For the first time in Saint Lucia, the Haitian community proudly celebrated its Haitian Flag Day, an event similar to Saint Lucian Independence Day Celebrations. The successful event was hosted at the Bay Gardens Hotel on Wednesday May 18th, 2016 with both Haitian Creole and English demonstrations of the country’s historical flag evolution. Haitian Flag Day in Saint Lucia was the first of its kind for the Asosyasyon Sent-Lisi Ayiti (Saint Lucian-Haitian Association), signifying a reigniting of sorts, after the association having been dormant for a few years.
As part of the celebrations, speeches were delivered by former CARICOM Ambassador to Haiti, Earl Huntley and acting Ambassador June Soomer. Jointly, the two sit as the advisors for the association’s board.
The executive comprises Morisson Blanchard (President), Junior Cadette (Vice President), George Victorin (Treasurer), Cecile Charles (Public Relations Officer). Membership is open to both Haitians and Saint Lucians alike, with a passion for the country and its people.
L’Asosyasyon Sent-Lisi Ayiti was founded in 2010 and, while it has been in existence for 6 years, is now undergoing a revival. Last night’s event marked its pinnacle, with great plans to incorporate resident Haitians seamlessly into Saint Lucian society by disseminating fears, myths and stigmas attached to them through both local and international media. As part of her address Ambassador Soomer shared, “The image of Haiti which people have is quite different to its reality. Haitians are an enterprising group of people and are hard workers. I have never yet seen a Haitian begging.”
Collectively, the speakers who addressed the audience spoke of their desires to not only eliminate prejudices and perceptions which have filtered into the minds and judgments of our people but also to make Saint Lucians realize that Haitians, like all nationalities who choose to make Saint Lucia their home, have valuable contributions to make toward our society, economically through their labour and otherwise.
While detailed encounters were relayed, recounting individual experiences with various groups of Haitians and within diverse regions of the country, all in attendance unanimously agreed on the indisputably rich Haitian culture including dance, art forms and, of course, the famous and highly appreciated ‘kompas’ music.
‘Haitians are a very friendly, warm and loving people’ was the key message conveyed. The ‘voodoo’ or ‘vodou’ stigma ignorantly applied to all Haitians was dispelled, bringing home the fact that ‘it is but a religion practiced everywhere in the world, including right here on our own soil, within communities such as Laborie, Dennery and Gros Islet’.
“Contrary to what has been recently spoken about on political platforms, voodoo exists right here in Saint Lucia; you don’t have to go as far as Haiti to find voodoo,” one speaker boldly admitted.
PRO Cecile Charles told the STAR, “It is our aim to inculcate the rich Haitian art into events such as our Arts showcases, as was seen recently.
While Vice President Junior Cadette stated, “In regard to our long-term goals, we will be having Haitian artists and Saint Lucian artists, singers, dancers and painters at our launch in November which will be open to the public.”
The launch is on November 18th, 2016, celebrated as the Vertiere Battle (Bataille de Vertiere), the last great battle of the Haitian Revolution.