May 18 was quite a day for the Haitian Diaspora in Brooklyn who celebrated Haitian Flag Day in a big way.
Proudly waving Haitian flags, members of the Haitian community participated in a midday ceremony co-naming the corner of Nostrand and Newkirk Avenues Toussaint L’Ouverture Boulevard, in honor of the legendary Haitian liberator.
Brooklyn Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, the first Haitian-American to be elected to the state Legislature from New York City, joined other local elected officials and community leaders at the co-naming event. They have formed a coalition called Little Haiti BK, and have launched an effort to label the predominantly Haitian-American surrounding area the Little Haiti Business and Cultural District.
According to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, Brooklyn is now home to more than 90,000 Haitian-Americans — the third largest concentration in the U.S.
In remarks before the new street sign was unveiled at the co-naming ceremony, Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams who is of Grenadian descent, commented on local opposition to the creation of a Little Haiti district mounted by some who note that a Little Caribbean area already exists. “Little Haiti has nothing to do with Little Caribbean,” he noted about a seeming conflict in creating two competing special (and overlapping) zones in Brooklyn.
“When a community steps up to push back in the perception of negativity about it,” he said, referring to the President’s disparaging remarks about Haiti, “I must stand with them…We should be celebrating the creation of Little Haiti as well as the creation of Little Caribbean. This is nothing to divide us.”
Williams believes that this designation is a great way for NYC to show the world and the nation that Haitians add cultural, educational, and economic significance to this country that cannot be ignored.
“I’m happy to celebrate OUR culture today. This is a proud day for everyone, a proud day for Haitians, a proud day for Caribbeans, a proud day for Africans, for Blacks, for everyone who loves culture.”
Later that evening, at Brooklyn Commons, Councilman Williams hosted with community organizer Farah Louis his annual Haitian Flag Day awards celebration in collaboration with Haiti Cultural Exchange and the Haitian American Caucus.
Six members of the Haitian community were recognized for their excellence and contributions. Political strategist Karine Jean-Pierre, senior advisor and national spokesperson for MoveO
A menu of tasteful Haitian traditional food cooked up by Ida J. & Company, a start-up gourmet dessert and catering business in Brooklyn, nourished those present to the Flag Day Celebration with another aspect of Haitian culture, its cuisine.
Haitian music and cuisine were also part of the evening’s program. Accompanied by Buyu Ambroise on saxophone and his band, Haiti vocalist Jehnu Sahyeir wooed the crowd with song in Haitian Creole.
Sahyeir is one of many artists traveling from Haiti to participate in Haiti Cultural Exchange’s (HCX) six-week cultural festival Selebrasyon! of which this evening was one of its first events. The arts festival runs until June 29 showcasing high caliber cinema, dance, literature, music and visual arts from Haiti and its Diaspora.