The picture above hints at the reality of a vibrant Haitian community in the East Flatbush region of Brooklyn: it is one of music, dance, and overall cultural solidarity.
The solidarity extends to those who are not of Haitian descent, evident through the diversity of the students of La Difference Auto School (turned dance school by night), which aims to spread the Haitian culture through drum and dance classes.
In an interview with the New York Times, one of the dancers emphasized that, “people were interested in the folklore, but didn’t know where to find it… It seemed like a good idea to bring it (Haitian dance) to the community.”
Drum and dance is certainly not the only thing spilling from Rogers Avenue. According to the latest Census, out of the 1.2 million living in the United States, New York has the largest concentration of Haitian-Americans with approximately 150,000 permanently residing in New York City, particularly in Brooklyn where there are approximately 90,000. This number continues to grow exponentially because of the emphasis on the reformation of immigration laws towards the Haitian population. Needless to say, they certainly help to shape the cultural dynamics of what constitutes one of the most vibrant and diverse boroughs of the City.
For the many Haitian-American children living in Brooklyn, the Hatian Academy in East Flatbush, is specifically tailored to cater to the linguistic and cultural needs of its students. Other schools, like PS 269 also emphasize the education and in some cases, refuge of Haitian children: after the Earthquake, the school took in almost 800 new students from Haiti, establishing language programs to aid in their development.
Encouraged by the Haiti Cultural Exchange, the Brooklyn Museum has been hosting free Haitian art and entertainment since 2010. This yearly festival, which usually takes place during the first weekend of August, includes numerous dance performances, historical discussions, as well as encouraging restoration efforts through cultural initiatives.
The ethnic visibility of the Haitian community certainly extends beyond specific festivals and underground dance schools: along Flatbush, Church, and Nostrand Avenues, the entrepreneurship is evident through the establishment of many Haitian restaurants, bars, bakeries, coffee shops, and other businesses that decorate the neighborhood in Creole, French, and American signs and with a presence of ‘amitié and solidarité’ with the rest of the community.