By JACQUES PIERRE
It was sunny as usual in Little Haiti, a small Haitian enclave in Miami where the predominant language is Haitian Creole.
I was there that day in May 2012 to celebrate Haitian Flag Day, and my invitation from the Office for Haitian Cultural Affairs said speakers could lecture in English, French or Haitian Creole.
My talk was about what the Haiti Lab — a center for research and Haitian studies at my school, Duke University — was doing to help people understand what Haiti has accomplished for the world in terms of equality for all. To my surprise, when I started speaking in Haitian Creole, the celebration’s cultural affairs representative interrupted to say I was not allowed to give my presentation in Creole. Knowing that the audience was largely composed of Haitian Creole speakers, I decided to press on, and after 20 minutes the representative finally stopped trying to convince me to speak English or French.
Her request illustrates what many educated Haitians have long denied: Creole is the only language that unites us.
All Haitians born and raised in Haiti speak Creole. In fact, the 1987 Constitution states that Creole is “the only language that binds all Haitians together.” However, Haitians who speak and write only Creole have no access to most official documents because Haitian authorities, so far, still write most official documents in French — even though less than 10 percent of the population understand French. Presidential candidates have only recently begun speaking in Creole; once elected, though, many give speeches only in French, which I consider a betrayal to the people who voted them in.