Letters to the Editor

Haitian American Elected Officials Deserve More Recognition

Re: New Coalition Formed To Engage Haitian Voters At Grassroots Level

I read the article [last week] about the Haitian American Voter Empowerment (HAVE) Coalition. I especially did not follow the basis for [Professor Sean Foreman’s] quote: “We’re talking about a couple of elected officials here and there who really haven’t been able to make a big difference with Haitian issues just yet.”

While the Haitian American community does not currently have representation at the federal level, through advocacy via other members, there have been [numerous] gains at the federal level. These gains — like the passage of the HRIFA, allowing national origin to be self-identified during the Census and granting TPS for Haitians — contradict Professor Foreman’s assertion.

Beyond the federal level, Professor Foreman’s assertion is simply false, and the implications are injurious to the Haitian American community. 

At the local level, Haitian American elected officials have been very responsive to the needs of the community, and especially so during the pandemic. For example, North Miami and North Miami Beach Haitian American elected officials have led the charge with programs to help residents with food insecurity, affordable housing challenges, and caring for seniors. They have even crafted creative programs to help small businesses qualify for assistance. All of [these efforts] directly impact the Haitian American community. 

Many are even leading the charge on reform in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, such as Vice-Mayor Alix Desulme, who ushered in a police oversight panel. 

At the State level, I pushed for and got the State to provide much-needed COVID-19 information in Spanish and Haitian Creole. I personally helped broker a collaboration between the Florida Division of Emergency Management with Miami-Dade County — assisted significantly by Commissioner Jean Monestime, another Haitian American elected official, currently the only one on the Commission — that specifically aimed at meeting the needs of the Haitian American community outside of Little Haiti, as well as the needs of all Miami-Dade County residents.

Similarly, Rodneyse Bichotte, along with several other colleagues in New York and the northeast, have succeeded in meeting the needs of their communities. 

The reality is that Haitian-American elected officials have overcome quite a bit to get elected. Many are extraordinarily effective at meeting the needs of not only the Haitian-American community, but also of the other demographics they serve.

As one of the few publications that deliver news to a Haitian- American audience, I hope you can understand my need to address the content of your article and the negative implications for our community. We need more, not less, representation. And we need to be truthful about the [tangible] accomplishments and thankless efforts of the few Haitian American elected officials we do have.

Dotie Joseph

State Representative

Florida House District 108

Aug. 25, 2020

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