[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
a200: Haitians call for unity at historic celebration (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Published Wednesday, January 2, 2002
Haitians call for unity at historic celebration
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES AND ELAINE DE VALLE
For everyone else, it was just another New Year's Day.
But for thousands of Haitians across South Florida, Tuesday also marked the
198th anniversary of their homeland's independence from France.
They celebrated with pumpkin soup, prayer and patriotic songs. But the
revelry was tinged with reservations that linger from a bloody coup attempt
in Haiti on Dec. 17 that left at least 10 dead and many Haitians nervous
about the country's future.
The day began for many with a 9 a.m. traditional Mass at Notre Dame d'Haiti
Catholic Church in the heart of Little Haiti. About 1,000 Haitian Americans
from all walks of life filled the pews in what most consider the community's
Bible readings, particularly one about Moses leading God's children to the
Promised Land, reminded many in attendance of how Haiti gained its
independence by abolishing slavery and becoming the first black republic in
the Western Hemisphere.
Guy Victor, Haiti's consul general in Miami, delivered a greeting on behalf
of the Haitian government and President Jean Bertrand Aristide. He also
congratulated local elected officials and pointed to them as symbols of how
far the community has come outside Haiti.
But it was how far Haitians at home had not gone that was on most minds.
``After 198 years, we have to give a hand to one another. We have a country
for us to save,'' Victor said.
Leonie Hermantin, president of Sant La, or The Center, a one-stop community
center in Little Haiti to help recent immigrants with social services,
educational needs and immigration problems, said the message at Mass was a
call for unity.
``We as Haitians have to learn to deal with each other, because in the final
analysis the country suffers if we don't,'' said Hermantin, former executive
director of the Haitian American Foundation.
Said her husband, Florida International University professor Sylvan
Jolibois: ``The message was quite clear that it is time for the parties in
Haiti to come together and get to some kind of agreement so that the country
and people in Haiti can move forward.''
THEY'RE USED TO IT
The couple said Haitians are accustomed to celebrating in the midst of
``We've gone through many, many tribulations,'' Hermantin said. ``It's a
very sad celebration, but I don't know that we're losing hope that Haiti
will survive. We know that it will survive.''
Jolibois said the buzz on the street Tuesday was the idea that negotiations
between the ruling Lavalas party and the opposition must be done in a public
forum, not a closed environment, where both sides come out pointing fingers
at each other.
``How do we get out of this mess? The general consensus is that if the
democratic process can be a positive thing, it has to be with the people
involved. And the way they can get involved is by making everything
He would likely have an ally in adyjeangardy, a prominent Haitian journalist
and president of the Federation of Haitian Press, who was on Miami's WRHB-AM
(1020) Tuesday afternoon denouncing the current situation, which has led to
the brutal murder of one respected journalist as more than a dozen others on
the island request political asylum in the United States.
CALL FOR UNITY
The program on Radio Carnivale began as a history lesson on the independence
fight and ended as a call to the community to come together, regardless of
politics, and to help build the nation in the new millennium.
``It's sad that after 198 years a country can't achieve a model of
democracy,'' adyjeangardy said. ``The country is in a permanent crisis. We
must have solidarity.''
Most of those who thronged to the James L. Knight Center Tuesday night for
the 11th annual Haitian Independence Day Concert, featuring Farah Juste,
would like to see that.
``Hopefully, things will change,'' said Maggie Gustave, 32, of Fort
``I'm not a big supporter of the government that's there now, but my hope is
that the poor get something to eat and the children get to go to school.''
Frantz Charles, 27, said he would especially like to see more jobs in his
MOMENT OF JOY
Tuesday night, while he silently hoped for good things in Haiti, he decided
to give in to the joy of the moment with Juste, a popular performer who
sings patriotic songs about his homeland's natural beauty.
``It's been a while since she's been on stage,'' Charles said. ``She has a
lot of courage, strength. She's very patriotic.''
Gustave was also there for the music. Independence Day seems like a misnomer
``To me, it really is not that big of a day anymore. There is so much
negativity. It's losing its meaning,'' Gustave said. ``We're calling
ourselves independent, but we have to depend on so many other countries.''
Jolibois is more optimistic.
``Regardless of political affiliations, this is a day that all Haitians
celebrate,'' he said.
``When one looks at the future of Haiti in 2002, one realizes that things
must get better and that each one of us has to take part in the process.''
Chat with friends online, try MSN Messenger: http://messenger.msn.com