From Boukman’s command to listen to the voice of liberty that speaks in the hearts of us all to the strains of “Grenadye, alaso!” in Haiti’s final battle for independence to the spicy pulse of rara bands spanning the Brooklyn Bridge in 1990, the spunky spirit of resistance endures in the hearts of Haiti’s children. Through a series of legislative victories, the Haitian community of New York and its representatives in government have created Little Haiti, and the message is, “We’re not going anywhere!” Join Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, State Senator Kevin S. Parker, MTA New York City Transit, Little Haiti Brooklyn NY, CUNY Haitian Studies Institute, Haiti Cultural Exchange, and La Troupe Makandal in a celebration of the latest victory: the unveiling of Newkirk Avenue–Little Haiti subway stop. Festivities begin at 11 am on Thursday, November 18, 2021.
In the spring of 2018 Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn (AD 42), the first Haitian American in the New York State legislature, working together with then Council Member Jumaane Williams, led the way in an effort to establish Little Haiti in Flatbush, Brooklyn. The neighborhood stretches from Parkside Avenue to Avenue H (north to south) and from Brooklyn Avenue to East 18th Street (east to west). Since 2018, sections of Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue have been co-named after generals who led the Haitian Revolution: Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, respectively. In April of this year, the state legislature called for the renaming of the Newkirk Avenue subway station to include the name Little Haiti, and it allocated funding for new signage and updated audio on trains and platforms. Read further details of the project in Observer and Haitian Times.
Organizers timed the unveiling of the station with the 218th anniversary of the Battle of Vertières (Batay Vètyè in Haitian Creole), the final, decisive victory of the Haitian Revolution, marking the defeat of imperial France and the first revolution of enslaved people to succeed. On November 18, 1803, French general Rochambeau agreed to terms of surrender and made plans to leave the Saint Domingue colony. Less than two months later, on January 1, 1804, Saint Domingue became the world’s first Black republic: Haiti (Ayiti).
Join Makandal and the other program participants as we salute Little Haiti and remember the men and women who fought and won the Revolution. The program kicks off with a press conference at 11 am on the steps of St. Jerome Roman Catholic Church at Nostrand Avenue/Toussaint L’ouverture Boulevard and Newkirk Avenue. It continues on Newkirk Avenue between Nostrand and East 29th Street with live music and dance and resource vendors. Finally, don’t be surprised if the Gede join the festivities. November is their month to remind us of death and rebirth, struggle and hope. Makandal looks forward to seeing you!
Featured image: Getty Image/New York Daily News captures the Haitian march across the Brooklyn Bridge on April 20, 1990, to protest the F.D.A. policy of banning blood donations from Haitians, allegedly to prevent the spread of AIDS.