“A blueprint for freedom and solidarity,” Philadelphia community celebrates Haitian Flag Day
The Haitian and Haitian-American community in Philadelphia gathered near City Hall to celebrate Haitian Flag Day on Thursday, May 18.
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This year marks 219 years since Haiti gained its independence.
While the nation is rich in history, it doesn’t always receive its due for just how historic its people are.
On Thursday, May 18, 2023, a Flag Raising Ceremony took place near Philadelphia City Hall to commemorate Haitian Flag Day, which is observed each year on May 18.
“This day is not only a day to be celebrated by Haitians, but should be celebrated by all freedom-loving people,” said Numa St. Louis, policy adviser and district representative for Congressman Dwight Evans.
He highlighted that the Haitian flag goes far beyond simply being a symbol of the island of Haiti.
“The flag symbolizes freedom, liberty and solidarity, but beyond that… it’s also a blueprint,” said St. Louis.
In 1804, Haiti became the first nation to successfully lead a revolution against its colonizers and gain independence.
In the years that followed, many other nations across the Caribbean and worldwide looked at Haiti’s example in gaining its own independence.
In many ways, Haiti is relatable to Philadelphia — the birthplace of our nation’s democracy.
Both regions paved the way for centuries of work that has since followed.
Proceeding the singing of the American National Anthem, was a performance of the Haitian National Anthem.
During the latter anthem, the Haitian flag was officially raised.
After the singing of the National Anthems, Alain Joinville, Director of Strategic Communications at the Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs was joined by Merytony Nathan, vice president of the Philadelphia Haitian American Chamber of Commerce, to present a citation from Mayor Jim Kenney.
The proclamation — as read by Nathan — officially designates May 18, 2023, as Haitian Flag Day in Philadelphia.
“Philadelphia celebrates the remarkable citizens of Haitian heritage who have brought their unique talents and perspectives to enhance our city’s fabric, playing an integral role in making our city diverse and welcoming,” the proclamation reads in part.
“Their hard work, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit has shaped the economy and cultural landscape of Philadelphia, creating opportunities and fostering innovation. We honor and appreciate countless ways in which Haitian Americans have positively impacted our city,” it continues.
During his remarks, Joinville highlighted Philadelphia’s designation as the first certified Welcoming City, which recognizes cities that have created policies and programs reflecting their values and commitment to immigrant inclusion.
The 30,000-plus Haitians and Haitian Americans who call Philadelphia their home play an essential role in that.
“I love connecting with community leaders that are supporting our countrymen here and abroad by leading them to resources, hosting cultural celebrations, and providing critical support,” said Joinville.
Toward the closing of the flag-raising ceremony, the committee presented an award to a Haitian leader in the community who is doing impactful work across Philadelphia.
This year’s honor went to Dr. Johanne Louis, founder of the Dr. Johanne Louis Foundation (JLF), Inc.
The nonprofit is dedicated to improving the lives of those in need with the mission to uplift underserved communities both in Philadelphia and Haiti. Their initiatives encompass education, health promotion, hunger relief, community outreach, and more.
“This all started through volunteerism,” said Louis.
“We take great pride in the fact that we are a Haitian American organization and have been able to serve the underserved not only here in the U.S., but also in Haiti,” she added.
The goal is to continue and expand its services in both regions.
The ability to impact both regions is critically important to advancing Haiti as a nation.
This sentiment connects with a point St. Louis pointed out earlier in his remarks.
“We know that the policies that have been carried out towards Haiti has not worked for the masses,” he said. “So, we’ve ask our leaders, our legislators, and their administration to rethink and revamp the way we carry foreign policy vis-a-vis Haiti.”
“We want to be partners with that. We have to own it and we have a role to play in terms of making Haiti what it always was — the pearl of the Caribbean,” St. Louis concluded.
A traditional Haitian dance performance closed the formal portion of the Haitian Flag Day Ceremony.