May marks Haitian Heritage Month, a month-long celebration of the vibrant artwork, diverse culture, delicious food, and contributions of the Haitian community throughout history. It is an opportunity for the Diaspora to celebrate their patriotism and honor their roots.
How It All Began
May 18th is recognized as Haitian Flag Day. It marks the 1803 anniversary of the “creation of the Flag of Haiti and revolution in Haiti that gave its people freedom from France and set a precedent for slave uprisings in the US.” It was officially celebrated in the 1930s under President Dumarsais Estime (during his time as minister of education), with parades and events throughout the country. It has since reached global recognition and, in 1998, evolved into Haitian Heritage Month in Boston, Massachusetts.
The Haitian population in Boston is one of the largest United States. Their community there is active and thriving, with well over 100 small businesses and a number of community organizations based there.
Why Is It Important?
The island of Haiti and its people were victims of colonization and enslavement soon after their discovery near the end of the 1400s. It began with the Spanish, who forced the indigenous population to mine for gold, followed by the French, who set up permanent camps in the 1600s. During this time, thousands of enslaved people were brought to the island. By 1789, the number reached 500,000 enslaved Africans. They suffered from malnutrition, back-breaking work, injuries, sickness, and starvation. The revolts began, and through warfare, negotiation, and sheer tenacity, after nearly 400 years, the peoples of Haiti were finally able to declare their independence in 1803. Read more about their revolution here.)
How Is It Celebrated?
Haitian Heritage Month is celebrated throughout cities across the United States, including Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami Beach, and Chicago. You can expect lively music, exuberant dancing, and a joyful, festival-like atmosphere. Of course, food also plays an important role, and it’s an opportunity to sample their unique mix of African and French-influenced dishes.
Check out the complete list of cities that mark Haitian Heritage Month with official celebrations here.