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The passing of a brother, Daniel Simidor

category central america / caribbean | the left | news report author Monday January 11, 2010 03:34author by Jan Makandal Report this post to the editors

As an act of solidarity I am posting a note of Mitchel Cohen.

Hi friends,

I am very sad to have to report this news, but our friend and comrade Daniel Simidor (aka Andre Elizee) died in Jamaica Hospital (Queens) Sunday morning at around 4 a.m.

Rejin and Daniel's older son, Nazim (who turns 21 tomorrow), was at his side. Daniel had checked into the hospital 8 days ago feeling run-down and having difficulty breathing. The doctors there treated him for pneumonia -- as far as I understand, that was a misdiagnosis and he did not respond at all to the antibiotics.

After being in the hospital for 1-1/2 days, Daniel was having a great deal of difficulty breathing and they needed to sedate him in order to place and keep the oxygen tubes in his lungs. He remained sedated for most of the week.

I'll have more on what happened medically later.

Cathryn and I, along with half the radical Haitian community in New York it seemed, visited Daniel in the hospital on Saturday, along with old friends and co-conspirators. Daniel was an absolutely HUGE intellectual and personal force in opposing both the US-organized coup against Aristide and the people of Haiti AND in severely critiquing Aristide for betraying the aspirations of the Haitian people.

He was THE pre-eminent force in mobilizing support for the independent movements in Haiti, and organized talks, fundraising and direct action efforts for the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP) -- the independent grassroots movement in Haiti that organizes small farmers and peasants in order to improve their living conditions. I'd met the MPP's leader, Chevannes Jean-Baptiste, several times at Daniel and Rejin's home in Brooklyn.

Daniel also organized the Shut Down Guantanamo Committee (taking direct action in opposition to the US Government incarcerating Haitian emigrants there in the early 1990s), and the early Haiti Intervention Committee back in the day.

He also was involved in the Haitian show "collective" on WBAI until 4 years ago when his faction that had been criticizing the corruption and collaboration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide were purged -- that is, they were thrown off the show in an *almost* evenly divided split -- by those trying to control the information and analysis listeners were being permitted to hear (Daniel and others (as usual) refused to toe-the-line and thuggery of the Lavalas leadership and their apologists).

Daniel worked for many, many years as a librarian for the Schomburg Institute in Harlem; many of his co-workers came to visit Daniel in the hospital and NO ONE who came to visit him was without opinion on the great events of the day. I had never known before Daniel's work under his original name, Andre Elizee, and googled it this morning. Wow, I never realized the research and archival work he did at the Schomburg, pulling together the literary and historic pieces of such towering figures as Paul Robeson -- very important work, keeping new generations informed.

Since I'd known him (around 18 years, I reckon) he lived in Brooklyn, until just a month or so ago moving to Queens with artist Rejin Leys and their eight-year old son, Georges. (Did the mold that Daniel breathed in moving books and other items from the dank basement, or at the Schomburg, contribute to his death, as it did with the co-founder of the No Spray Coalition, Valerie Sheppard a few years back? Possibly -- but the doctors at Jamaica Hospital didn't want to know from this when Rejin brought it up earlier in the week.)

On a personal note, Daniel was a wonderful friend and comrade, a creative spirit and intellectual giant, who always had a twinkle in his eye and a hearty "all knowing" Santa Claus-like laugh, and a way of approaching the world slightly askew, and therein always revealing of new insights and humor. He strongly supported my own and others' independent efforts in all sorts of political and artistic endeavors.

To say that Daniel "will be missed" is the understatement of the year. His friends spanned a large swathe of the left's political spectrum, and so did his enemies. Daniel was considered an "ultra-leftist" by many; he didn't pull punches in his political fights, and his battles with such groups as Haiti Progres (let alone the U.S. ruling class and corporate elite) were, well, legendary, as was his scorn for those "liberals" who sided with capitalists in power wherever they may be. He was an unabashed and *true* communist (with a small "c") to the end, an ardent anti-sexist, anti-nationalist, and indeed an internationalist in the extreme, supporting popular movements in Haiti and everywhere else.

All of our love goes out, of course, to Rejin. Together with the recent death of the great South African poet and revolutionary activist Dennis Brutus, the world today is a much, much less interesting place.

More later. I'll send information about memorial services when I learn of them.

Love to ya!

Mitchel

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