds concern me very much. Contracting HIV has to do with each person protecting themselves while engaging in sexual activity, and nothing whatsoever to do with a particular ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. First and foremost I would like to see Cipha Sounds of Hot 97 retract his statement, apologize to New Yorkers, as well as make a significant contribution to the Haitian community - immediately.”
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries
“Comments made by Hot 97 DJ Cipha Sounds are factually inaccurate, hurtful and unacceptable in a civil society. Hot 97’s parent company, Emmis Communications, must demonstrate that it will no longer tolerate such reckless behavior and discipline their employee immediately.”
NYS Senator Kevin Parker
“Last Friday 20 years of progress on HIV education was undone in 5 seconds by Cipha Sound’s stigmatizing Haitian women to his young listeners. Great power to formulate images of individuals, cultures, and issues comes with freedom of speech and the public’s ear through a major institution like Hot 97. We expect education; not denigration.”
NYS Senator Jose Peralta
“This type of demeaning buffoonery in the name of ratings is as contemptible as it is offensive. “Station management must apologize to the Haitian community and, through appropriate disciplinary action, make it clear that there is no place on the airwaves or in our great city for hateful speech.”
Assemblyman Nick Perry, Assistant Majority Leader, NYS Assembly and Chairman, NYS Association of Black, Hispanic, Puerto Rican and Asian Legislators
"I fully condemn the malicious and repugnant comments made by Cipha Sounds. What's even more outrageous is that he offered a half-hearted apology, which he himself says is due to calls and tweets from outraged listeners. His apology should have come because he truly felt sorry, otherwise his comments truly speak to his character and that would be a shame. He said his comments were "taken totally the wrong way." Is there a right way?"
Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez
“The statements made by this talk show host on Hot 97 are irresponsible and I urge the entire Caribbean community to reject such media outlets that insult us, promote negative perceptions of us, and encourage us to divide ourselves among racial and gender lines.”
Council Member Jumaane Williams: “I am disappointed by the comments made by Luis Diaz (also known as Cipha Sounds) today on the Hot 97 Morning Show: "I am HIV negative, because I don't mess with Haitian women." I know many listen to this show for its shock factor, but there's a line when it comes to what can and cannot offend people. Given the history of lies when it comes to AIDS and the Haitian community, his statement was extremely offensive to the Haitian community, and not the "joke" he may have intended. As a self described Hip-Hop head, I believe the culture has a duty to promote respect for all. I hope Mr. Diaz was reprimanded for his statement and apologized to the Haitian community at large.”
Council Member Elect Ruben Wills
“I am gravely concerned regarding the recent insensitive comments by a Hot 97 disc jockey made towards Haitian women. Although an apology from the disc jockey is appreciated and I'm sure genuine, it is my sincere hope that Hot 97 uses this incident and the ensuing public reaction as a call to action to support causes that empower all women. Hot 97 should use their immensely popular public platform to expand on outreach that will bring tangible positive benefits to the audience that continues to support them."
Jihan Antoine, President, Bel Ti Fi “As an organization dedicated to the empowerment of Haitian women, we were taken aback by the news of Cipha Sounds’ comments—and we intend to immediately correct the image he has portrayed of us.”
Rodneyse Bichotte, State Committeewoman/District Leader, 42nd Assembly District:
“We demandrespect today as we did 20 years ago. We refuse to relive another second of ignorant comments demeaning the Haitian Community."
Taina Bien-Aime, Executive Director, Equality Now:
“Mr. Diaz or Cipha Sounds' apologies gloss over the essence of his comments, namely that negative stereotypes lead to dehumanizing individuals, in this case Haitian women. Misogynist and racist comments have no place on our airwaves and Hot 97 has a corporate responsibility not to promote hate speech, which we know encourages discrimination and too often can even lead to violence."
Gerard Cadet VP at large 1199/SEIU:
"As a Haitian-American, a father of five native-born Haitian-American women, and the leader of an organization dominated by women, I feel that is unacceptable for a radio station to condone slander and discriminatory remarks on their airwaves. We are calling on Hot 97 to do the responsible thing by terminating Cipha Sounds from employment."
