Special to South Florida Times

Salusa Basquin, a high school mathematics teacher, and popular Haitian radio and television host, has watched his immigrant parents achieve the American dream.

They came to the U.S. from Haiti and started out as migrant workers in the fields of Belle Glade. Today, they are business owners. Basquin is college educated and his daughter, who is 18,  is studying engineering at the University of Central Florida.

Haitian-American leaders say there are many successful Haitian Americans in Palm Beach County but there are still too many struggling to make it here, with the added burden of helping relatives in Haiti.

Basquin says the goal is  not only to help today’s generation of Haitian Americans go to college to uplift themselves, but also to become the professionals who would want to help Haiti, too.

Haitian-American pride in the county will be on display on Saturday May 28, as Haitian Heritage Month draws to a close. Haitian Americans from all walks of life will come together for a National Haitian American Forum to discuss the economy, business opportunities, networking, education and poverty.

The forum will bring together diplomats, activists, business owners, educators and students, with the aim of uplifting the community and helping one another achieve success here in America and aid in the reconstruction of earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

“We are growing more and more, economically, educationally, but, at the same time, we are still a struggling community. We are supporting families back home and, after the earthquake, it’s a tremendous burden on our community, in general, because the kids suffer from it because the parents are too consumed by what’s going on, so there’s less time to focus on their education,” said Ed Shakespierre, director and executive producer of Tele Lakay TV Network and organizer of the forum.

Prominent Haitian Americans such as Mack Bernard, a state representative; Richard T. Champagne, president of the Haitian Lawyers Association; Aurora Francois, the first Haitian-American principal in the School District of Palm Beach County; Marlene Bastien, a Miami activist;  Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, minister of Culture and Communication in Haiti; and Joseph Bernadel, founder of Toussaint L’Ouverture High School; as well as students, will speak at the forum.

Shakespierre, who is also president of Color of Hope, said the forum is critical because Haitian Americans and other minorities are not sought out for their opinion on community issues.

“I wanted to create something where Haitians can opine on issues that affect the community, in general, not just the Haitian community but things that affect the other communities, as well, that we have an opinion on.”

The National Haitian American Forum will take place in the Barton Elementary School Auditorium, 1700 Barton Road, Lake Worth, from 11 a .m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, May 28. There is no cost to attend. For more information, call 561-312-3748.

Daphne Taylor may be reached at daphnetaylor_49@hotmail.com