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Working harder to bridge the generation gap

by Emmanuel W. VEDRINE, University of Rhode Island
Boston Haitian Reporter, March 2006

This is quite an important question when thinking about The Haitian community in Diaspora: Who are going to be the tomorrow’s leaders if nothing is being done now in trying to help young Haitian Americans and in trying to reach them out by all possible means?

Following the tireless works of Nekita Lamour, a well-known essayist who has been publishing in different newspapers and scholarly journals, and one of the very few Haitian women theologians who has done so much for the Greater Haitian community of Massachusetts the past thirty years. To avoid singling out leaders in that sense, we can guess that Haitians who are members of other communities in the Diaspora can point out some other leaders of that caliber, who belong to the older generation, in helping doing that important job trying to reach out our youth to help preparing them to take over tomorrow.

In one recent post on Haitian online forum, Lamour wrote:

I strongly believe this first generation who is fully being raised and schooled outside of Haiti has different ways of seeing things and we need to set an environment for them in the community. We need to learn how to relate with this new generation.  I see this new generation as the Hope for a new vision for Haitians both in the Diaspora and in Haiti. The older generation needs to take advantage of the internet that allows communication between countries, generations and cultures and share what we have done or not done.”

Many conscious Haitians would certainly agree with us that this generation ‘has different ways of seeing things’. But at the same time, they are disconnected with Haiti, the mother country.

Now, who are going to connect them if they are disconnected? How are they going to be ‘the Hope for a new vision for Haitians both in the Diaspora and in Haiti’? Talking to some young Haitians-Americans who were born or raised here in the US, I’ve observed such a big gap between them and the older generation (also in Diaspora). Some (of these youngsters) knew few things about Haiti and about Haitians in the Diaspora (“The Greater Haiti” I would call it) and about the “Haitian Reality” because they don’t live or have really lived it like the younger generation in Haiti.

In order to reconnect the Haitians youth with Haiti, the older generation has some homework to do, e.g., try the very best to reach them out, tell them about the Haitian Reality, tell them about our history, give them the best advice in order to avoid the long paths that we (in the Diaspora) have walked.

I was so happy this week to talk to a group of young Haitian-Americans (university students, some of them born here). Gosh! They were so happy, thanking me for spending over an hour talking to them, where I also did some brain storming and gave them some advice: What’s next after your study? You are studying this, that… Why? What are you going to do with that major when you graduate from college? Have you done any internship in your particular field to start getting some experience? Have you done any volunteer work related to your field? Have you done any volunteer work in the Haitian community? Have you spent a year /a semester abroad while you are in college (to observe, to learn from others, to learn about another culture and another language and to compare things to the country where you are living or to Haiti)? You are a French major, have you been to any French speaking country? You are Biology, Chemistry major, what’s next after graduation (Are you going to medical school? Are you going to graduate school for further research in Biology, Chemistry)? Do you have a driving license? You are eighteen and don’t have one! Do you have a credit card? You are a college student and you don’t have one! Why are you taking loans? You can have scholarships. What happen? Is your “GPA” (Grade Point Average) below “B”?)…

So  the ‘older’ generation, that can help them, should  do the very best to break the ice in order to understand their problems, to help them and give them the best advice needed since many of them can’t get that from some friends and from their parents (since most them had not been to college or have certain experience to help them at their level).

Haitian educators and professions must put some time aside, trying to reach them and most of all, try the very best to reconnect them with Haiti (in terms of going back there for a summer, a semester, a month to work with Haitian youth in Haiti where both can share their experience. This is part of human resources that can absolutely help Haiti and the Diaspora in the near future, and any government that ascends to power and not valorizing it won’t succeed in helping Haiti to move forward.

Emmanuel W. Vedrine is a Boston-based author and educator.

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Emmanuel W. Védrine
P.O.B. 255962
Dorchester, MA 02125-5110 (U.S)
e_vedrine@hotmail.com, e_vedrine@yahoo.com

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