- Haitian Heritage Month occurs in May every year, uplifting and celebrating Haitian culture.
- It is observed nationwide on college campuses and in local Haitian communities.
- Haitians and their allies can celebrate and support Haitian heritage in various ways.
While the Haitian American community celebrates its vibrant culture every day of the year, Haitian Heritage Month is a time for allies to learn more about Haitian culture. This month allows the Haitian American community to share its traditions and history in celebration with non-Haitians. Haitians are a significant part of the Latino/a U.S. college student population, despite the decline in Latino/a college enrollment.
In 2018, 19% of Haitian immigrants held a bachelor’s degree or higher. Policy experts call for more support for Haitian students. Schools that recognize and uplift Afro-Latino/a history can improve campus diversity, broaden staff, student, and faculty perspectives, and enrich the educational experience for everyone.
Celebrating Haitian culture also helps build a globally-aware campus community, creating a more sensitive learning and living environment. This can lead to better outcomes for other diverse and potentially marginalized students.
The History of Haitian Heritage Month
On May 1, 1804, Haiti became the first independent Black republic in the world, following a successful revolution against their enslavers and colonizers.
Haitian Heritage Month is an extension of Haitian Flag Day, observed in Haiti and by the diaspora. Haitian President Dumarsais Estimé created this holiday in the 1930s, and his vision was to foster a sense of national pride and patriotism among young Haitians.
While Haitians have celebrated their Flag Day since 1933, the first month-long celebration in the U.S. occurred in Boston in May 1998, when a TV program called “Tele Kreyol” featured a series on Haitian history, culture, and traditions. Palm Beach County in Florida adopted the celebration three years later, followed by the White House acknowledgment in 2005.
By 2008, organizations across the country joined in the commemoration, growing in size yearly. Today it is celebrated at colleges and in communities throughout the U.S.
5 Ways Students Can Celebrate Haitian Heritage Month
One major way to celebrate Haitian heritage is by studying Haitian history. Delve into details about Haiti’s culture, influential figures, and historical events by researching, reading books, watching documentaries, and actively listening in discussions.
Remember that you can’t learn everything there is to know about Haiti in one month alone. Continue learning about Haitian culture and supporting the community throughout the year. This will help you gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for Haiti’s heritage, whether you’re of Haitian heritage or an ally.
Attend a Flag Raising
Haitian Flag Day is the heart of Haitian Heritage Month, so attending a flag-raising is vital. The flag is steeped in symbolism, prominently elevating the spirit of unity.
L’Union fait la Force, written on the flag, means
with unity there is strength.
Flag raisings allow Haitians and their allies to meet important members of their local Haitian communities and raise awareness of their presence and importance in U.S. culture and on campuses.
Support Local Haitian Businesses
Financial support plays a crucial role in allyship, contributing to the economic growth of Haitian-owned businesses. This support positively impacts and also creates opportunities for cultural exchange.
It’s also an opportunity to try delicious cuisine at a Haitian restaurant or purchase beautiful art, clothing, and accessories made by Haitian artisans.
Participate in a Celebration
Haitians and Haitian Americans are known for their love of celebrations. As someone from the culture or an ally, you can experience the joy of Haitian music, dance, and delicious cuisine by participating in casual parties or formal banquets.
To get involved, explore on-campus activities or connect with the vibrant Haitian community in your local area.
Donate to an Organization
Haiti faces various challenges, including political unrest, natural disasters, and poverty. Whether you are of Haitian descent or an ally, providing financial support to organizations working on the ground is a meaningful way to demonstrate solidarity and offer assistance.
If you can afford to do so only once a year, consider giving in May. Otherwise, financial or physical support is useful any time of the year. Rally your friends and family to donate by raising awareness on social media. Together, we can make a difference and support Haiti.
Haitian Heritage Month Resources
A wide variety of resources can help you get to know Haitian heritage, culture, and history, and how to make a positive impact in your local community.
The Haitian Heritage Museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the vibrant culture of Haiti. It offers visitors a unique experience with exhibits, lectures, artifacts, films, and artwork, providing insights into Haitian history and traditions.
The museum also serves as an educational resource and promotes cross-cultural understanding.
The Haitian Art Society is an all-volunteer nonprofit that celebrates and promotes Haitian art.
Through exhibitions, lectures, and events, the society gives visitors insight into historical and contemporary Haitian artists, showcasing the multifaceted significance of their work.
The society also builds relationships among those who appreciate and facilitate Haitian art.
Hope for Haiti is a nonprofit that brings essential services to Southern Haiti. Its members focus on improving education, healthcare, water access, and infrastructure in underserved communities, especially for women and children.
Their goal is to empower local residents and foster sustainable development in a manner that lifts everyone out of poverty.
The Haitian Arts Podcast Series (HAPS) is hosted by Eveline Pierre, the executive director of the Haitian Heritage Museum. It aims to promote Haitian artists, writers, musicians, and more through in-depth interviews.
HAPS showcases diverse perspectives, highlights emerging talents, and fosters a deeper appreciation for the richness of Haitian artistic expressions.