Haitian pols in Brooklyn celebrate Haitian Flag Day

New York State Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn. P
Photo courtesy Office of New York State Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn

Haitian-born and Haitian-American elected officials in Brooklyn have celebrated the 221st anniversary of the Haitian Flag, saying that Haitian Flag Day, commemorated on Saturday, is a celebration of freedom from French colonizers, who occupied the French-speaking Caribbean nation and forced Haitians into slavery.

Marked annually on May 18, the legislators noted that people of Haitian descent across the globe express their national pride, honor the forefathers of the nation and replenish their resolve for Haiti’s future in the face of their ancestors’ accomplishments.

“Our ancestors’ tremendous bravery is the very reason we celebrate our freedom today, and why Haiti is an inspiration to nations as the first free Black republic in the world,” New York State Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, told Caribbean Life on Saturday.

“We are the sons and daughters of revolutionaries, and we must carry their legacy forward, now more than ever,” added the representative for the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, who chairs the Brooklyn Democratic Party. “As Haiti faces a spiraling crisis, today’s celebration of our ancestors championing equity, prosperity and civil rights for all resonates our resounding call across the globe to unite in support.

“Today, we double down on standing in solidarity with all Haitians,” continued Bichotte Hermelyn, noting that on May 18, 1803, revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Toussaint Louverture’s lieutenant, tore up a French tricolor flag (blue, white and red), and threw the white portion away.

She said Catherine Flon, a Haitian seamstress and goddaughter of Dessalines, stitched together the remaining parts horizontally to create the first version of the Haitian Flag.

The following year, Bichotte Hermelyn said Dessalines led the first successful slave revolt in history, “and Haiti gained independence from France to become the second country in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States of America, to free itself from colonial rule.

“Ever since, Haiti has been an inspiration to nations around the world,” she said, adding that Flon is also now widely recognized as the creator of the first flag of the independent Republic of Haiti, “and Haitian Flag Day is an opportunity for us to acknowledge women’s role in the revolution.

“Flon’s story will continue to be a celebrated part of our culture and women’s contributions to it,” Bichotte Hermelyn continued.

New York City Council Member, Farah N. Louis, another daughter of a Haitian immigrant, said “every flag tells the rich story of a people’s culture, their journey towards independence, and the birth of their identity and heritage that will live on for generations.

“This year marks the 220th Anniversary of Haiti’s independence, and today, on Haitian Flag Day, the sons and daughters of Haiti celebrate their bicolor flag—red and blue—in remembrance of Jean-Jacques Dessalines and all the revolutionaries who paved the way through their sacrifice and their solemn belief that all men were born free,” said the representative for the 45th Council District in Brooklyn.

“Haiti was the first free Black Republic, whose successful slave revolt became a blueprint for others seeking to end their oppression,” added Louis, stating that “given the ongoing unrest and violence in Haiti, Haitians all over the world are even more determined to celebrate Haitian Flag Day by expressing their pride and evoking Black consciousness and identities to recognize, respect and reverence our African roots.

“May the courage and strength of the Haitian revolutionaries continue to inspire us to work in unison to end the inequities prevalent in our present-day society,” she continued.

City Council Member Mercedes Narcisse
City Council Member Mercedes Narcisse. Photo by Marc Baptiste

Council Member Mercedes Narcisse, the Haitian-born representative for the 46th Council District in Brooklyn, said the Haitian Flag Day “holds a special place in my heart as we come together to honor our rich history, our resilient spirit and the vibrant culture that defines us.

“The Haitian flag, emblazoned with the words ‘L’Union Fait La Force’ — Through Unity there is Strength — reminds us of the power we hold when we stand together,” she said. “Haiti’s history is a testament to the incredible strength and courage of our ancestors.

“They fought for freedom, justice, and the right to self-determination, and their legacy is a beacon of inspiration for us all,” Narcisse added. “As we honor them, we must also reflect on our responsibility to carry their legacy forward.

“Now, more than ever, we must unite to support and uplift our beloved Haiti,” she urged. “Each of us has a role to play in this endeavor. Whether through advocacy, community service, or simply by spreading awareness, we can all contribute to the betterment of our beloved homeland.

“Let us remember that our strength lies in our unity,” the council member continued. “When we come together, there is nothing we cannot achieve, including building a brighter future for the land we all love.”

Council Member Rita Joseph.
Council Member Rita Joseph and others hold rally advocating for foster students. Photo by John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit 

Council Member Rita Joseph, another Haitian-born legislator in Brooklyn, said that, “As one of four Haitian Americans in the New York City Council, I am deeply proud of the rich culture that Haiti has given to New York City and the world.

“From the bravery of our ancestors who fought for independence, to the vibrant music, art, and literature that fill our hearts with joy, Haiti is a nation that has always been close to my heart,” said the representative for the 40th Council District. “When we gather to celebrate Haitian Flag Day, we gather to amplify the contributions Haitians have made to our community and to show our solidarity with the Haitian people.

“We recognize the struggles that Haiti has faced, and we stand with them in their pursuit of peace, stability and prosperity,” Joseph added. “I am reminded of the sacrifices made by my own ancestors, who came to this country seeking a better life and I am reminded of the strength and resilience of the Haitian people, who have overcome so much to build a brighter future for themselves and their families.

“Let us continue to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the Haitian culture, and work towards a brighter future for all,” she continued.