Edwidge Danticat, Author
“It is extremely unfortunate in this day and age, and at this very challenging time for Haiti, that some people continue to use their bully pulpit to recycle old, incorrect, ignorant and painful stereotypes about Haitians, and Haitian women and girls in particular. Mr Diaz' s energy would be put to much more productive use in informing both his male and female listeners, of every age, race, ethnic group and nationality, about AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment.”
Martine Guerrier, Community Leader “The remarks made by Cipha Sounds were morally reprehensible & dealt a misogynistic blow to the public information campaign which seeks to deal with HIV as a universal killer of dreams, destroyer of families, & creator of social death, even during this age of social media, through its ability to force victims to remain silent & not seek treatment out of fear of being publicly blasted. Cipha Sounds attempted victimization of Haitian and Haitian-American women is a threat to many of us who remember a time when as children we had to endure insults and bullying just for identifying as Haitians. As proud Haitian Americans we raise our voices for our children, the men who love us and ourselves to say no to intolerance, no to ignorance, and no to Cipha Sounds. We refuse to be victimized today and shall not allow our children, the boys and the girls to suffer the same indignities.”
Jo Hamilton, Chair Manhattan Community Board #2
“Cipha Sound’s comments on Hot 97 Radio are insulting and irresponsible. They're dangerous, too, because they feed into the culture of racism, sexism and bias against people with HIV/AIDS, all of which are unfortunately too common in our society. Such comments should be strongly repudiated by all decent and fair-minded New Yorkers, and Hot 97 should ensure that this incident is never repeated."
Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, Manhattan Deputy Borough President “Similar to Don Imus outrageous comment about the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball Team, Cipha Sound’s disrespectful remark on Hot 97 is an affront to Haitian women, the entire Haitian community and to New Yorkers as a whole. It is unfortunate that after such a challenging year for Haiti Cipha Sounds choose to disparage our community for a cheap laugh. Adding more insult to injury Cipha Sound’s apology to the Haitian community was tepid at best. Hot 97’s management should take quick and swift action.”
Updated 12/21/10 **************************************************************************
Join Haitian Community Leaders and Elected Officials To Express Outrage Over Derogatory Comments Made On-Air Against Haitian Women By Hot 97 Radio
Personality Cipha Sounds
Coalition of community leaders and elected officials will call for management to immediately terminate radio host Cipha Sounds
WHO: Haitian Community Leaders and Elected Officials
WHAT: During last Friday’s morning show Cipha Sounds (Luis Diaz) announced during the Cipha Sounds and Rosenberg Show “the reason I’m HIV negative is because I don’t mess with Haitian girls.”
WHEN: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.
WHERE: Hot 97 Studios 395 Hudson Street, New York, NY (bet. Clarkson and Houston Streets)
Confirm Your Attendance at firstname.lastname@example.org
Haitian Community Groups Involved in the Event Include:
BEL TI FI
Bel Ti Fi "Pretty Young Girl" Empowerment Committee stands together to promote female empowerment, civic engagement, and leadership in the Haitian community. As a unit, our mission is to enhance the personal advancement and professional development of young Haitian-American women in New York.
THE HAITIAN AMERICAN CAUCUS
The Haitian American Caucus (“HAC”) is dedicated to setting forth a platform to empower Haitian communities while building partnerships and equal access to resources. The Caucus strengthens the network of existing grassroots Haitian-American groups through sharing strategies for innovative organizing.
THE HAITIAN ROUNDTABLE
The Haitian Roundtable (“HRT”), founded in New York in 2008 is an organization comprised of Haitian American professionals who are committed to civic engagement as well as philanthropic endeavors benefiting Haiti, Haitian organizations and causes. The organization seeks to heighten awareness locally and nationally of Haitians as an emerging constituency among key stakeholders and institutions through networking, forums and events. The Haitian Roundtable also aims to educate, advocate and promote Haiti as a positive brand.