Local college students unite to celebrate Haitian culture

The Florida A&M University, Tallahassee Community College, and Florida State University Haitian student community united last week in its annual Haitian Cultural Club of Tallahassee week. The Haitian Cultural Club of Tallahassee was founded in 1988 by Louis Marcelus, with students from the campuses of FAMU, TCC and FSU. The organization incorporated all three campuses because in its initial stages there was a small population of Haitian students in Tallahassee spread across the individual campuses.

The week, which was held Nov. 5 through Nov. 12, allowed Haitian students to celebrate their heritage using the five senses. The events held during the week incorporated the senses to emphasize the importance of the event and how it relates to the Haitian culture. “The Culture Extravaganza that was held in Perry-Paige featured different types of music and dancing from traditional Haitian dance to social dances like Kompa, incorporating both sight and sound,” said Daniel Nicolas, adviser to the Haitian Cultural Club of Tallahassee. “There is always a need for an organization such as this,” said FSU student Lawrence Gonzalez, HCC parliamentarian. “We are here in college and so far removed from our native country that organizations like this keeps us connected to our culture.” Members of the club say they have gained awareness about different things in the Haitian community and culture that they may not have experienced had it not been for the club. FSU senior Sheila Simon, a 22-year-old student from Delray Beach, has been a part of the club since 2003.

“I have learned so much about my culture through the events that the club has. The club has also allowed me to meet fellow Haitians in the Tallahassee area,” Simon said.Examples of the culturally enlightening events are plays, seminars and Creole classes hosted by HCC. A unique attribute of this particular organization is the unifying of the three schools.

“We are looking to unite all the Haitian students in the Tallahassee area,” said Nicolas. “We currently have 200 members between the three schools.” In addition to reaching out to the Haitian students on campus, HCC is seeking to do more community service and bring awareness of its traditions.

“A student from Miami may know of Haitians because there are so many in the South Florida area but a student from Kansas may not,” Nicolas said.

Within the next year the club hopes not only to unite people of Haitian descent but also others from the Caribbean.

“When people think about the Caribbean they think first of Jamaica, but Haiti is a part of that area, and we have a lot to offer the community,” Nicolas said.