Miami’s Little Haiti is one of the most diverse communities in the world, and its residents were justifiably concerned about who could benefit from a massive development project that would double the size of their community.
But despite this wealth of opposition, developers went ahead with plans to transform the 55-acre site from 17 houses to 2,285, mostly condominiums.
And it wasn’t just residents who worried about Little Haiti’s fate. Luring an influx of visitors into Miami Beach, the project would make Little Haiti a destination rather than a place to live. It would redefine many neighborhoods by altering how people see them, and they want to make sure they have the chance to vote on the future of the region.
The grassroots movement was formed by Little Haiti residents in 2014, and has faced intense opposition from hoteliers and developers. Their motivations varied, but most ignored the common demand by Little Haiti residents: Leave Little Haiti alone.
As an alternative to the Little Haiti project, Haitians around the world have called for a block of their own.
Because Little Haiti is a unique natural resource, other countries have faced mounting pressure to hold an event called “Haitian Week.” And during International Day of Human Rights this year, some called for a “Haitian Motherland Week.”
The special celebration features groups like RootsWorld, a group that provides opportunities for Haitians to host and participate in learning programs.
Thanks to RootsWorld, at least 200 Haitian refugees came to Miami Beach to celebrate the day with Miami natives, descendants of those who first arrived in the ’60s, and others.
The day’s festivities also included a local kibbutz and an Israeli protest party by Haitian immigrants from New Orleans.
We asked Latonya Beckley-Touri, an alumni of Julliard and Harvard who grew up in Little Haiti, to help us explore the values of Little Haiti’s unique culture. She’s given a TEDx talk about how Haitians are fighting back against a massive development in the community and works with RootsWorld and the Little Haiti Cultural Center.