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Celebrate Diversity: Haitian Heritage Month

A storied country, a proud people, a rich history
Beryl Meyer
Friday, May 4, 2018

Diversity’s a huge part of what makes this country so great and learning more about our neighbors can only make us stronger as a nation. Given the many different people and cultures that call Miami home, we’re in a particularly good place to do that!

Nurture Their Interest in Others
Children are naturally curious about the things that make them different, from the texture of their hair and their taste in music to the way they speak and the ethnic foods they eat. How fortunate then, to be living in the global microcosm that is Miami, where children have countless opportunities to learn from and embrace their culturally diverse friends.

With over 300,000 Haitian Americans currently living in South Florida, celebrating Haitian Heritage Month this May with your children is a perfect way to begin (or continue) building their appreciation of others. Introducing them to the unique customs and rituals of the Caribbean homeland serves to broaden their interest (and horizons!) and fosters acceptance and understanding. Take advantage of your child’s inquisitiveness right from the get-go, starting with a trip to the library for books or travel videos on Haiti. 

Inspire Them Through History
A land populated by people with grit and determination, Haiti has much to teach us about survival and standing tall. Located in the Caribbean, where it is vulnerable time and again to hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters, the inhabitants of this sovereign state persevere, strong in their conviction to overcome adversity. 

With centuries-old struggles to be free – from slavery and oppression dating as far back as the early 1500s to the deportation of citizens in 1937 to the staggering wave of “boat people” desperate to reach U.S. shores in 1979 –Haitians remain steadfast in their pursuit of democracy. 

“The story of Haitians and African-Americans over the last 500 years has been one of a long, hard-fought struggle,” says Léon D. Pamphile, author of Haitians and African Americans: A Heritage of Tragedy and Hope. “Throughout five centuries, they have succeeded in winning many times. Displaying great ingenuity, both Haitians and African-Americans have employed comparable strategies to gain the rights and privileges of citizenship.” Among those who fought to defeat slavery and lead the country to independence: Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, both of whom were born into bondage and ultimately became revolutionary heroes.

Captivate Them with Culture
Tracing back to the country’s discovery by the Spanish (explorer Christopher Columbus mistakenly believed he had found India or China), French rule of almost 200 years (1625-1804) and strong African roots, Haiti’s cultural identity is as rich as it is unique. Largely influenced by its past and a mix of societal beliefs, its music, art and literature offer bold expressions of Haitian life. 

But most impactful is the high level of consciousness of their African cultural heritage, says Pamphile, who notes that Haiti has not only been revered as “the guardian of freedom but also as a black cultural mecca.” Distinguished in their fields of interest, such notables as writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, choreographer Katherine Dunham, and social activist and playwright Langston Hughes all found inspiration in Haiti for their influential works.


Join the Party!

With Haiti’s red and blue flags flying high, lively music blaring in the streets and a host of entertaining and enriching events to enjoy, your family will be swept up in the fun and festivities of Haitian Heritage Month. Here are just a few to get you started: 

May 5
Toussaint Louverture Traveling Exhibition
Presented by Haitian Heritage Museum & Miami Dade College North
North Miami Beach Library
1601 NE 164th Street, North Miami Beach, FL 33162
786.399.1429/305.948.2970
www.haitianheritagemuseum.org

May 5 & 6
Little Haiti Book Festival
Little Haiti Cultural Complex
212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami, FL33137
Libreri Mapou
5919 NE 2nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33137
www.miamibookfair.com

May 12
Taste of Haiti 2018
Miami Dade College North Campus, Lot #2
11380 NW 27th Avenue, Miami, FL 33167
www.tasteofhaitiusa.com 

May 31
Haitian History Bee Final
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Stephen P. Clark Center
111 NW 1st Street, 2nd Floor, Chamber
305.694.2779/305.912.7654 
www.miamiandbeaches.com