ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
The Haitian flag flies at Lynn City Hall.
By MATT DEMIRS
LYNN — The red and blue Haitian flag soared at City Hall on Friday as Haitians celebrated Flag Day.
About 100 people marched through the Lynn Commons onto the gazebo, where the flag was hung and festivities continued, including music and feasting on a variety of homemade foods.
“We will never be ashamed of being Haitian,” said Fré William, pastor at St. Mary’s Chapel in his opening prayer.
William Joseph, executive director of the Senior Action Center and organizer of the celebration, spoke of Lynn’s support for the Haitian community.
“We are a group of very active people who take part in the development of Lynn and enjoy the community,” he said. “I can see and feel the progress in Lynn.”
Joseph, who has lived in the city for 17 years, said Lynn residents stepped up when Haiti suffered a catastrophic earthquake in 2010 which killed more than 200,000 people.
“Lynn did everything to help Haiti, from medical supplies to wheelchairs and money, a $251,000 value,” he said.
Joseph thanked Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy for providing much needed assistance to his people during a difficult time.
“We are proud to be under your leadership,” he said. “Mayor Kennedy is one of Haiti’s best friends.”
Haitians from every generation attended the celebration.
Sagine St. Paulin came with members of St. Mary’s Church. The 20-year-old said Haitian Flag Day strengthens the Haitian presence in the city.
“Lynn carries a large Haitian community although we are not really connected,” she said. “This holiday brings the different groups together to celebrate our background.”
Ann Romelus, 14, told the crowd of the history of the Haitian flag, which has undergone numerous changes in the past 200 years that reflect the country’s social and political divide. Adopted in 1986, the two colors on the flag symbolize the unity of black and mulatto Haitians. The blue stripe is dedicated to black Haitians while mulatto Haitians are represented by the red stripe.
Ginette Louis was born in Haiti and became a U.S. citizen in the 1980s and has come to the celebration every year.
“Ever since I was a young girl, Flag Day has always been my favorite holiday,” she said
Three Haitian students from the Lynn English High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps joined the procession and helped raise the flag at City Hall.
Vanessa Volny, a Lynn English senior, said she was happy to celebrate with her people, far away from her country.
“In Haiti, everybody goes where the flag is,” she said. “It is nice to be able to join together and do that here.”
Matt Demirs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.