The Haitian Heritage Month celebration is an expansion of the Haitian Flag Day, a major patriotic day celebration in Haiti and the Diaspora. Haitian President Dumarsais Estimé started the Flag Day celebration with parades, cultural and athletic events in many cities in Haiti in the 1930s. Estime wanted to commemorate annually the creation of the Haitian flag on May 18 to encourage the development of patriotic sentiments among Haitian youth.
Beside the Flag Day celebration, the month of May carries a number of significant historical and cultural traditions that Haitians are proud to make aware of and to pass on to future generations.
In Haiti, May 1 is celebrated as Labor and Agriculture Day. May 2 used to be Flower Day. The Congress of Arcahaie that united Black and mulatto officers to fight together for Haiti's independence is remembered from May 15 through 18. The revolutionary general, Toussaint Louverture, was born on May 20, 1743. Teacher's Day is May 17, University Day May 18, and Mother's Day is celebrated on the last Sunday of May. For Haitian Catholics, May is the month of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Haitian Heritage Month was first celebrated in the United States in 1998 in the Boston area. Thanks to the Haitian community of Palm Beach County, FL for working to make the Heritage celebration a statewide affair, and then a national one beginning in the early 2000's.
Here is a great list of books to get you excited and educated about Haitian culture and history!
- In the hills above Port-au-Prince, a young girl named Fallon wants more than anything to carry a large woven basket to the market, just like her Manman. As she watches her mother wrap her hair in a mouchwa, Fallon tries to twist her own braids into a scarf and balance the empty panye atop her head, but realizes it's much harder than she thought. BOOM! Is she ready after all? Lyrical and inspiring, with vibrant illustrations highlighting the beauty of Haiti, My Day with the Panye is a story of family legacy, cultural tradition, and hope for the future. Readers who are curious about the art of carrying a panye will find more about this ancient and global practice in an author's note at the end. Ages 5 - 9.
- Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup -- Freedom Soup -- just like she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle's family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle's family is from. In this celebration of cultural traditions passed from one generation to the next, Jacqueline Alcántara's lush illustrations bring to life both Belle's story and the story of the Haitian Revolution. Tami Charles's lyrical text, as accessible as it is sensory, makes for a tale that readers will enjoy to the last drop. Ages 4 - 7.
- Alaine Beauparlant has heard about Haiti all her life... But the stories were always passed down from her dad--and her mom, when she wasn't too busy with her high-profile newscaster gig. But when Alaine's life goes a bit sideways, it's time to finally visit Haiti herself. What she learns about Haiti's proud history as the world's first black republic (with its even prouder people) is one thing, but what she learns about her own family is another. Suddenly, the secrets Alaine's mom has been keeping, including a family curse that has spanned generations, can no longer be avoided. It's a lot to handle, without even mentioning that Alaine is also working for her aunt's nonprofit, which sends underprivileged kids to school and boasts one annoyingly charming intern. But if anyone can do it all...it's Alaine. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine. Ages 13+.
- Monday through Saturday, Claude and Manman walk Papa to the tap tap stop, where Claude meets all sorts of interesting people waiting for the tap tap. Claude wants to join Papa, but Claude has classes at school and chores at home... On Sunday, Manman and Papa have a surprise for Claude--a ride on the tap tap! They go to the beach, where they meet a lady selling mangoes, a fisherman, a straw-hat maker, a steel drummer, and an artist. They show Claude how to fish, make hats, play the drums, and paint. With Haitian Creole words sprinkled throughout and a glossary at the end, I Want to Ride the Tap Tap is a warm and lively portrayal of everyday life in Haiti. Ages 4 - 8.
- This debut picture book shares a story of heart, home and identity connecting a Haitian American girl to generations of family love and lore. Includes an Author's Note, a brief introduction to the history of Haiti, and a Glossary. Auntie Luce's Talking Paintings. Ages 5 - 8.
- It's 1985 and ten-year-old Gabrielle is excited to be moving from Haiti to America. Unfortunately, her parents won't be able to join her yet and she'll be living in a place called Brooklyn, New York, with relatives she has never met. She promises her parents that she will behave, but life proves to be difficult in the United States, from learning the language to always feeling like she doesn't fit in to being bullied. So when a witch offers her a chance to speak English perfectly and be "American," she makes the deal. But soon she realizes how much she has given up by trying to fit in and, along with her two new friends (one of them a talking rat), takes on the witch in an epic battle to try to reverse the spell. The Year I Flew Away. Ages 8 - 12.
- After Saya's mother is sent to an immigration detention center, Saya finds comfort in listening to her mother's warm greeting on their answering machine. To ease the distance between them while she's in jail, Mama begins sending Saya bedtime stories inspired by Haitian folklore on cassette tape. Moved by her mother's tales and her father's attempts to reunite their family, Saya writes a story of her own--one that just might bring her mother home for good. With stirring illustrations, this tender tale shows the human side of immigration and imprisonment--and shows how every child has the power to make a difference. Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation. Ages 5 - 8.