The organization’s leaders anticipate an influx of immigrants following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moїse.

By Brandon Dreno for Indianapolis Star/ The original text appears here

The roughly 50 people gathered at the Grace Tabernacle First Haitian Church of Nazarene stood in silence, embracing their red and blue flags as they mourned the death of Haitian President Jovenel Moїse, who was assassinated July 7.

“As long as you have the Haitian bloodline, you are Haitian,” Pastor Ronny Etienne said, breaking the silence. “Let us unite together and build our community.”

The event, held at the east-side church July 23, was organized by the Haitian Association of Indiana (HAI), a nonprofit established in Indianapolis in 2008.

What started as an organization intended as a cultural hub for the city’s Haitian community has expanded as that community has grown — and so, too, have its needs. The economic turmoil incited by the pandemic triggered an influx of Haitians into the city last year, according to members of HAI who were unprepared for the sudden increase. 

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In the wake of the assassination, not only are members of HAI expressing concern about the safety of family back home, they’re concerned about being able to meet the community’s needs. Many are fleeing the country in anticipation of increased violence, fearing for their lives, and further economic deterioration. The association anticipates an increase in asylum-seeking immigrants from Haiti on top of the city’s already steadily growing Haitian community.

Haitians locally wanted to have their own voice

Leonce Jean-Baptiste, one of the co-founders of HAI, said the idea to start the organization was inspired by the desire to have an entity to represent the Haitian community. He felt there was a lack of recognition of the Haitians in Indianapolis who were willing and able to control their own narrative.

“Having your own voice is so important,” Jean-Baptiste said. Continue reading

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