Haiti and her People
In 1994, I was teaching 6th grade English Language Arts (E/LA) in a Boston Public middle school (BPS). The students ranged in ages 11 thru 13. They represented myriad cultural backgrounds and lived experiences. As typical in middle school, every day was dynamic. Often those days included teasing and ribbing especially of the children of Haitian descent. One common rib was HBO. Although the Home Box Office (HBO) channel was in full effect, its use among middle schoolers was callous. Because of the affirming intent of Haiti and her People, I will not restate the malicious phrase here. However, if you cannot figure it out, know that the B stands for Body and that at the time of this website’s launch, a hip-hop artist uses the three letters as his stage name.
Today, nearly every state in the USA has legislation against harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB). Educators are required to document, report, and take action. However, during the 1990s, such mandates did not exist leaving educators to respond—or not—as they saw fit.
I took action by creating Haiti and her People. Several hundreds of middle schoolers have experienced the curriculum. The outcome then is the same today—to empower and educate students. During the initial implementation of the month-long unit, few if any students acknowledged their Haitian heritage. Many would say they were French or Dominican. Yet, over time, accompanied by my admonishment for any cultural insensitivity, the name-calling dissipated and students began to out themselves as Haitian. I still recall the first student who asked to write her name on the Proud to be Haitian poster, displayed in front of the classroom. Until her request, the poster remained blank for nearly a year.
Although inspired by BPS middle school students at the time, two women are due credit for their support of this Haiti and her People 2.0. At different times, Shanna Houchens then Jackie Araneo were graduate assistants at Montclair State University. Their help with research, revisions, and additions is greatly appreciated.
Big ups to both women!