2016 Class of 1804 List. Photo Credit: David Paul
2016 Class of 1804 List. Photo Credit: David Paul

By M. Skye Holly

In a time of change and uncertainty, one thing was certainly clear on Saturday, Nov. 12; Haitians are everywhere and they are dong just about everything.

The Haitian Roundtable hosted their fourth annual 1804 List Ceremony and Reception where they recognized 25 Changemakers in a wide array of fields and professions, where they have contributed outstanding achievements, or have served as pioneers in their communities. The 1804 List Ceremony also honored five “Ones to Watch” to showcase the rising stars on the cutting edge in the Haitian-American community, who bring innovation and promise to the table. 

The soiree, held at My Image Studios in Harlem was a “Who’s Who?” in Haitian America.  The 2016 inductees represented a wide array of industries ranging from the arts to science. 

Mona Scott-Young, CEO of Monami Entertainment (Love and Hip-Hop franchise, Money Power Respect) and Dr. Jeff “America’s Psychologist” Gardere, a mental health expert, who doubles as a professor at Touro College in Harlem and TV personality, served as emcees for the ceremony. 

(L-R) Mona Scott-Young and Dr. Jeff Gardere. Photo Credit: David Paul

“We’ve had a very hard week,” Scott-Young said to the honored guests and audience, in reference to the recent United States presidential elections. “But it’s time to heal. We Haitians know how to do that well. It’s time for a celebration,” she said. 

As the inductees were welcomed to the stage, Scott-Young reminded the crowd that “these are our pride and joys.” Her statement was met with applause. 

Paul Altidor, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C., addressed the crowd on the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and Haitian-Americans unifying to help Haiti as they help their own local communities.

“There is a narrative to Haiti that has been more destructive than the natural disasters we’ve spoken about. The disasters we see, hurricanes, we’ve seen them and we will see them again. It starts with how we respond, what role can we play,” Altidor said. “Most of the achievement of these folks here is flying under the radar. Let’s actually begin to think of Haiti in a good way. It’s not all destruction, it’s not all poverty…we spend so much time talking about the negatives of Haiti, by the time something good happens, no one wants to hear it.”

Twenty-five men and women were recognized, among them actress Vicky Jeudy (Orange Is The New Black); Fred Seraphin, Miami Dade County Judge; Conductor/Composer Sydney Guillaume; Eddy Bayardelle, President of the Bronx Community College Foundation of the City of New York; Mona Rigaud, Chief of Pediatrics at New York University Lutheran Medical Center; Carl-Philippe Juste, Photojournalist for The Miami Herald; C. Reynold Verret, President of Louisiana’s Xavier University; Entrepreneur Christine Souffrant, Founder of Vendedy; and Karen André, White House Liaison in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The five honorees in the “Ones to Watch” category all boasted comparable successes: Lionel Moise, a CBS News Co-Anchor in Chicago; Nancy Morisseau, an attorney and Founding Member of the Board of Directors of the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York; Award-winning and Emmy nominated Filmmaker Rachelle Salve (La Belle Vie); Doreen St. Felix, a journalist and writer for MTV News who was named  one of Brooklyn magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture,” and Michael Brun, an internationally known DJ/record producer who teamed up with Spotify to launch a specially curated playlist of Haitian music. 

“We’ve heard this thing about parents wanting their children to be nurses and doctors, but we’ve taken medicine, politics to a whole new level. All the way to the top,” said Scott-Young. 

Karen Civil Photo Credit: David Paul
Karen Civil Photo Credit: David Paul

Lionel Moise, recognized as one of the “Ones to Watch” was in awe of the accomplishments of his fellow honorees. “It’s just a great honor and so inspiring to be among so many greats who are excelling and have worked so hard to change the image of Haiti. I’m honored to be around so many people I look up to,” he said.   

Bronx Community College Foundation President Eddy Bayardelle agreed.

“I was in awe listening to the achievements of everyone recognized tonight. I felt like an underachiever,” he laughed. “It was a reminder that there is so much work to do.”

A new feature to the 1804 List celebration was an added presence on social media. The audience was encouraged to share thoughts and images of the event using the hashtags #WeAreEverywhere and #HRT #1804List. The event was also live streamed.  Midwin Charles, Esq., former board member of The Haitian Roundtable and Legal Analyst for CNN was the first red carpet correspondent. Charles welcomed the honorees on the red carpet and interviewed them for those watching via live stream.

“It always gives me honor being in an environment where the goal is to share honor and show what Haiti is capable of putting out there,” Charles said. “We are shifting perspectives and it’s imperative we share and tell our stories. It’s up to us to laud out own. If we don’t, who will?”

Another new feature to the 1804 List was the inclusion of an academic scholarship. The first 1804 List Scholarship was awarded to Gwendolyn Bianca Etienne, a graduate of Clara Barton High School in New York. Etienne is a current student at St. Francis College in New York and an accomplished singer who sings in English, Italian, Spanish and French. When encouraged to sing a tune for the audience by Mona Scott-Young, she chose to sing a selection from a Haitian gospel song after the crowd requested she sing something in Creole. 

Finally, another singer achieved a first that night. Legendary artist Emeline Michel, called the “Diplomat of Music” was honored with the first Catherine Flon award. The award takes its name from the iconic woman of Haiti’s Revolution who sewed Haiti’s first flag. As an acclaimed artist, Michel embodied the spirit and impact of Catherine Flon in the eyes of The Haitian Roundtable. Michel received a standing ovation and her brief speech was warm and inspiring. 

Emeline Michel Photo credit: Rossini Dubois Fotography

Michel said “This is a glorious year for women in our world.” She thanked The Haitian Roundtable, saying “Being recognized while you are alive goes a long way.”

She said that as she is about to celebrate 30 years in music next year that she prays for mileage and that her longevity in the Haitian music industry “is because of you, this audience.”

She also shared a word of motivation to her fans, the honorees, and guests in attendance. “I would like all of you who have a dream to dare to put it out there. Keep dreaming strong,” she said.

“Thank you for carrying my songs over the years,” Michel said.

Gardere noted that The Haitian Roundtable and the1804 List would not have been possible without Rose Pierre-Louis, co-founder and chairperson of The Haitian Roundtable.

“Rose has been our fearless leader,” Gardere said. “It truly is her vision to  celebrate Haiti and the Diaspora. I’m just glad to be a part of that as part of the Board of Directors and I love being onstage with Mona Scott-Young, absorbing the tenacity of the Haitian spirit,” he continued. “We continue to show that you cannot contain the human spirit…and it’s not just about Haitians, but the people who are a part of our space, people married to Haitians…friends of Haitians, people sensitive to Haiti and that may contribute to helping when Haiti has political and natural disasters.”

The 1804 List proved to be a celebration as outstanding as its award recipients. Going beyond a simple ceremony, it left those in attendance with a charge to show pride in the  exceptional achievements within the Haitian community, as well as to become changemakers in their own right.

“We can’t look back at what we’ve done and think ‘Oh, we’re so superior’,” Gardere said. “What we’re saying is to embrace the changemakers of your community. If they are successful, we’ll be successful. A prophet is never honored in his own household, but we’re changing that.”

For a full list of The Haitian Roundtable 1804 List Honorees for 2016, please go to http://thehaitianroundtable.org/the-1804-list/2016-inductees/

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