Haitian group honors nationals

The lyrical singing of Emeline Michel captivated the audience at the Haitian Americans United for Progress gala in Queens Village recently.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

It certainly is celebratory when a once fledgling social service agency celebrates its 39th year! Entering its 40th year serving the community, Haitian Americans United for Progress (HAUP) celebrated with an anniversary fundraising gala in Queens Village, last weekend.

This year’s theme was “No Longer Outsiders” and both long-time staunch HAUP supporters, and newer ones, gathered to recognize both HAUP’s important contributions to the Haitian and New York community and to recognize Haitians who are now “insiders.”

Elsie Saint-Louis, the organization’s director welcomed the assembled telling them “Haitians are in every imaginable field: music, film, dance, culinary arts, politics, healthcare, professional football, basketball, education business, car manufacturing, policing, and more,” she said.

This year’s honorees came from many disciplines. Dr. Carole Berotte, founder of the Haitian Studies Association, whose 40-year career in education includes being the fifth president of Bronx Community College was recognized.

Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, deputy assistant secretary for Minority Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tasked with improving the health of racial and ethnic minorities was also honored.

Acknowledged, from the financial world, was Jacques Jiha, who has served in the State Comptroller’s office and on the board of many Haitian community organizations, is now commissioner of the NYC Department of Finance.

Commissioner in NYC Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, and formerly Deputy Borough President of Manhattan, Rosemonde Pierre-Louis received an award, as did designer Rodney Leon, whose 2007 African Burial Ground Memorial just north of City Hall inspires thousands and is the designer for the Permanent Memorial to the Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade at the UN.

Also recognized was 1199SEIU President George Gresham who rose through the ranks starting in the housekeeping department at Columbia Presbyterian, later studying to become an MRI Technologist. As the fifth president of the Union, he now represents 135,000 home and healthcare workers in the metro area.

Following the Award Ceremony, Ms. Saint-Louis challenged those gathered. “You know what the ice-bucket challenge is. I saw some of you on Facebook,” she quipped. “Here is a real challenge to enable us to continue doing the important work we do.” In celebrating the 40th year, Ms. Saint-Louis asked for $40 for every year HAUP has been around, a $40×40 challenge. “I’m looking for 40 donors,” she challenged. Immediately, three checks were presented. “Now I need 37,” she smiled. The challenge is still on. As a not-for-profit, the organization fundraises and receives grants to run it programs.

From HAUP’s humble beginnings, HAUP has served thousands of Haitian and non-Haitian immigrants alike, through these decades. The organization has extended its hands to house and shelter refugees with nowhere to go. It provides English instruction, civic and citizenship classes, and TPS and legal immigration assistance.

Expanding its reach, HAUP has an extensive program for developmentally disabled that includes in-home respite in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, recreational activities, and an after-school program.

The agency provides health service programs. Its family assistance services include a domestic violence initiative and parenting and survival skills. Its community services programs include counseling, cultural events and referrals.

HAUP’s 21st Century Horizons Youth Program, serves more than 225 children and offers daily afterschool homework assistance through its Schools Out of NYC (SONIC) program in P.S. 189, and COMPASS at elementary school P.S. 241 in Crown Heights.

Staff member, Operations Manager John Fontus emphasizes, “These services really help low-income families.”

Following the awards presentations, Emeline Michel entertained, followed by a DJ and dancing.

Traditional Haitian drumming to Emeline Michel’s lyrical singing.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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