Diaspora

Haitian Museum in Chicago a Beacon of Caribbean Culture and History – The Southland Journal

When it comes to Haiti, the casual observer mostly knows the Caribbean island for its financial struggles, hurricanes, earthquakes, and political unrest.
Haitian Museum in Chicago a Beacon of Caribbean Culture and History (Chicago, IL) – When it comes to Haiti, the casual observer mostly knows the Caribbean island for its financial struggles, hurricanes, earthquakes, and political unrest. However, Haiti has a rich multicultural heritage, tapestry and complex yet beautiful history. Officials at the Haitian American Museum of Chicago are looking to change the narrative and help a broader population understand and appreciate it. 
“When people come to the museum, we like to use two words when talking about Haitian society as a whole and that is resilience and vibrancy,” said Carlos Bossard executive director of the Haitian American Museum of Chicago, 4654 N. Racine Ave. 
Founded in 2012, the Haitian American Museum of Chicago is the realization of a dream by its co-founder Elsie Hernandez, who was born in Port-au-Prince, raised in New York and now lives on the south side of Chicago. The institution was created to showcase exhibits and programs that display Haiti’s art, culture and history. Through community engagement, lectures, fundraisers and other promotional activities, the 500-square foot museum is small but mighty. 
“There are a lot of people from our staff, volunteers, Elsie and myself that are looking to make this the epicenter for the community not only in Chicago but throughout the Midwest,” said Bossard.
Like many industries and businesses worldwide, the museum has been affected by COVID. It pushed many of the initiatives into a virtual platform. The team of nine interns and volunteers, advisory and executive board were able to make the transition fairly easy. The organization created several programs, including We Walk, a celebration of black communities, accomplishments and contributions. They brought the program to Evanston, Lawndale and other communities. 
“Coming back to the word resilience, the museum has been able to pivot well to virtual and outdoor programming,” said Bossard. 
An interesting initiative that the organization is hoping to launch is a future 10-unit curriculum about Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who is regarded as the first resident of president-day Chicago and a Haitian native. Lake Shore Drive expressway was recently renamed after him.
They hope to pitch the curriculum to the Chicago Public School system. 
Celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the museum will continue to raise funds, create successful programs and celebrate the Haitian culture overall with new initiatives and events. In addition, they were able to raise $8,000 in two weeks to support specific Haitian families and they are supporting funds for families coming to the United States border. 
Earlier this year, the museum collaborated with Northwest Chicago Historical Society to raise funds through a virtual event to provide school books, Cazale, a town in Haiti where a large Polish community resides, Called “Hip H’Opera for Haiti,” the event featured a performance by K. F. Jacques, an opera-hip hop singer of Haitian descent. Cazale has been without school books for its children since 2008 when a series of hurricanes devastated the village. Cazale’s Polish ancestry dates back to the early 1800s when Napoleon recruited Poles from Europe to help stop uprisings that were occurring in Haiti, promising the Polish soldiers that he would later help Poland gain its independence.
“We sent 75 boxes of books to Haiti,” said “This is just the beginning to a bigger project. We plan to open a small museum and library in Cazale to have a space for the books, make them available and really preserve the history of Cazale. It is important to see all the positive aspects of Haiti and try to change the narrative. In 2022, our hope is if time allows and everything is safe, we will be able to travel to Cazale, see this area and get a concrete action plan on how this museum and library is going to come to life for that community.”
Haitian Museum in Chicago a Beacon of Caribbean Culture and History

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