"HAITIAN MINDSET DIFFERENT BY COUNTY; BROWARD COMMUNITY NOT AS POLITICALLY ACTIVE
Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel 03/30/2007
When Haitian refugees reach the shores of Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, community leaders have traditionally rushed to the scene to serve as advocates.
But in Broward County, Haitians are more reserved. Many of those speaking loudest on behalf of the boatload of Haitians who landed on Hollywood's beach Wednesday are from Miami.
That's because Haitians in Broward -- many living in the western suburbs of the county -- tend to be less politically active and more concerned with upward mobility, said some Haitian community leaders. Those who are the children of Haitian immigrants have little connection to people escaping Haiti by boat. Their community is not consumed by the politics of their homeland, or organized to receive new arrivals.
"People are busier than in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach, working two jobs," said the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian Catholic priest now living in Fort Lauderdale. "In Broward they play low profile."
On Thursday, Haitian Women of Miami led protesters to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection center in Pembroke Pines, where officials held the refugees. They called for federal authorities to release the Haitians on their own recognizance and grant them due process.
Lavarice Gaudin, chairman of Veye Yo, a Miami group affiliated with the Lavalas political party of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, said the growing Haitian population in Broward needs a political voice. He said his organization plans to develop programs to help mobilize the Broward community.
But Edna LaRoche, a spokeswoman for Minority Development and Empowerment Inc., the largest agency serving the Haitian population in the county, said Broward Haitians are not silent on such issues. They simply have a more subtle approach.
She said Minority Development asked elected officials Wednesday and Thursday to intervene on behalf of the Haitians.
"We do appreciate everything that the Miami community is doing, and we think that will have an effect," she said. "But by the same token, so will our efforts."
Miami-Dade has long been an entry point for Haitian immigrants.
Refugees came in droves when life under the regime of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier became unbearable, and settled in Miami's Lemon City, now known as Little Haiti. In the 1990s, another wave of refugees arrived when a military coup overthrew Aristide, the country's first democratically elected president.
Some also made it to the shores of Palm Beach County, where community activists in Delray Beach and other communities with large Haitian populations welcomed them, said Daniella Henry, a community activist who helped settle many through the Haitian Chamber of Commerce in Delray Beach.
Those who settled in Miami in the 1970s and 1980s laid the foundation for grassroots leadership, which paved the way for Haitians to win political office and encouraged political activism.
But as many gained upward mobility, they migrated into Broward, settling in Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach and other areas.
Jean Jabouin, a Haitian radio talk show host who recently moved from Broward to Palm Beach County, said their lives are now far removed from the struggles in Haiti.
"Broward's population is a bit different. Reaction is not going to be same like in Miami-Dade or Palm Beach," he said. "It's a different phenomenon. As much as we say we can understand, we really can't understand how people would risk their lives to come here."