Haitian Flag Day
Flag bears spirit of a people
By Tanya Weinberg
May 19, 2001
When the two mothers talked about their
housekeeper jobs and immigration problems, they shook their heads and looked
stern. But when they talked about the Haitian
flag, the two women broke out in
"There are many Haitians
, they recognize they have a
struggle, and now they are trying to show this to the public," said Julienne San
in her native Creole. "Because the flag means unity to the Haitians, now it
becomes more vibrant for them."
The friends sat in the cafeteria of North
Fork Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale on Friday evening, waiting for the
Haitian Flag Day presentation to begin. Their daughters, 10 and 11, sat a couple
rows ahead, dressed in red and blue, Haitian flag bandanas tied around their
"They feel they have the freedom now to celebrate their
heritage," said Rosemarie Petit, commenting how things had changed from earlier
years. "The children didn't want anybody to know they were
Similar scenes are expected Sunday in Delray Beach, where the
community has organized a parade and celebration of Haitian Flag
Wilner Athouriste, one of the organizers, said this is the event's
second year in Delray Beach, and they expect some 5,000 people to
A parade is expected to start at the Haitian Catholic Church,
with music, flags and participants in typical Haitian dress, and work its way
down Southwest Fourth Street to Merritt Park. Delray Beach police will help
direct traffic, Athouriste said.
At the park there will be food,
speeches, dances, poems and other activities. Athouriste said the church's youth
group helped greatly.
Tuesday's election of North Miami's first Haitian
mayor and a Haitian majority city council has further electrified a sense of
growing power among South Florida Haitians just in time for Flag Day, leaders
"It's really exciting. You can feel the charge and the change going
on in the community," said Marvin Dejean, vice president of Minority Development
/Haitian Community Center in Fort Lauderdale.
commemorates May 18, 1803 when leaders of slave troops fighting for freedom in
tore the white stripe out of the French flag to signify their separation.
They created a new flag from the remaining blue and red strips, fought on, and
declared independence the following New Year's Day.
This May marks the
first time Haitian Cultural Heritage Month, declared by Miami-Dade Mayor Alex
Penelas, was celebrated in the county. In Broward, the Community Action Agency
coordinated the first Haitian Awareness Week, including Friday's Flag Day
"It's a very far cry from say five, 10 years ago, when people were
ashamed to say they were Haitian," Dejean said. "Now it's cool and
Today, Broward County is sponsoring an Empowerment Fair at North
Side Elementary, 120 NW 11th St. in Fort Lauderdale from 11 a.m. to 4
A Sunday evening fund raiser for the Camille and Sulette Merilus
Foundation for Haiti Development Inc. will celebrate Flag Day with live music
from 7 to 10 p.m. at 8400 NE Second Ave. in Miami. Call 305-947-8488 for more
The Haitian Compas Festival will showcase the native Haitian
musical style on Saturday at Miami's Bayfront Park from 3 to 11 p.m. See the
festival Web site, www.compasfestival.com.Tanya Weinberg can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-385-7923.
Copyright © 2001, South Florida