Haitian Landscape

Understanding Present-Day Haiti through a historic lens

The Haitian community is an essential part of the fabric of Greater Miami. What do you want all residents of Greater Miami to understand about what is currently happening in Haiti?

History is important. The stories of the land and the people shape our perception, our language, and culture. The Haitian community is comprised of people that have come into this country due to a wide range of circumstances but mostly with one thing in common …to actualize their hopes and dreams for a better life. And in so doing, we have made ourselves indistinguishable from the culture of Greater Miami. I witnessed this, as a native Miamian, the contributions of my people by recounting my grandmother’s journey working as a maid in the Gables to my mother becoming a community leader and entrepreneur that provided jobs to newly arrived Haitians, to my late father who worked for the City of Miami for over 30 years. So yes, we, Haitians, are indeed an essential part of what makes Miami Miami!

Therefore, what is happening in Haiti currently (if we all value and know our history) since our independence in 1804, has been an ongoing struggle to actualize safety, stability, and economic growth and prosperity – doing so within a dominant community that may not understand or may possess an inherent bias towards our plight into this country. What I want all residents of Greater Miami to know is encapsulated in the words of Maya Angelou”. We must learn the truth of our history… however sad, however mordant, however terrible, we must know it … the only way out of something is all the way through it.”

So know this, we’ve lived through crisis before and have come out victorious because we have the formula for liberation and freedom. It’s in our blood. We have experienced great tragedy, but still continue to rise and overcome. This is not just a Haitian story, it’s a human story, it’s all of our stories. When we acknowledge the truth, we can then acknowledge the solutions and the role we play in its actualization.

When considering all that is happening in Haiti right now, how does this impact our large Haitian diaspora here in Miami and our region at large?

The vibration of violence and chaos almost certainly has a profound impact on our individual and collective mental, physical, and emotional health. For many of us, our hearts are heavy when we see what our people are enduring. However, it has simultaneously created an opportunity for us as a society to have greater conversations about human rights and international interference in relation to Ayiti (Haiti).

That is why at Ayiti Community Trust, we focus on elevating the voices and narrative of the people affected directly by the current events. As soon as we got the news, we contacted our grantees to get an accurate assessment of the challenges they were and are facing. Then we used our platform to connect the diaspora and friends of Ayiti to provide relief efforts. We also served as a convener, linking our grantees to other Haitian-led organizations based on their needs. For example, one of our grantees asked about how they could receive mental health services, so we connected them with an organization that could provide them with the services and resources in this area. We hosted a virtual session with our Haitian young professionals and have sat on panel discussions and done interviews with media to provide context to this very complex situation, offering insights to understanding the crisis. We believe our role at this time is to hold true to our values as an organization to be narrative shifters and asset framers – always voicing that Ayiti is more than the sum of her challenges and showing the value of community-led development and solutions. We believe the Haitian people are more than capable of planning and executing solutions for their community and our role as the diaspora and friends of Ayiti at large is to PARTNER, not lead in that work.

What do you wish more people knew and understood about Haiti? What is a part of Haiti’s narrative that is not told or talked about enough?

The progress! Mainstream media will have you think that the whole country is on fire, always displaying the most gruesome images and masked men and guns, inciting more fear. Although there is certainly a humanitarian crisis happening in the capital that is affecting the entire country (again if we know our history, this is a result of the US occupation/interference from 1915-1934 and the centralization of institutions in Port au Prince), there are other parts of the island that are functioning. Kids are going to school, people are selling in the market, businesses are open, etc. On my recent trip to Ayiti this past November, I witnessed firsthand how women have or have recently started businesses they are building, branding, and scaling. Their business range from selling handmade handbags to laundry services. So yes, progress is happening, especially in the rural communities, which is where we focus our work.

At The Miami Foundation, we want to stand in solidarity with Haiti, and there are so many people across Greater Miami who want to do the same. How can local Miamians best support Haiti at this time?

Learn more about our culture by interacting and supporting the Haitian community right here in Miami. Impact is impact no matter where you are, so yes, the people of Ayiti need your support, but don’t skip over your Haitian neighbor. It is through cultivating relationships that our perceptions are challenged, which allow us to have an expanded awareness of our role in this collective story of justice, freedom, and economic opportunity.

We are so grateful to The Miami Foundation in making space for the Greater Miami community to connect with us at Ayiti Community Trust. Our goal is to showcase the progress! We support Haitian-led solutions from the North of Ayiti in Limbe to the South in Toirac, and to Haiti’s largest island of La Gonâve.

Find your role in this story and PARTNER with us to make sustainable impact for these rural communities. Support Haitian-led grassroots organizations and their innovative solutions today by visiting ayiticommunitytrust.org/contribute.

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