Sunday, September 28, 2008

Something new and exciting.

I've been so busy getting ready for the launch... I can hardly think straight. For now, please READ THIS to learn about another project that we have just launched!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This is how the world will end...

I was calm at first. Oblivious. The air conditioning in the Lexus SUV was working as you might expect... perfectly. Add to that the tinted windows and my 20 years of visits to this country that made everything outside of my windows seem safe and familiar. Though I had never been to this very spot, I felt at ease.

"So, when will we get there?" I asked.

Joel, my new friend, snapped back, "We've been in for nearly two miles now!"

In that instant, after the 8 little words sunk into my brain-matter, my entire world changed. It's funny what something as simple as language can do. The moment the information changed, my heart began to race. I felt tense. Everything outside had been commonplace just a moment earlier. Now, those same things were ominous and unpredictable.

That's when I began to see the bullet holes... BIG bullet holes... 50 caliber. Like cascading drops of crystalline water from a garden hose, the stream was almost visible from the sprayed pattern. My mind could drift away from the holes, visualizing the swing of the turret. Each pock mark seemed to point backward in time, ratting out the one responsible for its creation... each extending a finger toward the street and converging where the blue-domed UN soldier once poked from his armored transport.

The tops of buildings were missing. I don't mean to say they were left unfinished, like so many other projects in Haiti. No, these buildings had been torn apart from the explosive force of artillery. Shredded. Crumbled. Hobbled.

On July 28, 2008, I spent the better part of my birthday in a place I should never have been. I had voluntarily (albeit it through a strange set of unplanned circumstances) ridden into the heart of Cité Soleil, one of the poorest and most dangerous slums in Haiti. For a person like me (clearly a foreigner and seemingly well-off... read: expensive car, well dressed, nice camera), this was not exactly the place to be.

At one time Haiti was named the "kidnap capital of the world" * due to an increase in for-profit abductions that had risen to an all-time high. In many cases, the kidnappings were gang-related and therefore highly organized and protected. Similarly, it was not uncommon for the responsible individuals to have originated in specific regions of the city. Cité Soleil was not alone but was certainly battling for its roost at the top of that list.

Put mildly, there are certain places in Haiti that foreigner's should not go. In December of 2005, a US missionary of more than 30 years (and a long-time, personal friend of mine), Phil Snyder, had been shot in the head and torso with a shotgun and then held for ransom in this very same place. His story was right there at the back of my teeth as I stepped deeper and deeper into the "city of the sun".

As the US State Department's website puts it, "There are no "safe areas" in Haiti." For certain, there are several locations that are completely "off limits." Elsewhere on the US State Department's website it declares, "Embassy employees are prohibited from remaining in the downtown area after dark or entering Cite [sic] Soleil and La Saline and their surrounding environs due to significant criminal activity."
So here I was... smack dab in a place that I was not technically "supposed" to be. Add to that the fact that I had arrived in a Lexus and was toting around an expensive video camera (again, not by design).

"Cameras and video cameras should only be used with the permission of the subjects; violent incidents have followed unwelcome photography. Their use should be avoided altogether in high-crime areas."

- US State Department

I have been filming in Haiti for the better part of 10 years now. What the State Department says about photography is absolutely true. Simply as a matter of personal respect, I do not believe it is generally acceptable to point a camera at someone without their express permission, specifically if the resulting image can be easily defined as them. Over the years, I have personally made it a matter of common practice to spend several hours in an area where I may hope to film before even thinking to switch on the camera. As a general rule, forming meaningful relationships in a place like Haiti... a place that has been taken advantage of for so long... is not only critical, it is a matter of common respect. My experience has shown me that the average Haitian's "trust factor" with foreigners increases the further away from the big city that I get. Actually, it is very similar to what I have observed in the states; the mistrust of strangers is often more prevalent in large, metropolitan areas than it is in rural ones. Yet still, even in the most trusting of places, I am bound by the code of patience, respect, and cautious deliberation.

Cité Soleil was probably the last place I expected my camera to be an "acceptable" accessory. For a good while, I was wholeheartedly ashamed to even have it in my grip. I practically worship the people of Haiti. Forgive me if it sounds unbalanced but my love for haiti truly is more on the slant of an obsession for me. Never in a million years would I dream to take advantage of the people that I love. To think that I was now in a position where I could be extremely misunderstood (and subsequently murdered) was enough to make me sick at my stomach.

