MIAMI — In the past few months, the city’s District 5, which includes Liberty City, Little Haiti, Wynwood, Buena Vista, Spring Garden, Allapattah, Oakland Grove and Overtown, has been in the midst of a political uproar.
But city staffers who continue to work for the betterment of local residents decided that in an effort to unite the community, they would coordinate an event to help people in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
The Unity of Haiti Community Rally and Prayer Vigil took place this past Sunday, Jan. 24 in the Little Haiti Park at Northeast 62nd Street and Second Avenue.
The event drew more than 100 people, not only to pay homage to earthquake victims, but also to acknowledge local Haitian-Americans who are trying to cope with the loss of their family members and friends.
Sponsored by the city of Miami’s parks department, Haitian Arts and Culture for Children, LC Studios, Island TV, the Haitian American Emergency Relief Committee and other local organizations, the event brought District 5 residents together to receive words of encouragement and gain strength through the comfort of their neighbors.
Event organizer Tracey Lozama, who also serves as the community affairs liaison for the city of Miami’s District 5 office, told the South Florida Times that she began coordinating the event after speaking with several district residents both in person and over the phone who had lost loved ones and were looking for a way to cope with their grief.
“I just wanted to have something that would encourage the people and lift up their spirits during this difficult time,” Lozama said. “I decided to invite people from all walks of life to unite as one for Haiti. I chose the Little Haiti Park because it was the in heart of the community and I wanted to make it accessible for anyone to join in.”
With performances and participation from local acts such as members of Dance Sensation, the Full Gospel Assembly Praise Team, Sister Mireille M. Simon from the House of the Living God Ministries, Roland St. Gerard of Miami Christian Entertainment and rapper Grind Mode, the event featured music, prayer and worship.
Lozama said she thought the turnout was great despite the short amount of time she had to plan. The 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12.
“I am proud of the work that was done and that it was helpful in uniting the residents of District 5 because together we were all one in the same,” said Lozama. “Whether you are Haitian, African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Catholic or Muslim, all of us were affected by this tragedy in one way or another.”
Guilane St. Pierre, a Little Haiti resident who attended the event, said her cousin Jacques had been missing for five days in Haiti before word got back to her that he was alive.
“I praise God for bringing him back to us. I came to the event with other members of my family to share my joy, but also pray for the others who are still waiting to find their loved ones,’’ she said, adding that she felt overjoyed that people of different ethnicities and backgrounds were able to come together to show their support for Haiti and pay their respects for thousands who lost their lives.
“I was very moved by the vigil that was held and for the many people who prayed,” she said. “The country of Haiti is crying out, but I find comfort in knowing that there are people in the community who are feeling their tears and crying out with them.”
Although no donations or monetary contributions were accepted at the event, sponsors encouraged audience members to bring water and other non-perishable items to two Little Haiti-area warehouses at 7230 N.W. Miami Court and 7220 North Miami Avenue, where donations are being accepted.
Residents who would like to make monetary donations can do so through the organization of their choice. Event organizers endorsed World Vision, the Red Cross and the Haitian American Emergency Relief Committee.
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Tracey Lozama