'Huge Victory' For Haitian Community to Have Creole Speaker employees In Social Services Department in Miramar
June 17, 2017 | 8h23 PM ET
MIRMAR - Bad weather certainly did not stop a devoted group of Haitians from attending the June 7th City of Miramar Commission Meeting. Beneath a canopy of rain, numerous members of South Florida's Haitian Community showed up to express their concerns towards the City Manager who has been marginalizing the Haitian's workforce, the city's second largest demographic group.
They were there to support Temp. Reso. #R6485 embracing and encouraging an inclusive, culturally competent workforce; a resolution sponsored by Haitian-American Commissioner Darline B. Riggs. Thanks to her courage, the Haitian community became aware of the radical approach of City Manager Kathleen Woods-Richardson when it comes to hiring Haitian staff at the City's Social Services Department, which provides activities for seniors, a pantry for emergency food assistance, Social Workers for benefits assistance, and childcare services.
With a $5.9 million budget and a staff of 68 people, unfortunately these services are only being communicated in English and Spanish while neglecting Creole speakers. This is something described as unacceptable in a city with a large Haitian population.
Riggs said that she has been urging the city manager for a long time to hire at least one Haitian at the city's social department, but she (Mrs. Richardson) completely ignored this request and even openly declared that there is no need to hire Creole speaking employees at this department.
The Haitian-American Commissioner became aware of this unfair situation during a meeting she had last year with the Haitian community's seniors. Mrs. Richardson personally told the commissioner that she did not see the problem.
It's something Riggs has wanted to see changed for months. Since nothing was done to have this shocking situation resolved, the commissionner finally took the matter to the Haitian media to make the whole community know about this unfair policy the city holds toward Haitian workers. She took the opportunities to urge members of the Haitian community, particularly those who live in Miramar, to come have their voice heard at the June 7th meeting. A fruitful initiative. The turnout was great, despite bad weather that Wednesday night.
Wearing blue t-shirts to pack the room, the purpose of the silent protest was to make the city manager understand why it does make sense for the city to hire people that speak Creole at the Social Services Department.
More than a dozen Haitians took the stand to passionately make the case in supporting resolution #R6485, each taking several minutes to address current commission members directly. Among them were radio personality Dr. Flore Lindor-Latortue, community activist Magguy Prezeau and well-known Attorney Kirtz Conze.
"Social Services are services to the people. People are the symbol of humanity. We need to bring humanity into good politics," said Dr. Latortue to the commission members.
"It is a shame that we have to spend the commission's time on an issue that should have been resolved at the City Manager's level: the hiring of one Creole speaking social worker," said Attorney Conze who resides and has his law firm office in Miramar.
"Miramar has the unique distinction of being one of the most diverse communities in the nation," said another resident. "Therefore, I want to urge you to do the right thing, Mrs. Richardson: hire a Haitian Creole speaker at the department. You will show that Miramar is really a city of inclusion, where every group of citizens is treated fairly and equally."
The resolution found a particularly supportive member at the dais, Commissioner Yvette Colbourne, who also spoke out on behalf of the Haitian community.
When the city clerk called for the vote, the City Commission unanimously voted yes on the motion to have a position of social services with a Creole speaker at the City's Social Services Department.
The call sparked a joyful celebration by members of the Haitian community who could not control their emotions. At some point, Mayor Wayne M. Messam had to remind attendees that it is imperative to remain silent during the meeting.
Before moving to the next item, Commissioner Riggs asked the mayor to allow her 2-minutes to make her final case on the item. She showed a little regret to the fact that the City Manager never gave her request any consideration despite multiple attempts. The Haitian-American commissioner said that there was no need for Mrs. Richardson to let this issue escalate to the level where her brothers and sisters had to come and make their case in front of the City Commission. She reminded the council that Haitians in Miramar are paying taxes as every other group of people residing in the city. Riggs vowed that she is going to look at the other departments to make sure Haitian residents who do not speak English fluently can find someone who speaks their native language to help them in case there is a need when it comes to dealing with the city in terms of services.
The celebration continued for more than an hour in the lobby next to the City Commission room where members of South Florida's Haitian Community hugged each other and waved Haitian flags to mark the historic victory.
Sentiments of inclusion in a nation of immigrants is fine, but when there is no effort to provide support to those same immigrants, especially when they comprise such a significant portion of a region's population not only does a disservice to those residents but the entire community. Too often communities today overlook small issues, but a thorn in a shoe will cause even the toughest person to stumble. This new ordinance is great news and another hard fought victory for the Haitian-American community of this great country.