But there I was; the cards were all on the table and I didn't likely have much time, so I cautiously... and I wish to stress CAUTIOUSLY... raised the lens and requested permission to commence documenting what I was seeing.

5 hours later I was safely walking out of the bowels of what I can only describe as hell on earth. My boots were completely covered... and I do mean absolutely caked... in human and animal excrement. I hadn't strayed from the beaten path or played the hero. I was following the children, going where they went... observing. On several occasions, the young man following me would say (in broken English) "you ok man" or "I not gon let na-tin happen you." He could tell I was far from comfortable. What he didn't know was that even he made me uneasy. All of the horror stories that I had heard about the dangers of Cité Soleil could have easily happened to me that day. With one wrong move or cultural misunderstanding, I could have simply disappeared from the face of the earth.

But now the SUV was in sight, baking in the intense and unrelenting heat and I was leaving with several tapes full of astonishing footage.

To this day, I am still not entirely sure what the purpose was behind this providential day in Cité Soleil. I can say that I have never been the same since and that I now understand Haiti in a completely different way. Even the Haitian friend that took the journey with us that day was knocked clear off his seat. He expressed that he "had no idea" that it was "that bad" down there. He went on to admit "how good" he's got it. For a guy that probably makes the equivalent of about $500 US dollars in an entire year, that is really saying something. In a place like Cité Soleil, the difference between cultural idiosyncrasies and outright inhumanity are bold and flagrant. What I saw there was totally preventable and immediately condemns anyone who is unwilling to help the poor (including myself).

In light of what Haiti faces today, after the massive damage inflicted by this season's storms, it is easy to forget about the daily struggles of so many. In the past month, the area where I filmed this video was once again submerged in a river of raw sewage and debris. As all of the reports were likewise flooding in, I could not help but feel a sense of frustration with the nature of journalism today. The "hot story" seems to change with the winds (literally in this case). Right now, Haiti is a hot topic, popping up on my Google alerts in virtual piles. Story after story is tied to the damage left in the wake of the storms. Understand, I myself contributed to the appeal for aid and I stand by that appeal. Right now, Haiti is in a far worse place than she was a few months ago. Immediate aid is critically needed. But I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that what Haiti needs, in a far-greater way, are long-term solutions for sustainability. Feeding the hungry and healing the sick are great things to do, but these things alone won't really fix any of Haiti's problems. I like to think I'm being a realist when I say that after all of that humanitarian work is over and done, the people you saved from starvation or disease are still going to die. In an earthly sense, no one lives forever.

This music video (and the personal experience that went into crafting it) reminds me of the real need for storytelling in Haiti and throughout the rest of the developing world. As a professional storyteller, that is where I am focusing my energy. In a country where more than 50% (and by some accounts as many as 88%) of the population cannot read or write, mass communication is perfectly poised to be used as a tool of mass education. Through broadcasting technology, the problems of limited infrastructure are finally surmountable and the millions of people who lack basic education may finally be reachable.

When the food supplies are replenished and the flood damage has been repaired or circumvented, Haiti will still be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. News channels will bow away silently and find something else to chase. All the while, Haiti will still be tragically illiterate. Her mountains will still be mostly deforested (approximately 2% remains), life expectancy will be staggeringly low, and people will be suffering in ways that our modern world should never allow.

"The Age of the Storyteller is Upon Us"

In Haiti, demise and progress are waging a virulent war. With an exploding population and the myriad of obstacles already in place, the odds are heavily stacked against progress. If there were ever any hope for Haiti, in a practical, human sense, it is time to present the "nuclear option". By that, I mean to say that the only way to stem the tide and tip the weight of Haiti's future away from cataclysmic catastrophe and into the direction of progress and sustainability is to introduce a strategy that can quickly and comprehensively dismantle or bypass the majority of the current obstacles.

Haiti may lack roads, water, food, and forests but it does not lack air. On that air, education can rise and fall like rain, onto the soil of a population that is starving for knowledge. Through a broadcast educational initiative, the tide of this war can be turned and a sustainable future will have a fighting chance in Haiti.

Thanks for reading. For more information on what we are doing, please click here. On October 13th, you will be able to personally become a part of this unique and lasting initiative. We welcome your interest and depend upon your support. Please stay tuned!

