Menm si zye nou femen, sa pa vle di nap domi …translation… Just because our eyes are closed does not mean we are sleep.
By Shirley Thimothee-Paul, RN, MSN
A member of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward Chapter of the NBNA
Gentrification in America is becoming a new form of the all too common mistreatment of people of color and those who are underprivileged. It may make some uncomfortable to have to place these groups together time and time again, but the reality is that these two labels are often paired and thought to be one in the same. In America for a large number of reasons, many people of color continue to struggle with realization of the “American Dream”. By this I mean financial independence, home ownership, true power and influence within their communities and country.
Little Haiti and those that occupy it are currently in a fight to survive this new form called gentrification. In a meeting, that I took part in over the weekend filled with attorneys, nurses, urban developers, teachers, politicians, architects, activist, entrepreneurs and residents of Little Haiti, I witnessed how the ugly word “gentrification” could be sold to the un-trained ear as hope and opportunity. Sadly, in times like these when many are struggling to get by and make ends meet, any chance at a seemingly better life would seem impossible to turn down.
History, no matter how ugly or insignificant to some, cannot be changed but it can be prevented when those it poorly effects wake up and pay attention. Little Haiti and those that occupy it is a place rich in history of a people that have played an intricate role in the example of the strength and beauty within the Haitian community. Little Haiti is a place where the culture of our people is celebrated and properly exposed to those that are unaware of our beauty and heritage.
As I listened to the words flow from the developer’s representatives as slow and sweet as maple syrup on hot pancakes, I could not help but smile. Each time promises of opportunity for jobs and occupations of a luxurious development was strategically masking the actual opposite of what was being proposed in legal terms, numbers , city law and their meanings.
The Haitian flag proudly states, “L’ union fait la force”, meaning union creates strength. In this meeting, this statement clearly held true as these developers were met with questions by an informed and prepared group of individuals all too familiar with what the effects of gentrification on Little Haiti and all areas like it. How history of a culture and its effects on a community can be easily forgotten and, or legally erased for the sake of financial gain and opportunity to those that already have it in large proportion.
While the making of money is largely the drive for most, it should not be masked with a false hope. The truth of the matter is, people that can, will take advantage of those that they assume are uninformed or lack the intellectual capacity to see through the false promises of hope and opportunity. It is a beautifully planned, well-presented mistreatment of the underprivileged and marginalized community. Therefore, pay attention people! The people of Little Haiti and Haitians everywhere are letting you know that we see you. Menm si zye nou femen sa pa vle di map domi, even though our eyes are closed does not mean we’re sleep.