A University of Central Florida doctoral candidate is looking for input from Haitians in New York, Atlanta and Florida for his research study about Haiti’s future.

By Gabrielle Pascal

BROOKLYN—Over fried plantains and lemonade at the Flatbush vendors marketplace space last month, about 20 locals gathered in a back room around three rectangular white tables littered with pens and colorful sticky notes. The group, led by researcher Kimberley Allonce, was there to discuss the big theme of the night – “The Future of Haiti: What could a true inclusive dialogue look like” – as part of his study.

“We’ve never really had a dialogue,” said Allonce, a doctoral student in public affairs at the University of Central Florida. “We’ve negotiated things in the past, but we never took the time to really have genuine conversations about the country and where we need to go.” 

The Oct. 28 stop at the Flatbush Central Caribbean Marketplace is one of three public forums that Allonce plans to hold as part of his research study that explores how Haiti’s might look in the future, what’s behind its current struggles and what can be done to foster inclusive dialogue inside the country— from the diaspora’s perspective. Allonce hopes to collect enough data to create a foundation for conversation focused on progress, and ultimately action. 

Organized in partnership with The Coalition for Inclusive Dialogue in Haiti, the group used tenets that came out of a National Endowment for Democracy conference in Washington, D.C. back in July 2022. Then and this year, participants were encouraged to begin creating a model available for the public to deliberate and create a future for themselves, Allonce said. By choosing Haitian diaspora communities, such as central Brooklyn’s to give feedback, Allonce said he and his research team could “be as close to Haiti as possible.” 

At that Flatbush meeting, Allonce tested his approach to the study by having participants debate three key questions: 

  • How can we build trust with inclusive dialogue?
  • Who should be involved? 
  • What does an inclusive dialogue mean to you? 

With the data collected, Allonce hopes, a national dialogue can be implemented and public policy can be created that benefit citizens’ livelihoods. 

Participants on that October evening represented the concerns of Haitians of the diaspora and, to a lesser degree, those in Haiti. For about two hours, speaking in both Creole and English, they discussed the current state of affairs in Haiti, tensions between diaspora Haitians and those on the homeland, and what inclusivity truly means in creating policy. Who should be involved in the decisions of its future and whose voices are valued made up some of the discussion.

Participants were encouraged to offer feedback on the approach to Allonce himself and to take part in a post-forum survey that asked for their thoughts on the event, whether it was inclusive of the Haitian diaspora and if it changed their perspectives in any way. 

The Atlanta forum is scheduled for 3:00 pm on Nov. 12 at the Leonard Hartsfield Sr. Community Center in Forest Park. The Florida date and location have not yet been determined. 

Allonce’s study is the latest of several research studies and surveys about Haiti and Haitians being conducted. Earlier this year in June, the Ayiti Diaspora Collective, a joint group of Haitian-led organizations, released findings of its survey about the Haitian diaspora. 

Gabrielle Pascal is a freelance writer and photojournalist based in Brooklyn. Her work examines the multifaceted lives and current struggles of Black women and the greater Haitian diaspora. She is currently a graduate student at the New School pursuing an MFA in Fiction

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply