When living in a city, it is almost certain that one will bump into people from all different backgrounds.
This, of course, is a predominant truth within the Georgia State population. Georgia State has the privilege of being one of the most diverse universities in the south.
This campus has such a large variety of students and provides multiple international organizations, such as the African Student Association (ASA), the International Students Association (ISAC) and the Latin American Student Association (LASA), to make all students feel welcomed.
However, with all the international organizations representing different communities offered at Georgia State, one is left out: the Haitian American population.
The lack of a Haitian organization at Georgia State does not represent the entirety of the Atlanta population. The city’s diversity seems to include more Haitian American individuals through organizations like The Haitian-American Youth Reaching Out and the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce.
Q&A: Haitian culture in the city
Even with the rise in Haitian organizations in Georgia, there is still a long way to go according to Wildine St. Paul, a Haitian Georgia State students, who used to live in Miami, and Solyncia Powel, a Haitian-American student that used to live in New York. In 2008 to 2012, the Haitian immigrant population migrating to the U. S. (Miami) was around 197,000 and those immigrating to New York were about 158,000. However, the largest population is stationed in the New York and Florida, according to Migration Policy.
How would you compare Haitian culture here in Georgia and in Miami?
St. Paul: Number one is the amount of Haitian restaurants. There’s a lot more in Miami than here in Georgia. Number two, in Florida we had a specific [television] channel for Haitians. They had Haitian shows, Haitian movies, Haitian music and a channel just played everything Haitian. That is because the population down there was so large and up here there’s not that many, so the channel isn’t offered in Georgia.
Tell me about certain things that all Haitians do or are taught.
St. Paul: I think most Haitians would say church. You spend a good amount of your time in church. Every sunday. The music, which I guess is in all cultures, but when you hear the Haitian music playing early in the morning, you already know it’s time to clean. [We’re also taught] the importance of school.
Why is education so important in Haitian culture?
St. Paul: I’ll speak for my mom. In the beginning the importance of school is insistled in you because they say ‘we came to this country to give you a better opportunity, a better life,’ therefore the seriousness of school for Haitians are at a much higher level. I would say for foreign people in general it’s at a much higher level and it must be respected.
How do you feel about Haitian representation in Georgia?
St. Paul: “I wish there was more representation. Well I do and I don’t. I kind of like that fact that our culture is kind of hidden, because how many Haitian restaurants do you see compared to Jamaican restaurants? How many Haitian songs do you see that ar popping. That’s partially because it’s another language, but are people bumping to Selena and they don’t even know what the hell she’s saying. There’s not a lot of Haitian representations in the media or just in general unless you’re in Miami. When I was in Miami Haitian restaurants were right here and haitian stores were right there. Most people you meet probably know a Haitian or are Haitian. There’s a different type of vibe here in Atlanta.”
What are the differences in being Haitian in Atlanta and being Haitian in New York?
Powell: “In New York the amount of Haitian people, I wouldn’t say there’s more, but it’s concentrated in one area. You don’t have to go looking for Haitian people. They’re probably already next to you or live new door or you see them on the train. In Georgia just the black community it’s usually southern black people mostly, not like caribbean black people, so there’s less of a Haitian community here in Atlanta or Georgia in general.”
How hard is it to find a Haitian restaurant in Georgia?
Powell: “I have yet to find one, so I’m going to say it’s impossible.”
If there was a Haitian organization would you join it?
Powell: “I would join it just so I can feel like I’m still part of a Haitian community, because right now I don’t feel that way. Right now if I run into a Haitian person, it’s like a surprise.”
How do you think we can increase the Haitian community here in Atlanta?
Powell: “I don’t know if we can really increase it. [We can’t] tell a whole bunch of Haitian people, ‘aye come to Georgia,’ but I feel like Haitian people should make it known that they are Haitian and make more of an effort to get together with other Haitian people so that there’s more of a bond between the Haitian people that already here.”
Do you feel welcomed here at Georgia State?
Powell: “I feel welcomed because Georgia State is pretty diverse, so there’s no dominant race or ethnicity in my opinion. It would still be cool if there was more of a known Haitian community.”
Is there anything you want to tell Signal Readers about Haitian culture?
Powell: “Eat the food, it’s really good.”
