What an amazing Saturday morning! I signed up for the Connect Miami promoted walking tour of Little Haiti: La Perle De Miami. I live a few miles away and I drive down NE 2nd Avenue multiple times a week and have never walked the neighborhood.
I’ve been to a few events and had some meals in Little Haiti, but must admit that each time I moved from my car to the building and back to my car. I’ve never stopped to smell the roses (or should I say botanicals), savor the delicious Haitian cuisine or taste Kremas Mapou, the best homemade Haitian drink. I’ve noticed the vibrant art that adorns many buildings but have never sought to understand its meaning, value and importance.
Our meeting spot was the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, where I was greeted by Cidelca, our guide. A knowledgeable and passionate Haitian American, who is hard-at-work and just a few credits away of finishing his master’s in architecture from FIU. Cidelca is also committed to sharing the stories, history and culture of Haitians in Haiti and in Miami. He wore an artisan Haitian shirt and hat, and was ready to go. We were a mighty group of six, including my friend Tammy (a founder of Connect Miami from United Way of Miami-Dade).
We weren’t long into our tour when Cedelca let us know he’d be doing this tour regularly and will do it no matter if the group is one or dozens. We watched a video, took in the art showcased in the Cultural Complex and hit the street.
We met a botanical merchant, Leider. A famous master drummer, Tonton. A very important community leader, book store owner, and maker of the aforementioned best ever Kremas, Mapou. I even got a drive-by beep from Serge Toussaint, one the most significant artists whose work we’d been enjoying throughout the tour. Cedelca beamed with pride as he shared the history of his country, the accomplishments of its people — both in Haiti and Miami, and the importance of the island’s geographic location.
He opened my eyes to the spirit and resolve of our Haitian community. For a minute I felt sad and disappointed that it’s taken me until now and the creation of Connect Miami to lean into Little Haiti, to enter the shops, to meet the merchants, to connect with my neighbors who bring a unique vibrancy to the fabric of Miami. I caught myself in that moment and pivoted to ‘but I’m doing it now’. Because it’s never too late to engage with those that are different, to gain understanding, compassion and to be enriched.
I can’t encourage you enough to take a tour, here’s the info…go for it: call 205-649-0787 or visit https://tinuri.com/y78jsw5x to book a tour with Cedelca.
It was an amazing Saturday!