Published On: Fri, May 24th, 2013

A Historic Moment in the All-America City

By Stephanie Neeley

DELRAY BEACH – In a landmark moment, the Haitian flag joined Florida’s state flag at City Hall Saturday to honor the Caribbean island’s Independence Day. About 200 people – many draped in costumes made from the flag’s red and blue colors – attended the ceremony. One young woman wore a miniature flag in her braided hair; several wore red and blue bandanas.

The flag was raised at 10 a.m. and remained up until 5 p.m.“I am proud, not only proud but extremely proud to see that our country – a nation that fought for independence and is still fighting for survival – is being recognized in high places,” said the Rev. Danis Ridore, assistant pastor at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church. “I’m sure there were a few tears today from some eyes.” Haitians around the world recognize May 18 as Haitian Flag Day, the day the country won its independence from France. For a city of its size, Delray Beach has one of the largest concentrations of Haitian-Americans in South Florida, following Miami and a few other urban centers in the state. As Haiti struggles to recover from political, economic and social turmoil, the day served to remind  South Florida Haitians of the successes of the past 200 years. It also reminded them of the challenge of the immediate future. The impact of the flag salute was immeasurable. “There are many people in this city, who perhaps just a few years ago would have never imagined, never dreamed that a moment like this would ever be [a reality],” said Vice Mayor Al Jacquet, the city’s second Haitian-American elected to the City Commission. Jacquet grew up in Delray Beach. Like many of the attendees, he has lived in the city for more than 20 years. “As I watched the flag go up, I watched the faces in the crowd and some people were literally choking up…They had tears in their eyes. You could just see the look of amazement in their faces,“ Jacquet said. Also moved was organizer U. S. Army Ret. Major Joe Bernadel. Bernadel, also a Haitian American, said the moment symbolized hope. He was also moved to see the harmony among the various groups that created the event. Also in attendance were State Senator Maria Sachs, State Rep. Bobby Powell and former State Rep. Mack Bernard. “There were different political factions, different groups of people, different segment of the society, there were poor and rich, there were blacks there were whites, there were officials and there were basicworkers,” Bernadel said. “All of us came around the flag today to symbolize union and that was such a beautiful thing.” This is quite possible the biggest moment for Haitians Americans in the City of Delray Beach, Jacquet said. The symbolic move was also a clear message to the city, he added. Osner Jean of Boynton Beach hopes Saturday’s event will be duplicated in other cities across the county next year. “There are lots of Haitians all over Palm Beach County. We need to do this in every city,” said Jean, who has been in the United States for 18 Years. The gathering is a notice to the community that Haitian Americans are here in force, Jaquet said. “A lot of Haitian Americans have always felt marginalized, forgotten and ignored,” he said. “But by having this symbolic gesture, by having your country’s flag raised next to your new country’s [state] flag and side by side with the American flag, which is the greatest country on the face of the earth, it’s a huge moment for Haitian Americans.”

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