By Reima Choute
The Haitian American Student Association (HASA) is a Brooklyn College club dedicated to creating a safe space for Haitian-American students on campus and exposing the Haitian culture to everyone who is willing to learn. Established on the principles of education, unity, and cultural celebration, HASA stands as an integral part of the campus community.
“At HASA, our mission is to educate, promote unity, and lead people to learn about our culture, whether that be our lifestyle, music, food, or language. We want to demonstrate that and share it with current and new members,” said Fabiola Saintelien, the president of HASA and a junior at BC.
Haiti is a Caribbean country located on the island of Hispaniola, sharing the island with the Dominican Republic. Haiti has a rich history that includes being the first independent Caribbean country when it won its independence from France in 1805. Since then, the citizens of Haiti have faced a lot of inequality and hardships regarding political and environmental issues. Brooklyn is home to a large Haitian community with Newkirk Avenue – one stop away from Brooklyn College on the 2 and 5 train lines – being renamed as Little Haiti.
Saintelien shed light on the club’s revival earlier this year in March, with the Haitian Studies Institute (HSI) playing a pivotal role in its reactivation. “HSI sought out four individuals who would be willing to revive this club as it was a necessity, and it has shown to be one as students started to gravitate towards the club and its mission,” said Saintelien.
Louckenson Dorestil, vice president of HASA, emphasized the club’s commitment to building connections with other student organizations, such as Women of Color (WOC), Black Student Union (BSU), African Student Union (ASU), and Caribbean Student Union (CSU). Collaborative events between the different clubs this semester, such as their multicultural night that featured a traditional Haitian konpa choreographed routine, were a means to showcase the rich diversity present on campus.
“Our primary goal is to expose our student body to Haitian culture and bridge the gap between native students and first-generation Haitian Americans,” said Dorestil. “This semester, HASA hosted our first ‘Taste of Haiti’ event, introducing Haitian dishes and the traditions behind them.” This event included a history lesson on these dishes, as well as games that challenged students’ knowledge of Haitian Creole and their memory.
Looking ahead, HASA plans to continue its positive momentum into the new semester, with a discussion of hosting a talent show next semester being up in the air. Emphasizing their openness and collaborative efforts, HASA wants to continue bringing other Brooklyn College clubs together for more opportunities to have fun and support one another.
The impact of HASA extends beyond cultural celebrations. “Our meeting in December with HSI, joined with Democratic District Leader Edu Hermelyn and Adam Gaynor from Plan A Advisors, where we discussed matters on meeting the needs of the students and devising a plan that will support student learning and providing opportunities to students that will align with their career path,” Saintelien said, noting that HASA aims to be an asset to students in developing their careers and planning their futures.
HASA stands as a beacon of cultural pride. The club, with its rich history and diverse events, invites all students to join in the appreciation of Haitian culture and find a home away from home within its welcoming embrace. Interested students can connect with HASA on Instagram @bc.hasa or through email at email@example.com to become a part of the unfolding cultural journey at Brooklyn College.
“Going into a new semester, people can expect to see an appreciation of Haitian culture, getting to celebrate Haitian Flag Day, and more of bringing Haiti to BC!” President Saintelien said, looking forward to the future of the club.