The French Heritage Language Program Celebrates Its 5th Year In Miami

On Saturday 7th February, parents, educators, guests and supporters gathered at the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, in the heart of Little Haiti neighborhood to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the French Heritage Language Program in Miami.

The celebration day started with a visit at the nearby Little Haiti Cultural Center, where French classes are offered for free every Wednesday and Saturday, and where the program officially started 5 years ago. The center recently received generous support from the Miami Heat basket ball club (newly renovated rooms, computers and class material), and is today a haven for enrichment activities of all kinds, including weekend and afterschool academic support, dance and arts workshops, and of course French.

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French songs, drawings and dancing, Alexandra de Lara, the new FHLP-Miami coordinator, invited all guests to take part in the class activities with children and exchange with the instructor, Patricia Lolo. Parents told their satisfaction with the class and the benefits their children get in learning and keeping up the language.

The Haitian and other Francophone communities in Miami have long expressed the need to maintain access to instruction in French as well as a connection to their cultural heritage here in the United States. A pilot program had been launched in the summer of 2009, and after the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, the French Cultural Services in Miami, the French Heritage Language Program and the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, decided to accelerate the development of the classes to meet the needs of the growing Haitian refugee population in Florida and the stronger demand for French instruction in the region.

A benefit concert for the victims of Haiti was organized at the FIAF-Alliance Française in New York, and half of the proceeds went to support the first classes, which were officially launched in February 2010. Among the pioneering architects of these classes was Martine Buissart, who ensured all the coordination and helped define the Miami program's identity. 

Since then, the program has grown to serve public schools in Miami but also in Broward, and now includes two weekly classes at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, and weekly after school classes at Toussaint Louverture Elementary School, Miami Shores Elementary School and North Dade Middle School, all for free. About 80 students aged 6-14 benefit from these classes today. Although most students hail from Haiti, some come from West Africa and a few have no Francophone background but just want to learn the language.

The event proceeded with a reception at the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, where many parents, teachers, sponsors and partners were invited to enjoy delicious Haitian food and the fabulous art of Little Haiti-based artist Edouard Duval Carrié.

In presence of the Consul General de France in Miami, Philippe Letrillart, and of Benoît Le Dévédec, head of the FHLP in New York, the ceremony was the occasion to introduce Alexandra Jeanty de Lara the new FHLP-Miami coordinator, and to thank all the schools and institutions promoting the French classes. The Miami Dade County Public Schools was represented by Region Superinterdent Dr. Albert Payne, The Broward County Public Schools by Blanca Guerra, the Little Haiti Cultural Center/City of Miami by Sandy Dorsainville, and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy by Valérie Drake and Martine Johnston. A special prize, a linoleum cut reproduction signed by artist Raymond Verdaguer, was also awarded to personalities who played a key role in supporting the program in all its developments. Among them is Mireille Chancy-Gonzales, president of the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, who has been at the forefront of the FHLP-Miami since its creation, and Catherine Dumait Harper, former Médecin Sans Frontière spokesperson at the UN, and "marraine of the FHLP-Miami", who has provided continuing support to the program’s activities in Florida.

As a landmark of this anniversary, the art piece “Three Haitian Trumpeters”, signed by artist Raymond Verdaguer, will be displayed at the entrance of the Little Haiti Cultural Center.

 

For more information about the French Heritage Language Program:

http://face-foundation.org/french-heritage-language-program/index.html

About the FHLP-Miami and the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance:

http://www.haitianartsalliance.org/french.php

Contact:

Alexandra Jeanty de Lara, FHLP-Miami coordinator

alexandra@frenchheritagemiami.org 

 

The French Heritage Language Program and its partners would like to thank their generous sponsors and contributors: The Alfred and Jane Ross Foundation, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Florence Gould Foundation, as well as all the individuals who are helping us make French an asset for new Americans today.

 

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