The founders of Houston Haitians United may emphasize the name Houston in their organization’s name, but it isn’t just the Haitian-American population in Houston that they seek to unite, but all the residents of Haitian descent in the State of Texas. When Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, Houston Haitians United members and volunteered rallied to help, and held several drives to help those affected.
James Pierre, one of the co-founders of the organization gave details on what inspired it, and what the plans are for its expansion.
Kreyolicious: What’s the Haitian-American community in Houston like…in Texas in general like?
Houston, Texas is the most populous city in the state of Texas and the fourth-most populous city in the United States. With that being said the Haitian community is growing at a rapid rate. Earliest Haitian citizens of the Houston community have been here since the 1970’s. There is an roughly estimated amount of between 40,000 – 70,000 Haitians or people of Haitian descent in the Houston metropolitan area. The cities of San Antonio, Austin, Killeen and Dallas also have growing Haitian Communities, with indicators such as Churches, Restaurants etc.
Kreyolicious: How did Houston Haitians United get off the ground?
Houston Haitians United: In the Fall of 2015, three gentlemen by the names of Sledge Leonidas, Jean Michel Celestin, and James Pierre came together to organize and establish proper representation for the rapidly growing Haitian community in Houston, Texas. These gentlemen recognized the ever growing gap amongst people of Haitian descent, elder Haitians, young Haitians, the Haitian churches, and the distance between fellow Caribbean islands here in the city. The musical duo LaFamille Royal, which consists of two HHU founders Sledge and Michel, had been hosting Haitian Flag Day events as well as other social events geared towards the celebration of Haitian culture. To them that was not enough, they desired a greater unified voice and representation. Simultaneously, James, had aspirations of establishing Young Adult Haitians United for professionals working in the city. A first meeting was set at the then Caribbean Fingers, a Haitian American restaurant in Katy, Texas. The turnout was exceptional and a series of other planned meetings took place so that everyone could voice their opinions and concerns on the current state of our community. There was such great a sense of pride and togetherness that it became the fuel needed to uniting together and doing something great for our people. In every movement, timing is everything! On September 14, at the office of HHU Legal Counsel Mac-Pierre Louis, Houston Haitians United was named and formed. Houston Haitians United was created out of the strong desire to unify all Haitians in the greater Houston area and keeping strong ties to our beloved island of Haiti! So, with all the Father’s blessings, our journey to fulfilling our mission statement has begun!
Kreyolicious: What advice would you give to those who’d like to move to Houston?
Many people who relocate to Houston have reservations about moving and surviving without their Haitian culture in a place that’s foreign to them. I can proudly say that the community here has a lot of momentum and is growing rapidly. So, Houston is definitely somewhere you can relocate to and feel at home. There are five Haitian churches and two Haitian restaurants. Furthermore, promoters bring Haitian bands at least twice a year.
This concludes PART I of the interview with Houston Haitians United. Watch out for PART II. Meanwhile…you know the drill—