be_ixf;ym_202407 d_20; ct_100 YES! I want to make a difference TODAY!

Haitian Heritage Month to me

Please listen to the song above during or after you read through this piece: “Kay Blan (Se Pa Lè Poun Ka Blan)” by Wendyyy.

So Haitian Heritage Month is a thing. That’s cool. I never knew, but in a way, I always celebrated it. I grew up in Spring Valley, New York, the third (maybe second) largest community of Haitian descendants in the United States. I had the privilege to be raised surrounded by men and women who shared my beliefs, values and history.

Spring Valley has French and Creole speaking churches. It has restaurants and clothing stores that sell Haitian goods. It has organizations that help the influx of Haitian immigrants that enter the country every year. Spring Valley has shopping sales on and around Haitian Mother’s Day (last Sunday of the month of May). This small village throws a parade for Haitian Flag Day every May, where Haitian celebrities and politicians may come and perform or participate. Spring Valley has my parents, and my parent-in-laws, my nephews, and my cousins.

Miami, Florida; Brooklyn, New York; and Boston, Massachusetts, all have similar communities in which the Haitian culture has contributed to the growth of businesses, organizations and celebrations. Families continue to grow through marriage and of course the diaspora. With the Biden administration’s most recent extension of temporary protected status to Haitian nationals living in the U.S, these communities are projected to grow and flourish with a new generation of Haitian American.

Icon of three tall city buildings next to each other partially covered by a transparent red circle overlay

Watch this video of the Brooklyn Haitian Flag Day Parade, 2007.

Today, I live in Little Rock, Arkansas. If I told you I felt at home, I would be lying.

Feeling at home is being in a place where you belong because your ideas or attitudes are the same. Being at home is feeling safe and comfortable enough to disagree with some ideas or attitudes and know you’ll still be loved, respected, and accepted. Sharing your home is opening the door to others and creating a space for strangers. friends and distant relatives to learn, grow but also contribute to the overall health of your home.

Haitian Heritage Month is for people like me. I am displaced from my home, but the larger community has opened their doors so that I can reconnect and recharge. This comes in the form of supporting Haitian business owners because they’re finally having sales and I can afford their items. I may travel to a community throwing a parade, or (thanks to the digital age) watch a parade on YouTube. I may not be able to participate in the Haitian Mother’s Day Mass in person, but Facebook Live has made it possible for me to listen in on a service in Spring Valley.

Without Haitian Heritage Month, I would not be writing this reflection. I would not be on Lohud looking up images and articles from the past parades in Spring Valley. I would not be looking up songs that could best express my Haitian Pride. Haitian Heritage Month connects me to the larger community in this country so that I do not feel displaced, but rather I feel the love and pride that comes with being Haitian. That comes with being at home.

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