Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jou Drapo Ayisyen (A Photo Essay)

Jodiya se jou drapo ayisyen. Or, for those of us in the English-speaking world, today is Haitian Flag Day.

Here in Nassau, Haitian Flag Day celebrations were observed throughout the weekend, the biggest event being yesterday's parade and cultural festival sponsored by the United Haitian Association in the Bahamas (UHAB) as part of their ongoing collaboration with the International Languages and Cultures Institute (ILCI) at the College of the Bahamas.

Both Estela and I attended this event as members of the Bahamas Human Rights Network (BHRN) where we, along with several of our colleagues, helped to staff an information table promoting BHRN's work in the Haitian community. While a number of people did stop by our table and we did collect contact information from several dozen people interested in joining our mailing list (and, hopefully, attending our meetings), I found the day to be productive for other reasons as well.

First, it was a great opportunity to get better acquainted with a number of our colleagues from BHRN in an informal, casual setting. Many of our colleagues bring years of activist experience to BHRN from other human rights organizations--both local and regional--and it was great to hear their stories and learn more about their work, something we don't normally get to do at our regular meetings.

In addition to getting better acquainted with our colleagues from BHRN, we also bumped into numerous friends and acquaintances from throughout the Haitian community and, likewise, met a lot of new and interesting people for the first time, thus developing a greater appreciation for those who are working on behalf of and in collaboration with the Haitian community.

As with last year's Flag Day events, this year also proved to be an important--albeit painful--reminder that the Haitian churches, while often doing good work amongst immigrants from Haiti, have not yet figured out how to minister effectively to the Bahamian-born children of their members. Consequently, at Haitian Flag Day once sees hundreds of Haitian-Bahamian young people who have drifted away from churches that have failed to effectively reach their generation. Many of the Haitian churches, of course, do have sizeable youth groups, many of whom participated in providing entertainment for the day's festivities. But based on the general trajectory we've observed over the past eight years of ministry with local Haitian churches, it is likely that many of these young people will no longer be active in the church five to ten years from now. (This, of course, is a complex issue that is beyond the scope of this particular post. For those who are interested, Manuel Ortiz offers a helpful analysis of ministry issues ethnic churches face in reaching second-generation immigrants here.)

Last but not least, this was a wonderful celebration of Haitian culture and history. In spite of Haiti's political instability and status as one of the poorest countries in the world, the reality is that Haitians have developed a rich and beautiful culture that has made significant contributions to the regional history and culture of the Caribbean and, indeed, the African-Diaspora throughout the Americas. In that regard, this weekend's Flag Day celebrations properly emphasized the positive aspects of Haiti rather than dwelling upon the negative. Yes, things are tough in Haiti but Haiti and the Haitian people also have much to celebrate and to share with the broader international community. Hopefully, that is the message that was communicated through this year's celebrations.

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At Friday, May 23, 2008 at 6:26:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where I live in Texas (Fort Worth) we did not celebrate the Haitian's flag day. There is not an existent haitian community here in the Fort Worth/Dallas area. I'm glad to hear hatians elswhere still maintain this great tradition.


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