Source Publication (e.g., journal title)

Encyclopedia of Multicultural America

Publication Date

January 2010

Abstract

On January 12th, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Leogane and other parts of Haiti. This natural disaster claimed more than 230,000 lives and left more than 1 million Haitians homeless. As Americans watched horrifying images of devastation, death and destruction, Haitian Americans in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, New York and Chicago, Illinois tried to contact their loved ones. Many people around the world wondered whether or not Haiti, a country with a long, turbulent history was cursed, as the Reverend Pat Robertson stated on his show called the 700 Club; doomed to permanent poverty, governmental inefficiency and misery. But other Haitian Americans returned to their homeland determined to contribute to earthquake relief and begin the long process of rebuilding and reshaping Haiti; a Haiti with a sustainable future. Many of those same Haitian Americans are glad that they are American citizens and can use their status in the United States as a way to help rebuild Haiti. This Haitian presence in the United States is not a recent migratory phenomenon, which occurred during a larger wave of immigration to the United States from Africa, Asia and Latin America in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, but is part of a larger trend which dates back to the inception of the United States as a country. Although many Haitians left their home country during periods of intense political and economic turmoil, they have persevered and flourished in the United States despite encounters with prejudice and racism. Haitian Americans have overcome these obstacles by leaning on varied aspects of their culture which make them a distinct ethnic group in the United States. Haitian Americans have gained employment in all sectors of American society, created institutions which connect them to each other across the United States as well as to their kin in their homeland. Haitians also wield significant political power in cities like Boston and Miami due to their strong civic and electoral participation. As President Obama mentioned in a 2009 statement about the significance of Haitian Flag Day (May 18th), Haitian Americans contribute to the economic, social, cultural, scientific and academic fabric of the United States. Haitian Americans are also involved in shaping the future of Haiti through contributions to their kin and through social and political organizations that attempt to stem the crisis which predated the January 12th, 2010 earthquake. As the 21st century continues, the relationship between Haiti and the United States will be largely determined by the ability of the current administration of Haiti (the Préval administration) to execute some important programs that will help rebuild Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. Additionally, the assistance of the United States and the international community in supporting the Préval administration in rebuilding efforts, the cooperation and expertise of Haitian Americans in the execution and support of Haiti. Indeed, it is the hope of Haitians in the United States that the nation of Haiti will be rebuilt and Haitians, regardless of geographical location, will obtain respect, dignity and justice among the other nations of the world.

Although many Haitians left their home country during periods of intense political and economic turmoil, they have persevered and flourished in the United States despite encounters with prejudice and racism. Haitian Americans have overcome these obstacles by leaning on varied aspects of their culture which make them a distinct ethnic group in the United States. Haitian Americans have gained employment in all sectors of American society, created institutions which connect them to each other across the United States as well as to their kin in their homeland. Haitians also wield significant political power in cities like Boston and Miami due to their strong civic and electoral participation. As President Obama mentioned in a 2009 statement about the significance of Haitian Flag Day (May 18th), Haitian Americans contribute to the economic, social, cultural, scientific and academic fabric of the United States. Haitian Americans are also involved in shaping the future of Haiti through contributions to their kin and through social and political organizations that attempt to stem the crisis which predated the January 12th, 2010 earthquake. As the 21st century continues, the relationship between Haiti and the United States will be largely determined by the ability of the current administration of Haiti (the Préval administration) to execute some important programs that will help rebuild Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. Additionally, the assistance of the United States and the international community in supporting the Préval administration in rebuilding efforts, the cooperation and expertise of Haitian Americans in the execution and support of Haiti. Indeed, it is the hope of Haitians in the United States that the nation of Haiti will be rebuilt and Haitians, regardless of geographical location, will obtain respect, dignity and justice among the other nations of the world.

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