Many more Haitians are being recognized today than ever for their contributions to America. They are in every field imaginable: music, film, dance, the culinary arts, politics, healthcare, professional football and basketball, education, business, car manufacturing, policing… the list goes on and on…
Sometimes the journey to this moment seems to belong to the distant past. Yet it was really not so long ago that Haitians were referred to as “boat people.” That’s when HAUP and many others stepped in.
A small group of first generation Haitian community advocates united to bring their modest resources to bear on resettling brothers and sisters from Haiti who sought refuge in the United States from political persecution and the associated economic oppression of the Duvalier regime. They generated support from Catholic Church leaders, reached out to Protestant and Jewish denominations, and rallied labor unions, civil rights and community groups to the cause of justice. They joined hands with other Haitian immigrants in Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, and Newark to challenge the arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory deportation policies used against the “boat people.” As a result, public sector institutions at the local, state and federal level dropped negative policies and procedures in favor of more positive responses.
Thus little by little emerged a community that is now three generations strong and is a lifeline to their brothers and sisters in Haiti who continue to face serious challenges and catastrophes.
HAUP has extended a hand to thousands of immigrants (Haitian and non-Haitian alike) since its humble beginnings 40 years ago. From housing and sheltering refugees who had nowhere to go to providing English-as-a-Second-Language instructions and legal immigration assistance, HAUP has done it all. HAUP has consistently provided services in response to community needs, improving the quality and effectiveness of such services throughout. As a result HAUP has earned the highest rating – 5 stars! – from the NYS Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) for the services that it provides throughout New York City and Long Island.
As HAUP turns 40 next year, let us work towards growing the next generation of community advocates and leaders who, like the pioneers who created HAUP, will ensure that no one is left behind.