Statue_Jean_Baptiste_Pointe_Du_Sable In a meeting on immigration last week, President Trump allegedly referred to multiple places around the world as “shithole countries.” One those countries was Haiti, where according to people who were at the meeting, the President said: “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.” RELATED: Trump’s on a Chicago eatery’s hit list, and…
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By Nick Moncy
For RISE NEWS
The term second-generation, as shown by a quick Google search, is an adjective “denoting the offspring of parents who have immigrated to a particular country”.
What factors drive people to move to another country? For a variety of reasons: to earn money for family battling poverty and sickness, for better opportunities for their children and themselves, to escape war and persecution. There are many other motives as well, but what most actions share are the selfless and brave motives behind them.
My own parents immigrated to South Florida from Haiti in their thirties to expand their horizons, graciously happening to find each other, fall in love and marry, and have my older sister and me.
Their hard work and sacrifice has carried us through school, my sister through graduating college as last May, and through endless extracurricular activities and personal ventures.
However, with that unconditional love comes unconditional expectations from their culture, many of which clash with those of prosperous countries like the United States that we also strive to embody. This leaves second-gen individuals feeling trapped between two insistent worlds, yet assuming this spot has allowed me to admire both sides.
In a traditional household, the rituals carried over create a rigid atmosphere. The parent’s native language is usually primarily spoken and heard in media outlets, cuisine revolves around their native tastes, and their expectations reflect those they were issued growing up.
Some basic ones are common – putting school and family first, learning your native tongue (Creole for me), and looking presentable to exude a sense of composure. There is, in fact, a barbershop on every block in just about every Haitian town, at least it seems that way.
When all you have is yourself, you must be your best self according to that logic.
But there are some cultural themes that do not carry over so smoothly. Emotions show weakness, immaturity and lack of self-control. You are your gender and sex and you will not deviate.
Your complaints pale to the immense pains your ancestors endured, so it’s no use. Mental illness is an illusion – you’re just afraid to try hard. You will wear what your parents tell you to wear, and think what they want you to think, or you are disobedient. You might even get compared to your friends who conform and feel ashamed. You lose the ability to believe in your own convictions.
When all you have is yourself, you must be your worst self is the sad reality.
The grand, overlying difference I have observed is others versus self. In rural parts of Haiti, where the heart of Haitian culture beats loudest, individualism simply does not exist. Family members put others before themselves – using free time to aid parents with laborious tasks, plowing fields, mentoring the young, caring for the old. There’s no “paying you back”. Or “chasing your dream” – that is perceived as a luxury.
Here in the United States though, being yourself is highly encouraged. Saying what’s on your mind, free speech, self-actualization. We have technology to provide access to an infinite amount of information and exposure to many ways of life around the world, which enriches our perspective and increases our tolerance for exploration.
Even in college, most students have the freedom to choose the field that resonates with them. When your family remains in the back of your mind, and you feel the gnawing conviction to return the favor, to bring honor, and your friends back home did what they were told and brought that honor, doesn’t it feel like an unseen power is forcing your hand the other way?
Ultimately you may feel guilty for following your heart, even though no beaten path –doctor, engineer, lawyer – worked out for you.
“Although tradition seems to control us like puppets, a predetermined course, it is truly up to us to steer our fates.”- Nick Moncy
“Being successful, you ponder, is the “paying you back” that I’m missing”.
Even your peers who’ve assimilated into American culture will look down on you at times for not keeping up with milestones – not being caught up with the latest episodes of American Idol (R.I.P) or sports, not being manly enough (which is an issue on both fronts), not flowing with the crowd.
And guess what? Other second-gens from your ethnic group will mock you too, for not repping your roots or knowing your language or not visiting your motherland yet. Oh boy! The pursuit of perfection, unfortunately, is widespread.
All reasonable people will ask for, like my parents, is to perform the best you can at whatever you are doing. Although tradition seems to control us like puppets, a predetermined course, it is truly up to us to steer our fates. However, our heritages compose a significant part of who we are today and explain how our circumstances came to be.
