Little Haiti Community Workshop
On May 23rd, The CLEO Institute, in collaboration with Nancy Metayer and Konscious Kontractors, hosted and facilitated a community workshop as part of the Creating Climate Connections Program.
A lot of people showed up and we were happy to engage with an intergenerational crowd that also included young adults and senior citizens. To begin the evening, Jean Raphael from Konscious Kontractors, softly played authentic Haitian drums while singing a song about water as a sacred part of the Haitian culture. Nancy then began the workshop with an interactive exercise which included placing signs in different parts of the rooms. The signs were simply worded as agree, disagree, strongly agree or strongly disagree for the questions noted below:
- Are environmental disparities inhuman?
- Overall, do you think climate issues are a major concern for Miami-Dade local officials?
- It is a hopeless task to address climate change in Little Haiti?
If they agreed with any of the statements, they stood in front of the sign and explained the reason why. This exercise allowed people to talk about pertinent issues and how it affected them personally. Following the exercise, Nancy gave a brief presentation on how climate change issues and impacts are directly linked to racial and social injustices, especially in communities such as Little Haiti. She touched on the history of the environmental justice movement and how and what Little Haiti is currently experiencing as a result of new developments and politics. She also touched on other major climate justice issues impacting Little Haiti such as gentrification, food desserts, public health and disaster preparedness. Her presentation and the audience’s remarks highlighted the complexity of climate change issues and how addressing these problems in Miami requires a multi-faceted approach, involving everyone, including our elected officials. While discussing the issues of zoning and new developments that are slated for Little Haiti, a participant talked about “upzoning”, a phenomenon in Miami zoning legislation that allows developers (that qualify) to change the zoning of an area and allow them to build largerand more profitable developments than previously allowed.
Konscious Kontractors (KK) spoke about climate gentrification and some of the root causes, especially as it pertains to Little Haiti and how our sense of identity is so closely linked to our homes and the importance of protecting those homes. KK noticed how much work was needed in the community and decided to help a lot of the residents before, during, and after hurricane Irma. They spoke about the purpose behind their work and expressed an urgent need for more leadership in our communities. They also talked about how we are unable to fix the issues that are hurting our communities by using band-aid solutions. We can, however, focus on getting to the core of the issue in order to move forward in a positive direction that makes sense locally and culturally. They will begin a summer gardening program aimed at youth, at the Tacolcy center and put a huge emphasis on arts and culture in all their initiatives and projects.
What can we do?
Use social media and the internet
We can use social media and the internet as a free tool to exercise our power. One participant mentioned the power of getting signatures for petitions. There is no cost to start and can make significant changes if they gain enough momentum.
Go to City and County Meetings
We can go to commissioner and City of Miami meetings that are open to the public to express concern and disagreement with city and county policies. This is another way to help stop unwanted changes in Miami that can harm communities like Little Haiti. We need to stay informed about what is happening at these levels of government and take the time to voice our concerns.
Call and meet with local government
Use our power to vote for climate conscious candidates and hold all our candidates, regardless of party, accountable to climate change impacts and the need for more mitigation and adaptation strategies
We can become CLEO Climate Speakers to help spread the word about the urgency of taking climate action and being an agent of change in our community.
“Change has never come in America based on elected officials, it has always come from the bottom up”