On a hot sweltering night at the Little Haiti Cultural Center’s outdoor stage, Zenglen raised the temperature quite a few degrees with the sound of Konpa filling the air. Long time fans and those in assistance for the good times really enjoyed the groove while searching for the elusive breeze of the night to cool down from gyrations and head nods, staying in tune with the beat which is central to the dancing rhythm Haitians love to party with. A small crowd filled the courtyard of the Little Haiti Cultural Center as Mecca, the MC who usually kicks off those affairs announced the musical group Zenglen. By then it was pretty warm that Friday, the third one of July, and people started arriving where they eventually filled the courtyard somewhat. It was not the huge crowd that had welcomed Vyb, the new group headed by Michael Grand, formerly of Carimi, but by the end of the night the courtyard was full, with the heat rising accordingly. Good music, a nice crowd gyrating to the sound, it turned out to be a nice evening as the band kept everyone happy, dancing to the beat and enjoying the atmosphere.
This is the kind of activity, along with the day to day offerings in the Haitian Marketplace and other establishments in an area that caters to the Haitian community which represent our last ditched effort to hold on to a part of Miami which happens to be a valuable location for real estate and cultural life. Wynwood is very close so developers are eyeing Little Haiti as the next area for gentrification and a booming market for young professionals looking to be close to the action. The Design District is knocking at the door, looking to expand North and move Haitians out further to the North East, for those who can afford it or out to Broward County. By being close to both of these booming real estate markets, Little Haiti is attractive to these investors, and they are looking to take the neighborhood away at all cost. Also Little Haiti is not prone to flooding like some parts of downtown, which is nor far away, so investors are already getting permits to start building huge apartment complexes near Biscayne while looking at the neighborhood for expansion.
Since most of the people who live in or near Little Haiti are lower middle class or somewhat near the poverty line they are attracted to the cash money offered by the developers and they sell, hoping to leave the neighborhood because it has been stigmatized by Haitians themselves while also, one must admit, the school district is not one of the best. The area has always been ignored and under represented in the political sector because many Haitians do not vote in local elections where they live. A lot of our compatriots are not U.S. citizens while of those who are citizens many do not value the strength that evolves from a strong united community, living with the same small minded prejudice that prevents them from uniting with other Haitians because of social status and even skin color. We do not see the need for strength through unity as a community of immigrants that is being singled out by powerful political forces and not for anything good or positive. When President Trump says there are too many Haitians and they need to be taken out he is not just talking about our brothers and sisters who are living under TPS, always afraid of being sent back to Haiti while desperately looking for a way to get that elusive green card. He is talking about all immigrants of Haitian descent. Many parts of Brooklynn in New York City, especially the area near Eastern Parkway, had large Haitians populations living in big apartment buildings. Many Haitians left the area back in the seventies and eighties, moving to the suburbs of Queens and Long Island. Nowadays most of them wish they could return to those neighborhoods where their apartments are now selling for over two million dollars on the average and prices keep going up.
The same thing is going to happen to Little Haiti, where after they buy out the majority of Haitians from the neighborhood, those left behind will be forced to sell because they will not be able to afford prices for food and other items of necessity. As people that make more money move in they will attract stores that cater to their budget and even Haitians who tried to fight the rising tide will be forced to move out. The only way we can keep the neighborhood as a community and an asset for social and political development is to start a movement to make our community understand the value of having a socio-political base for the good of our selves and our children. We need to make Little Haiti a happening place where young Haitians go to shop for things in the Little Haiti Market Place which needs to upgrade and start having more things and more merchants. We need to use music, plastic arts, business ventures both new and old, theater, dance, movie premieres and anything that will attract young people and professionals so that we share our cultural heritage in the area. We also need to pressure the local school board so that they invest more and make the schools in the area better equipped and safer for the children of our compatriots who still live there. Most importantly we need to come together as a community of immigrants that are not welcomed in this country anymore as it used to be for those from Europe. Black people in the U.S. are under a lot of pressure and Haitians are doubly victimized because not only do we suffer prejudice for our African Heritage but also for our linguistic limitations. So we need to come together in South Florida to save Little Haiti, a prime piece of real estate.
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