|Haitian-American Spotlight - Jean Monestime|
|Friday, 30 December 2011 12:16|
Revolution of the Spirit - Spotlight on Haitian-Americans changing the community
Change is brave, dangerous work. And in the history of the "New World," Haiti is one of those countries that showed immeasurable bravery and initiative in carving their future. A humble group of slaves in 1804 managed to give birth to a country, earning the prestige of being the first Black republic.
As Haiti celebrates its 208th anniversary of independence, the National Weekly highlights four Haitian-Americans who are building a quiet revolution of their own – transforming both American and Haitian economies, establishing access to human rights and needs and creating spaces for the two cultures to learn and be inspired. We hope their work is just the beginning of a new revolution, in honor of Haiti and the United States, two nations so closely bonded through change.
Commissioner Jean Monestime - "Building bridges" for Miami-Dade
Among the many 2012 projects for the revamping of District 2 in Miami-Dade County is the planned "Building Bridges, Building Communities," a conference "to make sure that our community that is so diverse, Latino, Anglo, African-American, my Caribbean brothers and sisters, finds common ground," says District two Commissioner Jean Monestime.
This conference may prove to represent the essence of Miami's first Haitian-American commissioner – a Haitian-American navigating the needs of District 2's multicultural community. It is a natural fit for a son growing up with nine brothers and sisters in Saint-Louis-du-Nord, Haiti.
"With nine other siblings you have to be able to share, to give," recalls Monestime. "Be aware of other people's feelings. That's how I grew up."
Monestime says his family's value of hard work, education and integrity stayed with him when he landed in Miami alone in January, 1981. He found a city very different from the Miami of today, with the flood of uncertainty surrounding the wave of Haitian immigrants escaping upheaval during the period.
"The community we have now is most definitely a community of immigrants. But before, we had a community of refugees... people that were fighting for their legal status, to be allow in this country, to be accepted and understood," Monestime remembers of the city.
"The fight [for Haitian-Americans] is different now," he says. "The fight is extended to getting the opportunity to share in the American values, the issue of education for our children and grandchildren. Immigration rights, the right to vote – all the rights you are able to enjoy as a citizen. But the community is now enjoying some of the fruits of its labors. Many more children have opportunities. We have many more advocates, more lawyer associations, doctor associations, education, social work associations. We have people in different stream of life representing our heritage our people and who we are."
The state of the American dream in Miami-Dade County for everyone has been the primary focus of the commissioner in his first year in office. Two Community Redevelopment Areas (CRA) – the Northwest 79th Street Corridor CRA and Northwest 7th Avenue Corridor CRA – have been opened to revive commerce in these neglected areas. New zoning efforts to encourage business have also been a focus, with the new updates on district zoning and the proposed green business zone along Northwest 27th and 37th avenues.
The commissioner also recently hosted the IDB Haiti Reconstruction Forum, an effort to build relationships between South Florida enterprises and the recovering businesses of his birthplace Haiti. The unique, multicultural mix of South Florida's communities and businesses offer the "most capacity, knowledge base and resource to aid the development of Haiti," while "also stabilizing the endemic economy we're having here," says Monestime.
Yet despite the work ahead, the significance of Monestime's term, affirming Haitian-Americans' place in American life, is never lost on the commissioner who came seeking a new life in South Florida more than 30 years ago.
"I think the community has seen a lot of growth over the last 20 years," says Monestime. "What I hope is that just as I was able to build on what those before me started, I can be the stepping stone... that those that come after me will find greater examples and possibilities to follow."
Read more profiles through the links below:
|Last Updated on Friday, 30 December 2011 13:17|