What’s in a Haitian Flag? The Strength of Our HIstory, the Key to the Future

It’s been said that the best way to love your country is to teach its history honestly. On May 18th, Haitians attempt to do just that through demonstrated pride and tradition. We celebrate our country’s distinctive and symbolic piece of fabric– red and blue horizontal bands with the colorful coat of arms against a rectangle background–to commemorate our liberty from French rule, including our victory in a war that enabled us to accomplish such a feat.

We also use the occasion to uphold the French words etched on the flag, “L’union fait la force,” which means “Unity produces strength.” In context, however, it translates to “There is strength in unity,” to aptly signify the collaborative efforts of the Haitian soldiers, under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture, during the French Revolution. Additionally, it is a reminder that our country’s progression relies heavily on our oneness–the unification of our ideas, determination, resources, and endeavors.

May 18th is not just the day of the flag’s creation; but also the birth of the nation’s identity. History has taught us that we were once held in captivity and made to feel inferior, but once we recognized our greatness, we realized we were capable and deserving of freedom. This newfound knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation, hence why our expression of love for Haiti runs deep.

This year marks the flag’s 219th anniversary, and it is particularly significant since traditional celebrations and festivals are resuming this year after a two-year suspension brought on by the pandemic. In addition, Haiti is currently struggling to find its strength after the death of President Jovenel Moise followed by heightened gang activities. For years, organizations have pledged to help, and leaders have stepped in with the promise to change Haiti for the better, but it appears that the work is too much and the genuine laborers are few.

Perhaps, now more than ever, Haitians, specifically the diaspora, need to stand united and help the country overcome crime, poverty, and limited access to quality health care. The first step is to recognize that just because Haiti is home does not make it perfect. Nevertheless, just because it isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it can no longer be home. If we’re going to genuinely express our love for her, the “Pearl of the Antilles,” then we have to care for Haiti as passionately as we wave her flag and as honestly as we share her past. Therefore, May 18th should not just be a celebration of Haiti that comes and goes, but a constant reminder on the calendar that we are still at war…only this time, with ourselves.