Several of the city’s Haitian-American correctional officers celebrated the inauguration of their newly formed fraternal organization in Queens on Jan. 18.
Hundreds of guests turned out for the NYCD Haitian Society’s inaugural gala at the Royal Chateau Hall in Rosedale. The festive event symbolized a beginning of the historic forming of such a group within the New York Department of Correction, with the goal of honoring Haitian culture, said the president of the group.
“This celebration was for the inauguration of the Haitian Society and for the first time in history, this is the first time ever organization,” said Captain Sardou Augustin, a 10-year veteran of the department.
Over 500 people showed up to support the event. The large turnout was much bigger than expected, that for forthcoming gatherings, Augustin says they will likely host in a larger location, said Augustin.
“I didn’t expect so many people to show up and moving forward we’re going to do our gala in a bigger venue,” he said.
He also says the crowds the event drew is a testimony to the organization’s necessity.
The initial idea for the group sprung up two years ago but its momentum often dwindled. After a violent incident involving two officers of Haitian descent at a facility — the push for a group catering to Haitian culture was propelled.
“It was something that was always spoken about, but kind of kept dying away,” he said.
Augustin says one of the injured officers encouraged him to revive the idea and move forth with actualizing it. Through word of mouth, the formation of the group started to gain growing interest among other Haitian-American members of the force. And when a group chat in support of its creation grew beyond capacity — he decided to solidify it by filing paperwork, which was officially approved by the department’s commissioner on Dec. 11.
The organizing committee of the group currently includes Augustin, who is president, first vice president, Captain Bobby Frederique, treasurer, Peggy Joseph-Saxton, recording secretary, Sandra Germain, and sergeant at arms, Captain Bobby Villette. Like Augustin, all aforementioned have worked in corrections at least a decade or more.
The NYCD Haitian Society exists to unite people of Haitian descent within the department through camaraderie. One the organization’s goals is offering community to existing and incoming, uniformed and non-uniformed correctional officers. Although there is an emphasis on Haitian culture — members do not necessarily have to be of Haitian ancestry to join because they hope to be an educational experience as well.
Augustin says the organization hopes to present and enlighten fellow members on Haiti’s history and heritage.
“There’s been a lot of passion behind this and Haitian culture embodies the concept of love, integrity, professionalism, and support and we wanted to add it to department and introduce people to our culture,” he said.
Some upcoming the events the group has in the works include hosting impactful community-oriented events, fundraising, and a trip to Haiti.