Luke Renner

*In fairness, I should point out that as the data naturally ebbs and flows, the title of "kidnap capital of the world" eventually passed from Haiti to another nation, due in large part to extremely violent retaliation from the United Nations. Nonetheless, the reality of what put Haiti "in the running" remains a sobering and cautionary reminder of the reality of life in this desperate place.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I am so happy, humbled, and honored to announce the release of a brand new music video, "This Is How The World Will End". This video represents a powerful union of visuals and music between The Caribbean Institute of Media Technologies and my dear friends, The Elms ( Please take the time to view the video, digest its message, and then pass it along to your friends.

The video has been uploaded to YouTube and can be easily embedded into your own websites (Myspace, Facebook, etc.). This is a GREAT WAY to spread the word about what we are doing.

In short order, we will be making the Director's Cut of the video available via our FREE VIDEO PODCAST. Please subscribe in iTunes for your chance to own a quality digital copy of this powerful piece. After watching this on YouTube, I strongly recommend that you go get this from our vodcast. The look and sound is much better.

We are also preparing to release a "White Paper" outlining the specific objectives of The Caribbean Institute of Media Technologies. This file is presently being authored and will be available in PDF form very shortly. To request a digital copy of this file, please go here and provide us with your information. As soon as the file is prepared, we will email you a copy. The purpose of this document is to better explain what this project is all about and outline ways in which you can be involved.

Thanks so much for your patience during this time. There is a lot going on right now and we are trying hard to give you some resources to help us spread the word. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Please Help Haiti.

For those of you who are looking for an immediate way to make a contribution to the post-hurricane efforts of 2008, please consider one of the following organizations:

Yéle Haiti

Partners in Health

Love A Child



If you are looking to interface with smaller, grassroots organizations, the following good people come to mind:


Real Hope For Haiti

Please know, my mention of these organizations is a "general endorsement" and not a guarantee of any kind. For the most part, I either know these people personally or have very good reason to trust them (through a great deal of research of my own or an openness and accountability on their part). Ultimately, your decision to help should be based on the tug of your heart. Just know that, in general, these are some of the best options I know to offer you.

If you wish to submit other names to this list, please send me an email and I will certainly consider doing that.

Before I go, let me say thanks to everyone who has bothered to stop by and consider making a charitable contribution. Haiti really needs your immediate help right now. Thanks so much for giving of your time to even go this far.

Luke Renner

For more information on our organization, please click here.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Dear friends, family, and web explorers,

The time has come for the pre-launch of our exciting new website! Please take the time to visit OUR NEW SITE (<- Click here) to view the trailer and to sign up for further information, tell a friend, subscribe in iTunes, or add our announcement to your myspace or facebook account!

It's all right there!

Please, please, please... tell your friends... anyone who might be interested in what we are doing in Haiti. This whole effort is a grassroots campaign to get people interested and ultimately, involved.

Grassroots means that WE'RE COUNTING ON YOU!


You guys share loads of information with each other on a regular basis. You recommend movies, restaurants, toothpaste, cars, presidential candidates, and websites. You are GOOD at what you do.

What we are asking is that you will now take the time... maybe 5 minutes... to pass along a recommendation about us. Our site makes that EASY TO DO! Just drop in your email address and the addresses of some friends and send them an E-mail. That's like falling off a log! Actually, that's easier... cause you'd have to ACTUALLY FIND A LOG to fall off of first.

This has been HANDED TO YOU!

Please help us help Haiti.

Tell a friend today!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Time to write again?

It's been 4 days. Sorry for the lack of content. Really, I am just trying to let the trailer linger a bit longer.

This is a big week for us. Two significant things will be happening.

First, we will proudly release a music video for a song written and performed by The Elms. Through a generous partnership, Owen Thomas (lead singer for The Elms) and I have seen fit to unite our separate visions for this powerful tune and deliver the resulting maxi single. Details will emerge shortly as to how you can get a copy of the video, as well as a detailed exposé on how both the song and the video came to be.

Second, our website's "splash page" should be up and running this week as well. This page will finally present our "Columbus Day" teaser along with a countdown to the website's official launch. From there, in a matter of weeks, we will be off to the races, airing the TV show and trying to raise the necessary funds to get this school off of the launch pad.

I will be sure to let all of you know when these things "officially" happen. Until then, please pray for the people of Haiti. They have been devastated by the recent hurricanes. They could really use your prayers.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008


On October 13, 2008, the United States of America will celebrate Columbus Day. For us, we will celebrate the launch of our brand new website and a massive fundraising campaign.

