Story and Photos By Monte’ Lambert
The local Haitian-American Community welcomed Martine Moïse, the First Lady of Haiti at a Tricentennial Reception on April 21st. The reception was held in the Administration Auditorium on Xavier University’s Campus. The current President of Xavier, C. Reynold Verret, who is Haitian-American, welcomed the First Lady to the City and spoke on the historical ties between New Orleans and Haiti. The reception was organized by Joel Vilmenay, the President and General Manager of WDSU-TV, who welcomed the community to greet Moïse.
“This City’s connection with Haiti is significant and it goes back to the beginning and the inception of New Orleans,” Vilmenay said. “In celebration of its 300-Year Anniversary, it was wonderful for the City to invite the First Lady of Haiti to come to New Orleans and her accepting that invitation also gave of the opportunity as the Haitian Community here in New Orleans to host a reception with her and to meet her and to hear from her directly,” Vilmenay said.
The First Lady spoke on current developments in Haiti, and the event featured musical selections by Jean Montès, the Director of Orchestral Studies and Coordinator of Strings at Loyola University New Orleans, who is also a member of the local Haitian-American Community in the City. Montes conducted the orchestra in the playing of the Haitian and American Anthems and other classics from the country.
“This event is very special,” Montes said. “I’ve been here for about a good 30 years in this country and we never had anybody from the government take the time and come out and really encourage the work of the Haitian Community, but also celebrate with us some things that we are a part of which is the culture of New Orleans,” he added.
“I thank her for the effort that she made to be here, it means a lot,” Montes said.
The historical connections between Haiti and New Orleans was one of the reasons the organizers said they felt it was important to invite a Haitian official during the anniversary year.
“At one point in time in New Orleans History, the population was doubled when you had a migration of Haitians who came to New Orleans and this was not long after the Haitian Revolution,” Vilmenay said. “So now you have generations of Haitians that are now identified as New Orleanians,” he added.
The First Lady spoke briefly during the reception, addressing the audience and sharing plans on how the government of her husband President Jovenel Moïse was working to improve life in Haiti. Moïse said the country of Haiti is working to use more of its natural resources to better serve needs of the Haitian people.
“Everywhere I go I want to speak to my sons and daughters,” Moïse said in Haitian Kreyol. “I’d be really hurt if I came to New Orleans and did not come and speak to you all today,” she said as Xavier’s President translated on her behalf.