June is Caribbean-American Heritage Month and Immigrant Heritage Month.
As I have said before, I am the daughter of Haitian immigrants. I love the Caribbean roots and culture that I come from. The older I get, the more I appreciate the authenticity of being proud of where I come from.
It took me time to understand my parents. They were just modern-old school God-fearing parents. Yes, they allowed experiences but it was lakay, lekòl, legliz (translation: home, school, church). Education was enforced. We were to be good citizens of good character outside the home. I really thought my parents were crazy. But, that changed when I went on a mission trip to Haiti after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It was one thing to hear stories of Haiti but to experience it brought more perspective. It clicked…my immigrant parents wanted more for me, that is why they pushed so hard.
I always called myself the daughter of Haitian immigrants. I never called myself Haitian…ever. It was not because I was ashamed. I honestly did not say it because I did not think I qualified as Haitian. I was not born in Haiti nor had many experiences traveling to Haiti. I was not fluent in Haitian Creole (I’m learning and trying to speak it more). But also, I had bad experiences where a few Haitian people in the community said and made me feel like I was not Haitian. So, I shut down and let my parents be Haitian.
But, in therapy, one of first things I explored was my racial identity. It was not just being black enough; it was also not being Haitian enough. Damaging experiences of the past made me feel that I was less than worthy to be considered Haitian. Their insecurity was not my weight to carry. That is on them. I even asked my parents:” Am I considered Haitian?” Their response: “Of course you are. Just because you are born here, that does not change that you are Haitian. You are. You come from us. You are Haitian.” That was a relief.
New Affirmation: I am Black and Haitian.
Yes, I am born in America but I am no less Haitian than my parents. No one’s opinion of me matters. My experiences may be different but Haiti runs through my blood.
I am proud to be Haitian and to come from immigrants. It is the essence of me, being created in God’s image as a black, Haitian woman placed in the here and now for a greater purpose than myself.
That’s pretty awesome.