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Chicago celebrates Haitian heritage with historic city hall event

A private reception was held at City Hall to announce that May will now be recognized as Haitian Heritage Month in Chicago
Mayor Brandon Johnson and members of the Haitian Community celebrating the resolution that will make May Haitian Heritage Month in Chicago (Photo credit: Eddy "Precise" Lamarre)

Chicago recently held an event at City Hall to honor the Haitian-American community and mark the upcoming declaration of May as Haitian American Heritage Month. The Mayor’s Office organized the reception on Monday, May 20, 2024, on the floor of Chicago City Hall.

This event recognized the cultural contributions and historical importance of Chicago’s Haitian-American community while emphasizing the city’s dedication to diversity and inclusivity.

The decision to designate May as Haitian American Heritage Month came after years of advocacy by community leaders who tirelessly promoted the recognition of their heritage. This month-long celebration aims to educate the community about Haitian history, culture, and the impactful role played by Haitian Americans in shaping Chicago.

“About three years ago, I found out I had Haitian heritage. My family is from Louisiana, and I was having a conversation with a cousin about a family story. Unfortunately, when you’re Black in America and have a story that involves chattel slavery, much of what we know is passed down from generation to generation. During this conversation, my cousin told me about an ancestor who was purchased off a boat that had pulled into the port of New Orleans. It’s tough to talk about–or sometimes we don’t talk about–the difficult aspects of our Black stories. However, it was really important for me to understand my Haitian heritage and partner with Patrick Brutus to bring this to fruition,” said 5th Ward Alderman Desmond Yancy, who sponsored the resolution.

Chicago celebrates Haitian heritage with historic city hall event
5th Ward Alderman Desmond Yancy in a grey suit speaking with Haitian American during a private reception at City hall in Chicago (Photo credit: Eddy “Precise” Lamarre)

The upcoming resolution is a tribute to these leaders’ determination and hard work. The Haitian-American community felt a sense of pride and achievement during an event recognizing their cultural identity and contributions.

Community leaders from the Haitian-American community expressed their appreciation and anticipation for the upcoming resolution and reception hosted by the mayor.

“I think it’s a day that all Haitians should be proud of. The city of Chicago, founded by someone born in St. Marc, Haiti, is giving us important recognition—a recognition of the invaluable contribution of the Haitian community, not only throughout the United States but specifically in Chicago. This recognition is even more significant because Illinois now has an attorney general of Haitian descent, exemplifying the kind of contribution and legacy the Haitian community has brought to this region.” stated Youri Emmanuel, head of post at the Consulate General of Haiti in Chicago.

As Chicago geared up to observe Haitian American Heritage Month, it stands as a model of diversity and inclusivity even in the face of the current migrant crisis that has overtaken the city. Designating May as Haitian American Heritage Month went beyond symbolism; it was a pledge to respect and embrace the backgrounds of all residents.

By acknowledging Haitian American Heritage Month, Chicago reaffirmed its pledge to be a place where diversity is cherished and all neighborhoods can prosper.

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