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Black Identity Crisis

I floated around the school’s campus like a haze of loneliness. There was a vast difference between the little private school I attended back home in Haiti compared to the hundreds of kids housed at Edison Middle in the spring of '86. After a closer examination of my first day of school in America, I realized that there were a few similarities: Edison was located in a Haitian community called Little Haiti in Miami and over 90% of the students were black. However, there were some harsh differences. I learned real quick that they hated Haitians. I also witnessed at least three senseless fights in one day!

On my way home, I walked by a group of boys who began to antagonize me. Of course I didn’t answer because I didn’t understand what they were saying. Once they found out I was Haitian, they began to chase me. Little did they know I played soccer every day back home, so foot speed wasn’t an issue for me. Half way down the block, there was a crew of Haitian boys who noticed what was taking place. They picked up some sticks and rocks off the ground, told me to stop running, handed me a stick of my own, and dared my alleged predators to attack. Boy, was I grateful for those godsend strangers! Needless to say I made it home safe, but was also confused about the ordeal.

I was beyond baffled at the situation I walked into at Edison Middle. To see a group of black teenagers perpetrate violence towards their black peers for the simple fact that they spoke a different language was a rude awakening to my new life in America. Ironically, they teased Haitians with slurs like “boat people” since we all "supposedly" came to America on boats. Newsflash! Apparently no one ever taught these kids about their family’s history. They didn’t know that all blacks originated from Africa before they were retailed to different parts of the world on boats! They obviously didn’t know that their ancestors were inhumanely chained, stacked like animals on boats, and sold as property to slave owners in Haiti and America. Did I mention that the slave owners who supposedly “discovered” America arrived on this land on boats as well? If that's the case, we’re ALL “boat people!”

As Haitian Heritage Month winds down, I've been reflecting on how far the culture has come. While it is accepted and celebrated by some, it's still a roadblock for others. I pray that we educate ourselves and the youth about our history so we don't continue to manifest its ills. Slavery’s origin is deep rooted in division and self-hatred. Haitian heritage is part of black legacy. February and May are not enough days to honor our culture, let's close the gaps and save lives as we celebrate African roots 365.

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