Theova Milfort has one request for Barack Obama during his last 153 days in office: Visit Haiti.
“Haiti is the first independent black country in the world and the first country in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery,” he explains. “Mr. Barack Obama is the beneficiary of that.”
The 48-year-old Hollywood resident believes a presidential visit would boost his homeland’s profile, encouraging tourists to visit the island’s historic sites. In the hopes of getting Obama’s attention, he recently flew to Washington, D.C., to conduct a hunger strike outside the White House. For the past four days, he claims he’s consumed nothing but water — though he still sounds pretty upbeat over the phone. “I’m strong,” he explains. “I don’t know where I get my energy from. Only God knows.”
He’s also barely slept since he arrived on Monday. The permit that allows him to demonstrate outside of the White House says he can’t sleep there, so he’s stayed awake all day and all night. On Wednesday night, however, a downpour forced him to leave. He headed to a nearby 24-hour CVS, where employees offered him a chair to sit on. “For some reason, they knew why I was [at the White House], and I’m really grateful to them,” he says. He slept sitting up for two hours, and then went back outside.
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It isn’t Milfort’s first time taking a dramatic stand. Back in January 2013, he held a hunger strike while camped in a tent outside North Miami City Hall for nine days to call attention to the fact that money raised for reconstruction efforts after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti had gone missing. Then, in December 2013, he climbed to the top of a billboard over I-95 in Hallandale Beach to raise awareness about the plight of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic and was arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct.
Milfort immigrated from Haiti to the United States in 2004 but returns frequently to visit family and do charity work. He works part-time as a card dealer at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, which affords him time to do things like fly to Washington, D.C., and go on a hunger strike. He has also started his own charitable foundation, Fondation Theova Milfort Pour Le Developpement, which provides microloans to people in Haiti.
“I want the youth in Haiti to see me as a role model,” he explains. “Every leader we have over there is a crook. They don’t really care about the country.”
Milfort’s demonstration permit is good for only one week, so on Sunday, he’ll return to Hollywood. He plans to continue his hunger strike until then. “I don’t know how I’m going to make it, but I'll be here for that long,” he says.