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7183: Haitians and the Boston Census (fwd)

From: MariLinc@aol.com


Haitian Reporter Archives 
March, 2001 
Special Report

Counting Boston's Haitians 
Boston's Haitian Community and The United States Census of 2000

By Steve Desrosiers

In May of 1999, I had the unique experience of coordinating outreach to 
greater Boston's Haitian community in support of the Federal Census of 2000. 
I was part of a team of coordinators from diverse ethnic backgrounds who were 
selected to encourage the participation of our respective ethnic communities 
to respond to their Census forms. 

I was given license to explore and address all segments of Boston's Haitian 
community wherever they were to be found. In the course of my work I 
befriended priests, politicians, business owners, advocates, and local media 
representatives. I addressed Haitians in ESL classes from Somerville to 
Randolph. I spoke in churches, radio stations and local television outlets. I 
saw the communities that Haitians had made for themselves and the many modest 
but vibrant institutions which promulgated their presence in and around 
Boston and was proud to be Haitian-American. 

However, the question which intrigued me as I canvassed the Haitian community 
then is one which I continue to ponder in anticipation of the release of 
Census demographic information for Boston: How many Haitians are there in 
greater Boston?

Many members of the Haitian community believe there are about 80,000 Haitians 
in Boston. The only problems with the estimate are that it is silent about 
the composition of that number and it is not definitively proven. 

It is the absence of this documentation, which makes the Census of 2000 so 
important for the Haitian community. How many children are there? How many 
senior citizens? How many working age adults? How many Haitians are citizens, 
legal non-citizens or establishing legal status? All of this information can 
soon be available to us if the community at large responded to all the 
information requested on their Census forms. 

I am particularly hopeful that those in the Haitian community who received 
long forms filled them out and returned them to the Census Bureau. One of 
every sixth household received a long form and it is that Census form which 
will allow us to evaluate the probability that there may be 80,000 Haitians 
in greater Boston.

In the absence of information from the Census Bureau, there is some reliable 
information about Massachusettsís Haitian community. 

Research conducted by the Office of Refugees and Immigrants in 1998 
established that there are from 40-45,000 Haitians in the Boston area and 
70-75,000 statewide. It established also that most Haitians reside in 
Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury. The study traced significant Haitian 
communities in Cambridge, Somerville, Randolph , Watertown, Worcester and 
Springfield, Waltham, and Brockton among other places. 

Research conducted by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) reveals that 
Haitian French and Creole are among the top five foreign languages spoken in 
the city of Boston. The study relates that Boston's largest foreign-born 
population in 1990 was Haitian, accounting for about 9% of Boston's 20% total 
immigrant population. In 1997 Haitians were also among the top five immigrant 
groups establishing themselves in the city. 

The Massachusetts Department of Education recognizes 10.7% of its 35% foreign 
language-speaking students as speakers of Haitian French or Creole. Much of 
the available research seems to support a statewide Haitian population close 
to the suspected number of 80,000 or more.

The Federal Census Bureau plans to release its vast body of newly collected 
demographic information on a flow basis from June 2001 through September 
2003. From March to April 1, 2001 Census numbers for local legislative 
redistricting will be made available to all States. By June through September 
2001 local demographic profiles will be available along with revised 
population totals. Population counts for 63 race categories will be made 
available during this time period. It is this information which should help 
us come close to an idea of the size of Massachusetts and Bostonís Haitian 
population. The Bureau plans to make much of this information available 
through its internet based data retrieval system known as The American 
FactFinder available through the Census Bureau's web site: 
http://www.census.gov www.census.gov 

The information that has been released from the Census Bureau so far is 
interesting on a national and local level. According to the Bureau, 67% of 
the population responded to the Census of 2000 reversing a downward response 
rate for the past three decades. 

The current estimate for the total population of the United States is 
283,693,194 from 248, 709,873 ten years ago. The total U.S. foreign-born 
population is 28.4 million, or 1 in 10 U.S. residents. The city of Boston has 
574,283 residents. The Black population is 146,945 persons, the White 
population is 360,875 persons and the Hispanic population is 61,955 persons. 
The city's Asian population is 30,388 persons. All of these numbers are 
subject to some revision once new information is released by the Census 
Bureau this summer.

The information to be released by the Census Bureau in the future should help 
the Haitian community better understand and enrich itself. Information 
gathered by the Census Bureau is important if we are to advocate effectively 
for culturally sound services for Haitian senior citizens, youths, and 
newcomers who need access to the their share of the State' s resources. The 
information should give non-profit agencies serving Haitians the specific 
information needed for seeking grants, qualifying for Federal and State aid 
and for strategic community building discourse with local decision makers. 

The data should be useful to entrepreneurs seeking to understand areas where 
Haitians are not receiving service tailored to their tastes and their needs. 
Local elected officials like Marie St. Fleur, Dianne Wilkerson, Gloria Fox, 
Chuck Turner, Thomas M. Menino and Thomas Finneran will depend on this 
detailed data to influence public policy for Haitians and other immigrants 
represented in Boston's neighborhoods. The community as a whole should come 
closer to understanding the size and composition of Haitian presence in 

I would like to end this article by thanking a few notable early supporters 
without whom I would have been totally ineffective in spreading the Census 
message throughout the Haitian community. In Boston I thank Nouvelle Creation 
Caterers who provided free food to some of my most important meetings. 
Journalist Oswald Neptune who was key in helping me gain access to Boston's 
local Haitian media. Radio Nouveaute for its tireless support. Max Nicholas, 
owner of Canal Tropical for his support. 

I extend thanks to attorneys Elda S. James and Ernst Guerrier. Organizations 
such as HALT in St. Angela's, HAPHI, the Haitian Multi-Service Center, 
Caribbean U-Turn, which were receptive to sharing their constituencies with 
me. In Cambridge, I thank Jean Jeune Coordinator of Haitian Services. In 
Somerville, Franklin Dalembert, Director of the Somerville Haitian Coalition. 
In Brockton, I extend thanks to Fred Fontaine, Jacques Borges, and Beausejour 
Antoine. Last but not least, I extend thanks to all the Haitian churches that 
allowed me to address their congregations. I know that my list is not 
complete and extend heartfelt and sincere thanks to all who served any part 
in helping me involve the Haitian community in the Census of 2000.

(Steve Desrosiers is a regular contributor the Boston Haitian Reporter)


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