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Members of the Haitian community with Councilmembers Anthony Phillips and Jamie Gauthier prior to Council hearing. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Members of the Haitian community with Councilmembers Anthony Phillips and Jamie Gauthier prior to Council hearing. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

A resolution is introduced to make May Haitian Heritage Month in Philadelphia

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, along with Councilmember Anthony Phillips, introduced the resolution during a City Council hearing on May 11, and it was passed.

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Philadelphia has officially designated May as Haitian Heritage Month, joining a collection of other metropolitan cities across the U.S.

During a City Council hearing on May 11, 2023, Philadelphia City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, along with Councilmember Anthony Phillips, introduced a resolution to make May Haitian Heritage Month in Philadelphia.

“Haitians — like all immigrants — make Philadelphia stronger and better, and we need to make sure that we are clear about the fact that Philadelphia values the contributions of immigrants and that we embrace them as our neighbors,” said Councilmember Gauthier during the hearing.

Screenshot of Councilmember Jamie Gauthier during City Council hearing on May 11.
Screenshot of Councilmember Jamie Gauthier during City Council hearing on May 11.

According to U.S. Census data, there are more than 30,000 Haitians within the Philadelphia population, a number that will only grow in the years and decades to come.

Given those numbers, Gauthier describes the Haitian community as “an essential piece of our city’s fabric.”

“They are small business owners, educators, public servants, police officers, health professionals, artists, faith leaders, and much, much more,” she continued. 

Merytony Nathan spoke with AL DÍA to attest to the growth and prevalence of the Haitian community in Philadelphia. 

She first arrived to Philadelphia from Haiti in 1995, and since then has made the city her home, where she has grown up, graduated college as a communications major, and launched her career.

“Being the person that I am in the community and loving working with people, it was very easy for me to spot what I needed to do for my community,” she said. 

Upon meeting with a group of other Haitian community leaders, Nathan helped launch the Philadelphia Haitian American Chamber of Commerce (PHACC), where she serves as its executive director. 

“We have over 100 Haitian businesses in the city of Philadelphia and we have about 38 of them who are members of the Chamber,” she said. 

While the Haitian business community is vast — from mom-and-pop shops to hair salons, barbershops, restaurants and law firms — what the Chamber does is ensure all those registered businesses have the right resources. 

The Chamber often partners with other organizations, such as HIAS and the Haitian Community Help Center, to grow its reach and capacity to help the growing Haitian business community.  

“We cater to many businesses, and we are just a phone call away,” said Nathan. 

To her, the resolution introduced by Councilmember Gauthier is a big step forward in quantifying the work and impact of the Haitian community in Philadelphia. 

At the start of the year, Haitian community leaders came together to create a Haitian Flag Day Ceremony Committee.

The committee is led by its chair Irma Wilson, who has been in Philadelphia since arriving from Haiti in 2001. 

During an interview, she told AL DÍA that the committee came together after she saw the lack of uniformity in how the Haitian community is celebrated among its peer cities. 

While New York, Boston, and Miami — all cities with a prevalent Haitian community — have May designated as Haitian Heritage Month, Philadelphia previously did not. 

“I didn’t realize that it wasn’t recognized in Philadelphia; I thought it was a national thing for all Haitians, but it wasn’t in the book yet,” she said. 

With Gauthier’s resolution introduction, Philadelphia is now officially added to the list of U.S. cities that designate May as Haitian Heritage Month. 

“I feel full today because it is now in the book,” Wilson added.

With all the strife that has been going on in Haiti and for the Haitian community in recent years, the Haitian Flag Day Ceremony Committee has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Haitian culture and heritage is remains something to be proud of.

As a mother, Wilson often teaches her children to never leave Haiti behind.

“Wherever we go, we have to bring Haiti with us,” she said. 

“We still hold dear everything Haitian. No matter what, we want to uplift Haiti to the light so that Haiti can stand because at the end of the day, love will win,” Wilson added. 

A Haitian Flag Day Ceremony will be celebrated outside Philadelphia City Hall on Thursday, May 18, 2023.

This year will mark the 220-year anniversary of the flag’s adoption in 1803. 

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