Haitian Community In Brooklyn
From France Amerique
In New York, where more than 455,000 Haitians live, the majority
of the community resides in Brooklyn, principally in the neighborhood of Flatbush
Avenue, and in Cambria Heights (Jamaica, Queens). France-Amerique has gone to
This is one of the neighborhoods of Brooklyn where the largest number
of Haitians live. In total, the borough counts the most important Haitian community
of the country with 305,000 people. To start, the signs often have French words.
At the Clavicule de Roi', a store selling religious objects on Church
Avenue, there is an old poster of Jean-Jacques Dessaline, heroes of the Haitian
independence, and thrones on the threshold of the door. The odor of incense embalms
Candles, bibelots, crucifix, coarse salt -- one finds everything
here for worship. One of the employees, a man around 60 years old, responds in
French on the telephone. An animator-organizer in Haiti, he left his country 14
years ago. Because the economic situation was not good, he explains,
not very loquacious, These are the circumstances that bring you here.
he loves to speak it. Today, he still buys books in French at the bookstore
of France at Rockefeller Center.
A few meters in front, the Haitians
have another religious sign, Philomene, which attests to the importance
of faith in this community.
To refute the image of numerous Haitian youths
who have renounced studying law or medicine like the ancestors, Jean-Valerie
Fortune, age 26 and a resident of this neighborhood, is preparing for a computer
programmer certificate and works as a security agent for a business on Wall Street.
Here, it is really easy to become someone, he says, explaining his
arrival in the United States four years ago.
Holding a green card and very
happy here, he does not know for how much time he will be here. This,
this is destiny, he says. His father and his brothers and sisters are still
in their country. When Jean-Valery passes from English to French, he punctuates
his sentences with whatever.
The person who best handles the French
language according to him is, without hesitation, French President Jacques Chirac,
whom he sometimes watches on TV5. I would like to speak French like him,
he blurts out smiling. He likes to read from time to time in the language of Moliere,
the newspaper Haiti Progres, or the novels of the francophonic Haitian writer
On 34th Street, two steps from Church Avenue, one finds Radio
Lakay, which is broadcast on the Internet in Creole and French. Among the most
popular singers on its waves, in addition to zouk and Haitian music are Mireille
Mathieu, Frederic Francois, Michel Sardou and Charles Aznavour.
The name of
the journalist Jean Dominique, one of the most famous in Haiti, assassinated during
the troubles of the spring of 2000 and to whom Israel Camille, the stations
technical director, and Odatte Ronel, information director, were close
comes very quickly into the conversation.
In order to explain the malaise that
reigns in their country, and the absence of freedom of the press, they say, There
is a political crisis for two years, a deficit commercial balance, no budget for
closed to four years, the country is at the edge of an abyss.
last elections were fraudulent, continues Odatte. So, the country
is back to its old self.
The two young people do not draw an idyllic
picture of their situation in the United States with the constant terrorist threat,
One does not feel safe here either, the two young men assert. In
New York, life is a struggle, adds Israel, who hopes to return to Haiti
And the capitalist system does not benefit the poorest. I am going
to try to return to the system in which we live here, he continues, to
learn also, but I am not going to stay forever. I am not at ease here.
if to signify that a nobler mission awaits the two men in their country, It
is left to us, the intellectual class, confirms Odatte, to change the situation
of the Haitians.
Translated from French by Charlotte Triggs
to The Citizen Page