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Interactive event brings ‘the future in focus’

Haitian-American thought-leaders look to improve the community

Ashley Montgomery | 11/21/2013, 9 a.m.

Last Saturday, the Haitian American Professionals Coalition [HAPC], Seven50 held an informative hands-on summit titled: “Haitian-American Summit: The Future In Focus.” More than 60 guests filled the North Miami High School auditorium to engage in an interactive event that included noted Haitian-American speakers: Jude Bruno, Miami-Dade Youth Commission; Yvans Morisseau, Miami-Dade County Office of Community Advocacy; Patricia Elizee, Esquire and Jasmine Maignan Jones, Broward County Office of Economic and Small Business Development.

Project director, Marcela Camblor-Cutsaimanis, said that the Haitian-American community is an important group that greatly influences housing, transportation, education and environmental issues in Southeast Florida.

The goal of the summit was to bring together experts and community leaders to stimulate a discussion to help shape Haitians’ future. Hot topics from the summit were education and public transportation issues.

HAPC Chairman Sevigne Castor says the summit was held in order to give the community a voice and is why they reached out to Seven50.

“Haitians are the second-largest populated group in Dade County so we want their voices to be heard,” Castor said. “Most of the questions and concerns dealt with education. Their parents often rely on their children to translate and do everything for them so the better they are educated the more involved they can become.”

Seven50 is a blueprint for growing a more prosperous, more desirable Southeast Florida during the next 50 years and beyond. James Murley, executive director of South Florida Regional Planning Council, said he was excited to bring services to HAPC because they have never specifically worked with the Haitian-American community.

Jude Bruno, 19-year-old chairman for the Miami-Dade Youth Commission who is of Haitian descent, said that this is a very important and stimulating conversation that needed to be had.

“I think what happens a lot in our community is that we segregate ourselves and if were to get out of this box and integrate with other cultures we could improve ourselves,” Bruno said. “This summit is a way to get the word out and to show that there is hope.”

Linking the pieces together

“Right now we are gathering ideas and we are going to sit and figure out what are the main issues to address later on,” Castor added.

After a local expert panel discussed economic prosperity, small groups were formed to get feedback and ideas that will be addressed in the future at a county-wide forum.

“This is designed to try and figure out how we move forward for the future,” said Joe Kohl, a partner at Dover & Kohl.

The larger summit will be held on January 15 at the Broward County Convention Center.

Castor and Bruno both expressed how they expect more people to show up but they noted that there is strength in small groups too.

“I strongly believe that small groups of people can make a difference and this is kind of like an incubator for that difference; hopefully the people here take the knowledge they gained back into the community,” Bruno said.