Disaster Brings Haitian Americans Back Home
Young people with Haitian roots were drawn to their homeland after the earthquake two years ago.
"Yes, Haiti is a difficult place for some," he points out, "and the luxuries of the West aren't always available here. But Haiti is ours, and if we don't take care of our inheritance, who will?"
For Armand, his commitment to rebuilding Haiti has been just as reflective.
Born and raised on the island, Armand moved to New York at the age of 15. He attended St. John's University, where he completed a bachelor's degree in legal studies and a master's in international relations. He has worked in the marketing industry for the past 10 years, including at the American Civil Liberties Union, where he spearheaded the organization's fundraising initiatives.
As a member of the executive committee of the Global Syndicate, an international fundraising network of professionals with a history of involvement in Haiti, Armand raised more than $300,000 for relief efforts after the earthquake. Although he continues to reside in New York, Armand's vision for his homeland hasn't swayed.
"I used to go back to Haiti every two years before the tragedy," he says, "but my most recent trip on Dec. 15 was my longest since the earthquake -- I was there for 21 days."
Having felt compelled to raise the bar on how he would further devote his talents, Armand's new project is a documentary called Haiti Is Me, aimed at bringing dignity back to the people by chronicling little-known economic, cultural and social advancements made by Haitians that the international mainstream press has failed to cover -- a dignity that he believes is vital for the new generation of Haitians to see if Haiti is ever to be restored as the "Pearl of the Antilles."
Armand hopes that the documentary, which he is currently shopping to U.S. film distributors for a June 2012 release, will help alleviate what he believes is one of the country's biggest Achilles' heels -- tourism.
Always the optimist, like Darguin, he sees an enormous window of opportunity for Haiti to forever change its fortunes. "One thing that was surprisingly evident to me on this trip was the sense that this current government has the consent of the Haitian people, and a feeling this isn't going to be business as usual."
Perhaps if there is to be a silver lining in the devastation the country has endured, it is that it has galvanized Haiti's prodigal sons and daughters to come home and do the work of rebuilding their nation.
Jean McGianni Celestin is a contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.