Beaudelaine Pierre of The Haitians InCommon Project on the Haitian Community in Minnesota
The Haitian community in the state of Minnesota is vibrant and growing. One of the leaders in that community is Haiti-born Beaudelaine Pierre, an active key member of Haitians InCommon, an organization that brings together students and professionals of Haitian descent.
Tell us about yourself. My father and mother are retired school teachers; they have devoted their life to serving their community in St Michel ; I would see my father riding his horses from places to places to bring education to people. He was at that time, what we call today, a community organizer. Because of that, the first years of my life are so significant for me and shaped the woman I am today. I am myself a community organizer. I believe in the ability of people to control their own lives and love working with them on personal, cultural and community issues.
Over the last 10 years, I have focused my career on promoting gender equality in different projects I have been involved in in Haiti, as well as in Minnesota with the objectives of promoting the roles of women and girls for the creation of vibrant community. These last four years, I was able to expand my work and, as community organizer, to accompany groups, organizations, women and men to be the artisan of their own destiny. Last year, I served as program director of the Refugee and Immigrant Women for Change Coalition, a multi-ethnic coalition of seven nonprofit members, addressing systemic issues facing all refugee and immigrant women and girls in the Twin Cities; I am now working at the Women’s Initiative for self-Empowerment where, I have been hired to design a women’s program for immigrant women. One thing I am also very passionate about is books. I particularly enjoy discovering new writers who are able to use descriptions to open doors to other worlds. At a personal level, I do creative writing as a way to listen to my inner voice, and to connect with the universal nature of life. Caribbean writers hold particular interest.
How did you end up in Minnesota? I entered at the University of Minnesota in 2009, as a Humphrey Fellow from the Humphrey Fellowship program, a program of the State Department for leaders and emerging leaders of developing countries; My two kids were visiting me a couple of days before the earthquake happened in Haiti. Due to the situation in Haiti, we have made the choice to stay temporarily in Minnesota.
Haitians InCommon brings Haitians and Haitian-Americans together in Minnesota. The Haitians Incommon project is a program of the National Haitian Institute of Leadership, initiated by a group of Haitians living in the United States. The mission of the Institute is to accompany long-term progress in Haiti by bringing together Haitian government and its citizens in courageous dialogues and meaningful partnerships to solve community problems. This project started in 2010, when I began working with a small group of Haitians to establish a network of community leaders to support Haiti’s effort in the political, social and economic sectors. At that time the focus was in the Haitian government, with the idea to equip local leaders with skills and knowledge to manage and direct changes in their community. Three years later, that focus has not changed. We believe that good governance is a fundamental requirement for reducing poverty and achieving sustainable human development. And good governance is supported by the involvement and the commitment of various sectors of a nation. The Haitians Incommon bring to Haitians communities tools, principles and methodologies that allow people to have true conversation and build real collaboration. Our approach is based on the use of the Art of Hosting principles and methodologies focused on integrated participative change processes, methods, maps, and planning tools to engage groups and teams in meaningful conversation, and group-supported action for the common good.
We’ve started this work with the Haitian community in Minnesota. Like in many other immigrant communities, the Haitian community in Minnesota faces serious issues of conflicts. They are working alone and are disconnected from one another. The institutes have led several conversations among community members, and it is amazing to see true collaboration happening right now in the community. The thing is we all have wisdom and knowledge; no matter where we come from, we are all gifted; now it’s about how we allow co-creation, how do we open doors so people can feel they are part of the solution. When we call community member to be part of something they care about, true collaboration happen.
Do you ever think about returning to live in Haiti? Of course, yes. The ultimate goal of the institute is to see how this model can work in Haiti; the results are very positive in Minnesota; we are trying to bring our expertise in different diaspora communities, as well as in Haiti, in a near future. Development, or progress, is about people, first. And talking about people relates to relationship, trust, and how we create spaces that allow everyone to feel part of the process. The things is, the world is facing great challenges today; no one can pretend have the solution. It has to be a collective effort.
Is the Haitian community in Minnesota pretty big? The good thing about starting this work in Minnesota is that the community is very small, compare to diaspora in Florida or New York. It was important for us to start this project at very small level and create ways to expend it on a large scale. The Haitian community in Minnesota holds an approximate of 5,000 members.
What are some of the activities that the club is undertaking? The institute organizes forums and conversations to bring people and community leaders together. We are now planning to integrate Haitian leaders in the US Midwest—Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, etc—into this work. We conduct training on art of hosting methodologies and principles, like Circle, World Café, Open Space Technology, Appreciative Inquiry. We also conduct trainings on organizational leadership, program evaluation, and Community Building for other immigrant communities.
What have you noted about the Haitians living in Minnesota? It is an extremely rich community, with very skilled and talented people. I am very grateful to be part of this community and to learn every day from the members.
Be sure to keep connected with the Haitian community in Minnesota, by visiting the Haitians InCommon page HERE.