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By: Derek Joy
November 20, 2013
Chairman Castor and Secretary Larrieux
The setting was the North Miami Senior High School Auditorium.
Participants gathered as a number of students, under the watchful eyes of a teacher, formed a backdrop by creatively painting a mural in a nearby hallway.
There was a sacrifice in time for those who attended Seven50 Haitian Summit on this Saturday morning. But it was a purpose well rewarded, according to participants and organizers.
“We’re in seven counties from Key West to Sebastian,” explained James F. Murley, executive director of the South Florida Regional Planning Council (SFRPC). There’re about 6.2-million people living in this area. That’s larger than 35 states.”
The seven counties are: Monroe, Miami Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River. The 50 represents the number of years the SFRPC is creating a plan of action to improve the quality of life in the region.
“We’re here because HAPC (Haitian American Professionals Council) asked to come,” said Seven 50 Project Director Marcela Camblor-Cutsaimanis. “It’s a very exciting opportunity. It’s exciting for the two agencies (two entities of the SFRPC) and the people of the seven counties.
“We’re to listen to the people, get a better understanding of their concerns and issues. We’re asking people what do we need to do right away to improve prosperity and improve opportunities.”
Camblor-Cutsaimanis cited such issues as transportation, education, water and land use among the issues of priority.
HAPC was not alone in attendance representing a broad cross section of the Haitian American community. Participants were not limited to the Haitian American community.
“I’m here meeting people, learning what’s going on and trying to get my program involved in this school,” said Gina Greenidge, education effect coordinator of the Office of Engagement at FIU.
Education was a major part of the reason for using North Miami Senior High School.
It also played a role in the reason why HAPC asked the Seven50 Project to hold a Seven50 Haitian Summit.
“It was just a simple request and persistence,” said HAPC Secretary Farah Larrieux. “It’s important because we’re the second largest group of immigrants in South Florida.
“Haitian Americans are very entrepreneurial people. We’ve been in this community for the past 50 years. We’ve made progress, gotten good positions, hold elected office. Now we want to do more economic development.”
“We’re the second generation of Haitians. We’re in key positions. So we don’t want to miss the boat in the next 50 years,” Larrieux added.
HAPC Chairman Vic Castor stated, “This is very important to the Haitian American com-munity. The seven counties in the Southeast Florida corridor have a large Haitian American population, close to a million.”
“We have people who have been here 30, 40, 50 years and don’t know about these things. So the most significant benefit of this summit is awareness. I expect people to gain awareness. Next year they’ll have a final plan and people will be aware because they participated.”
The mission of the SFRPC, according to Murley, is to provide state and local policy-makers with the information they need in order to build a better future for South Floridians.
The final public summit will be held Jan 15, 2014 at the Broward Convention Center.
“We’re providing the tools for locals to implement plans that will make a difference in the quality of life,” said Camblor-Cutsaimanis. “I’d say the most satisfying thing about this is the conversations, dialogue we’ve established with people all over the region.”
“Through it all people are finding out that we’re not as different as some think. People are coming to the realization that to get things done right, we must work together. And that’s the most gratifying thing about this.”