SOIL Board Members Reflect on Haitian Heritage Month

Haitian Heritage Month is celebrated annually across the globe during the month of May to recognize the rich history, culture, and contributions of Haitians to society. Particularly in the U.S., Haitian Heritage Month is an opportunity to promote awareness and understanding of the Haitian-American community.

This year we asked members of SOIL’s Board of Directors to share some of their thoughts about their own Haitian heritage and what this month means to them.

Daniel Tillias (Board Co-Chair)

Haitian Heritage Month is important to me and to my family. For the past several years, Haiti has been in the news mostly because of the violence and the turmoil happening there. This month gives Haiti the opportunity to reconnect with the world, allowing it to show off its best features – and is a great opportunity for Haitians everywhere to take pride in such an amazing culture. For me, our family just moved to the US, and it’s so hard for my children to see people having an inaccurate view of what Haiti is all about. Most people don’t know that Haiti is about great music and bright colors and joy and dancing and laughter! These are the aspects of Haiti that my children value. They see people here in the US talking about a different Haiti, only about the things that they see in the news, and for my children they know a different story about Haiti. 

I am so proud of my Haitian culture and the joy that Haitians continue to find in the midst of the many challenges they are facing. They find ways to be mindful about what they have and they still are able to laugh and find time to dance some Kompa and almost try to forget about the suffering. They  acknowledge that they are still living and that they have a lot to be grateful about.

Haiti is still and will always be the first black republic – and lots of Haitians see themselves as that. Strong, proud people who continue to survive despite the struggle they continue to face on a daily basis. 

Nathalie Marc-Charles (Board Secretary)

Haitian Heritage Month holds great significance for me and my family as it provides an opportunity to celebrate and honor our rich Haitian culture and heritage. My family and I relocated to the United States from Haiti almost 2 years ago and Haitian Heritage month serves as a reminder of our roots, traditions, and our resilience. This month allows us to reflect on the contributions of Haitians to history, art, music and beyond. This month provides a platform to educate my children and others about our vibrant culture and the challenges we have overcome. It strengthens our sense of identity and instills a deep appreciation for our Haitian roots, fostering a strong connection that can never be forgotten.

Ingrid Henrys

Ayiti se mwen, mwen se Ayiti!
I am proud of the strength of my ancestors who fought for liberty and freedom, I can still feel that strength in me, in my veins, in all my cells. I love the Haitian culture, how the invisible realm is so tangible in everyday life, how we see and feel beyond what is palpable. This is perceptible in our music, arts, dances and stories. Though, one of my favorite Haitian authors is Gary Victor, who manages to take his readers into the deepest Haitian secrets. And one of my favorite singers is John Steve Brunache, because his lyrics never get old and touch each of us (Haitians). 

Haitian Heritage month is for me a strong reminder of who we are, of where we came from so we can stay strong in the fight that is unfortunately not over although we are officially an independent nation. 

Johnny Celestin

Haitian Heritage Month holds deep personal and collective significance for my family, allowing us to celebrate our heritage, honor our ancestors, and strengthen our cultural identity. It is also a time of pride to see other communities appreciate Haitian history and culture among a wider audience. 

We take the opportunity to indulge in traditional Haitian dishes, such as griot (fried pork), diri ak djon djon (rice with black mushrooms), pikliz (spicy pickled vegetables), and many others. Sharing these meals with family and friends allows us to savor the flavors of our culture and connect with our culinary traditions. 

As someone deeply connected to my Haitian heritage, there are several aspects that fill me with immense pride. However, if I had to single out one, it would be the unwavering spirit of resilience and determination exhibited by the Haitian people. This sentiment is especially poignant this year as the country faces one of the most challenging periods in its history. Despite overwhelming obstacles, the Haitian people persistently push forward and strive for a better future. Their ability to maintain hope, seek solutions, and unite in times of adversity is truly inspiring. Witnessing their strength in the face of such difficulties reinforces my pride in my Haitian heritage and strengthens my resolve to contribute positively to my community and the wider world. 

We are so grateful for each of our wonderful board members and the meaningful contributions they make to SOIL’s work each and every day. 

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