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Chaos and Community: The Impact of New Immigration Laws on Haitian Refugees in the U.S.

Sunday, May 7, 2023 @ 12:00 pm

Little Haiti Cultural Center, Theater

212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami, FL 33137 United States

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Join us for a thought-provoking discussion featuring Gepsie Morisset-Metellus, community activist and co-founder of the Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center; Edwidge Danticat, acclaimed Haitian American author; Paul Novack, former mayor of Surfside and an attorney who has worked extensively with refugees and the Family Action Network Movement; and Leonie Hermantin, director of communications and development at Sant La. Together, they will provide an insightful and comprehensive overview of the historical and current challenges faced by Haitian refugees in the U.S., focusing on the experiences of those who arrived in 1972 and their ongoing struggle for justice and equal rights. Our panelists will also discuss the role of community support and the importance of solidarity in times of chaos – and explore the legacy of the Haitian Refugee Center and Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in providing legal and social services to refugees – as well as the activism of civil rights leaders, Black leaders, and people of various faiths who have and continue to play a crucial role in advocating for refugee rights.

GEPSIE MORISSET-METELLUS is the co-founder and executive director of the Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center. She’s also an active member of several organizations, including the International Women’s Forum and the Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida. In addition to hosting a weekly talk show targeting South Florida’s Haitian community, she’s a frequent national media commentator on issues that impact the Haitian community at large. Her many awards include recognition of her exemplary leadership, community service, and advocacy on important community issues. Metellus is an alumna of the Rockefeller Foundation’s prestigious Next Generation Leaders and Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management programs. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, she migrated to the U.S. at the age of 12. She has  B.A. in French/romance languages from Queens College in New York; an M.S. in modern language education from Florida International University; and a post master’s certificate in education leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

EDWIDGE DANTICAT is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory; The Farming of Bones; and the novels-in-stories The Dew Breaker, Claire of the Sea Light, and The Art of Death, a National Books Critics Circle finalist. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, The Beacon Best of 2000, Haiti Noir, and Haiti Noir 2. Her other titles include the travel narrative After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti; Create Dangerously, a collection of essays; and seven books for children and young adults. She is a 2009 MacArthur Fellow and a 2020 winner of the Vilceck Prize. Her most recent book, Everything Inside: Stories, received a National Book Critics Award and the Story Prize, and was a Reese’s Book Club selection. 

PAUL NOVACK is an attorney, former mayor of Surfside, Fla., and advocate for refugees. His law office is renowned for its professionalism and ability, and he has successfully litigated numerous cases in various divisions of the Circuit Court. Novack was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Family Action Network Movement in 2020 and selected to give the invocation at Law Day ceremonies for the Miami-Dade County Court in 2018. He has been recognized as a vigilant protector of community integrity, public safety, quality of life, and public service principles and ideals. His work extends beyond the U.S., including disaster relief projects for Haiti, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Novack is a lifelong supporter of law enforcement and military personnel, and serves on the board of directors of the South Florida Aerospace Scholarship Corporation.

LEONIE MARIE HERMANTIN is the director of development, communications, and strategic planning at Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center, an organization that provides social, financial, educational, and employment services to Miami’s Haitian community. She has more than 20 years of grassroots community experience, having worked in various capacities, including executive director of the Haitian-American Foundation and director of research and strategic planning at Sant La. Hermantin’s work reflects her commitment to community development, including a focus on addressing the needs of Haitians and Haitian Americans living in Miami-Dade County, as well as in Haiti’s rural communities. She holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley and a master’s degree in urban and environmental planning. Hermantin is also the founder of Hermantin Consulting LLC, which provides services to organizations such as The Children’s Trust, Sant La’s Leadership Fellows Program, FOKAL, and Florida International University. She currently sits on the board of directors of the Center for Haitian Studies and is a member of the Coral Gables Congregational Church UCC.


Sunday, May 7, 2023
12:00 pm


All Year


Little Haiti Cultural Center, Theater
212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami, FL 33137 United States
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