Office Of Multicultural Affairs

The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) was established in 2002 to support the College’s efforts to attract, recruit, and serve both students of color and international students. Our mission is to create and sustain an environment that encourages and embraces the contributions of people from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I grew up in a household with a strong sense of cultural pride. My parents were always proud to say they were Haitian and constantly reminded me that I was Haitian-American. At home, my mom spoke to me in her native Creole and French, and we always had Haitian food for dinner. Being Haitian has shaped the individual I am today because a lot of my values come from my parents and what they were taught in their homeland. I never understood why my parents were so proud of where they came from until I learned the history of their country, the place that they refer to as home; Haiti.

Haiti [hey-tee] or Ayiti [i-e-tee], which means mountainous land in the Taino Arawaks' native's language, is located in the Caribbean and makes up one-third of the island of Hispaniola. French is the official language of Haiti because it was colonized by the French, but Creole, a language made up of mostly broken French, with Spanish and Taino Arawaks' native language influences, is spoken by all. Enslaved Africans were brought to the country by the French to work on the sugarcane fields and by the 1730's empires were built, making Haiti one of the main suppliers of sugar, along with Jamaica. As a result of the influx of enslaved Africans, the natives were nearly wiped out, making Haiti a predominantly black country. In 1790, enslaved people united the leadership of Toussaint L' Overture to fight off the French, and later gained their independence in 1804. This made Haiti the first Black Republic in the world and sparked revolutions within enslaved nations elsewhere, including neighboring Dominican Republic, who fought off the Spanish with the help of the Haitians.

Although Haiti was the first Black Republic in the world, many people did not consider the country to be independent because the enslaved people were not allowed to learn how to read or write. In addition, Haiti remains an under-acknowledged country because many people are unaware of its history. Haiti is always associated with poverty, Voodoo and violence, so I could not understand why my parents were still so proud to say they were from Haiti. The depictions of the slums of the country on TV, as well as the constant reminder that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, has clouded my perceptions of Haiti. Nevertheless, I have seen many pictures and visited the country four times and I have realized that my parents' country of origin is not what I see on TV.
Haiti might be the poorest country in the western hemisphere, but it is a country rich in culture. Food, dance, music and Voodoo are all embedded in the history of Haiti. Haitian food is mildly spicy and cooked with Taino Arawak cooking styles, Spanish food influences, French names and tweaked recipes, while maintaining an African twist. Haitian dances either mix European ballroom dancing with Spanish musical influences to Konpa (a Haitian musical genre) or come straight from the Voodoo dances. Voodoo, which many people think is bad, is a religion deeply rooted in the Haitian culture. Voodoo has many Christian influences because Europeans associated it with the devil and refused to let the enslaved Africans practice their original Voodoo. The new religion brought a new form of dancing called Ra Ra to the culture. Food, dance, and music are found, and whether it is Ra Ra or Konpa, throughout Haiti and Haitian people always find the right way to celebrate with family and close friends.

Haitian people are very proud of their culture and they share it by celebrating. Whether they cook or dance, or do both, celebrating is the way the Haitian people share their hospitality. Sharing is caring in Haiti, and through food, dance and music Haitians not only share their hospitality, but they share their history. I learned quickly that when something happens, whether it is a first communion or birthday party, we must celebrate, but I never realized how rooted celebrating was to the beginning of Haiti's history. Many accomplishments live through the food, dance, and music of Haiti and the celebrating is much more than the occasion, but a gateway to the past and hope for the future of Haiti.

My parents are proud because their culture is rich, their history is grand and their lives would not have influenced me so much if they were not from Haiti. The truth behind my ethnicity is neither what is being taught in the history books nor what is said by many, but it is the unheard stories and unknown facts about Haiti. My parents have taught me to be proud of who I am and where they come from because without knowing your history you cannot know yourself. Haiti is much more than the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It is a place of love, rich culture and extensive history. Haiti has influenced the American culture and many other cultures across the world, but, most importantly, it has influenced me as an individual. I realize now that no matter what people may say about Haiti or the Haitian culture, unless they know the truth about our history, they know nothing at all.

Tracy Noncent '11

Public Relations, ALANA Network

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