Tallahassee Rally Over Haitian Deportation
By James Celeste
From Palestine to Baltimore to Santo Domingo, black lives matter. The statement and twitter hashtag was shouted repeatedly Friday afternoon during an organized rally at the old capitol building. Organizations and community members gathered on Monroe Street in front of the old capitol to express their beliefs as they protested. They held up signs and shouted in unison “Dominican Republic, Shame on you.” And “Haitian lives Matter.”
Daphne Campbell, state representative for district 108, spoke at the rally and explained why she was fighting for people of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic since 1929, all affected by the new policy.
“They don’t know nobody in Haiti,” Campbell said. “They don’t speak Creole. Where are you going to put them? We are doing this to make sure the Dominican Republic knows we are watching and to stop the deportation because Haitian people in the Dominican Republic are the ones who built houses for them. Economic development, Haitians did that for them.”
In September 2013, a ruling in the Dominican Republic declared judicial actions against Haitians, specifically those who are descendants of undocumented migrants. Public officials will determine Haitians’ citizenship in the Dominican Republic based off the birth records of 1929. But a lot of people born there do not have this document and this will redefine who is considered a Dominican citizen in the 21st century.
As of June 17, the Dominican Republic has put into action and begin processing the looming mass deportation of 220,000 people, representing several generations of Dominicans stripped of citizenship by the ruling.
Anith Benjamin, a fourth-year Florida A&M student who also serves as vice president of the university’s Haitian Cultural Club, wants people to know this is not only a Haitian issue but a human-rights issue. This is why protesters connect this to the larger “Black Lives Matter” movement.
“There’s one thing to deport Haitians that don’t have papers,” Benjamin said. “America does that. All countries partake in that. But if you are killing them and hanging them and stripping people that are Haitian but they lived in Dominican Republic for decades, its sickening.
“They don’t know anything about their Haitian roots and you’re telling them to go back to a country, but all they know is the Dominican Republic.”
There is a long and complicated history between the two nations that share an island.
Jason Eugene, owner of local restaurant 509 Caribbean Cuisine in Tallahassee and former president of the Haitian Cultural Club at FAMU, believes unity is key.
“The biggest thing for us to do is what our flag says, ‘le union de la force,’ meaning there is strength in unity,” Eugene said. “We need to raise awareness and let people know that we here in Tallahassee are aware of what is going on, especially in the state capital.” Florida has one of the largest populations of Haitians in the U.S.
“We need to be in contact with the most important people, which are the governors, the state representatives, the presidents of the schools, FSU and FAMU. All of us need to be a part of this.” said Eugene.
An online petition is circulating, asking the U.S. government to use its influence to stop the deportations. People are also actively protesting on social media including Facebook and Twitter.
Campbell says the rally at the capitol shows support in solidarity of all other states who are doing the same thing they are doing.
“We are going to show people that we are one people,” Campbell said. “Haitian people are one and with the solidarity with other states, we are saying stop that nonsense. Let the people stay where they were born.”