For Haitians Everywhere, The Time Is Now!
When talk of Haiti comes up, Dr. Zizwe Poe’s words highlighting the role of youth and young adults in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement often come to mind: “Youth and young adults have historically been fearless igniters of social change. Properly organized, they have shaken the very foundations of the status quo. When youths are united in purpose, they lead the elders and resurrect the spirit of the ancestors, fighters for liberation.”
With this quote in mind, Haitian descendants who make up the millennial generation, or younger, whether being born and raised outside of Haiti or born in Haiti and have been living outside of it for a number of years, observe the country with anxiety given events there over the last year. Millennials are the largest generation in United States history. Likewise, population statistics estimate 54% of Haiti’s population is of ages 0–24 years. 21% of the population is specifically between the early working age range of 15–24 years, and 36% are at the prime working age range of 25–64 years of age.
As the millennial and younger generation of Haiti comes of age, their cries for inclusion in influencing their country’s future for the better follows what youth in practically all countries across modern history have found themselves to have to fight for to achieve. It is unsettling to write about what seems to be Haiti’s chaotic state of affairs as a country. Simmering socioeconomic tensions have ruptured into violent street protests every few months, contributing to countrywide disarray that exacerbates what was already dire straits for a majority of people in Haiti. Decades of detrimental interference from international super powers, have contributed to foreign policies that have undermined the country. Within Haiti, government mismanagement and rampant corruption are only a few additional factors that have significantly contributed to the country not being able to live up to its potential given its historical representation of emancipation and human rights.
Among the sources for the widespread current discontent Haiti is experiencing is frustration amongst its bulging youth demographic regarding its future. While violence to affect change is not condoned, it’s obvious that it is a desperate means by those who unfortunately feel they have no other choice. Many papers and books have revolved around the thesis that countries which have a significant population of disillusioned youths making up the majority are ripe for chaotic social unrest. The Arab Spring of recent times, and the US Student Movement of the 1960s, etc, all had wide ranging affects that resulted in changes within the status quo of their respective countries, and in this way Haiti is not an anomaly.
Haiti’s people have basic wants and needs like people everywhere else in the world. Its status quo does not present a promising future for the potential of its up and coming generations. So what is it in general that Haiti’s youth want? Among their wants are improvements in the following: An end to impunity, criminal justice reform, quality education & health care, women’s rights, addressing climate change, fair wages, and economic opportunity just to name a few. Sound familiar? Shared settings wanted all over the world.
The Haitian diaspora, mainly Baby Boomers and Generation X, are providing the majority of what is now approximately$3 billion dollars per year in remittances that keeps the $8 billion dollar per year Haitian economy barely afloat for its 11 million people population. As more of their parent’s generation enters the retirement period of their lives and send less remittances as a result, what will happen to Haiti then? At the same time, here in America there is constant talk of a retirement crisis involving the large baby boomer demographic having insufficient funds to support their retirement years. It’s a double whammy for Haitian-American Millennials.
Pride in the unprecedented accomplishment of Haiti’s declared independence in 1804 is unwavering. The Haitians of that period came of age and abolished the shackles of slavery from ever being placed back onto them. Their contributions to US independence is also frequently noted with a Haitian contingent participating in the American Revolutionary side of the often cited Second Battle of Savannah (1779). The world continues to benefit from these multiple revolutionary acts till this day. So, what will be the coming of age contribution for youths of Haitian descent to Haiti in order for it to meet its potential? As part of the largest generation in US history, millennial Americans of Haitian descent are beginning to see the need to use their influence at the ballot box and other avenues of political influence that will affect US foreign policy that will facilitate Haiti to meet its bottled up potential. Through their rights, millennial Americans of Haitian descent are saying it’s their time to affect the change they want. Not just in the US of course, but Haiti too.
Avanse Ansanm’s mission is to engage & connect Haitian-American Millennials, understand and harness our collective economic & political power, preserve Haitian culture in Haitian- American Millennials, and cultivate a strong community bounded by a shared strategy to advance All Things Haitian.