why do we celebrate haitian flag day
Date Observed: May 18 Location: Haiti and some U. S. cities
Haitian Flag Day is observed on May 18 in Haiti and in a number of U. S. cities with large populations of Haitian Americans. Many Africans of the diaspora, regardless of their ancestry, also join in the holiday celebration, because it commemorates the slave revolt in Haiti that led to the country's independence from France and also prompted slave uprisings in America. Historical Background During the 1700s in the French West Indies colony of St. Domingue (later renamed Haiti), a few French families owned huge sugar plantations and brought in more than one half million slaves from Africa to work the fields. As in some other parts of the Western Hemisphere, many plantation owners treated slaves brutally, often working them to death. In 1789 a revolution broke out in France, and the ideals of liberty and equality expressed by the revolutionaries quickly spread to the colonial plantation owners and merchants, who demanded freedom from French rule. Free blacks and people of mixed race wanted social justice. And slaves were ready to fight for their freedom. The most successful slave uprising in history began in August 1791. A former Creole slave, Toussaint Louverture (too-SAN loo-vehr-TYOOR), was a leading figure in the revolution. He trained an army of slaves who fought against tens of thousands of French, Spanish, and British soldiers. An estimated 350,000 people died, most of them slaves, in the Haitian Revolution before independence was won in 1804. The French captured Toussaint in 1802 and sent him to France, where he died in prison in 1803. Two other Haitian leaders took up the fight: Jean Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe. Creation of the Holiday When Dessalines and other leaders decided to march on what is now Port-au-Prince, they wanted to carry a flag that would represent their troops. On May 18, 1803, they pieced together a design for the official flag.
Since then, May 18 has been known as Haitian Flag Day. The design of the new flag began with the French flag made up of blue, white, and red bands. The white band was removed to indicate that the French no longer controlled the colony. A woman named Catherine Flon sewed the new flag together, using vertical bands of blue and red cloth. Blue represented blacks and mixed-race people, and red symbolized their blood. Over the years the nation's flag has been modified several times, but Flag Day itself has remained the same as the day the nation's flag was first sewn together. May 18 is a major national holiday in Haiti. Observance Haitians celebrate Flag Day on the grounds of the national palace, and Haitians in the diaspora also honor the Haitian flag. In the United States, for example, Haitian Flag Day is celebrated in public and private schools in cities with Haitian-American populations. Students are likely to carry the Haitian flag with them during a week of commemoration, and school events emphasize Haitian history and culture. Each year on the last Sunday in May, New York City's Haitian Day Parade processes down Toussaint Louverture Boulevard (also known as Nostrand Avenue) in Brooklyn. Organized by the Haitian-American Carnival Association since 2002, the parade is followed by a festival featuring Haitian music and food. Boston observes May as Haitian Heritage Month. Events include a Flag-Raising Day as well as a parade. In Florida, Haitian Flag Day is celebrated in cities such as Tampa, Delray Beach, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, and others, and events include Haitian food, music, and art exhibits. In 2004 special festivities in such cities as Brooklyn, New York, and Miami, Florida, marked the 200th anniversary of Haiti's independence. The Haitian Flag The current Haitian flag is made up of two horizontal bands: a blue one on top and a red one below.
Red symbolizes the blood and the sacrifices made during the Haitian Revolution, and blue stands for hope and unity. The slogan on the flag reads L'union fait la force, "In unity we find strength. " Contacts and Web Sites Haitian-American Carnival Association, Inc. P. O. Box 863 Wall St. Station New York, NY 10268 718-434-9250 Haitian Americans United 10 Fairway St. , Ste. 218 P. O. Box 260440 Mattapan, MA 02126 617-298-2976 Tampa Haitian Flag Day Festival Motown Maurice Productions P. O. Box 272507 Tampa, FL 33688 813-951-0794 Further Reading Aptheker, Herbert. American Negro Slave Revolts. 5th ed. New York: International Publishers, 1987. Auguste, Wilner. "Gearing Up for a Month-Long Celebration of Haitian Pride. " Dorchest- er Reporter (Boston, MA), April 9, 2005. Charles, Jacqueline. "Parties, Protests Mark Haiti Flag. " Miami Herald, May 18, 2005. Lush, Tamara. "Haitian Roots Deepening. " St. Petersburg Times, May 6, 2002. Simon, Darran. "Haitians to Raise Flags for Unity. " Miami Herald, May 17, 2004. The Haitian flag is a symbol of pride for many Haitians. Some flaunt the flag, tattoo it on their bodies but may not be aware of its history or the full meaning behind the symbol. Come now, Haiti History 101 pupils, how many of these did you know? 10. The woman who sew it together was Catherine Flon. 9. It was sewn together on May 18, 1803 in the city of Archaie [come on, you can say it: Ar-kai-yeah]. Pour le Drapeau (For the Flag), Haiti s national anthem was written 100 years later by with music by Nicolas Geffrard. No, ; another Nicolas Geffrard. 8. Historians have maintained that the former slaves of Haiti shredded out the white of the flag so that the blue and red could come together, symbolizing the unity of the mulatto class of Haiti with the full-blooded blacks. 7. As romantic and dramatic as Fact #8 might seem, it appears that The Haitian flag did not come into being just then, and the red and blue union not just some impromptu on the part of the new nation.
