Brooklyn Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene has introduced two resolutions in the City Council calling for the establishment of a day in recognition of the historic contributions of Haitians to the United States and to the City of New York, respectively.
The first resolution, introduced on April 28, calls upon the federal and state government to establish an annual Haitian Day; while the second, introduced on May 14, calls upon the City to establish an annual New York City Haitian Day.
“Haitians have made great contributions to the United States of America from the beginning of the nation’s history, with major achievements in many different fields,” said Eugene, who represents the 40th Council District in Brooklyn.
He noted that, in 1770, Jean Baptist Point su Sable, an American revolutionary born in Haiti, became the founder of Chicago by being the first person to live in the city’s limits.
Nine years later, Eugene, chairman of the Council’s Youth Services Committee, said Haitian soldiers fought for American Independence in the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Savannah.
In 1803, France was forced to sell Louisiana and other lands as a result of the revolution taking place in Haiti led by Toussaint L’Ouventure, “which greatly increased the land owned by the United States,” said Eugene, who is also a member of the Council Committees for Civil Rights, Fire and Criminal Justice, Health, Immigration, and Small Business.
In the early 19th Century, Eugene noted that Haitian philanthropist and freed slave, Pierre Toussaint, founded an orphanage on Franklin Street in New York City for poor boys and girls.
Toussaint also raised funds and donated considerable amounts of his own money to build Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral
In 1910, W.E.B. DuBois, a civil rights leader and famous writer of Haitian descent, became the editor of the magazine The Crisis in New York City, which denounced segregation and called for equal rights for all, Eugene said.
Today, he added, Rodney Leon, a Brooklyn native of Haitian descent, has designed several buildings in New York City, including the African Burial Ground Memorial in Lower Manhattan.
“With the immense cultural and social contributions that Haitians have made to the United States and the City of New York throughout their history, it is only appropriate that the government designate days recognizing those remarkable achievements,” Eugene said.
“For nearly 250 years, Haitians have had a positive impact on America in so many different ways and the time has come for us to properly honor their legacy,” he added.