The Haitian Stereotype
St. Paul put to rest several stereotypes and misconceptions associated with Haitian culture.
- Not all Haitians do voodoo
St. Paul: “Not every Haitian does voodoo! I am definitely afraid of anything supernatural, so I will not be participating in that foolishness. I do not play with supernatural. I don’t even fuck with the ouija board, even if it might not be true. I’m tired of people thinking we do voodoo. What type of magical person you think I am?”
- Not every Haitian is dark skinned.
St. Paul: “My mom is light-skinned, my sister is light skinned, and I turn light in the Winter, just like black people. Not every black person is dark-skinned, so why do you think that we’re all just sun burnt.”
- Not All Haitian and Dominican are friends.
St. Paul: “Stop thinking that all Haitians and dominicans are friends. We don’t like them and they don’t like us. Stop thinking that just because we share the same island that we come together and sing kumbaya, because they think they’re better than us.”
- Read before you speak
St. Paul elaborated on the Haitian Revolution in 1791 and how it caused the country to be in debt to the French.
St Paul: “Read up on the history of Haiti before you make assumptions. Okay yeah we’re poor, but we weren’t always poor. Before you come at me, know the reason why we’re poor. We won the war between France. France got salty and said ‘now you owe us money for all the years that we took care of you.’ As if we asked them to take care of us. You can and colonized our country. Then we had to pay them and we went into debt and we’ve been in debt since then.”
Haitian Foods you need to know
“Haitians make a whole meal just for a regular day. A big meal in the haitian culture is a everyday thing,” St. Paul said.
Here are some dishes you can taste to experience a typical Haitian dinner.
Griot: fried pork. Which is typically eaten with Pikliz and Bannann Peze.
Pikliz: shredded cabbage, carrot, bell pepper (green, orange, red), onion, scallions, scotch bonnet peppers, cloves garlic, teaspoon salt, peppercorns, vinegar (see note), lime juice.
“My family makes it by getting pre made salad and you add a whole bunch of piman in it. Stir it up and I think they put vinegar in it too,” St. Paul said.
Bannann Peze: Fried plantain that is squashed.
Bouyon: I soup that has potatoes, carrots, spinach, plantains, yucca and a type of meat.
“I love Bouyon, but if you’re going to have Bouyon you better have boy (dumplin) in there, because that’s disrespectful to make Bouyon without boy,” St. Paul said.
Soup Joumou: Cabbage, turnip, celery, green onion, pasta, squash, potato, and a type of meat.
“You make Soup Joumou on our New Year’s, January 1st, but for families that don’t like soup Joumou, you can make Bouyon,” St. Paul said.
Diri: Rice. A meal is not complete without rice. If you marry a Haitian man he will always ask you, “where’s the rice.”
Sos pwa: Grinded up beans. Usually served with white rice.
Legume: Eggplant, cabbage, carrot, parsley, green/red/yellow pepper, onion, shallot, French shallot, spinach, garlic, lima peas, and watercress.
Haitian Organizations in Atlanta
- The Georgia Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce (GAHACCI) is an organization housed in Atlanta dedicated to shaping the mind of young haitian individuals. The Commerce was created in 2014 and has dedicated fundings to the education of Haitian Americans in the state of Georgia. Although the organization is small, it has still made quite an impact on the Haitian American population in Georgia with distributing $9,000 in scholarships.
- The Haitian-American Youth Reaching Out (HYRO) is a civil organization that targets young people and connects them with other Haitian individuals. The program has three goals: education, economic empowerment and political awareness. HYRO focuses on keeping Haitian youth in touch with their haitian heritage, while also making them positively impact the Haitian American community. Unlike most nationalized organizations that only accept individuals from the nation it represents, HYRO encourages people who are interested in Haitian heritage, but may not be of Haitian descent, to join to learn more.
- Haitian Ministry Theophile Church In Christ Inc.
930 Custer Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30316
“As far as our church we’re Haitian, but we see very diverse and open minded due to the fact that we’re non denominational. A typical Sunday at church is worshiping, praying, sermon, worship and church over. My church has missionary teams, various choir groups Such as Yon Fire for Christ, which is the youth choir, devoué grown woman choir group, sold at, grown man group,” Church member Ralph
Atlanta Haitian Church of God
3070 Grand Ave SW, Atlanta, GA 30315