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17648: Lemieux: Miami Herald: New year launches countdown to second century of free Haiti (fwd)

From: JD Lemieux <lxhaiti@yahoo.com>

New year launches countdown to second century of free Haiti
Posted: 01/05
From: Miami Herald

For South Florida's Haitians, today begins not only a new
year but a countdown toward their homeland's second century
as a nation in 2004.

New Year's Day is also Haitian Independence Day 199 years
since Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a general under Toussaint
L'Ouverture and father of Haitian independence, declared
the country free from France following a successful war
against Napoleon Bonaparte's army.

''This is a day of reflection to see where we came from and
where we are going,'' said Guy Victor, Haiti's consul
general in Miami. ``The Haitian Revolution was the first
successful black revolution in the Western Hemisphere where
slaves united to free themselves. . . . Now is the time for
us to help ourselves.''

As he did last year, Victor will kick off today's
celebration with a 9 a.m. Mass at Notre-Dame d'Hati
Catholic Church, 130 NE 62nd St. The Little Haiti church is
often seen as the community's spiritual center.

Today's message, said Monsignor Gerard Darbouze: unity of
the Haitian people.

''Haiti is the second country to be free after the United
States, yet it is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.
Why? Because we need unity and patriotism so that we can
develop Haiti and also develop more people to help the
country,'' Darbouze said.

During the Mass, which last year drew about 1,000
worshipers, Darbouze plans to ask parishioners not only to
pray for Haiti's future but for the hundreds of detained
Haitian migrants who await an uncertain future in South
Florida's detention centers.

The migrants' plight and Haiti's continuing political
turmoil have generated headlines and discussions among
Haitians in recent months, as has talk about 2004 -- the
year Haitians hope to see the biggest celebration their
country has experienced since their ancestors' revolt.

''Our ancestors work hard to say no to slavery, and this
day reminds me how much they fought for us to have the
independence we have in Haiti,'' said Farah Juste, a
Haitian protest singer who has been serenading the day with
an annual Haitian Independence Day Concert for more than a

Her show today will begin at 7 p.m. at the James L. Knight
Center, 400 SE Second Ave. It will also feature several
popular Haitian entertainers and young Haitian rappers.

While last year's concert drew an audience of 4,300, Juste
said she's hoping for a standing-room-only crowd this

''They will start with prayer, go home and prepare their
clothes, drink their soup joumou and come together,'' said
Juste, referring to the Haitian tradition of drinking
pumpkin soup on New Year's Day for good luck. ``This is how
we celebrate New Year's and Independence Day.''

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