Please, feel free to pass this around like mad. Naturally, it's YouTube, so the quality stinks. Nonetheless, it is "viral" as they say and can be easily spread for all to see.

If you would like to load this trailer (and future media from us) onto your computer or portable media device (iPhone), please visit our Video Podcast in iTunes by clicking on this iTunes logo:

From there, click the "subscribe" button (in iTunes). It is free, a much better quality than YouTube, and will automatically download new content for you every time we add more.

*NOTE: You need iTunes to be able to do this.

I am really looking for people to help me start a grassroots campaign here. Generate some buzz. Perhaps in your church, specifically among the leadership and/or the missions board. This piece is intended to whet their appetite.

For corporations, churches, or community groups who wish to be involved at the "ground level", I have much more that I can show them, before the site launches. Just CLICK HERE to send me an email and discuss the possibilities.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Alright, I must concede; my brother is far more brilliant than I... at least this week. Here is a wonderful piece of satire that he recently wrote. I think all of you need to read this.

Open letter from God to Americans (satire)

Hello, I am God. I made you. I need you to understand a few things about me, so it will go well with you. I love you when you obey me, and I let the devil hurt you when you don't. I am your Father, and like all good fathers on earth, when you mess up - even accidentally - I get angry with you, but I eventually get over it, usually after I have punished you in a way that feels right to me. You're not smart enough to know my ways, but I won't give you the benefit of the doubt. I teach you things the hard way - it's the only way you will learn. As a consequence, if you do mess up, don't come to me for anything special for a while. Make sure you give me time to cool down first. OK, now that the heavy stuff is out of the way, and on a much lighter note -

You are my favorite child. I love you more than any of the other children I have created. That's why you get all the cool stuff like cars, and houses, and TVs, and food that isn't rotten. It's because of where you happen to live, because your country was founded by people who loved me and followed all my commandments. They didn't steal other people's property. They didn't kill other people to get what they wanted. They only came here to flee from the devil and his minions. They just wanted to be able to worship me freely. And you are truly blessed by me because of what they did. Your country is pretty freaking awesome. I am so glad I created it. Even your money says that you trust me. It's no wonder I count on you to rid the world of evil. Where would the world be today without you? Please don't worry about anything. Take whatever you need. Make yourself at home on earth. I made it for you to enjoy. I am good like that. And as for the poor...remember my son said that there would always be poor people. Don't worry about it. It's not your problem. Most of them are poor because they aren't following me as well as you are. Sometimes lessons are hard to learn, but I can't keep bailing them out all the time.

But be careful not to come too close to me on your own. You need anointed leaders to explain me and my scripture to you. My glory is too much for you to stand, so you should definitely find an anointed leader to follow. They will make sure that the things they tell you on my behalf are right. I trust them to lead you, and you should trust them wholeheartedly too. They got where they are by following other anointed leaders and learning from them. Just look at the signs and wonders that follow them. Look at the cars they drive and the houses they live in. That should be proof enough that I am blessing them and setting them apart to lead you. They don't make mistakes. That small voice in your spirit might be the devil - especially if it raises questions about the things that your leader does and says. Be sure to check everything that voice says with your approved leader. If they say it's not of me, it's not. I know my book says I talked with shepherds, fishermen, nomads, slaves, women, and children, but I don't talk to the rank and file anymore. I had to do that back then because I didn't have the leader class in place yet. You understand.

Finally, never underestimate the "hedge of protection" you have heard so much about. When you are inside my will for your life, nothing bad will happen to you. If something bad does happen to you, you only have yourself or the devil to blame. But since the devil is no match for my hedge of protection, obviously, you did something to make me mad. Didn't I tell you not to do that?

OK then.

A solemn reminder.

You know it's things like "hurricanes" that folks in Indiana never really pay much attention to. Of course, that all changes when you pack up and move to sunny Florida.

Hanna is headed our way soon but for now, she is pummeling the islands of the Caribbean. As you read this, if you are a praying person, please say a prayer for the people of Haiti right now.

In 2004, flash flooding killed so many people in Gonaives. The same is happening again. In addition, some of the very places that I filmed this past July, the poorest parts of Haiti, are presently underwater.

People are dying tonight. Water is killing them. Pray for God's mercy and for capable men to wake up.

This should not be happening.