"As people, we are more alike than we are different but our differences are beautiful too".
I met Jerry in Brooklyn, NY a decade ago when we were both trainers at a local fitness co-op. When we met, I thought he was and is a vivacious spirit who was a hard-worker, so upbeat and proud of his immigrant history. We often joked about what it was like in a Jamaican household vs. what it was like in a Haitian household. Turns out it was very similar, with strong parental authority, a love of family, and respect for heritage. Like me, Jerry emigrated to the states when fairly young and so I wanted to learn what traditions remained with him as a bi-cultural person in America. Here is what he had to say:
Where are you living right now? Brooklyn, NY
Where are you originally from? Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Do you identify as Haitian, American, or both? I identify as Haitian although I am an American citizen. No shade to America, but I was born in Haiti along with most of my family. Though I have spent most of my life here and a lot of me is American....it's complicated.
What is your earliest memory of a Haitian tradition? My earliest memory was pretty young since I was in Haiti until I was seven and a half years old. New Year's is big in Haiti since it's our Independence Day and we eat Soup Joumou (pumpkin soup).
What are your favorite Haitian traditions? For me, it's less about the traditions and more about the pride of being Haitian and the resilience that our people have. Also, we have a rich history of being one of the first to gain independence and get rid of slavery.
Any traditions related to health and wellness? Not really really related to health and fitness. To be honest, I might be the only one in my family who works out!
How do Haitians celebrate holidays with family? We are big on family and holidays. Obviously, we celebrate some American holidays too because we don't have Thanksgiving and holidays like that in Haiti.
Do you practice any particular Haitian traditions with your wife and son, and the rest of your American family? Yes. We always celebrate Independence Day and eat our Soup Joumou. And we always represent on the parkway during the West Indian Day Parade.
What do you want our son and the world to know about Haiti- what are you most proud of? I am most proud of our resilience and our rich history. Haiti has been through and continues to go through a lot but we are strong people. I teach my son all of these things and want him to be very proud of his heritage.
Thank you for reading this first installment giving a glimpse into the life of another person. At Culture x Co we believe that empathy helps to build strong bonds that counter the negativity of racism. If you would like to be featured or know somebody who would, please email us email@example.com!