NEW YORK, Aug. 9, CMC – New York City Council on Wednesday approved a proposal from Caribbean American Council Member Jumaane D. Williams for the co-naming of a street in Brooklyn in honor of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first leader of independent Haiti.
Williams – the son of Grenadian immigrants, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, said a section of Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn will be co-named Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard.
He said Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard will span along Rogers Avenue, from Farragut Road to Eastern Parkway, within the Little Haiti Business and Cultural District.
Last month, the New York City Council ceremonially designated a section of Flatbush, Brooklyn as “Little Haiti” “in recognition of the profound impact and continued presence of Haitian culture in the area,” said Williams, who is also a candidate for New York State Lieutenant Governor.
He said “Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard will be set just a few blocks from Toussaint L’Overture Boulevard,” which is located on Nostrand Avenue between Glenwood Road and Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.
“The two Haitian leaders are celebrated in Haitian-American culture for their roles in establishing a free and independent Haiti,” Williams said.
On May 18, Haitian Flag Day, Williams joined New York State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, and other elected officials and advocates in unveiling a new sign for Toussaint L’Overture Boulevard. They also announced the proposed co-naming for Dessalines.
L’Overture and Dessalines are two celebrated leaders of the Haitian Revolution.
“Jean-Jacques Dessalines is one of the founding fathers of Haiti, having taken charge of the Haitian Revolution and leading them to victory in defeating the French Napoleon Army in 1804,” the legislation states. “The Haitian Revolution became the first slave revolt in modern history to result in an independent nation.”
Williams said Dessalines was declared “Emperor of Haiti” in 1804 and “advocated many progressive policies during his time leading Haiti.”
He said Dessalines today “remains a very popular symbol of Haitian nationalism.”
Brooklyn is home to the largest percentage of foreign-born Haitian residents in New York State, with more than 40 percent of the foreign-born population residing in Flatbush, Williams said.
According to 2015 data by the Migration Policy Institute, Brooklyn had the second highest concentration of Haitians in the United States, with an estimated 156,000 Haitian Americans residing in New York City.
“Jean-Jacques Dessalines was a revolutionary who fought for his people and overthrew an oppressive regime who brutally enslaved and persecuted the Haitian people.” Williams said. “This revolutionary spirit, to fight for independence and against oppression, burns bright in Haitian Culture today.
“Haiti and its proud people are an intrinsic part of my district, and it is only right to honor that spirit with this co-naming,” he added. “I thank Assembly Member Bichotte for her fierce advocacy on this issue, as well as Little Haiti BK [Brooklyn] and the Haitian community I am proud to represent.”
“Jean-Jacques Dessalines is one of the greatest heroes of the modern world,” said Bichotte, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn.
“As one of the leaders of the first successful slave rebellion to result in the first Black republic and second country after the United States in the Western Hemisphere, Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ remarkable leadership impacted countries around the world in gaining their independence, and strengthened the United States by leading to the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled its size,” she added.
“We are grateful that the City Council has recognized Dessalines’ contributions not only to the Haitian community but to all of New York City and the United States,” Bichotte continued.
She said the City Council’s passage of the Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard “will allow the community to proudly acknowledge and remember Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ contributions to Haitian and American history, as well as spark interest in learning about his influence as a leader."