Hundreds of Haitian-Americans showcased their ethnic pride at the Haitian Flag Day street fair on Nostrand Avenue in Flatbush on May 20. The annual event, held two days after Haiti’s official flag day, which was May 18 — was a celebration of the Caribbean country’s flag creation and heritage. For many participants the fair was a chance to revel in that pride and showcase their appreciation through singing, said one Crown Heights performer.
“I think the older I get the more I see how important it is for me to honor where my parents and ancestors come from,” said Demi Dabady.
Debady, who regularly appears at the event, opened the show with a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner,” the Haitian national anthem, “La Dessalinienne,” and one her own original songs, “Ayisien Nou Ye,” which means “Haitians We Are.”
She says seeing the crowd reception to her own song was one of her favorite parts of her performance, especially seeing how happy people were afterwards.
“When I pointed to the crowd they would sing every single word I sang two minutes before right back to me — every single word,” said Debady. “People were so warm and welcoming, and after the performance they wanted to hug me and tell me they how much they like my music.”
The day-long fair featured Haitian music, commerce, games, activities, and a show of Haiti’s banner. The country’s first flag was made on May 18, 1803 by Catherine Flon — the goddaughter Haiti’s liberator and leader of the Haitian Revolution — Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
Debady says the rich history of her parents native country often goes ignored, but with events such as the pride fair dedicated to the flag — it can interest Haitian-Americans and people of all backgrounds to become more curious about Haiti and its people.
“I think there’s lack of awareness about the history,” she said. “We are taught to be polite, know the culture, what eat, and know what remedy to turn to, but as I get older I learn that I come from some serious warriors that overtook and conquered something.”