In the mid-nineteen nineties a group of Haitian students felt Haiti only got attention when something negative was happening. At that time, Ruddel Deceus and friends from CUNY and other universities organized the 18 Mai Committee named for the date the Haitian flag was created in 1803. The idea of the committee was cultural awareness and the group was dedicated to Haitian history.
The Haitian flag was adopted on May 18, the last day of the Congress of Arcahaie. The story goes that revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines created the flag by taking a French tricolor and ripping out the white center, which he discarded, asking his god-daughter Catherine Flon to sew the remaining bands together.
Over time, the 18 Mai Committee grew, held many commemorative and other events including celebrating Haitian Flag Day at New York City Hall.
Deceus was clearly at the forefront of awareness. Subsequently this young history activist got married and started a family and while he’s busy with different things, others carry on the historical torch.
This year, from the United Nations and throughout the region, there were many and varied events celebrating Haitian Flag Day.
Ambassador Daniel St. Lot with the National Alliance for the Advancement of Haitian Professionals (NAAHP) held at the United Nations the Catherine Flon Symposium: Cultivating Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment to boost women entrepreneurship in Haiti and the diaspora. The first panel entitled: “Bridging the Gap — How to Fill the Missing Middle” focused on empowering Haitian women in Haiti or abroad through the promotion of social entrepreneurship, leadership, social skills and professional development.
The second panel: “Innovation, Entrepreneurship and How to Contribute and Help Promote Women’s Economic Empowerment” discussed various challenges faced by three women entrepreneurs doing business in Haiti and abroad. The symposium was streamed on-line for a greater public to participate.
On the evening of May 18, Haiti Cultural Exchange with musical performers Gashford Guillaume & Creole Fusion Ensemble, and Ani Alerte, in collaboration with Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander brought together many different sections of New Yorkers.
While Councilman Williams is still recovering from surgery, his mom, Pat, was spotted in the audience enjoying herself.
This Haitian Flag Day packed ShapeShifter Lab in Brooklyn and this year’s event centered on the artistic contributions of the Haitian community. Five outstanding artistic individuals were honored: actress Vicky Jeudi, dancer Peniel Guerrier, singer, author and designer Riva Precil, music producer Jerry ‘Wonda’ Duplessis, and singer Esther Lormil.
By evening’s end, people danced their way out to the lively catchy rhythms of the band Baz Twoubadou.
Other local events included a Haitian Flag Day breakfast organized by New York Comptroller Scott Stringer held in the Municipal Building; Councilman Mathieu Eugene celebrated Flag Day in his district over the weekend at Erasmus High School and Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte sponsored a bus from Brooklyn to Albany to “meet your Haitian legislators” and see how things get done.