Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean held an emotional press conference in New York on Monday afternoon to outline relief plans for his country and to answer criticism of Yele Haiti, the charity foundation he founded that is raising funds for the victims of last week's devastating earthquake on the island. Jean also advocated for the relocation of the nearly 2 million Haitians who have lost their homes in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
"Port-au-Prince is a morgue," said Jean, who has been at the forefront of the call to action for aid to Haiti. He flew down to his native country the day after the massive 7.0 earthquake struck the Caribbean nation on January 12. Through his Twitter account, outreach to other celebrities and entertainers, and pleas for help on news networks around the country, Yele had raised more than $2 million as of Friday. The singer said his priority is to help get supplies to remote areas where security concerns are the greatest.
"I'm not the one that was reporting the news," Jean said. "I'm the one that was carrying the dead bodies on the street."
Earlier this week, watchdog Web site TheSmokingGun.com posted tax returns for the Yele Haiti foundation, claiming that the charitable organization had personally "enriched" the singer and citing payments for a New York recording studio co-owned by Jean and the former Fugees leader's partnership in a Haitian TV production company.
"My dad always told me, if you're a man with a clear conscience, speak with a clear conscience and the world will know," Jean said firmly. "Have we made mistakes? Yes. Did I ever use Yele money for personal benefit? Absolutely not. Yele's books are transparent and open. We have been given a clean bill of health by an external auditor every year since we started.
"Now, if you don't mind, my people in Haiti are watching this, so I got to talk to them in their own language," Jean said before pausing as tears streamed from his eyes. He then spoke patois to the people back home and continued to stress the need for aid.
"After the camera is off, I still gotta report back for duty. That's just the reality of my life," Jean said.
Wyclef Jean will join George Clooney and other celebrities and musicians this Friday for "Hope for Haiti," a telethon sponsored by MTV Networks that will be featured across all major networks.
Learn more about what you can do to help with earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti, and for more information, see Think MTV. Join George Clooney and Wyclef Jean for MTV's "Hope for Haiti" telethon, airing commercial-free Friday, January 22, at 8 p.m. ET.