By Vania André
On Tuesday voters in the 45th District will head to the polls to vote for the next person to lead the district following Jumaane Williams victory in the public advocates race. The election has been ugly, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering it’s a characteristic trait of politics. However, what I find especially surprising and disappointing — even more so than the manipulative tactics, shaming and outright bullying and intimidation of candidates in this race — is the lack of unity in a community that from the outside looking in appears to be unified.
Farah Louis, who I’ve known professionally and personally for nearly a decade, is a familiar name in the community. I’ve witnessed firsthand how she’s advocated for Haitians in Brooklyn, whether it be in regard to language access, housing or city services. She’s
organized and rallied on behalf of the interests that benefit our community. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out a number of self proclaimed leaders with enough influence, albeit minimal, not only chose to not support her, but were actively lobbying
the Haitian community to support a candidate that has shown little to no interest in the community before last year when she unofficially started campaigning for Williams’ seat.
This isn’t about shaming them for not supporting Louis. They have the right to support whomever they please. This situation highlights a fundamental problem within our community. Individually, we are doing well and have several accomplishments to turn to when citing our achievements. Collectively, however, we are failing. Neighborhoods that once boasted Haitian restaurants, bakeries, galleries and stores, have few if any Haitian-owned establishments. Families who were able to make a life for themselves and purchased homes, find themselves unable to afford rent let alone a mortgage.
In 2010 following United States Rep. Kendrick Meek’s departure for an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate, Haitian Americans in Florida’s 24th Congressional District hoped to win the seat in a district that has one of the largest Haitian communities in the Diaspora. However, the community failed to coalesce behind one candidate, with four Haitian-American candidates running for the seat, in turn, handing the seat to Rep. Frederica Wilson.
While this race for the 45th District Council seat is not exactly the same, the essence of it is. When we aren’t truly united, we miss out on an opportunity to lift each other up, and in turn ourselves.