Vigil held in Elmont as Haitian community mourns


Bethany French Baptist Church, in Elmont, hosted a vigil on July 10 for the recently assassinated Jovenel Moïse, the president of Haiti, who was shot and killed in his home on July 7, as the large Haitian community in Elmont mourned the late leader and lamented the country’s political and societal instability in the wake of his death.

The assassination was deemed “a well-coordinated attack by a highly trained and heavily armed group” by the Haitian embassy in Washington, D.C., which also described Moise as “a true statesman who was committed to progressing our country’s democratic transition and fighting corruption.” In recent weeks, Haiti has been mired in mass protests over contradictory claims made by Moïse and former allies about who was the rightful sitting president.

“I strongly condemn the appalling assassination of President Moïse,” State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, the first member of the State Legislature of Haitian descent, said in a statement. “I’m upset. The many community members I have spoken to are upset,” Solages said, referring to the large Haitian community in Elmont and across the metropolitan area, which is home to the highest concentration of Haitians in the United States, many of whom have voiced their frustration and anger since the assassination.

“Our mother country of Haiti is struggling,” Solages said. “It has been more than a decade since Haiti has suffered from the devastating earthquake. The political and economic vacuum that Haiti faces is complex, and is only getting more challenging. Continue to pray for peace in Haiti. My heart goes out to the people of Haiti.”

Solages said that Haiti has been reeling from political chaos and instability since at least the 2010 earthquake in which more than 100,000 people died, and that the assassination is just the latest example. “This assassination is not just one killing,” she said. “It represents a total breakdown of peace and stability in the society that has been taking place for a very long time.” 

Many people of Haitian descent are wary of foreign meddling following decades of intervention in Haitian politics, Solages explained, recounting the alleged spread of cholera by United Nations peacekeeping forces in Haiti after the earthquake, as well as allegations of sexual assault levied against the U.N. personnel. “There have been many instances throughout history of foreign intervention that [set] Haiti back,” Solages said. 

“We’re coming together to make one clear demand for peace and to pray for the departed President Juvenel Moïse and that he may rest in peace,” Solages’s brother, Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages, said at the vigil, which his sister organized. “This is a terrible time for the history of the country. We have to make a public demand for peace. This is unacceptable.”

The Solageses, and others who gathered at the vigil, said that Haiti must be led by the Haitian people alone, and not be subjected to foreign intervention by the United States or any other country. “We as Haitian people want to ensure that Haiti has its sovereignty,” Michaelle Solages said, “and that Haitian nationals decide and are in a position to decide their political future.

“In my heart, I know the solutions must come from and be centered around the Haitian people,” she added. “I call on this federal administration to collaborate with the Haitian American diaspora and the people of Haiti towards our shared goals of peace and prosperity.”