(Albany, NY) — New York State Assembly passed a resolution introduced by Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn which formally designates May as ‘Haitian Heritage Month’ statewide. The resolution was cosponsored by 15 members of the Assembly.
Speaking to the chamber, Bichotte Hermelyn noted Haiti’s status as the first free Black republic in the Western Hemisphere. “We are a people that have been fighting for our freedom for generation after generation, including in America,” she said, referring to the period in 1779 when Haitian’s fought alongside the Union in the Battle of Savannah. “We saw the beacon of freedom that America promised, and we helped seize it.”
The designation of Haitian Heritage Month commemorates Haitian heritage and culture, including the nation’s notable leaders like Jean Jacques Dessalines, who defeated Napoleon and the French colonists at the Battle of Vertières in 1803; General Toussaint Louverture, who commanded his revolutionary army to victory; and female revolutionaries like Marie-Jeanne Lamartinière – who fought as a soldier in the Indigenous army – and Catherine Flon, a nurse, who is credited with crafting the independent Black Republic of Haiti flag in 1803; and Jean Baptiste Dusable, the first settler of Chicago, also known as the “father of Chicago”. Other notables include Jean-Michael Basquiat, one of the defining artists of the 20th century – and Jackson Georges, a painter – both Haitian – as well as modern day leaders like actor Jamie Hector, and reporter Vladimir Duthiers.
“We saw the beacon of freedom that America promised, and we helped seize it.”
Other Haitian holidays recognized by the state include Haitian Flag Day and Haitian Unity Day, which are celebrated May 18.
“Although this has not been an easy time for Haitians, we are resilient,” said Bichotte Hermelyn, noting Haitian-American’s contributions in the health care field.
Late last year, Bichotte Hermelyn and state senator Kevin Parker introduced a bill that was then passed by the state legislature which provided funds for the rededication of the Newkirk Avenue 2/5 train station, now “Little Haiti-Newkirk,” in Brooklyn.
In 2018, “Little Haiti Cultural and Business District,” was born. Streets in the neighborhood are named for Haitian icons, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Toussaint Louverture in an ode to Haitian heritage and the large Haitian-American population.