A mural in Miami's Little Haiti. Photo via Coastlines to Skylines

A $3 million trust recently established to help lower-income residents stay in Little Haiti is searching for a chief executive to guide the trust as it will look to receive additional funding, its officials said.  

The Little Haiti Revitalization Trust, founded on May 17, 2021 was established by the City of Miami with an initial fund of $3 million from Magic City Development. The trust’s goal is to help Little Haiti residents either become homeowners, pay less in rent or secure entrepreneurial grants.

“We’re looking for someone who knows how to deal with different contractors, different associations in order for the trust to be properly delegated,” said Wilkinson Sejour, the trust’s chairman and owner of the local Chef Creole eateries. “There’s a number of things that we have to take care of [right off the bat], so it’s just a matter of the CEO helping give us the direction.”

The trust receiving more funding from Magic City isn’t a guarantee, Sejour said. So members of the trust are looking to be successful to better their chance of receiving more fundings. The five board members of the trust allowed to vote are looking for a competent chief executive officer to usher them to their desired success, Sejour added.

For an annual salary of $401,000 payable from the Magic City grant, the CEO will be responsible for general supervision, management and operation of all the trust’s activities and facilities, according to ZipRecruiter. However, the board says that the salary is undisclosed. The CEO will also execute all of the contracts of the trust.

Applicants do not have to be of Haitian origin or speak Creole, but those traits are preferred, Sejour said. 

As of June 16, more than 35 applications had been received, with 10 of them being promising because they were raised in Little Haiti and have business experience, Sejour said. Interviews are set to start on Friday. The CEO will be selected by July 10.

Revitalization in response to gentrification

The trust was created after Little Haiti saw a mass of residents, particularly Haitian-Americans, leave the historic neighborhood because they could no longer afford the rising rent.

“People have a nice little term for it — gentrification,” said District 5 Commissioner Jeffrey Watson. “But here’s the thing, gentrification can become your enemy, if that’s the word to be used, if we don’t take ownership of what we have.”

The six board members of Little Haiti Revitalization Trust posing for a picture with Commissioner Jeffrey Watson [middle]. Commissioner Jeffrey Watson’s Facebook Images

Sejour, for example, grew up in a home at Northeast 2nd Avenue and 47th Street. Back then, it was part of Little Haiti. Now, the area is part of what’s called Buena Vista. Not only did Sejour watch his home neighborhood shrink over the years, he saw fellow Haitian-Americans leave.

Sejour is eager to help put a halt to Haitian-Americans leaving Little Haiti.

“It’s very imperative and important that the Haitians who for whatever reasons that left Little Haiti get ready to come back because we will be a part of what Magic City is going to create,” Sejour said.

Watson, who counts Little Haiti residents among his constituents, said the initial funding isn’t sufficient to help the amount of residents seeking affordable rent.

“The trust was given $3 million but the [needs] of the community are probably $30 million,” Watson said. “The trust is a part of the solution, [but] it’s not the only solution.”

An earlier version of the story said the Little Haiti Revitalization Trust was established by Magic City Development but it was rather established by the City of Miami.

Email me at onz@haitiantimes.com
Onz Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and ESNY before joining The Haitian Times. Onz is also a Report for America corps member.

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