I am an immigrant.
Freedom has never been just a concept, but my reality. I give because giving was instilled in me by my family and education. I serve because I stand on the shoulders of giants, and it is my obligation. This is my story, and I am better for it: My father and mother fled Haiti under persecution, leaving years of hard work and a wealth of relationships, only to encounter the racism and prejudices of the 1960s in the United States.
The struggles my father endured affirmed his long-held beliefs in the importance of a vigilant press and the value of an education. As a businessman and community leader, he fought for social justice and served his community at every turn. We moved to Miami from NYC, and he worked hard to build bridges between Cuban, Haitian, Anglo, and African-American communities.
I became a photojournalist to be able to tell the amazing stories that were unfolding right at my front door. Born to both Cuban and Haitian parents, I understood at an early age the importance of diversity and common cause. In our home, a new Miami emerged as local political leaders, men of faith, long-time Miamians and new immigrants all came to seek my father’s counsel. He coined the name for this dynamic emerging community, “Little Haiti.” Many Haitians refer to him simply as “Pere (Father) Juste” because of the love he gave to everyone who walked through our door, and for the ways in which he helped this culturally rich emerging community grow and thrive. I work to build community in his honor.
As a Miami Herald photojournalist for the past 27 years, I have worked diligently to speak truth to power. I have used my experiences and knowledge to make images that bridge the gap between opposing views, or bridge gaps of understanding. It is about starting small conversations that yield a greater understanding among our local, national, and international readers. It is about highlighting our shared humanity. I believe my presence in the newsroom has helped to bring my community’s diverse voices and truths into the light. The work I do every day reaffirms the value in our community and shows the people of our community that they are valued and deserving of validation.
I am currently working on the book and accompanying exhibition, “Havana and Haiti: Two Cultures, One Community,” a Knight Foundation Arts Challenge winner, and hope to use the BMe funds toward the match I must raise. This project concentrates on the common narratives of both Cuban and Haitians through essays and photography, highlighting our two communities’ shared experiences.
Miami through its very name, unites Cubans and Haitians, two immigrant groups in our community who have sometimes found themselves at odds. (”Mi,” is “my” in Spanish, and “Ami,” is friend in French.) These two immigrant communities have made Miami one of the greatest cities in the world. I hope my experiences, and the documentation of these communities in my project, can help shape a better understanding of why we need to celebrate both our differences and similarities, and why we need to unite as immigrants and people of color, to continue shaping the greater American narrative.