As I grew older, I saw the other side of the gourde (Haitian currency): parents usually aren’t narcissistic or obsessed – they just don’t want their cultures to dissipate, to be lost, and that is why they clench so dearly to what they know.
To what they are.
And I’ve been able to understand, or at least try to, just what that is. For two weeks this June I trekked all over Haiti with my family to see both family and our motherland. I dove into the core of the island and despite facing the unknown, the links between this world and the one back home became crystal clear.
I finally feel at peace in this gray area, and for that I am grateful. I now believe in my potential to uphold my family’s future legacy by being there for them –plus, I personally want to help Haiti at a future point – but the only way to accomplish that goal is to settle into the person I’ve envisioned myself to be. And that person, I hope, will be as courageous and righteous as my family members.
If you’re a second-generation person like me, I encourage you to discover your past and find your own balance in the present – the experience has proven to be fulfilling. And for goodness’s sake, don’t wipe your hands on the fancy towels. They’re there for decoration.
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By Staff Report
By Nate Nkumbu
Often you look at a banana and you see a table item or a common breakfast food. But many people wouldn’t believe that the fruit holds a dark history in Latin America and that the United States government actually supported dictators for this peel-able food.
The Banana Wars were period between 1898 and 1934 were the U.S heavily intervened in Latin American politics.
Using the legacy of the Monroe doctrine, the U.S invaded countries like Cuba, Haiti, Panama, Colombia, and Honduras to protect the Banana plantations and other investments made in the countries according to Jose Cruz, Director of Research for the Kimberley Green Latin American and Caribbean center at Florida International University.
Cruz said in an interview with RISE NEWS that the period saw many in Latin America view the United States as occupying forces as opposed to being just a neighbor up north.
The Monroe doctrine help to establish America’s dominance in Latin America but in 1904, in an addition to the long standing US posture of dominating influence in the Western Hemisphere, President Theodore Roosevelt upped the ante.
In the Roosevelt Corollary, TR gave the U.S the ammo it needed to justify its intervention in Central and South America by arguing that America shouldn’t just prevent European control in the hemisphere, but that it should also use military force to further American interests there.
Cruz said that the most blatant case during the banana wars was the U.S intervening in Honduras seven times between 1903 and 1925.
He said that companies like United Fruit which had owned plantations in Honduras would call on the U.S Marines to deal with political insurrections and that the local elite were supportive of the actions.
So yes. American Marines were basically the private police force of American fruit companies. Just let that sink in for a second and try not to laugh.
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“The local elite in Honduras got paid or received payments from companies like United Fruit to protect their plantations,” Cruz said. “In some places, the people working on the plantations were able to unionize thanks in part to some of the United Fruit workers coming from America helping them, but this was in small amounts.”
Cruz said that United Fruit had often put down worker’s strikes with violence. One notable case was the Banana Massacre of 1928 where Colombian workers for the company were killed following strikes demanding better working conditions.
Cruz said that the effect of the Banana Massacre is still felt today in places like Colombia.
“Just 10 years ago, Chiquita Bananas was accused of hiring paramilitary troops to put down strikes in their plantations in Colombia, likewise other corporations like Coca Cola,” Cruz said. “It isn’t rare today for actions like this to happen, but during the Banana Wars, it was quite common.”
WATCH: Documentary clip about the Banana Wars.
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–Francesca Menes is a rising star in Florida politics.
-She was recently named as the Treasurer for the Florida Democratic Party and has long been an immigration rights activist.
-Her well run campaign for Florida House District 108 has some wondering what her political future is, but she hasn’t figured that out yet.
A nine-year career and numerous accolades including the Miami Herald’s “20 Under 40 Emerging Leaders in South Florida” award, already follow 32-year-old Haitian-American activist Francesca Menes.
And after a strong but ultimately unsuccessful campaign for State Representative in District 108 last year, many in local political circles are wondering what the future is for the millennial leader.
