Family-led grassroots organizations are fighting back against climate gentrification – climate change’s impact on communities – as wealthy Floridians move to Miami’s Little Haiti to get away from areas more vulnerable to storms and rising seas.

In the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of Haitian refugees fleeing the brutal Duvalier dictatorship landed on Florida’s southern shores. Many settled in Lemon City, an economically disadvantaged Miami neighborhood north of downtown’s glitz and grit and across Biscayne Bay from South Beach’s famed white sand and aquamarine sea.

The neighborhood came to be known as Little Haiti. Though Miamians made it plain that Haitians weren’t welcome elsewhere in the city, here within the boundaries of Lemon City, the Haitians had a community.

“It scared people, even people who claimed to be open and not racist,” says Marleine Bastien, executive director of Family Action Network Movement, formerly the Haitian Women of Miami. “The Miami Herald would write about the Haitians coming here and taking our jobs,” says Bastien, who immigrated from Haiti in 1981 when she was 22.

Haitians began buying property and opening businesses, shops and restaurants in the neighborhood. Over time, the economy slowly began to pick up, and little by little the community created change. So while the area remained economically disadvantaged, it was also warm and vibrant, the air filled with the smells, sounds, colors and culture of kreyòl ayisyen, or Haitian Creole. Continue reading

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