Why I Am Running

Growing up in Haiti, I learned to appreciate from an early age the things my parents and grandparents did to provide a better life for me and my siblings.  

 

My parents came from Grand Goave, a small city in the rural Western part of the Island. My mother and father both completed middle school. Born and raised in a village without electricity, or clean water, they worked as farmers to feed me and my three sisters, until they left the countryside to settle down in Port-au-Prince, the capital. My parents’ decision to move to the capital was a life-changing decision. 

During those times, we experienced real hardship, sometimes starving for food. My mom always dreamed of seeing me and my sisters pursue our education. She wanted a better life for us and knew a better future for us completely depended on education. She worked really hard to ensure that we went to school and never dropped out. 

 

My mother was committed to ensuring that my sisters and I were educated. In 1994,  during a time of civil unrest and violence in Haiti, my mother risked her life to travel to her sister’s house to ask for a loan to start a small business in order to make a living to pay for her daughters schooling. Despite the unsettling times, where people were afraid to leave their homes, my mother found a way to make an honest living to provide for her family and create a path for our future.

 

My mother taught me the importance of ingenuity and hard work. As a dressmaker, my mom bought fabrics and designed children’s and women’s dresses and sold them to buy school uniforms and notebooks for me and my three sisters. She made sure that we never missed class, and sometimes that meant going to school hungry if we did not have enough money for food. She would always say “The only way you lift up from poverty in life is by educating yourself.”

 

That’s why I am running for Cranston City Council - to ensure that every person in our city has the same opportunity for a better life. I will work intentionally to include all voices in the policy-making process, because I know and have seen how we can collectively create solutions that will improve the quality of life for every Cranston resident.

My childhood was not filled with dolls or games or even access to basic resources. Growing up, I never even owned a toy. I know the feeling of hardship and insecurity, not having enough money to buy food or lack of access to clean water, clothing, healthcare, and a decent home.  

My parents were among the 80% of Haitians who did not have a formal job to help them secure a steady income to provide for their families. As the firstborn of a family of six, I had to help take care of my sisters so that my mother could run her small business and my father could find work. As a result, it took longer for me to finish school. I graduated from high school at the age of 27 years old. Despite my limited options and the challenges I faced along the way, I never gave up. Education was my only pathway to success and opportunity.
I worry that many in Cranston are not on a path to a better life than their parents for many reasons that all stem from a lack of opportunity and accountability.

I learned from my grandparents the value of being responsible for yourself, so you can help others. My grandfather would stop by my house to ensure that I took good care of my sisters when my mom was not home. Even when things were not great, we always kept a smile on our face, and hoped that tomorrow would be better. My grandma would sing to me, while sharing a banana with all of us. I still remember the song’s lyrics, ‘Grandma gives what she has to her grandkids…”

I believe our leaders should embody the idea of service-that you run for office to serve the people in your community. I am running to serve my community. I want to help those who need me the most and to always put my community’s needs first.

Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer or a physician recognizing that I had a personal calling to help people. However, I knew that going to law school or medical school was an impossible dream for me for many reasons, but mostly due to my family’s poverty and lack of educational opportunities in Haiti. When I graduated from high school, I was 27, the oldest in my class. I was no longer a teenager who had options. I had to think carefully about the career path I would choose. I knew my parents did not have any financial resources to support me to attend a private school. I was a woman with responsibilities to fulfill. In Haitian tradition, the eldest of the family has the responsibility to support their family financially. I could not afford to ponder my dreams. One of the greatest things about America is that people can grow and educate themselves to new possibilities, but one that I see slipping out of sight for so many of our neighbors.

Given the financial realities of my circumstances, I decided to study social communication at a public university. I made that choice for two reasons. First, I knew I could work after two years in the program as a journalist while continuing my education. It was a rapid pathway to a job to help my family. Secondly, I knew I could reach my goal of helping people through the power of the media which I did beautifully throughout my career in Haiti.