Born to Haitian immigrants in Miami, Menes saw from a young age what public involvement can do for the causes that she cared about.
“One of the first protests that my mother took me to that I can remember was when the coup happened in Haiti for Aristide,” Menes said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “Fifty-Fourth street was shut down with hundreds and thousands of Haitians, who were basically singing in the street ‘democracy, democracy for Haiti.’”
Growing up in Miami, though, Menes remembers not interacting with other groups besides her fellow Haitian-Americans.
She said that Miami, despite being a melting pot of many cultures, is still segregated — Cuban-Americans are in Little Havana and Haitian-Americans are in Little Haiti.
That’s something she has always tried to change.
First at Edison Senior High School in Miami, and after her family moved to Kansas City, the Central Classical Greek and Computers Unlimited Magnet High School, Menes was involved in debate and remembers learning about and debating many different issues.
“That is what helped solidified me in many ways was seeing how we can debate both sides of an issue, and actually try to push something for our communities,” Menes said.
That appreciation for debate continued at Florida International University where Menes became involved in on-campus progressive groups.
The child of Haitian immigrants, Menes views the issue as a calling for herself.
“Being in college, I was part of that radical feminist group that just wanted to shut everything down,” Menes said. “We weren’t happy with the way FIU was operating, how they were completely out of loop, and how conservative the university was.”
After graduating from FIU in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in political science and women’s studies with a minor in philosophy, Menes served two years through AmeriCorps in the Public Allies program at Catalyst Miami, which according to Menes’ website “focuses on developing the next generation of leaders who are committed to long-term social change.”
Immigration law and enforcement is now an issue at the forefront of American public discourse, and President Donald Trump has made it one of his priorities.
The Trump Administration recently announced that it would be ending Temporary Protected Status for nearly 60,000 Haitians who currently live in the United States.
That means that those people will either have to fix their immigration status by July 2019 or risk deportation.
The child of Haitian immigrants, Menes views the issue as a calling for herself.
She has worked as the Policy and Advocacy Director for the Florida Immigration Coalition for multiple years. In that role, she helped push the state legislature to grant in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.
Menes has certainly caught the eye of more established members of the Haitian-American political firmament.
“It is always amazing to me because, and I saw this working in Tallahassee, there is this conservative wing that is like ‘small government is better.’ And the more power that is at the local level the better,” Menes said. “What I learned over time is that it benefits them. If you are going to protect your communities and we [the Trump Administration] don’t like the way you are going to protect them, we are going to take away the ways to protect them, and that is basically what Trump attempted to do even though it was challenged over and over in the courts.”
While she may sound like a candidate, Menes is currently not considering running for office.
Menes said that it was members of her community who pushed her to run in 2016 for the Florida House of Representatives in District 108 (an area that includes Little Haiti, Liberty City, Miami Shores, and large parts of North Miami).
She ultimately lost to Roy Hardemon in the seven-way Democratic primary.
In the aftermath of her strong electoral showing and the decimation of the Florida Democratic Party in 2016, Menes was picked to be the Treasurer for the state party.
“At the moment I do not have a yes or no answer [whether or not I am going to run for office again] because when I decided to run it wasn’t me it was a community that asked me to run, and I had that support system behind me to know that I wasn’t going into this alone,” Menes said.
But Menes has certainly caught the eye of more established members of the Haitian-American political firmament.
Marleine Bastien, the executive director of FANM, whose mission, according to their website is to “empower Haitian women and their families socially, politically and facilitate their adjustments to South Florida,” recommended Menes for the Miami Herald’s “20 Under 40 Emerging Leaders in South Florida” because of her hard work and dedication to helping all immigrants.
“Her work has benefited immigrants in general, especially what she had done at FLIC,” Bastien said in a piece published by the Herald. “Anti-immigration laws have been defeated in Tallahassee because of her no nonsense leadership, and hard work. ”
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