By Vania Andre
Labor Day weekend is fast approaching and with it comes displays of cultural pride from the Caribbean Diaspora as they gather for the annual West Indian American Day parade in Brooklyn. For us Haitians, it’s an opportunity to focus and highlight the parts of our culture that is vibrant, fun and to be quite frank, not met with pity or pessimism. During that weekend, Haiti’s political instability and most recent litany of unfortunate happenings isn’t at the forefront of our discussions.
As you walk through the streets of Brooklyn, people young, old and everything in between, line the streets with their Haitian flags wrapped around their bodies. Haitian flags can be seen hanging out of back pockets or colorfully displayed on shirts and headscarves.
Nationalism and patriotism is potent in the air, even though our home country is thousands of miles away. This year however, I challenge you to show your pride another way — supporting Haitian-owned businesses.
We have come far as a community politically; however economically we lag far behind our political accomplishments. We can’t call ourselves patriots or use our “love” for Haiti as a mantra or guiding cornerstone of our work, if we’re not willing to patronize our own establishments. I use the word “willing” purposefully. It’s not a question of whether we’re “able” to or not. We are still a young immigrant community in the United States, despite some of our major historical contributions to the country. Our businesses operate on a level that’s comparable to the economic status of the community; meaning you’re not paying $6 for a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts, but $2 at Le Bon Pain. You’re not paying up to $30 a month for a New York Times subscription, but $5 – $10 a month for a Haitian Times membership.
It seems small enough; a simple ask that surely would be easy for such a patriotic people to follow through on. But as a business owner in the community, I assure you it’s not. There’s something superficial about our “pride.” It’s the type of pride that allows for us to easily spend hundreds of dollars on tickets to bals , galas, festivals, receptions and benefits, but can’t stomach supporting community establishments.
So this Labor Day weekend as you reach for your flags to show how “proud” you are of being Haitian, I challenge you to first put your money where your heart is and pay it forward by supporting a Haitian business.
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