Then unexpectedly in 2009, I had to leave everything behind-my career, family, and friends-when I fled my country to escape violence to seek refuge in the United States of America. Later that year, I married the love of my life, Dr. Norly Germain. At that time, we did not know where we would start our lives together but we were soon settled in Cranston. Ever since then, I have fallen in love with the city that has welcomed us. This is where I celebrate all the beautiful things that have happened in my life. Whether it be our three sons-Oliver, Kyle, and Nolan, the rebuilding of our lives and careers, or when we bought our first house here in 2014. I love our city because of its diversity and the way we were embraced by our neighbors. I believe our policies are only as good as they are able to meet the needs of everyone in our community. I will bring that welcoming inclusive nature to how I represent you on the City Council. 

I got more deeply involved in my community in 2017, when my five year-old son came home to tell me he did not have lunch the whole day at school and was hungry. I can remember it like it was yesterday, how sad my son was during the conversation I had with him. He asked me why I didn’t pay for him to eat. I was flabbergasted. This shouldn’t happen to any child. I later found out I accidentally missed a payment, leaving a balance of $12.50 on his account, and for that they took away his choice of a hot meal and instead gave him a sunbutter sandwich (which he did not eat). They still charged his account the same $2.50 for a hot meal, but instead my poor child, like so many other children in Cranston, was shamed in front of his classmates and spent the school day hungry. 

 

I called the principal to ask why they had to shame a five year-old for $12.50. When he told me that he had nothing to do with the policy and that I had to contact the school committee, I started to pay attention and attend school committee meetings to advocate for the ending of lunch shaming in Cranston. These regulations were unfair and cruel to children whose parents accidentally forgot to make a payment or in some cases were living paycheck-to-paycheck. It wasn’t just about my children though, but all the other children who were being punished and whom our schools had within their capacity to feed regardless of a balance. Ever since then, Cranston no longer lunch shames kids. I continue to advocate in support of a bill that, if passed, will finally end lunch shaming in our state.

 

Having grown up in a place where opportunity was rare if nonexistent for many, it struck me as deeply disappointing that in Cranston, with all the resources we have at our disposal, we were punishing children to the detriment of their education (there is ample evidence that good nutrition is key to learning). I will always fight for opportunity for all, and that means adequate funding and equitable policies that promote the growth and prosperity of every Cranston resident.

I will work tirelessly to make sure the voices of people who feel excluded are heard. I have testified before committees of the Rhode Island House of Representatives and State Senate on issues addressing women’s rights, quality health care, Black maternal health care, and ensuring all children have a quality education. Whether it is through social media, or public speaking- I always center justice in everything I advocate to change.

I am very active in our community, volunteering for organizations like the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women (RI NOW), the RI Democratic Women’s Caucus, the African Alliance of Rhode Island (AARI). I co-founded Hope and Change for Haiti (HnC), and am a founding member of the Cranston Action Network (CAN). I volunteer as Assistant Secretary of the NAACP and have served as a Sunday school teacher at my church, St David’s on the Hill. 

We live in a wonderfully diverse community and unfortunately, many people are being left out of the decision-making process. Too many of our neighbors are strangers in their own city. I am running to give them a voice in our government. We should welcome a diversity of perspectives and opinions as an asset, and leverage these differences to make our city one that brings everyone together, and supports people to prosper.

I am committed to ensuring every child has the same access to a quality, safe, and rigorous education that prepares them for success in life after school, regardless of where they live in the city. I want to bring my perspective as a mother, immigrant, and someone who cares deeply about our community to the Cranston City Council and work collaboratively to end the systemic inequalities in our schools. I am running, not only for my three children but for your children too. 

 

In this unprecedented time of a simultaneous public health crisis and a movement for racial justice, we need people with new perspectives who will lead change that helps people. These challenges are complex, but when we include everyone in the process and have a diversity of thoughts and experiences, we get better and more sustainable solutions. I want to put those ideas to work - improving our schools, creating a more inclusive and equitable city government, and ensuring we have safe and clean neighborhoods.

I look forward to meeting you (safely from a distance) as I talk to people across Ward 2 this summer.  Please do not hesitate to call or email me with any questions or ideas as to how we can make Cranston the best city it can be for all of us. 

Together for Change

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