By Samuel Jean Baptiste, Child Advocate
Why are you proud of Haïti?
One of the answers you might hear when asking the Haitian people this is: We are proud of Haïti because we are the first black independent nation in the world.
Though the Haitian people face many social and economic issues, they all remember the day their country won its independence from the colonial slave system: November 18th, 1803. Earlier that same year, on May 18th, 1803, Jean-Jacques Dessalines took down the French flag and ripped out the white band. He then had Catherine Flon sew the blue and red stripes together, creating the blue and red Haitian flag. Ever since that day, the Haitian people have celebrated May 18th as Flag Day.
Today, the Haitian flag is composed of horizontal red and blue stripes, with the center displaying the weapons of the republic on a square of white cloth. Inside this square reads our country’s motto: L’Union fait la force (Unity is Strength).
Every year, it is easy to tell when 18 me (May 18th) is coming. You hear kids saying, “Map defile pou 18 me…” (“I will be in the May 18th parade…”). Everywhere you look, you see people selling the Haitian flag, including in the Champ-de-Mars, a beautiful place that has historic monuments, the National Pantheon Museum of Haïti, next to the Toussaint Louverture Airport, and elsewhere.
The National Ministry of Education in Haïti also organizes special activities for May 18th. Students at some schools dress up in red and blue, the colors of the flag, and go to Arcahaie, in the Ouest department of Haiti where the flag was created. Others go to Champ-de-Mars for a parade; they dance in the streets and act out a drama relating the history of Haiti. It is a very unique cultural experience, and is exciting to see how the young people get involved.
May 18th is an important day for another reason as well. May 18th is also University Day in Haiti, so we also have activities related to education and culture on that day.
It may be a normal day elsewhere, but May 18th is a very important day for Haiti!