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9300: [Boston] Haitian community seeks its political voice (fwd)

From: Sarah Belfort <shoesbelfort@yahoo.com>

Haitian community seeks its political voice 

By Megan Tench, Globe Staff, 10/21/2001 

According to the latest census, an estimated 80,000
Haitians live in Massachusetts, and now is the time,
says state Representative Marie St. Fleur, for the
Haitian community to take an active role in political
and social issues that affect all communities of color
in the state. 

''This is a call to action,'' St. Fleur said yesterday
during the first conference on the status of
Haitian-Americans in Massachusetts. 

St. Fleur, a Democrat who represents Dorchester and
parts of Roxbury, and the first Haitian member of the
Legislature, said, ''Everyone cares about social
issues like health care, education, and housing, but
many don't know the route'' toward political progress.

More than 500 Haitian-Americans gathered at Roxbury
Community College's Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic
Center yesterday in search of a unified voice to help
achieve that progress. 

Many of those in attendance said they no longer want
to be regarded as a transient community hoping to
return to their homeland. Others said they understand
their role as the fastest-growing segment of the
state's African-American community, as well as
permanent residents of the United States. 

''This is an opportunity for the people to have a
voice in the active development of a policy that
directly affects their lives,'' said St. Fleur. 

''The goal of this conference is to develop a
blueprint for effective outreach to the
Haitian-American community.'' 

Workshops and panel discussions held throughout the
day focused on education, economic development,
affordable housing, political empowerment, health
care, and immigration and naturalization laws. 

Conference speakers included, Dr. Fritz Daguillard, an
internationally renown physician and biologist who
codiscovered the T-cell, which is the target of the
HIV virus; Yves-Rose SaintDic, community activist and
director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office at
Tufts University; and Jocelyn McCalla, executive
director of the New York-based National Coalition for
Haitian Rights. 

''We are trying to give people the message that we are
not going home. We are going to die here,'' said
SaintDic. ''We need to challenge political leaders and
get them to acknowledge that we matter. They don't
seek the vote from us because they don't see us as

Haitian children, who make up 25 to 35 percent of
African-Americans in the Boston school system, are in
particular need, said several panelists. In addition
to issues on performance standards and the MCAS, an
emphasis was placed on the fight for an adequate
bilingual system in Boston. 

Also highlighted during the conference was the limited
access and knowledge of the health care system, which
is not being utilized by many Haitian families. 

The findings of conference, which was sponsored by
Citizens Bank, the Department of Public Health,
Sovereign Bank, and the Boston Health Commission will
be published in a report that reflects the
Haitian-American community's concerns, said St. Fleur.

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on
 Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company. 

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