According to the book Vodou in Haitian Life and Culture: Invisible Powers edited by Claudine Michel, and Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, the whole origin of the national symbol is deeply rooted in the Vodun religion. The red and blue are the colors of the god of war Ogou, and Dessalines was reportedly in a temple of the religion in Merote, Haiti when the flag was created. Most of the objects that make up Haiti s national coat of arms, such as the machete, the palms according to Laurent Dubois are symbols of a Vodun temple. 6. The flag was changed from blue and red to black and red during the presidency of. When Duvalier s son went into exile in 1986, the flag was restored to red and blue. Duvalier wasn t the first person to adopt the red and black flag. According to historian Elmide MГlГance, Dessalines switched to black and red upon his crowning as Emperor Jacques the First in 1805. 5. According to the book Revolutionary Freedoms, at one point, two different national flags flew in Haiti. After the death of Dessalines, Haiti was divided between two rulers Alexandre Sabes PГtion and. PГtion reverted to the blue and red flag in the South of Haiti, while King Henri (ahem, Henry) kept the black and red. , the man who served as president of Haiti following the deaths of Henri and Christophe ruled Haiti under a red and blue flag. 4. The Dominican flag was partly based on the Haitian flag. The Trinitarians who were ardent contributors to the Dominican Independence movement added a cross in the middle to reflect Catholicism and added a distinctive coat of arms. 3. L Union Fait la Force (Unity Makes Strength) is a motto accredited to PГtion, but according to John D. Garrigus book Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue, as early as 1793 a former slave from Haiti in Paris was showing off a red, white and blue flag with the motto Notre Union Fera Notre Force (Our Unity Will be Our Strength).
LibertГ ou La Mort was the flag s motto at the time Catherine Flon sew the flag. 2. Jana Evans Braziel has written that as early as 1982, Haitians were commemorating Flag Day in the United States, mainly the organization UHA (United Haitians Association), in partnership with the New York City Council. In the late 1990s, there was a resurgence of Haitian pride and display of the Haitian flag all over the United States among Haitians and Haitian-Americans. Wyclef Jean, a hip-hop star with a band called the Fugees, started the movement. Haitian businessman Rodney Noel strategically started a Haitian music festival tied around the Saturday of the Haitian Flag day. The Haitian flag had been flown high and mighty before, but it was often during moments of protest (such as a march organized by Haitian activists when Haitians were labeled as AIDS carriers in 1990), and rarely celebratory. 1. During the U. S. Occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, it was the U. S. flag that was flown on flag poles in Haiti. Haitians were not exactly thrilled. Journalist recalled in the documentary The Agronomist, that his father would every May 18, Flag Day, defiantly put the Haitian flag in front of the house. I said, Father, what does that mean for you? He said That means that you are Haitian. Shall I throw in a bonus? Of course. You probably know this one already, but here goes: Haitians love to wave their flags. Cab drivers displayed it in 1986 with bumper stickers that read Haiti Libere (Haiti s Free at Last) say Linda Green Basch, Nina Glick Schiller, Cristina Szanton Blanc in Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments. There you have it folks, your girl Kreyolicious list of 10 Things You May (or May Not Have Known About the Haitian Flag). Phew. Bet you thought I wouldn t be able to come up with ten!
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