May 4, 2006, 2006
Contact: Drew Hammill
Meek Bill Would Establish Haitian Heritage Month
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Kendrick B. Meek has reintroduced a bill that would establish a Haitian Heritage Month to commemorate, and increase public knowledge and appreciation of, the many contributions of the Haitian people and culture to the United States.
“The Haitian people have a long and rich history. Of all the democracies in the Americas , only that of the United States is older than Haiti's. In addition, Haitians and people of Haitian decent have a huge impact on our people and our society. I think it is important to recognize these contributions. They have significantly helped to shape our society, but are often overlooked in textbooks and in the minds and hearts of many Americans,” Meek said.
Meek's legislation, H.Res. 777, details in part the contributions of the Haitian people to America, and notes the Louisiana Purchase as an example of fact.
“In an effort to subjugate the Haitian people and suppress Haiti 's revolution, France assembled in Haiti the largest expeditionary force it had ever sent to the Americas , which consisted of its finest troops,” Meek stated in the Congressional Record.
“However, by 1803, France had lost most of these troops and expended countless resources. As a result, instead of fortifying and exploiting its position in Louisiana , France was forced to sell it to the United States . In what became known as the Louisiana Purchase, this territory now comprises nearly one quarter of the United States .”
Meek also noted the numerous celebrations planned during May in Haiti and throughout the United States , especially in Miami .
“This May, as Haitians and their descendants celebrate many traditions and observances, such as Haitian Flag Day on May 18th and Haitian Mother's Day on May 28th, let every American commemorate these contributions to our great country and celebrate the rich heritage of Haiti .”
A copy of H.Res. 777 follows.
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives, in recognition of the contributions of the Haitian people to the history and culture of the United States, by establishing `Haitian-American Heritage Month'.
Whereas freemen from the French colony of Saint Domingue, now the Republic of Haiti, fought alongside the United States Continental Army at the Siege of Savannah in 1779;
Whereas Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a Haitian, built the first permanent settlement of what later became the city of Chicago , Illinois , in 1779;
Whereas the significant loss of life and financial burden of the failed efforts to quell Haiti 's revolution prompted France to sell Louisiana to the United States in 1803, territory that now comprises 22.3 percent of the United States;
Whereas, on January 1, 1804, Haiti declared its independence from France to become the world's first Black republic and the second democracy after the United States;
Whereas Major Joseph Savary, a Haitian, was the first Black Major in the United States Army, and led the Second Battalion of Freemen of Color at the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815, under then-General Andrew Jackson, who became the first Governor of the Territory of Florida in 1821;
Whereas, in 1889, Frederic Douglas, the period's foremost spokesman on human rights and prominent leader of the anti-slavery movement in the United States, became the first United States Minister and Consul-General to Haiti;
Whereas the longest occupancy of a foreign state by American troops was in Haiti , circa 1915-1934;
Whereas an estimated 1,200,000 persons of Haitian descent now live throughout the United States;
Whereas Haitians and their descendants have contributed greatly to the arts and sciences, including John James Audubon, the acclaimed naturalist and wildlife artist who inspired the American conservation society that bears his namesake, and W.E.B. DuBois, the Haitian-American author and political activist, who became one of the most prominent, intellectual leaders of African-American society during the twentieth century;
Whereas the close proximity of Haiti to American shores, in conjunction with our common bond of mutual values and commitment to democracy, ensures lasting comity of nations and continued trade and diplomatic relations;
Whereas Haiti —the only republic to rise from a successful slave rebellion—inspires pride, solidarity, and self-reliance;
Whereas the last Sunday of May is commemorated in Haiti as Mother's Day;
Whereas the 18th of May is Flag Day, the most celebrated holiday in Haiti , and is observed by people of Haitian descent throughout the world;
Whereas in Miami, Florida, home to the largest Haitian-American population in the United States, there are numerous cultural events and celebrations planned during the month of May to honor Haitian heritage;
Whereas May is an appropriate month to establish a Haitian-American Heritage Month: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that—
(1) `Haitian-American Heritage Month' be established; and
(2) the people of the United States should observe the month with appropriate ceremonies, celebrations, and activities.
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